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Dive Review of Carpe Vita Explorer in
Maldives/Central Atolls

Carpe Vita Explorer , Dec, 2013,

by Jeremy Cohen, IL, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 8 reports with 7 Helpful votes). Report 7468 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations N/A Food N/A
Service and Attitude N/A Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments A short 4-hour hop on Qatar Air from Qatar (where we are living), the Maldives is a favorite of divers from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Of 20 guests, only 4 were Americans. The crew was always helpful. Good buffet meals, especially the local curries - portions sometimes in short supply. The cabins are very roomy, beds comfy, bathrooms clean, hot water never in short supply. Reef and Rain Forest did their usual professional job making our arrangements - arriving a day early we stayed in the Huhulee Hotel five minutes from the airport - the only alternative if you want wine with dinner - Male is dry. Clean, good food, brkfst included at the hotel with a nice view of the Indian Ocean. A nice pool. We watched local young men playing soccer below our room (they gave us a free upgrade). An interesting 90 minute walking tour of Male at end of charter.

Carpe Vita is a very comfortable steel hulled vessel that rides the sea well. The Dhoni moves off from the mother ship for tank filling. We never had to listen to the twin compressors rumbling. Lots of nooks and crannies to sit, indoors or out, between dives to read, log the reefs, or simply gaze at impossibly beautiful seascapes. Two glasses of wine or beer with dinner included each night. Full bar. All meals outdoors - no need for more than shorts and a tee. All in all, a stable, comfortable, well run boat. Each diver received a list of her/his dives, including depth and time, at the charter's end. Nice touch.

Four dives a day available, but no pressure to do more than you want - the first briefing at 6:15am, sometimes earlier. A couple of night dives. 3mm wetsuit was just right. Beautiful and colorful soft and hard coral, clouds of fish, big tuna and jacks are common, oriental sweetlips and masked bannerfish, butterflyfish, a variety of angels, surgeonfish, lionfish, and big eyes were common on every dive. Great trip for photography - including mantas, small white tip and very large nurse sharks. Several eagle, black, and splotched rays on many of our dives. Lovely, big, green turtles. Some macro life, but best for wide angle and fish portraiture. A couple of small, beautifully encrusted wrecks in 65-93 feet of water.

Some dives were suitable for all divers. The currents were less than many we experienced in Indonesia and Fiji. Lots of drift diving. The dhonie drivers arepros. Do bring your SMP - you'll use it on nearly every dive. No problem coming up before the full group if you are low on air, tired, or just ready to surface. On some channel dives we hooked in to watch the cruising rays and sharks. Other times, we cruised slowly along the reefs. Something for everyone.

At every mooring there were several boats. We usually didn't feel crowded underwater, but the central atolls do not have the solitude of Fiji, PNG or Indonesian diving. Also different from other "must-dive" areas, there were several "contrived" dives. This is not just a Carpe Vita phenomenon - it seems to be the way things are going as boats feel compelled by competition to assure contact with big animals. Flood lights were used to attract mantas to a night dive familiar to Kona visitors. Sitting on the bottom in a sea of silt several large mantas performed a lovely ballet. Later in the week we sat in a semi-circle, again illuminated by flood lights from above, and watched 9 foot nurse sharks and a few rays and jacks in a wild spasm of food lust. Were they fed? I don't know. "This used to be a resort's shark feeding spot," a guide said. Given the frenzied behavior it seems unlikely that there wasn't something more than memory attracting these beautiful animals to a particular crevice directly in front of 20 divers hooked into the dead coral limestone in a tight semi-circle.

More disturbing, we slowly cruised one morning - along with dozens of other boats - searching for whale sharks. After a couple of hours we dove in with snorkels to swim with a small twelve to fifteen foot animal. Within minutes we were joined by snorkelers from six other boats. Beyond the Disneyland-like experience of being in the water with so many people in such a confined space, it's easy to believe that the overwhelming storm of props spinning and engines whining and the congestion of so many divers surrounding the whale at best creates a very stressful, very unnatural environment for sea life. If we are going to be concerned with the effects of military sonar testing, then we need too be aware of unnatural situations created by our presence. Catherine and I have encountered whalesharks, rays and many species of sharks and whales in Galapagos, Fiji, PNG, Socorro Islands and elsewhere. Doing so in a passive manner does no harm to the animals. The excitement of discovery is very different from the contrived check-list encounters that appear to be gaining in popularity. Are all the Maldives charters creating dives like this? I don't know, but from the number of liveaboard and day boats converging on the mantas and sharks, it might well be the case. For several of the divers on our boat, the manta and shark dives were thrilling. Others, including Catherine and me, were concerned by the practice. Sharks are shy and seeing them, or a ray cruise in the blue or just yards away on quiet reefs, or soaring along a cleaning station is thrilling and provides a very different understanding of our relationship to the sea than contrived dives in which the animals are lured artificially.

The "artificial" dives we've described are far more wide spread than the Explorer Venturer boats. Catherine and I would indeed be comfortable diving again with Carpe Vita's very competent crew. This was an enjoyable and comfortable charter. Maldives is a very special place with very healthy fish life and reefs and despite the crowds, we plan to dive the Southern atolls in late February (aboard MV Orion) and perhaps the Northern atolls next fall. After 47 years of diving, however, the trend of chasing whalesharks and luring other creatures into confined areas with large numbers of divers is one we do not want engage in. For us, at least, that's not what a swim in the blue is all about. Do we really need to see everything on every dive or even every dive trip?

Jeremy - first certification, LA County/YMCA 1966

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Alor, Bahamas, Belize, N&S California, Couzmel, Fiji, Flores, Florida, Galapagos, Kauai, Komodo, Little Cayman, Maui, Niihau, Oman, Papua New Guinea, South Sulawesi Puget Sound, Roatan, Sea of Cortez, Socorro Islands, Utila
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy, dry Seas calm, currents, no currents
Water Temp 83-84°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40-80 Ft/ 12-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions Maldives sets 99 foot depth max. Sometimes follow guide, others buddy diving dependent on dive site.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks 1 or 2
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals N/A Tropical Fish N/A
Small Critters N/A Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Small camera table, LP air only reached one corner, same as smoking area - a cloud of cigar and cigarette smoke and sometimes ashtrays and other non-photo gear on table. Rinse tanks on the dhoni "exclusive" to cameras, but many cleaned their masks, gauges, etc. in them - tanks adequate, but not large and with small twin strobes they are crowded. The crew was terrific with camera handling - kudoos! Very helpful passing cameras to divers in the water and retrieving them at dive's end.
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Report currently has 1 Helpful vote

Subscriber's Comments

By Laura A. Sonnenmark in VA, US at Jan 03, 2014 11:10 EST  
Thanks for your thoughtful review! We had a fantastic whale shark experience in the Sea of Cortez (Rocio del Mar) this past September, but later a fellow passenger showed me photos of a place where people sit in the boat and the crew have some sort of sieve feeder so the whale sharks come right up to the bow! No, I wouldn't like that, either.
By Graham McGregor in Kilmacolm, GB at Nov 04, 2014 18:39 EST  
Jeremy I've dived in the Maldives several times both liveaboard and resort based. I must say I've never seen or heard of the "contrived" dives you mention (lights to attract manatas at night or shark feeds). I have been fortunate to have a good few manta encounters, generally well briefed and well led dives. I've also snorkelled a couple of times with whale sharks. You are right it can get crowded and unfortunately the odd idiot will dive down and get too close to the animal, when that happened the shark dived down into the depths and disappeared. I'm not saying what you experienced doesn't happen, nor am I condoning it, I haven't experienced it.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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