In February 1997 we spent a week on MV Atoll Explorer, followed by a week on Fesdu.
We were taken by speedboat direct from the international airport to MV Atoll Explorer, moored a couple of kilometres away in Male Atoll.
Atoll Explorer was a well-run, happy and intimate ship, with about 20 air conditioned cabins and bar, and an equally well-run Eurodivers dive centre on board. A happy atmosphere, run by a Bristol captain and his mate, Cap'n Rob and Susie. The Restaurant is open at the sides. The top deck is superb - almost entirely given over to sunbathing, with plenty of shade if you want it, and even a couple of jacuzzis! We enjoyed our week on board.
We joined the boat at Kurumba in North Male Atoll, and during the week we travelled to South Male, Rasdhoo and North Ari atolls. We visited Laguna Beach in South Male Atoll, and Kuramathi, Rasdhoo and Madivaru (an uninhabited island for a memorable picnic - superb snorkelling) islands in Rasdhoo Atoll, then Ukalash (inhabited island), Fesdu, Gaathafushi (another uninhabited island for a fantastic barbecue meal on the sand under the stars) and Halaveli in Ari Atoll, ending up back at Kurumba.
Atoll Explorer is now retired.
During the week I did eleven great dives with Eurodivers, five of these counting towards my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certificate:
- Laguna House Reef,
- Laguna Outside (Vahdoo channel),
- Rasdhoo Outside (AOWD deep dive),
- Kuramathi Fan Reef,
- Madivaru Hammerhead Point (but no hammerheads!),
- Fesdu Wreck,
- Fesdu House Reef (AOWD Navigation dive),
- Halaveli Wreck,
- Bathala House Reef (AOWD Night dive),
- Bathala Tilla,
- and finally Hannes Reef, back in North Male Atoll.
The usual suspects including white tipped reef sharks, Stingrays, Spotted Eagle Rays, turtles, barracuda, tuna, Napoleons, Zebra Moray, lots of other morays, plus millions of reef fish and wonderful colourful coral - sadly since then probably looking pretty white and dead after the 1998 coral bleaching disaster.
Highlights were an early morning dive (06:30) into the blue to look for hammerheads (without success), Fesdu wreck, very friendly big (1m+) stingrays brushing up against me at Halaveli Wreck, my first night dive on Bathala House Reef, beautiful Hannes reef.
Thanks to Stella Simister of Eurodivers for her interest and patience.
Late News: Fesdu Island has changed completely since this article was written. It is now known as "W Retreat and Spa", and is really expensive - out of our league. Our comments about the rooms, the service, the food etc will now be irrelevant.
We then went back and spent a week on Fesdu Island in Ari Atoll. Fesdu is a beautiful-looking island, with well-kept interior, and cottages set back from the beach amongst the palm trees. The buildings on the island were all in good condition. Our room was huge and comfortable. The bathroom was indoors, and clean and well-equipped. When you flushed the loo it gave off an appalling bad-eggs smell - presumably the loos were on a separate circuit from the desalination plant - the shower and washbasin water was perfectly sweet-smelling. We soon got used to flushing the loo and running out of the bathroom sharpish. Ants were a minor irritation - if you left a rum and coke on the dressing table overnight, it would be full of them in the morning.
The gardener was cheerful and industrious. He came round most days offering fresh windfall coconuts, which he'd crack open with his machete, and expertly remove the white meat - delicious. The rest of the Maldivean staff, especially in the restaurant, were a bit morose. Maybe their manager shouted at them. Antony, the Sri Lankan barman, on the other hand was very chatty and friendly. There was a sunset bar with seating on a wooden deck over the beach on the west side where you could relax and enjoy a sundowner.
The food was frankly a bit of a disappointment. The sweets, in particular, were so unimaginative - they always seemed to be out of a tin, eg peach halves in syrup with condensed milk. Not exactly tropical. Wine at the evening meal had to be ordered from the waiter who went to the bar to get it - a long-drawn out process which meant that you quickly learned to order the next one as soon as your glass arrived. Tedious.
The beach was great - lovely soft coral sand, all the way round the island. The house reef ringed the island just a few yards away. There were several places where a channel had been cut through the reef so that you could swim easily out to the drop-off. Once there, you could swim round the outside of the drop-off to the next channel in order to get back in. The reef and the drop-off were superb for snorkelling - fantastic coral and millions of reef fish. Always a chance of seeing something bigger at the drop-off - turtles, rays, maybe a white tip reef shark.