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Dive Review of Ocean Divine / Dive Encounter Alliance in
Maldives/Male to south ari

Ocean Divine / Dive Encounter Alliance: "Lots to see but strong currents and limited viz", Feb, 2015,

by Hollie Lindauer, OR, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 7 reports with 3 Helpful votes). Report 8139 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Ocean Divine: the owners are now part of Peter Hughes dive encounters partners liveaboards.

Crew: The owners weren't on board during our trip. Alike and Gabriel were the two dive guides and took care of all guest concerns above water. While we had a crew of 12, (4 on the dhoni and the rest I think on the liveaboard) other than the chef who announced dinner, the bartender and the masseuse - there was little interaction with the crew other than our 2 European dive guides, who spoke good english and were helpful but a bit overworked.

Diving Guides:
One guide was training a family group of 3 who were less experienced divers. We didn't see her underwater except when she was shooting video of the group to sell at the end of the trip.

We had 1 guide for 8-9 divers. With the limited vis and stronger currents we were occasionally reduced to a bait ball of divers with most everyone bumping into each other and into coral, trying to 'stay tight' keeping the guide in view.
Fast descents to 65-85' were required, along with swims against current to ledges in the channel, or if we were dropped on the reef, we'd have to work to get over the edge. The guide seldom came up with more than 3 or 4 divers so everyone needed a personal buoy marker to avoid boat traffic.

French, German, English, Australian, Chinese and American made up the 12 total divers, I believe they can take up to 14 max. All except for the privately guided group, had good buoyancy and dive skills.

Seas: The viz was 25-60' max. The viz slowly improved during the week. Seas surged with chop, occasional white caps. I used a 3 mm - we were so active under water so I did not get cold. We had strong to minor current. The current became less severe during the week as we moved south.

Diving:
The guide enforced a 60 min. /98' Max dive time/depth. It was simply our guide's style to be on the go instead of drift diving or off-gassing in the coral heads. We seldom had less than 3000 psi. but we worked alot against current and I was a little over weighted for fast descents.

The fish:
Small schools of snapper or jacks with some tuna, often followed by single or a few reef, black or white tip sharks, 2 eagle ray squadrons, occasional turtles, lots of morays of every type (tough for reef hook siting), lion fish, devil scorpion fish, large black spotted rays, medium sized bump headed parrotfish, 2 nice groupings of mantas and a whale shark. We simply did not spend much time in the corals to view smaller critters.
Coral were mostly hard and not in great shape.

The liveaboard:
The main boat is a super attractive luxury yacht, very spacious, stable and comfortable, with a single table family style dining open air, aft. Light breakfast 7ish, breakfast with eggs after first dive 10:00 ish, lunch after second dive 1:30 pm, and dinner at 8:30-9pm. Snacks were sometimes served after second dive at about 4 or 5pm. The chef did a good job, there were always vegetables available and made an effort, often preparing freshly caught fish.
Soft drinks are free, beer $8-10/drinks $14.
Smoking is allowed on the back of the boat.

Dhoni:
Diving takes place from the comfortable dhoni. The dhoni has 3 jump off access and a comfortable ladder for return. You generally hand up fins only on return while hanging on a rope. The dive briefings take place before each dive on the liveaboard but under water conditions often required adaptations.

Day of departure:
At Male airport, at 5 pm, the dhoni pulls up at one on the sea wall docks to get all persons /luggage on board. During the 20 min ride to the boat, you are asked to unpack your dive gear and the crew quickly assembles your gear onto a tank - it stays there throughout the trip getting refills in situ. Your bags and shoes are stowed on the dhoni. We took an overnight bag for clothes for the week.
$170 extra for a week of nitrox p/p.

Liveaboard layout:
There is an interior salon, with coffee tables comfy sofas and chairs, a bar and a dry counter for camera gear and charging electronics - probably not adequate for a serious camera person but they might be able to provide for you.
Wifi is $35 for a week, occasional slow.

Forward on the main deck is covered open air built in couch seating. Second floor open air aft are cushioned chaise lounges with umbrellas, top side, is open, with chill out bean bags and cushioned lounges on the open air captains upper deck.
Below deck are the bedrooms. All pretty much the same, with 1dbl and a single bed, bathroom ensuite - 2 single bed rooms. No vibration, very stable and comfortable, lots of hot shower water - mixing valves not great for temp control, but it was more than adequate. Beds were comfortable. AC runs in the pm.

Routine:
All the liveaboards appear to follow the same route from Male down to South Ari, stopping at the same classics - manta point, channel and night dive spots - our guide worked hard to avoid the crowds at dive sites, but not all boats were as considerate with their groups.

The trip:
We had pods of porpoise accompany our boat journey from male to South Ari and back at least 3 times. The private guide did jump in to try to snorkel with them. It was not encouraged by our guide.

The channel corners do get lots of fish action, and our guide often crinkled a plastic bottle to attract sharks. Once in the channel itself, I found I had to work pretty hard to keep away from the reef top and out of the center washing machine down draft action of the main channel- not to mention trying to stay with my buddy - often filling my bcd with air to get above the 50' roller coaster current and then fast deflation at 20', for a safety. Tough on the ears for sure.

The night dive had less current fortunately. It takes place at maybe 25-35' depth off a resort doc that throws fish waste into the water. Dozens of nurse shark come in close to search for food. I wasn't crazy about the idea of associating feeding with divers but it was a super fun event and very nice dive. I'm pretty sure our guide hid some food under coral to get some close action.

South Ari has a whale shark channel which we cruised for hours, waiting in our snorkel gear - ready to jump in at a sighting. We were lucky enough to catch a minute with a young male. Manta point proved to be a great dive also, with about 10 mantas performing at a cleaning station for about 20 min.

Must have Gear per person:
Full skin or suit to protect you from coral. Gloves. Reef hooks. Surface marker buoy on 24' +/- weighted line, dive light.
helpful: dive alert blaster, color glow light for night dive to identify your buddy.
We don't own gloves but fortunately had brought reef hooks, even so our hands were cut from having to grab onto coral. We weren't initially briefed to grab coral to hang on or 'walk' to hook in locations. All of us 'never touch' coral divers were a bit confused and cut up, but the guides later clarified. Everyone but us donned gloves by day 2.

Excursions:
One pm the zodiac will take fivers to a beach on an uninhabited island for a visit.
One evening the crew serves dinner on an uninhabited beach, constructing a whale shark out of sand for our dinner table.

Getting to the boat:
Minimize your time in Male. It's expensive and there is not much to do.
Hulhule hotel, right next to the airport, is an older hotel with good food and proximity. They provide a bus at any time to airport, have a nice staff and wifi in reception. The breakfast buffet is a terrific spread. The pool /lounge chairs gets a bit over crowded. The workout room closed from 12-4pm. There is a sports bar and cafe. We stored luggage for free, but normally $7 day, same at airport.
The beds pillows pretty tough on the neck but the rooms are clean and neat, nothing fancy. Tea making and refrig, no sound proofing at windows doors. $312 p/n w/early discount.

What I'd do differently:
For sure double check the ratio of dive guides to guests. With better guide service ratio this would have been a 5 star experience.
Websites Ocean Divine / Dive Encounter Alliance   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving palau, wakatobi, philippines, tahiti, fiji, raja ampat, belize, honduras, little cayman, cozumel, red sea
Closest Airport Male Getting There We went through Dubai to Male and overnighted at Hulhule airport hotel.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas choppy, surge, currents
Water Temp 80-83°F / 27-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 25-60 Ft/ 8-18 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions A 60 min. maximum time limit was enforced. 96" max. depth. Some sawtooth profile was required.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks 1 or 2
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 2 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments They have a open bin area in the salon for charging devices and a countertop in the front of the salon for storing your camera. On boat they have a separate large rinse tank. There are no workstations and most photographers sat on the salon couches to edit.
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Subscriber's Comments

By DAVID SHEM-TOVin LONDON, GB at Mar 12, 2015 15:28 EST  
It is a beautiful boat. Shame about the owner. You were fortunate he was not onboard.
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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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