FLYING INTO MALE, the capital of the Maldives, is like plunging into a holiday brochure. The water really is as turquoise as the pages depict, and the island atolls, ringed with pure white sandy beaches and lush rainforest, are as stunning as the advertisers would have us believe.
But if you arrive in the rainy season, be prepared to experience all four seasons in one day. Oh, and rain. Lots and lots of rain.
We’re greeted with smiles as we jump aboard Maldives Aggressor II for a seven-day Best of the Maldives trip. Crew direct us to the main saloon and I feel as if I’ve walked into a 5* hotel lobby.
White leather couches hug the edges of the room, complete with two large glass tables and 16 white chairs, a buffet-style set-up at the back with tea and coffee facilities, a small fridge and
a bar. Plus, two 65in TVs on the wall and an iMac for guest use. Glass windows dominate either side of the boat, offering spectacular views of nearby islands.
I call pretty much every liveaboard a “floating hotel” but Maldives Aggressor II is in a league of its own. This vessel is so spacious and luxurious that it feels more like a floating resort, complete with spa on the top deck and a yoga corner.
The cabins are equally impressive and big.
My twin room is tastefully decorated with white walls, a dark-wood wardrobe and large cupboards. There’s a separate shower and toilet (convenient when you’re sharing), plus a flatscreen on the wall.
I peek into the Deluxe Stateroom and it has a huge bed and lounge area, plus great views. As one diver put it: “I’ve never said this before, but the boat is better than the pictures on the website.” He’s not wrong!
Just outside the saloon is a large camera area, but you won’t find tanks or compressor on this 41m vessel. Diving is in tandem with a dhoni that speeds divers away from the mother ship to the dive-sites, typically 10-25 minutes away.
Of the 20 sites I dived, it’s surprisingly hard to pick favourites. Each dive offered something special, be it a shy mantis shrimp, a chilled-out turtle, a huge school of blue-lined snapper, mating octopuses, three cranky stonefish, shark-watching from top of the reef wall and… manta rays. So I cheated and asked the rest of the group to pitch in. Here’s what we came up with: