Diving in de Maldives
The currents in the Maldives are famous and infamous for its strength. This was the reason why the early traders in the Indian Ocean were extremely cautious in the Maldivian region. Most ships sailed North or South beyond the Maldives if they had no means of business. The others used locals to guide them through the maze of reefs and currents.
These currents affect diving. An obvious solution to avoiding the currents would be to dive during change of tides. But it is even possible that during change of tides the currents are stronger than during the previous low or high tide currents.
Because of a complex interplay of the prevailing monsoon winds, ocean currents and the tidal currents, currents can vary strongly in time and place.
The ocean currents come from the same direction as the currently prevailing monsoon winds, from the Southwest in the period from mid-May through mid-November and from the Northeast during mid-November to mid-May. In addition, there is the influence of the tides. During full and new moon, a large tidal difference exists which means stronger currents. In between full and new moon the currents are less fierce. The result of these ocean currents and tidal currents determine the prevailing currents.
They can work against each other to prevent any flow while almost 6 hours later (when the tide turns) they can work together which results in very strong currents (flow rates of 4 knots are measured).
During the Southwest monsoon most plankton will gather on the east side of the atolls (where all the organic material flushes out of the atolls ) and you will see beautiful clear ocean water on the west side of the atolls.
During the Northeast monsoon this will be the other way around. The location of the large filter feeders (mantas and whale sharks) is mainly determined by the location of plankton.
The daily diving program consists of three dives, all on top sites and are mainly devoted to finding “big stuff”. The chances of seeing mantas and sharks is high (over the past years we have seen them during all safari’s) and the chances of seeing whale sharks is also high.
We dive on Thilas (mostly small round atoll reefs rising up from the atoll bottem), Kandu’s (channels through which the ocean water flows in and out of the atolls) and Faru’s (reefs).
Furthermore, we do wreck dives, night dives and drift dives.
In the ideal situation, we gradually build up the dives starting with relatively sheltered locations at the beginning of the safari so the divers can get used to the currents and we end the safari with kandu dives with lots of sharks. This, however, given the locations and tides is not always possible.
Minimal requirements for our safaris is an advanced diver certificate or equivalent, a minimum of 50 logged dives and a good fysical condition. We advise you to get yourself a medical dive checkup before the safari.
To give you an idea of what we mean with very strong currents we have placed a small video of a dive on Kandooma Thila in October 2010 above.
Because the currents can be strong a surface marker buoy is mandatory. This is a surface buoy a diver can send to the surface during his or her safety stop. This way the crew of the Dhoni (the boat from which we dive) can see where the divers are located, and pick them up.
Gloves are (in contrast to many other locations) strongly recommended. These are used to hold on to rocks (not coral!) if we experience strong currents.
A dive computer is mandatory. The maximum dive time is 1 hour for safety (strong currents) and dive planning. Obviously we also have to sail in between dives to reach the next dive site.
In addition to an extensive breakfast we also serve a hot lunch. In the evening we serve a several course dinner. Between the dives there is the opportunity to visit islands, read a book or go fishing with the crew.