Maldives often conjures images of luxurious resorts set amidst clear turquoise waters. For divers, it means seeing the big stuff, and a chance encounter with whale sharks and manta rays. Most divers will opt to do a LOB, with a 7 nights LOB being the most popular trip offered on most boats. However, with the Maldivian Government relaxing rules on tourism in locally-populated islands, guesthouses and dive resorts have sprung up, giving the opportunity to also dive Maldives from an affordable land-based resort.Getting There
There are direct flights (4.5 hours) from Singapore to Male on Singapore Airlines and Tiger Airways. Upon arrival, we were met by the resort’s representative and transferred to the domestic seaplane terminal for the short 25min flight from Male to Kudafolhudhoo (about 80km), and thereafter followed by a 5min speedboat ride to Mathiveri. The seaplane flight was an experience where you get to see the numerous atolls dotting Maldives from the air.Casa Mia
Mathiveri is a small island in North Ari Atoll that roughly measures about 600m by 400m. The island is home to about 500 local residents and has a clinic, court house, police station and school. There are provision shops where you can purchase toiletries, food and snacks. You can use USD on the island, but expect to receive the change in local currency (Rufiyaa). Casa Mia is located at the north-western tip of Mathiveri. The resort currently has 10 rooms (there are currently construction works on-going to expand the resort’s capacity) which are very comfortable (strong air conditioning, television, large attached bathrooms with hot water and rain shower). The living and service standards are far above a guesthouse, and exceeded our expectations. There is a private beach in front of the rooms, where you are able to lounge in swim wear. However, once outside the resort, you need to be appropriately attired out of respect for the local culture (females to cover the shoulders and knees). As almost all items to Maldives and Mathiveri are imported, it may take some time for the resort to rectify issues should something break-down, especially if spare parts have to be delivered. For example, the Desalination system supplying fresh water to the resort stopped working, but they managed to get the machine parts delivered and fixed within 2 days.
Food is prepared by a Balinese chef and you get delicious meals 3x daily. This usually comprises a soup, salad, carbohydrate main (pasta, rice, noodles), fish, chicken/beef, vegetables and desserts (a fruit and probably a pastry/cake). Drinking water, coffee and tea are also available all day.Diving
Dive sites in Maldives are a mouthful to pronounce. A simple translation of what they roughly mean: Ghiri - shallow submerged reef; Thila - deeper submerged reef; Kandu - channel. The resort does 2 dives daily, leaving after breakfast at 0830H and arriving back at the resort about 1300H for lunch. If there is demand, they can organise a third afternoon dive or even a night dive. Our dive guide Anastasia had 3+ years of diving around Mathiveri, and was an expert at all the dive sites. She also had a very keen eye for spotting macro stuff on the dives.
The dive sites are about 20min to 70min away by dhoni. Diving around Mathiveri is excellent; visibility can exceed 40m especially in channel dives with an outgoing current, but usually averages about 15 to 20m. Sharks are guaranteed on almost every dive, and always the white-tip and grey reef sharks, together with napoleon wrasse, eagle rays and turtles. The best dive site of the trip was probably Mayaa Thila which has a very large concentration of sharks.
Some memories of the dives taken with a Sony RX100:Manta RaySchooling Bannerfish
Large Nurse Shark at Mayaa ThilaUbiquitous White-tip Reef Sharks