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Magnificent Maldives on the Carpe Vita


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#1 Sqbagal

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 04:36 PM

MALDIVES – APRIL 20-27, 2014

First, let me preface this report with a disclaimer that your trip results may vary as I cannot imagine replicating this overwhelmingly perfect dive trip. Even the dive masters on the Carpe Vita remarked that we seemed to have an extra helping of awesomeness throughout the week we spent with them and that not every itinerary is able to do the same sites that we experienced. With that said, here we go….

As stated in the paperwork from Carpe Vita, members from the Carpe Vita crew and ownership met the group of us surrounding the airport information desk promptly at 2:30pm on Sunday. We were escorted to what would be our dive dhoni for the rest of the week for the short commute to the magnificent Carpe Vita, our home away from home. I'm sure there are "proper" terms that should be used when discussing boats and such, but bear with me when I just say, "Wow, what a pretty boat."

All gear and bags were brought to the stern of the Carpe Vita where we identified them and sorted out dive gear from clothes, etc and from then on, the gear was on the dhoni and not touched again unless it was time to gear up and jump in for a dive. Each diver had a personal tote that was kept under his dive station where all equipment was stored between dives and ready to go when you were. No lugging of anything other than a water bottle, towel and various pieces of camera or electronic equipment that needed to be charged between dives.

All divers gathered in the galley for a welcome greeting from Agnes, Carpe Vita's owner, given paperwork to complete and a rundown of what was to come. The galley became a base camp of sorts for each pre-dive briefing, downloading videos and photos,using the Wi-Fi, which was surprisingly fast and reliable, and grabbing a snack or a drink between dives. It was spacious and well-appointed, plenty of comfortable seating for all well without being squished together.

The rundown was basically our schedule for the week would be: cold breakfast, DIVE, cooked breakfast, DIVE, lunch, DIVE, snack, DIVE, dinner– rinse, repeat. A bell was rung indicating that we were either about to eat or dive – basically if we were already wet, time to eat – if we were dry, time to dive. Pavlov would have been proud at how quickly we learned where to be.

We also met our dive masters, Valho, Panda, Dempey and Hussain. Each of the DMs were quick to smile, friendly and overly nice. I was with Panda for the week and he was extra awesome to me, making sure I saw everything and he found SO much tiny stuff – bubble shrimp, dragon shrimp, coral shrimp, teensy coral crabs as well as halimeda ghost pipe fish, fancy ghost pipe fish, frog fish,dozens of nudibranchs, octopus, a huge zebra eel (that was awesome), all while keeping track of divers of various skill levels.

Ok –so the diving: Sunday was a checkout dive, you know the drill, so-so site, don't kill yourself or anyone else and then we'll start the real stuff. Well, for a checkout dive, it was still pretty nice. We were all required to shoot a bag to make sure we still had the skills – some didn't – LOL – holy cow, who knew there were so many ways to wrap a string around your body – that was as much fun to watch as the dive itself. Anyway, everyone made it back to the boat and it was time for food –more about that later.

Monday brought us to some real diving. Some of the most beautiful table coral I've everseen, I mean as far as the eye could see it was table coral and so much life! Big schools of fish, at one pointI was part of a bait ball, so amazing! It was fish soup and I was in heaven. Then if that wasn't enough, here come the turtles who could care less that we were there and snapping photos and videos within inches of them. And the walls were equally beautiful, so much to look at – eels peering out from their homes, lionfish where they are supposed to be, cleaner shrimp, nudibranchs, frog fish and so much more. Soft corals, hard corals, gorgonian fans, truly a diver's paradise – at least this diver's idea of paradise, anyway. This experience was repeated throughout the week, there just wasn't a "bad" dive site. So many fish and such healthy reefs and absolutely beautiful topography…...sigh.

For one of the afternoon dives we used reef hooks and it wasmy first rodeo – what an experience. I've dealt with currents but I wasn't understanding the concept and it didn't help that my hook wasn't cooperating; every few minutes I'd come unhooked and Whoa!Nelly! It was an experience that I wasn't really looking forward to repeating the only thing that made it worth the stress and nearly a full tank of air were the sharks playing in the same current. It did make me feel a little better that they seemed just as surprised at the fast flow – they'd get to the corner and whoosh get swept back a few yards. I'm sure this was play time for them, but nonetheless, it kept me amused.

Tuesday – Nice morning and afternoon dives and then the big event, the Manta Ray Night Dive! When the boat was anchored, the crew turned on a big, bright light on the back of the boat and set up lawn chairs which had some people thinking that we weren't going to get in the water, but no, it was for the pre-dive manta show. As if on cue, the Mantas came up to the back of the boat and started their barrel rolls and fly-bys just to give everyone a taste of what was to come after dinner. Surprisingly, people claimed they weren't really hungry and were ready to just dive – patience my friends – so, dinner it was and then an enthused group jumped in the water in buddy-pairs, were guided to the "stage" and then the show began! I have been treated to Manta Night dives in Hawaii on several occasions so I knew what to expect but it's still a thrill to have them so close and coming directly at you when they adjust ever so slightly so that you aren't touched. The only trace of their presence is the rush of water/pressure that you feel as they "fly" over your head. Even when they cruise directly in front of you, perpendicular to your body and their wings are coming directly at your head, a slight tilt of the wing tip and swoosh, there it goes, no harm, no foul. Breathtaking. Many of the divers had not had this experience before and were left in awe wondering just how we could ever top this. Ah but we did….

Wednesday – Manta Ray cleaning stations were on the itinerary for the day because we just didn't get enough last night. We headed out to a known cleaning station,but the Mantas were apparently sleeping in. After fifteen minutes or so of no activity, we headed out for a regular dive. Back to the boat, breakfast and then off to Moofushi Rock another known cleaning station and we weren't disappointed this time! A flurry of activity announced the presence of three mantas circling overhead. We took our places and the show began, well at least for some ofus. I was behind a wall of blue-striped snappers that would shift positions to block my view as soon as the mantas came anywhere near me. It was pretty comical,really. After a while, I gave up and started to look around at everything but them and the mantas – little eel that was awfully close to me, and a bunch of little fishes checking me out, etc. Back to the boat and lunch and then we returned to Moofushi where I was treatedto the best seat in the house! I guess a little pouting from the first dive paid off. Fourth dive was a night dive that I wish we could have done earlier inthe day just because the area looked good at night but it would have beenanother amazing wall dive with a table coral safety stop. Dinner that night was a beach BBQ served on our own private island. Decorations for the evening included whaleshark sand sculptures so that we could definitely say we saw a whaleshark, regardless of how the next day would turn out when we went in search of them.

Thursday – Hammerhead morning dive – zilch. But spotted eagle rays on the way back to the reef and then lots of white tips and octopus and schools of fish over the reef. Then it was off in search of a whaleshark… YEEHAW! But don't get our hopes up because we had a 50/50 chance. They don't always see them, but they do try and will cruise for quite awhile to make sure they don't miss an opportunity. Well, we set off with expectations on simmer but excitement on high; about ten minutes in – WHALESHARK! And not just one, but FOUR!

The plan was to take eight snorkelers out at a time, drop them off and keep making drops until everyone was ready to stop with the snorkeling and start diving. What a hoot! Dropped in a hundred yards in front of the big guy, swim like a madwoman for a few minutes trying to keep up with a whaleshark that was barely moving his tail, but what a thrill. It was my first time to see a whaleshark up close and in person, such a priceless memory. After a few more jumps in and out of the little skiff everyone was pretty done and ready to dive. As luck would have it, we didn't scare them off and were able to dive with one for a few minutes before he was out of sight. As we continued the dive another came along from the other direction, what a treat! Surely this was going to be the highlight of the trip and wouldn't be surpassed, right? Nope… but first,another reef hook dive.

This time I was prepared and rocked it. Placement is everything, both where the hook is set and viewing spot. White tips and greys just a few feet away and playing in the current, even got to see one have some lunch! After twenty minutes or so, we unhooked and went flying! Woohoo! When we finally got away from the strongest flow, we did our safety stop among some great topography and saw eels, lobster, schools of batfish, and a huge Napoleon Wrasse.

Friday – We started out the day with two more lovely morning dives with walls and swimthroughs with nudibranchs and the most amazing and beautiful anemones of all different colors, soft corals and safety stops above plate coral where turtles were happily feeding and lazing about. Back to the boat, lunch and another reef hook dive in a channel where, again, the white tips did not disappoint. Then it was time for dinner and our final night dive briefing where we were told we would be using reef hooks – on a night dive? You gotta be kidding. Well, it wasn't because the current would be rippin', it was to keep us in place to watch the action. Oh and what action there was!

We were taken to the end of a hotel dock where they used to do shark feedings and apparently the nurse sharks have long memories because they keep coming back for more. So, there we were in our familiar circle of divers now hooked in the rocks to watch large, 8-10 foot nurse sharks and rays that were easily 3-4 feet across and amber jacks that would have fed a family swimming around us, I swear I could see the nurse sharks sniffing the ground like puppies, looking for food. While our dive masters didn't feed them, I found out later that what they were doing when they entered the "arena" was putting fish blood on the rock where the action was taking place. It was amazing. As I was hooked in, the current and surge (not much but hey, it's the ocean, water moves) kept me swaying and occasionally I would bump into what I thought was the diver next to me until I looked over and a shark was swimming between us – SO COOL!! The rays would get into the action,too. One of the large rays would swim up the rock where I was hooked and skim along until he ran into my line and then rub up against it, trying to figure out what the heck was in his way, give up and swirl around, rubbing up against me – LOVED IT! He felt like velvet – I could have done this dive for days, just keep throwing me tanks. Finally, we were instructed to begin our safety stop at the next level and there were more sharks and rays there as well, so the entertainment continued.

Saturday and our last day on the boat, nobody wanted to getin the water as it would signal the end of our trip. After the second dive, many of our groupclimbed up on top of the dhoni and cannonballed into the ocean as a fondfarewell. Playing like a bunch of kids,dive masters, crew all the divers, what a great memory and a fun way to end whatwas an absolutely spectacular trip.

If you are still reading, sorry for the lengthy report, itwas just so good it's hard to give you a Reader's Digest version. All I can say is I would do it again in aheartbeat, the only thing I would change is to make sure it's 10-days insteadof just seven.

Thanks Kamala for allyour help in making this happen.


Edited by Sqbagal, 22 May 2014 - 11:51 AM.

Instead of "SINGLE" as a marital status, I prefer "Independently Owned & Operated"

#2 scubaclint

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 07:59 PM

Lengthy is GOOD! Glad you had an awesome time. Definitely on my bucket list! :)






#3 Diver Ed

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 08:06 AM

Thank you for a wonderful report. I will be there in four months, and this will just make my waiting period seem much longer. I will actually be going during the opposite weather season, so we will be diving a different area, but I hope we have similar results. Ed

#4 Sqbagal

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 11:39 AM

Clint - it really is a MUST do!

Ed - Hope you have as wonderful a trip as I did! I'm looking at doing the north itinerary next time and then the southern itinerary after that. Another diver who did this trip told me that she was ruined for the Caribbean ever again. Happy diving!



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#5 little mermaid

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 09:32 PM

On my bucket list also!!! Traci. nice job on the recap, fun reading :teeth:/>

#6 Sqbagal

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Posted 23 May 2014 - 02:57 PM

Thanks, Kathy. There's SO much more to tell. If nothing else, this trip has provided me with stories for years to come....
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#7 WreckWench

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Posted 26 May 2014 - 08:13 AM

Thank you for a wonderful report. I will be there in four months, and this will just make my waiting period seem much longer. I will actually be going during the opposite weather season, so we will be diving a different area, but I hope we have similar results. Ed



Ed now YOU know how we feel when you get to do an amazing SD trip before the rest of us! LOL! ;)

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#8 WreckWench

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Posted 26 May 2014 - 08:15 AM

Traci that was AMAZING!!! It was like living our trip all over again...it was almost exactly the same... how cool and YES I'M THRILLED YOUR TRIP WAS AS GREAT AS OURS AND I COULD SET IT UP FOR YOU!!! (Did the guys wear their SD.com shirts when you were there? I'm sure you told them you were part of the club!) ;)

And you are officially hired...to write all our trip reports! That was superb!!! :cheerleader:

Contact me directly at Kamala@SingleDivers.com for your private or group travel needs or 864-557-6079 AND don't miss SD's 2018-2021 Trips! ....here! Most are once in a lifetime opportunities...don't miss the chance to go!!
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#9 seashell

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 01:45 PM

Traci! WOW

I'm going on this trip in January. Did you have to bring your own reef hook? I'm assuming that everyone had their own bags to shoot.

Was there anything you brought with you that you needn't have or anything you didn't bring that you wished you had?

Thanks in advance,

Seashell

Edited by seashell, 25 November 2014 - 01:47 PM.

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#10 Sqbagal

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 02:25 PM

Reef hooks can be rented for $7 or purchased for $20. Everyone had their own bags - whether they knew how to use them or not, LOL! I pack really light but as usual, brought too many clothes.  It's a liveaboard and truly you do live in your swimsuit and a cover-up while on the boat. We took a tour of the island on the last day so that called for capris or pants and a shirt that covers your shoulders, but on the boat it's shorts and tank tops or sundresses. You won't be wearing shoes at all on the boat - not allowed - you take them off when you board and don't bother with them again until it's time to leave.

 

Wish I were going with you...


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#11 seashell

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 11:07 AM

I'm very pleased to learn I can buy a reef hook on board!! I'll try not to bring too many clothes. Mike general cover up is a sarong. :) I've noticed not too many are wearing the old style sarongs nowadays but regardless of fashion, it still seems the easiest for me and very light to carry in my luggage. Yes, no shoes needed on board. So dressing for dinner was no big deal? Last liveaboard i was on a number of people dressed a bit upscale for dinner.

I.I'm very excited but having trouble getting a decent flight price out of Singapore to Male. Think will also have to stay a night or two in advance of the departure and probably again at the end of trip.

Did you fly in and out on same days of embarkation and debarkation? How did flights connect with boat for you? And if you stayed in male where did you stay please?

Anyone else have recommendation for hotel in male close to airport safe clean and reasonable price? Thsnks in advance.

Edited by seashell, 30 November 2014 - 11:09 AM.


#12 TabeaK

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 04:00 PM

Hi seashell, the airport is on a separate island, a short ferry ride from Male proper. The airport island is called hulumale and has 1 western style hotel with a beach and a pool. It is pricey for what it is but literally 5 mins from the terminal. Decent service, clean and the one place in Male to serve alcohol.

 

Male proper has a bunch of small hotels and b&bs - I'd recommend that, just for the experience!

 

We stayed here: http://www.tripadvis...ctave-Male.html



#13 Sqbagal

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 05:33 PM

I flew in two days prior to the boat and flew out the same night we disembarked. Prior to the boat, I stayed at Newtown Inn on Hulhumale, felt totally safe. It's a tiny hotel on the same island as the airport, they will provide a transfer to/from the hotel for $10. It did not have a pool but was quite close to the ocean and an amazing beach. Breakfast was included in the price and was served on the top floor of the hotel. The hotel had a restaurant on the ground floor as well, it was wonderful and affordable! Also had free wifi that worked quite well. The day we disembarked, we did a day pass at Hulhumale Hotel (the one Jenny is talking about), nice facilities, great pools, bar with good food and airport transfers.

My group didn't dress up for dinner but we did finally take off the swimsuits and put on sundresses, t-shirts/shorts, etc.

Also, remember if you go to a public beach you must cover up - if you wear a dive skin, you are covered, otherwise be respectful and don't wear a bikini or skimpy suit, cover up with a tshirt and capris. If you go to a hotel or a private island, the rules change but not on local beaches. If you decide to do the tour of the town on the last day that the boat offers, remember to cover up then as well.
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#14 seashell

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Posted 05 December 2014 - 07:00 AM

Thanks for all the great advice. I'm excited like a little kid. And even more excited because, I've managed to book another week, the week just before my earlier booking. There is a sale so i just had to do it. Wow, I couldn't get on a ten day and suddenly I'm on a 16 day trip. Woohoo.

The wardrobe information has also really cheered me up, knowing that i can bring fewer items.

But just a couple more questions please to help me make sure i understand., You were all met at the airport to board the boat at 2:30 (requiring me to fly in a day early) but what time did you disembark? I'd originally thought I'd have to stay overnight again at the end of the trip but perhaps not since the flight is a red eye back to SIngapore. Does this sound right to you?

#15 Sqbagal

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Posted 05 December 2014 - 07:40 AM

You'll be off the boat by 8:00am. That's why most people end up at the day hotel. It's much more comfortable waiting there than at the airport.
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