CORALREPUBLIC

 

Maldives, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

Trip dates:

Combined trip to Sri Lanka 19 - 28 August, then to Maldives, 28 August - 4 September 2010, arranged with Elephant Island Tours.

Boat / resort:

Helengeli Island Resort, North Male Atoll.

Dive centre:

Ocean Pro Maldives.

Photo-friendly?:

Surprisingly, most of the divers in the Island were not avid photographers, so the centre did not seem to think it a priority to set up facilities for that, even if they were really helpful. Count on doing everything in your room, including rinsing and charging.

Number of dives:

11 dives in 5.5 days of diving.

Diving conditions:

Again, typical monsoon conditions, but not too choppy. Medium to good visibility, 29°C water temperature. Strong currents at Helengeli Thila, and I mean strong. Mild to medium in other sites.

Comments:

After a busy week of touring beautiful Sri Lanka (including a memorable Esala Perahera on 24 August in Kandy), we gave Maldives another try. Initially, we wanted to dive Hanifaru Bay, where mantas and whale sharks congregate in this time of the year. No luck. There are three resorts close to Hanifaru, in Baa Atoll, two of them impossibly expensive, one reasonably priced, but fully booked when we enquired months before our trip. I would have been tempted to spend the money in any of the other two, but the sites gave no guarantee whatsoever that they would take us to Hanifaru, actually, and the resorts were the honeymooning kind, so I thought it was not smart to pay so much and then find once there that we would not be able to dive the Bay, so we decided to go to a divers’ island instead. You can see a few topside images at the gallery here.

We liked Helengeli. Small, cozy, Swiss-run, great food and truly kind service. It is full of repeat guests and the place feels like an intimate, unpretending and friendly resort. Decent dive centre, they gave us a bonus as repeat Ocean Pro guests (they had run the centre in Coco Palm two years earlier, but no longer operate in that island). We dove with competent divers and were taken to good sites. The best dive around Helengeli is the house Thila, in the southern channel. Sharks were plentiful, but the current almost tore the regulator from my mouth. I was diving on this trip for the first time with my new gear, a Canon 550D camera in a new Hugy housing and my regular strobes and arms. When we jumped in at the Thila, some of the guys looked at me apprehensively, when we surfaced, they told me they were surprised I still had it. It was ripping. I was hardly able to shoot while holding to the reef for dear life.

Although visibility was not great, we did manage to see a couple of sites with healthy coral cover, particularly Morena Reef. I liked that very much, and there are really big schools all around. Still, the reefs are not as rich as I recall. Obviously, some coral species are coming back more easily than others, but some comeback is there, for sure. Otherwise, the house reef is great at Helengeli, well-marked and easy to dive, even with the currents. My best half, however, cut his hand pretty bad on our third day and had to stay dry for the rest of the stay. They took him to Male to get stitched, efficiently and nicely. At the time of writing this, though, we are still waiting for our insurance reimbursement, 4 months later. The fast boat to Male cost us 600 USD. I told Paul that was surely the most expensive taxi ride he’d take in his life.

One thing I did not realise when booking the trip is the following: in July-August, the wind comes from the south-west. I believed it would be best to go to an island located in the eastern part of the Atoll because it would be a bit more protected from the monsoon winds. Wrong idea. What you want is incoming currents, because they bring clear water into the atoll. Where we stood, currents were outgoing from the atoll into the open sea, carrying all sorts of sediments and therefore a lot less visibility. Better to be exposed to the winds (a bit choppy in the beach) but have clear water to dive in close by. So if you dive the Maldives in the Northern hemisphere Summer, book an island in the west rim of the atoll (whichever one you choose).

 

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