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Dive Review of Manthiri in

Manthiri: "Maldives great for pelagics, fish and reef critters", Apr, 2019,

by Timothy C Barden, MA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 6 reports with 7 Helpful votes). Report 10917 has 3 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments A visit to the Maldives had been on our ‘Bucket List’ for quite some time. The trip did not disappoint overall and was well worth the cost and extended flight to get there. Total travel time through Dubai is about 24 hr, including 7 hr layover in Dubai. Male (Mah-lay) is 9 hr ahead of EST. We spent a couple days in Dubai before flying on. It was a good move. Dubai was interesting and gave us a little extra time to adjust to the time change. The folks who flew straight through to Male were pretty wiped out for the first few diving days.

Our boat, Manthiri, has what appears to be the most common configuration for live-aboards in the Maldives. Eating, sleeping and living are done on the main boat. There is a flat-bottom tender, a dhoni, that tags along for the entire trip and holds all dive gear and, at least in our case, the nitrox generation system which keeps the noise level down in the living area. The dhoni has a fresh water shower, large bins for dive gear and plenty of hanger space for skins and wet suits. It would have been comfortable filled with guests, but was downright spacious for us since this trip was only half full. After each dive briefing aboard the Manthiri, we climbed down into the dhoni for a 5-10 minute trip to the dive site and returned to the main boat after every dive. Maldives diving during this time of the year is in the south. We started in Male, headed south and meandered clockwise dive site to dive site in a rough square before ending up back at Male.

I can’t give enough compliments about the Manthiri itself or the crew and dive staff. The Manthiri is about 20 years old but has been well maintained. It was built locally by the lead dive guide’s brother. There’s no peeling paint, no ‘off’ odors and everything worked when we boarded and continued to work then entire trip excepts for a brief water outage one evening while they fixed a broken pump. My personal experience on other LAB’s hasn’t been so good. The berths are the largest I have seen on any live-aboard that I’ve been on. The AC is quiet and is complimented by an overhead fan. The cabins all are plumbed for a regular flush toilet and showers aren’t restricted since they make their own water. There’s even a mini-fridge in the berth for water, soda and beer. We learned how to play “Pass the Pigs” after dinner and discovered the consequences of being greedy.

I have no idea how the cooks can produce so much food that’s so tasty in such a small galley. It all had a local flavor and there was always choice between seafood and landfood (cow-fish or flying-fish, as they’d say). The crew set a new high bar for ‘valet diving’. In addition to switching out tanks and setting up the dive gear, they would rinse off our dive skins, booties and such after each dive and hang them up to dry. I watched them rinse our gear after our final dive of the trip. They were so thorough that I didn’t bother repeating the process with most of my gear when we got home. I’m fussy about proper gear storage, so that says something.

I was surprised at the large number of other LAB’s that we encountered – 90 or so, from what I’ve read. Most had the same configuration as ours, but there was considerable variation, both in set-up and apparent ‘agedness’. Buyer, beware! It also seems that any island that can support a land operation has one, some with only a dozen huts, one with over 100. We were far from the only LAB in the area at nearly every dive site. Still, we only encountered other divers in the water a few times during the 10-day trip.

The weather favored us this time. There was barely a trace of wind and scarcely a cloud in the sky until a thunderstorm hit during our final night on the boat, fortunately, after all our gear had dried so we could pack. The water often was like a mirror as it reflected the occasional cloud that drifted by. The conditions at sunset looked perfect a couple evenings for a ‘Green Flash’ but it was not to be on this trip. The water temperature ranged from 84-86 deg at depth, even with the currents, save for a handful of thermoclines during the week. I tend to be sensitive to the cold, but I was fine with just a rash guard and lycra pullover.

In today’s climate, I should probably write a few words about ocean trash. We spent a fair bit of time between dives motoring to the next dive site. As such, we covered a lot of distance around the southern part of the Maldives and we did see the occasional plastic bottle or oddly shaped piece of plastic in our travels. Considering the number of LAB’s in the area and land operations, though, I’d have to say that there was less floating debris than might be expected.

Now, to what we came for: the diving! The current at depth ranged from mild to moderate a few times when we had to deploy our reef hooks. I thought the general visibility would be higher. Regardless of the current strength, the visibility rarely exceeded 60 feet or so and occasionally dropped to 40 ft. Inclement weather shouldn’t have been the cause. It had been calm for a while – no major fronts or cyclones to contend with. Still, the vis was adequate for our purposes.

Fortunately, it made for great whale shark and manta sightings. Maybe the murkiness corresponds to high plankton levels for feeding. We were lucky to see two whale sharks during the trip. The first passed slowly through one of our dives. It sped up after a few minutes with a casual swish of its mighty tail and then outpaced our strongest divers. We were awakened after 10pm later that night to cries of ‘Whale Shark, Whale Shark’ from the crew. A whale shark had surfaced and was feeding on plankton that had been attracted by the running lights on the stern. It stayed around for 10 minutes, circling the boat and surfacing many times. Too cool! Even Moosa, our dive leader with > 10,000 dives to his credit, had never personally seen that happen before although he’d heard reports.

Manta rays showed up or passed by on many dives. I renamed one dive site ‘Mark & Moosa’s Manta Madness’ for the six mantas we watched cavorting at a feeding station. I must have been hovering in the landing approach because I was constantly buzzed by mantas coming in for another pass to be cleaned.

Spotted eagle rays and other rays there were aplenty along with eels on every dive. We saw spotted morays, green morays, honey-combed morays, ribbon eels and garden eels along with turtles. Not the turtles of the Caribbean, skittish from constant pestering by divers. These turtles totally ignored us, even when treated to a strobe flash from 12”. Large nurse sharks were often resting in nooks and crannies in the reef, sometimes just on the odd sandy patch. It was a rare dive without one or more sightings of white-tip, black-tip or reef sharks. And octopi! They seemed to be everywhere, not surprising considering several instances of ‘octopus sex’ that we caught on camera.

Our dive masters, Moosa and Ali, were great at finding small critters and hard-to-spot fish. Notable finds were lettuce leaf frogfish, scorpion fish, various dartfish, a juvenile pipefish, shrimp, lobsters, nudibranchs etc. etc. etc. Beyond the individual sightings, I was impressed by the sheer multitude of fish. Some of the schools were from fish I’d only seen singly or in pairs, never before in schools. Fish Head dive site was outstanding!

We saw no sign of coral bleaching at any of the sites. Of course, there were still traces of the great coral die-off of 1998, but since then, this has been and is now, a healthy reef system. The near lack of sponges was odd. There were no tube or barrel sponges, common in the Caribbean and South Pacific that I could see – just lumpy things scattered about. Along those lines, while some dive sites were covered in sea fans and soft corals, most were nearly devoid of them. The fish didn’t seem to care either way. There were just as many fish at the sites with only hard coral as otherwise.

To recap, a visit to the Maldives should be on everyone’s bucket list. The reef system is healthy, the fish life and other reef critters plentiful and chances of pelagic sightings are good. You’ll have to do your homework to sift through the numerous LAB and land-based options. Even with global warming, this will be a great place to dive as long as the Male airport stays dry. Beyond that, maybe they’ll have to develop a Boeing 777 with pontoons.
Websites Manthiri   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving All over the Caribbean. Truk, Palau, Yap, Maldives
Closest Airport Male Getting There Through Dubai

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 84-86°F / 29-30°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 60-80 Ft/ 18-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Surface when psi reaches 500
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks 1 or 2
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Large table for cameras on main boat. Drying handled by towels rather than pressure hose. Plenty of charging stations. Local is 3-prong 240, but 2-prong 110 available. Nothing on dhoni but fresh water dip bucket. Camera transfers handled by crew.
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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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