Want to head off somewhere to get away from it all? We discovered a way to experience beautiful beaches and luxury yachts while we enjoy our love for each other and unforgettable scuba diving adventures all at the same time. Yes, our holidays this past year were in the Maldives. This is not a new destination for us – in fact, this would be the 6th time we have been out here on the ‘other side’ of the world and boy is it worth the trip.
The flight to Male is typical of a long international journey until the final approach when the landing strip is in sight. OK, it is a real runway – gone are the days of compressed coral runways – the Maldives have invested in infrastructure and as we walk the tarmac toward passport control for the sixth time in ten years we can’t help but notice how well this small island nation has adapted and oriented itself to tourism. Every few minutes another passenger jet was landing or taking off yet there really is only this one terminal building and except for a few lines causing a wait of approximately 30 mins there were no hassles at all.
After coming out of customs and meeting the welcome wagon we are whisked off by a boat that takes us on a 5 minute ride to our awaiting Yacht. This is luxury and up until now it was all inclusive!
On board the crew greet each new guest as though you were a member of the family and assure you that you need not worry about your suitcases, dive gear or anything else… just sit back, meet a few more of the guests and enjoy the complementary drinks – after all you are now really on vacation.
After some briefings, introductions, stories, food and libations we all head off for a good night’s rest because tomorrow morning bright and early we will have sailed to our first dive site for a checkout dive. Now, for those of you that are not familiar with the practice… a checkout dive has a dual purpose. The first is to test your gear in something of a protected area where there are few surprises such as surges, current or large pelagics surrounding the boat.
The second is more for the crew, your dive masters and such – to ensure that you are a capable and responsible person / diver that will not cause them too much concern on this cruise. When the checkout dive is over, most of us have spent a good portion of an hour underwater, we arrive back on the yacht to find a sumptuous breakfast ready for all and a few non-divers already sitting at the dining table awaiting our company so that we can all enjoy some good food, drinks and talk about the past hour’s adventure.
That’s the thing about dive trips… we always find things in common to discuss and enjoy with fellow divers – it is strange that on similar trips with surfers that this sort of thing is rare. I guess divers share a common bond due to the diverse adventure each dive brings and the associated potential for danger that delivers adrenalin rushes each and every day on demand. Anyway, after breakfast and a nap it is dive time again because while you were enjoying your meal and relaxing, the yacht has traveled to the next dive site – a completely different sort of adventure awaits.
The dive bell rings and in moments, we are all headed back down into the big blue. Naturally after listening carefully to the dive briefing and the Q&A session that followed. This dive, a drift dive, was like floating through an underwater botanical garden filled with colors that we simply do not experience in nature above water. It is simply gorgeous and breathtaking but fortunately – we have enough air to last an hour and after sucking down so much compressed air that you could have filled the Michelin man twice, you surface and it is time for lunch. What a day this has been thus far. I don’t even care what sort of weather we are having anymore… let’s just dive.
So, after a wonderful tropical lunch, the yacht heads south in search of whale sharks – the largest fish in the sea and we along with our fellow divers, head back to the poop deck for a much needed nap. This is GREAT – I could practically dance to the rhythm of eat-sleep-dive-eat-sleep-dive oh yea, bring it on!
In the early afternoon it is again dive time. No whale sharks in sight yet but we have another 6 days to go so.. no rush. This dive was outstanding. It was a wall dive and a drift dive with beautifully clear water and 30meter visibility (approx 100ft). If you ventured away from the wall into the big blue you might catch a glimpse of something large swimming gracefully out in the open water and consider that at that moment in time you were no longer at the top of the food chain but, these thoughts are fleeting and swimming near the wall brings so many more delightful thoughts to mind that you can easily get rid any any remaining jet lag as you breath the nitrox strapped to your back and wonder out loud how beautiful this underwater world actually is.
It is during moments like these that I make promises to myself to do this at least once each quarter not realizing that twice a year is usually the most we are able to manage given the career paths that we have selected.