MV Fathima Liveaboard, The Maldives, October 2007

(a revised short summary from Hebrew, updated September 2009)

I've been informed that as from August 2009 the Fathima is operating under new management and has been renovated with hot water in the showers. My report is valid only to the date of my original trip in October 2007.
This page has been revised due to complaints from the Fathima operators. Let me rephrase some issues: This report reflects my (and others': people with whom I have dived with) personal opinion. I'm not writing about science, I'm reviewing my own personal experiences and thoughts.

The trip was planned to Sri Lanka, but since I was traveling in that region I found out that booking a trip to the Maldives is inevitable. Going on a liveaboard trip is always great, but not that great when it comes to MV Fathima.
A local picnic island
A local picnic island

On diving holidays there are some things that you don't have control on, the weather for instance, which was bad for this time of year: cloudy, rainy and windy which gave the trip a bit of wintry touch to it. Across SE Asia the weather was out of the ordinary, some global thing perhaps. The water was marquee with visibility from 5 meters to 15 meters.
While there's nothing we can do with 'force majeure' like that, we can still control what boat we book. To my opinion, the MV Fathima is not a good one, so you should do your own calculations of whether to book it or not. If you ask me I would say NO, again it's your choice.
Here are some reasons why:
  • No hot water in the showers
  • Only one dive master on the boat, even if it's a 'full house' with +20 divers
  • Not enough staff to help on the dohni
  • Lack of 15L tanks
  • Unresolved problems with the air-con
  • No free drinking water
  • No free access to tea and coffee
  • No free fruits and snacks
  • No nitrox
  • Food's served cold and not tasty.
This is not just my personal view, but it's also other's that were with me on the boat.
I must point out that though I wasn't pleased with some of the DM's decisions, his diving skills are superb, he knows the currents well and can point out some interesting things.

The Diving
white tip
White tip

After all it was a diving trip, so some thoughts about the dives:
Unfortunately I can't report about thrilling dives. Some of the dives were poor because of bad viz and lack of fish and pelagic animals. I had some hopes to encounter a whale shark but it didn't happen.
At times the sea was high and a bit stormy, but we also had few days of nice weather and calm sea. The bad weather+the bad boat made this trip a bit disapointing, though I know for sure that I'll go back to the Maldives in the future but in a better season.
So what did I see?
As for mantas: we saw some mantas, usually not in a group and they didn't get too close to us. The giant manta at Guhri Thila (South Malé Atoll) was amazing, like an alien space craft hovering around us.
Giant Manta
A giant manta at Guhri Thila

Due to sea conditions we missed some of the best manta points, but we did dive in other manta points but didn't see too many mantas.
There were also some white tip sharks in several shark points. The best encounter with white tip sharks was at Lhamiyaruga Thila (North Ari Atoll) where we spotted two sharks catching fish at feeding time in the reef.
A turtle and a Lion fish
A turtle and a Lion fish at Angaaga Thila

As for fish, in all of the dive sites there were big schools of juvenile blue trigger fish. They were everywhere in large numbers. The local fish were also present: small groups of big batfish, oriental sweet lips, tunas, napoleon wrasse, moorish idols and clown trigger fish, some turtles in some dives and sting rays.
Oriental sweet lips
Oriental sweet lips

Though I love strong currents dives with lots of action, the best site for my opinion was Digga Thila (South Ari Atoll). A beautiful site with large coral garden on top of it: big healthy table corals. We did 2 dives there and the scenery was amazing.
A small part of the coral garden at Digga Thila
A small part of the coral garden at Digga Thila

I didn't know that the Maldives can also offer such a beautiful reefscape! Also this site has some some coves and overhangs which make the scenery a little dramatic.
Another part of the coral garden
Another part of the coral garden

The main square in Male
The main square in MalÉ

A week's diving gone by quickly. It wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, but still, this trip made me wiser, it was a good & bad experience and I think that's what life is all about.
Till my flight back home (Malé-Colombo-Amman-Tel Aviv) I had almost two days to spend in the capital Malé. I always say that it's good to know new places. In the case of Malé it was a waste of time. It was too hot and far too humid, so if you can fly back home a bit early - do that.
Till next time in the Maldives...
Till next time in the Maldives...