by Richard Booth
On previous dive trips to the Maldives I have always gone for the liveaboard. This time however with a non-diving partner, Belinda, we decided to try the resort option. After careful research and advice we settled on the resort of Filitheyo, complete with luxury spa and dive centre!
Flying from Newcastle we had the misfortune to find ourselves delayed for several hours following a mechanical problem with the Emirates aircraft. Eventually we took off for Dubai but on arrival there we experienced further delay having missed the connecting flight to Male. We eventually arrived in Male in the nick of time to catch the last seaplane flight out to Filitheyo, having in effect lost a day of our luxury holiday.
Once settled into our smart beach side accommodation we settled down for the night somewhat exhausted after our long and somewhat exhausting journey out to Filitheyo.
The accommodation itself was rather pleasant with a stylish bedroom fully equipped with a high walled courtyard complete with outside shower and bathroom suite. The bedroom came complete with air conditioning and hifi.
All meals were provided at the he islands main restaurant, which is situated close to the centre of the island. Self-service was the order of the day with a wide and varied selection of south eastern and western foods. The quality of the cuisine was excellent and it would be all too easy to over indulge for the greedy.
Diving at Filitheyo is organised by the Werner Lau Company, a German dive organisation. It is a BSAC approved dive centre. Registering at the Dive centre it was every evident that the company is run with the Teutonic efficiency that one would expect from our German cousins.
The first dive was a mandatory check out dive accompanied by the centre staff on the house reef along the north shore of the island.
Around the island shoreline are several marked entrance and exit points for established shore dives. Some guests apparently elect to spend their entire holiday diving the different marked sites on the house reef that surrounds the island. It’s a case of simply booking the proposed dive at the Werner Lau centre, collecting your kit, and then completing the dive. There are established drop off points situated close to the exit points from which ‘used’ dive cylinders are routinely collected. It is still important however to ensure that you sign off the completed dive at the centre to avoid unnecessary search operations for lost divers.
The house reef actually offers some great diving opportunities including a small wreck, a wooden Indonesian fishing vessel, the Agro Mina II.
An escorted night dive can also be booked through the dive centre. This dive proved to be very good fun, albeit a little disconcerting at times as some of the local larger snapper have learnt to use the beams of dive torches to ambush their prey.
Marine life appears to be plentiful and varied along this reef. If you are lucky then pelagic fish including sharks and manta rays may be observed swimming out in the blue. Apparently even whale sharks have been occasional visitors to the house reef.
The dive centre also offers plenty of boat diving options out on the more remote reefs and tillas to be found out in the surrounding North Nilandhe Atoll.
Local dhoni boats are used to visit these sites. Daily diving is offered to cater for a wide variety of dive abilities. The chosen sites for the day being graded to match individual’s experience. and by allocating each boat a ‘colour’, which indicates the nature of the dives at the intended site. I opted for the more adventurous sites. Places are usually booked on the intended ‘coloured boat’ the day before the intended dive. Initially the diving seemed rather tame with little current in evidence. The initial lack of current also explained the lack of pelagic action. However as the week progressed so did the speed of the current increased!
Indeed some of these dives proved very adventurous with a rapid descent being required down to the edge of the reef usually at a depth of around 30 metres, then it was a case of hooking in a reef anchor and flying in the current like a kite in a stiff breeze whilst staring out into the blue looking for passing pelagic fish. In this regard we observed numerous reef sharks, mainly white tips and the occasional grey reef shark, eagle rays and tuna.
It was then a case of regularly checking ones dive computer and air gauge before unhooking oneself and then being carried back up the reef by the current. In this situation my SMB and buddy reel proved very useful and once deployed seemed to act as a magnet for the dive guides and fellow guests who crowed around me knowing that the dhoni would not be far from the floating SMB. All of the dives were scenic in nature, with either drop offs, or scenic coral Tillas covered in magnificent hard and soft corals.
Interesting marine life observed included a couple of large black frogfish.
May/June is close to the monsoon season in this part of the world. In 2010, the rains came early prior to our visit. The consequent pools of fresh water led to something of a bug explosion. Whilst I escaped relatively lightly, Belinda was not so fortunate receiving numerous bites and stings resulting in her making use of the island medical centre. Fortunately the local visiting doctor prescribed antibiotics to counter the worst effects of the bug bites. The resort staff did their best to control the insect infestation by frequent fumigation of the vegetation.
However, worst was to come! Whilst taking a shower, Belinda happened to glance up only to observe a large rat looking down at her. She is not a rodent lover! Her subsequent complaints to the hotel management result in an upgrade for the remainder of the holiday to a deluxe villa situated over the water.
So would I recommend this type of holiday in the Maldives? Its not a cheap option as by the time you count up all the extras such as beverages/snacks etc. I enjoyed the cosmopolitan company of the other guests on the resort, most of whom were either German or Austrian. The diving itself was varied and quite exciting at times, albeit I had opted for some of the more advance dives on offer. The diving is mainly scenic in nature. I personally was a little disappointed that I did not see more pelagic fish; perhaps it was simply the wrong season. Certainly on previous trips to the Maldives I had seen more in the way of sharks and other pelagic action. All things considered I would still recommend the Maldives resort experience for couples especially if one of them is a non-diver. Personally however, for a club dive trip I would go for the liveaboard experience every time.