Trip Report: Aggressor Adventures Maldives II Liveaboard 2018
This is part 1 of our 2-part series covering our recent visit to the Indian Ocean. Be sure to check out part 2 of the series by Sze Wei, covering our awesome experience on a safari in Sri Lanka.
Just mention the Maldives to any diver and instantly postcard-esque images of tiny tropical islands dotted across a gorgeous teal sea come to mind. The island nation, located just above the Equator in the Indian Ocean, is high up on everyone’s ‘must do’ dive list. And boy does it live up to the hype!
I was recently invited to check out Aggressor Adventures new liveaboard, the Maldives Aggressor II, as well as their new Tented Safari Lodge in Sri Lanka. So, I said “hell yeah!”, and grabbed my favorite travel ninja, Sze Wei, to hop over and check it out. Here’s my trip report from the Maldives. I’m already counting down the days until I can get back out there in February 2020! Grab a cup of tea and let’s jump right in.
The ship and her big, little brother
The Maldives Aggressor II made her first inaugural journey this year in January. She’s 42 meters (135ft) long, sleeps 22 divers comfortably as well as 16 crew. Yes, you heard that right. She boasts almost 1 crew member for every diver onboard. And these ninjas are awesome. But more than that she is gorgeous. Her salon is modern and with tons of space, huge comfy sofas, multiple flat screen TVs and computer workstations. The state rooms are spacious and instead of the traditional liveaboard bunk beds, she touts side by side beds in a more hotel feeling fashion, along with private ensuite bathrooms that have the shower & toilet set as separate rooms. Some of the staterooms offer queen beds, or the option to move the 2 single beds together to make a king! Towards the bow she offers a huge suite with big panoramic windows, a sofa, and tons of room.
But this is the Maldives, we don’t dive from the ship, we dive from a dhoni. The Maldives Aggressor II dohni is unlike anything in the entire Maldives. Not only is she the only steel dohni in the area, she is gigantic. We are talking 60ft long, space to accommodate more than the 22 divers comfortably, hot showers, a spacious camera table, big rinse tanks, huge sundeck, 4 compressors, and the list goes on and on. From the first moment of seeing them both I was impressed. But we aren’t here to talk ship specs all day – let’s get into the good stuff – the diving!
Diving in the Maldives
Luck was a bit against us this week with pouring rains, high winds, and heavy cloud cover. I couldn’t even get the drone out for a quick loop around the ship the weather was so bad. But even without the postcard picture backgrounds the Maldives still delivered where it counts – underwater! Tons of mantas, sharks, macro, just an insane amount of life everywhere. It was like diving in fish soup all week.
Our itinerary was the ‘Best of Maldives’, which is a great sampler of the areas northern atolls. Drifts, channels, wrecks, reefs, walls, cleaning stations, big pelagics, and macro all in one awesome week.
After a nice check out dive, we hit the famous Lankan Reef cleaning station for our second dive of the trip. This cleaning station is unlike the ones I’m used to in the eastern Pacific. It’s a shallow dive with a small coral plateau in the center that looks like a helicopter landing pad for reef mantas. Soon as we got down to it, there were already 2 mantas circling taking turns visiting the station. But within minutes, another arrived… and then another… and another… and before we knew it there were 10 mantas at the station. It was like watching a coordinated dance of these huge underwater airplanes taking turns coming in for a landing and then gliding off to the side to get back in line. We’d spend the full 60 minutes of the dive with a front row seat to this amazing experience. That dive alone made the entire trip for me. We could have ended there, and I would have been completely content.
The week went on to see all sorts of great interactions and experiences. While the bad weather kept us from being able to spot some friendly whale sharks in the south, the other dives in the area definitely made up for it. One evening we did a night dive with so many nurse sharks I lost count. And these aren’t your small Caribbean style reef cats. The nurse sharks here were huge and extremely friendly. I had one decide to take a nap just below me as I was hooked into a rock formation. He then proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes napping just underneath me before being awakened by 3 nurse sharks and a sting ray bumping into him at once – making a shark and ray sandwich piled nice and high. Keep in mind, this is all happening inches below me.
Another dive, at a spot known as Fish Factory, was filled with so much life it felt like we were diving in fish soup. Plus stingrays, morays, and nudis everywhere you looked. At another spot, we were on a short reef wall with tons of white tip sharks cruising around us in the current. But my favorite at that spot had to be the 2 tiny white tip shark pups. They looked like a kids toy they were so small. They’d curiously ride the current over to check you out for a second before hopping back over to mom. These little ninjas were so small that with my fisheye lens they looked like nudibranchs on a reef landscape in the photos. Add in a night dive on a wreck with one of the largest morays I’ve ever seen, a few more cleaning stations filled with mantas, a bunch of macro life (including a curious peacock mantis shrimp), and schools of so many colorful reef fish that it looked like it was raining orange and purple half the time. So yeah, it was an awesome mix making for a great week of diving even with the bad weather topside.
Gorgeous ship. Great crew. Amazing diving. It doesn’t get better than that. It was everything I could ask for and even more. All I could think the whole time was, “Wow. We need to get our ninja family out here!.” So, of course we’ve set up a very unique ninja charter of the ship for February 2020 to visit an area so special you can only dive it 4 weeks each year. Make sure to keep an eye out on our Facebook, Instagram, and upcoming trips page because the full info is coming out in the next few days!
But before I sign off, I want to send a massive thank you to Tom at Aggressor Adventures for the invitation and organization. As well as big thanks to Cruise Director Tony and guides Rippon and Jeremie as well as the rest of the crew for making the week such a great experience. And the chefs… I could write an entire article on the deliciousness these amazing guys served up all week. These ninjas speak directly to the reason Aggressor has such a great reputation for delivering incredible experiences an why we choose to use their ships for a lot of our expeditions. Interested in joining us in 2020? Give us a shout!