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Asia Dive News : A scuba honeymoon in the Maldives

"Welcome to Kuramathi!" was the greeting as we stepped from the fabulously different seaplane that delivered us from the capital island of the Maldives Archipelago, Malé, onto the white sandy shore of Kuramathi island, the little mile-long atoll that was to be our home for the next couple of weeks. We decided on the Maldives for our honeymoon destination because of the pure and unspoilt tranquillity of it all and, of course, the diving!

My wife, Alison, had just spent the past few wintry months training in the waters of Dublin bay and was looking forward to diving in crystal clear, life-filled, warm waters—and this is exactly what we got. I was lucky enough to have enjoyed 14 years of diving (both pleasure and working) in the warm and reasonably clear water of Spain and Lanzarote where I was living when I met Alison.

After checking in, having the traditional glass of bubbly and fruit, we asked about fin rental having brought only our masks and snorkels because of weight restrictions whilst travelling. We were issued a pair of well-worn fins for snorkelling around the house reef, which was about 40–50 metres from the shore, and decided to go that very afternoon.

We stayed relatively close to the shore but we had numerous fish like Amber Jacks, Damsels and Picasso Triggerfish all around us and even a cuttle-fish became quite interested and ‘hung out’ with us for a while. The bungalows that we stayed in had steps down to the ocean so you could literally roll straight out of bed into the water. You have to swim out to where there’s a drop off to deeper, cooler water as so many people spend hours finning about right at the shoreline but as usual with sandy beaches, there’s always sediment caused by wave action on the shores and the visibility is limited to only a couple of feet.

Water temperature in July is still about 30 degrees and salinity levels were really low. Next on the list was to check out the dive school, which was all the way back down the south of the island (about 5 minutes walk!). “We’d like to go diving with you”, we said on entering the cabin, which was half way down a jetty with the dive boats moored alongside. “I’d like to go diving with you too!” was the response from Natacha, an ex-lawyer from Canada who had been working on Kuramathi for about 3 years. We put our names down for a dive the next day and also enrolled on a Nitrox course.

The following day was a little overcast but still very warm and thunderheads were to be seen in the western skies as we made our way to the boats for the dive. On board the dive boats, which were quite new and purpose built, a crew of 3 or 4 locals helped us on with gear, cleaned masks and within 10 minutes all were ready to dive and we had moored on Madivaru Atoll to dive a wall which bottomed out about 20 metres below. We weren’t wearing wetsuits and the weight of the tank was chaffing a little on the sunburn I got the day before so take a T-shirt!

After the bubbles dispersed on entry, the scene opened up before us and could have been straight out of “Finding Nemo”. The fan corals and seemingly countless variety of fish were all around and the colours were so amazing, it took a minute to take in this new world. We descended to 15 metres and began our traverse of the wall. Surgeonfish, and a vast number of Trevallys surrounded us as we made our way along the coral forms. We drifted round the ocean seamounts and came upon a huge whirlpool of circling Trevallys, obviously grouping for fear of some predator in the area. It was quite surreal to be skimming the top of this gathering, which must have been 10-15 metres in diameter. It was a little eerie to watch the silver shapes moving silently above the darkness below. 45 minutes later we were once again helped out of our gear and given water and slices of coconut as the boat headed back to the island. Faint aromas hung on the afternoon breeze as we neared Kuramathi from the kitchens at the Blue Lagoon restaurant. In the evening after wine and a fantastic dinner, we watched stingrays being fed and black-tip reef sharks patrolling the shores.

The next day we dived and saw again many varieties of fish and black-tips; one in particular took a fancy to my fins and followed me for about 10 minutes. We saw turtles feeding and Moray eels hidden in crevices in the coral. We signed up for a dive with the dive team at Shark Point where Hammerheads seem to gather in abundance. This began at 04.45 am, so early to bed the night before. We entered the water as the sun broke the horizon but still the same 30º-temperature water! A descent to 30 metres followed and, as we were in a current, we had to fin continuously for about 20 minutes. This was a little tough but worthwhile as all of a sudden, two pale shapes appeared out of the gloom about 10 metres away and glided by. Not particularly big but what a sight! These two Hammerheads were followed by a third and then it was time to surface.

My birthday present from Alison was a night dive on one of the wrecks about a mile offshore and we were shaking with anticipation as we splashed into the blackness. Our group consisted of Alison and I, the dive instructor and the island marine biologist. We dropped 20 metres to the wreck and were amazed by all the Parrott fish, Surgeon fish and turtles apparently sleeping or resting on the bows, deck, staircase, and even upside down in buckets on the deck of this old fishing boat. ‘Gorgeous George’ is a resident Moray that keeps the night watch on the wreck and he rose from his locker in the bows to see what was going on. Bioluminescence was all around and as we ascended the little sparks in the water gave way to starlit skies above as we broke the surface. Happy Birthday!

Fruit bats hang in the boughs in the trees in Kuramathi and are quite large and if you’ve never seen them before, they can seem quite strange—a bit like upside down Jack Russell Terriers in leather coats.

The rest of our stay on Kuramathi was mostly spent diving and snorkelling. One of the most interesting fish we saw was the Titan Trigger, which we were told could take quite a bite out of you if provoked. We saw them being fed by one of the locals on the jetty and they do look quite fearsome! While we sat on one of the jetties in the sun, a Portuguese Man O’ War drifted by. From seeing these on numerous occasions in the Canaries, I immediately recognised the blue tentacles and inflated pouch on the surface. We pointed this out to the dive centre and they were quite surprised as they had none reported in these waters, but a couple of days after, more were seen around the island. Maybe a nearby storm or weather system had blown them off their usual course.

After ten days of paradise on Kuramathi, we were whisked off by speedboat to the island of Kandholhu, which is approximately 250 metres in diameter; you could walk around the whole island in about 6 or 7 minutes. Once more we enquired about the diving and the day after arrival we were on our way to Fish Head to meet one of the Maldivian underwater inhabitants—a giant 2-metre Napoleon Wrasse.

He wasn’t alone either, there were three or four others with him and they weren’t shy as they approached as soon as we entered the water. They began to play in the bubble streams and one in particular began to take an interest in my wife. Obviously he didn’t know we were on honeymoon!

The three days spent on this little island were the last of our trip apart from a couple of days in Dubai on the way back, but I think to visit the Maldives only to dive, one would not be disappointed. Obviously, as we were on honeymoon, it holds a special meaning for us but if I were to visit the same dive site, anywhere in the world, time and time again, it would be here.

Rasdhoo dive centre and especially Natacha were by far the most friendly and helpful staff of any dive school I’ve experienced. I don’t have anything bad to say about our time in the Maldives and I urge all divers to consider this magical place. It’s not the cheapest but certainly not the most expensive. The Maldives will forever remain a special place for us.

Article and photography:
Paul A. Kay

Our honeymoon was booked through The Travel Broker in Clontarf, Dublin with Escape 2. We flew with Emirate Airlines from Heathrow to Dubai and then on to Malé. An air taxi took us from Malé to Kuramathi where we stayed in the water bungalows in the Blue Lagoon.