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Dive Review of Orion in
Maldives/Southern Atolls

Orion, Mar, 2014,

by Jeremy Cohen, IL, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 8 reports with 7 Helpful votes). Report 7529.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments The Maldives Southern Atolls in February/March provide heavy current advanced diving. Most dives are channel dives. Hook in at 30 meters and marvel as white tip, grey, and silver tip sharks, even an occasional silky out in the blue, tuna, jacks, and huge schools of fusiliers create a rewarding vista for divers comfortable in current that sometimes topped five knots and flew divers on their reef hook lines like kites in an autumn wind. BCs deflated and hooks pulled, the current flies divers at exciting speeds over fields of coral, then sand, down the channels created by coral slopes on each side. Here we were accompanied by sting rays, eagle rays, an occasional manta, turtles, and curious juvenile white tips. It was common to hear the high pitched chatter and sounding of dolphins. As the current slackened, a pod we had listened to for ten minutes made an appearance.

On other dives - but only a few - we explored quieter reefs where the coral was healthy, the diving was very easy and the reef life rich. From the Orion we often watched large schools of dolphins that sometimes played in our bow wake.

Orion, the largest of three yachts in the Constellation Fleet, is a very comfortable 130 boat with plenty of room to tuck into a corner to read, sun, or talk with others. The cabins are sizable and comfortable. Plenty of hot water and never a problem with the plumbing or the AC. All dive gear remains aboard the dhoni. A tight squeeze with 22 divers, but never unmanageable. The Orion serves only Nitrox, no unenriched air available, but is prepared to bring divers new to the blend (a very consistent 32) quickly up to speed.

Guests included 12 from Honk Kong, 2 Swiss, 2 Austrians, 3 Brits, 1 Russian, and 2 from the U.S. The indoor dining easily accommodated everyone in comfort. Briefs there often took advantage of the large flat screen with carefully thought out diagrams that enabled us to navigate the channel diving safely.

Cruise director Russ is experienced, professional, and friendly. Russ set a tone of treating divers as adults. Our guide, Rauf, was born in the Maldives. Always there to provide a hand hooking in or a tank tap to look up at a manta directly overhead, he was never intrusive. The Orion Shark trip avoids the the gimmicky best-of "guarantees" common on central atoll trips in which sharks, whales or mantas are lured with lights and divers expect a zoo-like experience. The Southern atolls are far less crowded. This is a trip with no guarantees. Sometimes the sharks are there. Sometimes the mantas fail to arrive at the cleaning station, the sharks are deep and the water clouded with sand stirred by racing current. This is a charter for divers who enjoy the sea in its natural state. Only a few other dive boats were ever within sight and we never encountered other divers in the channels or on the reefs or sea mounts.

As more and more charters are filled with divers looking for guaranteed sightings and often lacking sufficient experience and training to safely and comfortably dive the conditions encountered, the Orion's Southern Shark itinerary is a very welcome return to basics. The boat is not basic - it is a luxury yacht. The treatment of divers, the professionalism of the crew, and the relative isolation of atolls, reefs and sea mounts not yet visited by a crush of resort day boats are a welcome respite and a means of experiencing a compelling seascape. Catherine and I felt encouraged by the frequency of encounters with juvenile sharks in the channels and on the reefs. An indication that there are still areas in which the ocean is thriving. We felt a similar encouragement emanating from the Orion's respect for the ocean environment and the crew's encouragement to experience it, not as a video or a a marketing fantasy, but as it is -- a complicated ecosystem in which we are guests and in which human caring and stewardship are meaningful.


Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Indonesia, California, Pacific NW, Socorro Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Hawaii, Galapagos, Caribbean, Sea of Cortez, Florida, Oman
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy Seas calm, choppy, surge
Water Temp 83-°F / 28-°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50-75 Ft/ 15-23 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 60 minutes max. Enter w/group, but ok to pair off. Surface when ready. An inflatable sausage - SMB - is mandatory Yours should include a line so it can rereleased prior to surfacing. Nitrox only. 90 meters (ish) max depth. Three minute safety stop. Occasional negative entry necessary.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Battery charging in cabins ok, 220v outlets and a 110v power strip provided, small camera tank on the dhoni - with the growing clutter of small cameras and Go-Pro, care needed to avoid other set-ups from snagging strobe connectors, careful handling by crew, large table on the dhoni to serve cameras, towels, ect - no dedicated space, but that was not ever an issue.
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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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