Within minutes of spotting an incredible SCUBA liveaboard deal (50% discount on a 7 night liveaboard diving the less visited waters of Southern Maldives), we checked our calendar and quickly determined it was meant to be…sign us up! Our liveaboard was with the MY Sheena, which regularly runs the rate of 1660 Euros per week. Scoring a deal of 830 Euros was a great deal, considering we got 18 dives, free Nitrox, all meals, unlimited tea/coffee/water, and an A/C double cabin. Because the liveaboard focused on the Southern Maldives, we did have to factor in a very pricey seaplane shuttle (215 Euros) from Male to Filitheyo, not great value considering its only a 35 minute flight but we were keen on checking out the Southern Maldives, which has eluded us thus far.
The MY Sheena promised that we would be diving untouched and unexplored reefs and channels during a one week itinerary that is adapted to the prevailing conditions for the best diving in the Maldives. While a typical itinerary includes the Meemu, Laamu and Thaa Atolls (starting and ending at Filitheyo Island), our itinerary was different because of the low season’s increased plankton and poor visibility. Hence the killer price on a kickass route (starting in Filitheyo and making our way north towards Male). The downside meant limited visibility of only 10 – 15 meters, but the upside was more chances to see plankton eaters (whale sharks and mantas).
We managed to find flights from Saigon to Male and return for $425 each (including 20 KG luggage) on the low budget airlines of Air Asia and Scoot, which meant transiting in Kuala Lumpur on the way there and Singapore on the return sector.
Day 0 (28 Jul): Air Asia arrival to Male at 10 am. Free transfer from airport to Novina Hotel. Lunch at Pizza Mia in Male.
Day 1 (29 Jul): Morning flight via Trans Maldivian seaplane from Male to Filitheyo. Meet the crew and relax at Filitheyo Island Resort to await for all arriving passengers. Board the MY Sheena for a late lunch, and depart North Nilandhe Atoll towards Faafu Atoll. Check dive at “Dolphin’s Corner” (Faafu Atoll).
Day 2 (30 Jul): 6 am wake-up knock followed by 6:30 am dive briefing. Early morning dive at “Little Channel South” (Faafu Atoll) followed by breakfast and siesta. Late morning briefing on how to dive channels with strong currents followed by dive briefing for “Western Highlight” (Meemu Atoll). Lunch and siesta. Afternoon dive at “White Tip Station” (Meemu Atoll). Afternoon tea followed by an optional excursion to Dhiggaru Island. Return to MY Sheena for 8 pm dinner.
Day 3 (31 Jul): Early morning dive at “Happy Corner” (Meemu Atoll) followed by breakfast and siesta. Late morning dive briefing for “Vattaru Kandu” (Vattaru Atoll). Lunch and siesta. Sunset dive at the world famous Alimatha Jetty (Felidhe Atoll), for a chance to get up close and personal with tawny nurse sharks and sting rays. Dinner at 8 pm.
Day 4 (01 Aug): Early morning dive at “Miyaru Kanou” (Felidhe Atoll) followed by breakfast and siesta. Late morning dive briefing at a previously unexplored dive site in the Felidhe Atoll, which we nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty” because of a resting Grey Reef Shark. Lunch and siesta. Late afternoon dive at “Just Like Old Times” near Fulidhoo Island (Felidhe Atoll). BBQ beach dinner followed by Bodu Bedu (Maldives traditional music with Maldivian coconut tree trunk drum) on Fulidhoo Island. Dinner was especially romantic since it was lit by candles next to a huge sand-carved manta ray.
Day 5 (02 Aug): Early morning dive at “Fulidhoo Caves” (Felidhe Atoll) followed by breakfast and siesta. Late morning dive briefing for “Kandoomaa Thila” near Guraidhoo Island (South Male Atoll). Fantastic dive…our favorite one so far due to the many grey reef sharks and turtle. On the dhoni ride back to MY Sheena, we got to swim with mantas! Lunch and siesta. Afternoon dive at “Kandoomaa Thila” again with our fingers crossed it would be as amazing as the first dive but the current had already changed, the water was murky, and the sharks were gone. However, our spirits were soon brightened by the presence of about half a dozen mantas playing beside the MY Sheena in the late afternoon. We snorkeled with them for nearly an hour…amazing! Dinner at 8 pm.
Day 6 (03 Aug): Early morning dive at “Guraidhoo Corner” (South Male Atoll) followed by breakfast and siesta. During our siesta, the boat relocated near a fancy resort called Gili Lankanfushi, where for only $1400 USD per night, you could have your own private stilt bungalow accessible only by boat. Late morning dive briefing for “Lankan Mantap Reef” which is at Lankanfinolhu Island (North Male Atoll). Lunch and siesta. Late afternoon dive at “HP Reef” (North Male Atoll). Dinner at 8 pm.
Day 7 (04 Aug): Last day of diving today…boo! Since half of our group had a morning flight to Dubai tomorrow morning, we did two shallow dives today. The first one was a manta cleaning station at “Sunlight Thila” (North Male Atoll). Unfortunately for us, no mantas today but it was worth a shot. And last dive of the trip was “fish factory” near Furanafushi Island (North Male Atoll). This last dive was unreal due to the number of massive eels tucked into every piece of coral. Lunch and siesta while the MY Sheena relocated to Hulhumale Port. Rinse SCUBA gear in the afternoon and let sun dry. Last group dinner at 8 pm.
Day 8 (05 Aug): Early morning breakfast before most of the passengers departed for the airport by dhoni. We caught a dinghy boat ride to Hulhumale Port and bid farewell to the MY Sheena crew. Walked to our hotel, UI Inn, which was 1 KM away. They allowed early check-in which was great since we just wanted the room for the day anyway since our flight was in 10 hours. Lunch at Shell Bean, a great choice for western food. Caught 8 pm bus to the airport (20 Rufiyaa each). Scoot Air allowed passengers to board the flight an hour early and departed 20 minutes ahead of schedule, much to our surprise.