|This review was originally wriiten for the two traditional-style dive liveaboards, MV Sea Spirit and MV Sea Queen. Since then we have also travelled on Carpe Vita and Carpe Diem.
|As times have changed and the country becomes more popular for divers, the number of liveaboards has increased substantially. They are now more modern, larger and will carry higher numbers of passengers. The principals remain the same, however. All liveaboards include meals, some drinks and all divin, which is conducted from a dhoni, a smaller boat that works in tandem with the main vessel. This is a nice touch as all the equipment is on the smaller boat – it moves away when the compressor is in use so there is little noise. The dhoni also makes daily planning easier for the main boat. Sometimes, ti will be waiting for divers at a site when the main boat arrives, at other times it can manoeuvre into smaller bays and coves to give better access.
Diving schedules cover almost the entire country – from Baa Atoll and the incredible Hanifaru Lagoon to the far south routes covering Meemu, Vavuu and Lamu. Most days have just three scheduled dives. This is due to local restrictions, availability of moorings and access to sites. Night diving, especially from a liveaboard, is rare in the Maldives.
OPINION All these boats - and no doubt many more - will get you around some of the best of the Maldives. Choosing a route and a boat all comes down to budget and what time of year you want to travel. Our best advice is you get a personal recommendation or talk to a good, local travel agent. We booked through Dive Worldwide in the UK.
MV Sea Spirit and MV Sea Queen
We first travelled with Maldives Scuba Tours on Sea Queen and then a few years later on Sea Spirit. Both vessels are traditional wooden boats and very similar so, although this review is principally based on the later trip, these remarks generally cover both.
Both have six guest cabins, all below deck. They all have portholes and are ensuite and air-conditioned. 4 cabins have a single and a small double bed, while the two at the bow end have just a small double. The cabins and bathrooms are fairly simple, but have all the necessary elements for a comfortable trip. Upstairs on the main deck is the cruise directors cabin, galley and a lounge with dining tables, TV, video, coffee and tea station and a fridge. Up front is a nicer, outdoors eating area and at the rear is a small deck with rinse tanks for kit and cameras. On the top, there is a shaded sun deck for relaxing.
Carpe Vita and Carpe Diem
Also owned by the one company, Carpe Diem Cruises, these much larger, steel hulled boats are typical of the new breed of liveaboard. They are more spacious with 4 decks, space to relax and sun bathe. The facilities are fancier and the cabins larger and more comforthable, each with ensuite bathrooms.
The boats also carry more passengers, as much as 20 at times, although typically there will be 16-18 divers on board. The dhonis are also bigger so nothing feels cramped, except perhaps at mealtimes, which are held on the upper deck down a long table. If you have booked in on your own, you may find this lacking in charm. There is no specific camera room, just a charging station but the very spacious air-conditioned lounges have planty of table space so photographers can spread out a bit there when they need to.