Another step in our (cruising) master plan was to get SCUBA qualified, and we wanted to combine it with a vacation to a “suitable” tropical location that we have yet to visit.
We have people around us that are active SCUBA divers, and had experience with 3 different certification organizations: National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI); Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI); and Scuba Schools International (SSI) – the acronym has the org link, and proper names have different the wiki links.
The only organization we had heard of with casual exposure to diving back in North America was PADI. We had heard good things about the PADI online courses, and one of the resorts on our short list in the Maldives had a PADI dive centre under Euro Divers. Looking them up after the fact, it’s amazing to see just how many organizations there are out there. We can’t comment on the pros & cons of any of them, as we only have experience with PADI, but we can say that their online material is surprisingly well done. It uses progressive slides with an audio back-track full of links and video as supporting/augmenting material. They follow that up with a video that stresses all the same information from the slides, with examples for context. At the end of each section there is an exam for “confirmation of learning” that gets you ready for the final exam. Once you’ve finished the online portion, that allows you to go straight to the practical training at your dive centre of choice, saving you a great deal of time in the classroom and getting right in the water.
We chose the Holiday Inn Resort on Kandooma. It had good reviews on TripAdvisor, was known as a diving and surfing location, and we got a great price online. It’s the only thing on the island, so some may get a bit of island fever, but enough there to keep you busy for a week or so. It was a bit of a haul to get there. We couldn’t get a good connection out of Naples, so we drove to Rome (approx 250km) and got a flight through Dubai into Male.
Nothing unusual about window shopping at Dubai International Airport. Like most impulse buy locations, they have everything you need for those last minute frivolous decisions…for anyone with $200K in their pocket.
This is our taxi from the airport in Male. About a 40 min ride.
The welcoming committee.
Our beach house.
The rest of the welcoming committee.
Our first sunset. We picked a good place.
These fellas came out every night. The locals said they are known as flying foxes or fruit bats. Most looked to have a wingspan of about 3 feet, which gets your attention when they fly close to you. The wiki site says they could get as big as 5 feet!
The dive boats with a local theme.
Us with Ben, who was nice enough to take all the pictures and send them to us when he got home.
There were lots of white-tip reef sharks each time we dove. We also saw plenty of black-tip and greys (we think). Moray eels were always something of an exotic creature for us, until we witness so many of them here as to become routine. Whenever someone pointed at one towards the end of the week, we almost became disappointed it wasn’t something else.
The Maldives are know for their currents, and all our dives were drift dives of varying degrees. We slowly drifted along at 1-2kts for most of the tank, but in some locations where the current got compressed, it got to 5kts+ and we would have to hang on to a rock or use a coral hook to keep in place. The fish would tend to congregate in such areas, so it was a great experience.
Our last dive, which was our first as qualified open water divers, was actually our best. Numerous sharks, morays of numerous types, puffers, tuna, eagle rays and just as we were finishing our safety stop, a pod of spinner dolphins got within 25m or so of us. Very cool with a very large group with adults and babies jumping, twirling and showing off. Evidently it was a rare enough event that the instructors, who had been there for 2-4 years have only seen them that close a couple times.
The trick now will be to ensure we’re not disappointed with new locations that are not as tremendous as this one!
So here’s to the sun rising on our burgeoning SCUBA adventures…see what we did there?