For the entire year of 2015, I was privileged to live and work on an incredible resort island in the Maldives, known as “Amilla fushi”.
As a Dive instructor, the Maldives had always been top on the list of places to visit for diving, promising a multitude of marine creatures to keep me enthralled and I jumped at the opportunity to go. I was blessed to have a years leave of absence from my day job, and jet across to the middle of the Indian ocean to live a dream life.
Amilla fushi roughly translates to “Home island” in Divehi, the Maldivian language, and I spent my days living on this sandy rock and diving the balmy waters surrounding it. Located in Baa atoll, Amilla fushi is one of the newest resorts in the area, with a modern design and a concept different to the standard Maldivian resort islands.
I worked for Dive Butler International, a boutique dive company that is based not only on Amilla, but also dotted around other Resorts throughout the Maldivian atolls. Closely aligned with Amilla fushis modern concept, Dive Butler Amilla, saw me being quite literally a Dive “Butler” to people from all over the world, from fellow Anzacs, through to European millionaires and even American celebrities.
People are attracted to Baa atoll for many reasons, of course the sun, the picturesque islands and the azure waters, but a huge part of what makes this particular atoll so incredible, is something absolutely unique to this part of the world – the largest seasonal aggregation of Reef Manta rays, feeding en masse in a place called Hanifaru bay.
Guests pay for each dive, their gear and the boat ride all separately. Most avid divers travelled with their own gear so would only need to cover the dive and boat costs, but one thing that was unanimous with all dive centres, was the need to have diving insurance. Being an Instructor I was insured up to my eyeballs annually, but what was great about the dive centres is that they could insure guests on a day by day, or week by week basis. Not that I ever had a situation where we had to use it, but it was great to know we could give guests that piece of mind when diving in sometimes very remote locations only accessible by boat.
I’m sad to admit it, but I never came across a Whale shark in my time in the Maldives. It is an absolute hotspot for the Sharks, but I guess my sheer bad luck meant I never timed it right to see them. Luckily for me, I was able to saturate myself in Whale sharks in Mexico that same year, but that blog is for another time… (stay tuned).
The Maldives is a paradise for anyone and everyone who likes the Sun, Sand and Sea, but more so for any of my fellow Ocean lovers out there. An underwater photographers dream, whether you go to Baa atoll for Manta, or Ari atoll for Whale sharks, any atoll affords a rich diversity of life and colour that will have you so excited in encaptured that you’ll be down to 50bar before you know it. So, make sure to make diving top of the priority list when you get there.
The Maldives is an Islamic country. Although the religion doesn’t have much affect when you are at the Resort, landing in Male the capital and transiting to the island begs a sense of respect. For women, don’t expose any skin unnecessarily. When I would travel I would wear long shorts and a t shirt, just enough to look respectable but also not overheat in the 30degree environment.
Being Islamic, alcohol and pork are prohibited when you land so don’t go buying up large in duty free in the way there. Resorts have ample stocks of both booze and pork so don’t worry-it won’t need to be a dry holiday!
All pricing is in USD and has a catch-the “+ +” rule. Basically, any price you are quoted will be an amount with + + behind it. The first one is to cover gst which isn’t included in an advertised price, and the second one will usually be a service charge/mandatory tip that goes to the resort. On my island a single dive, excluding the gear or boat ride was USD$75++. This meant the final cost was infact $75 + $7.50 for service charge (10%) and another 12% for gst. Best to be aware of this when planning your budget.
There are many airlines that fly to Male, and so many different routes thanks to its close proximity to Dubai, Singapore and China. I flew via all three of them, and found the cheapest was usually ex Auckland through Guangzhou. The nicest would have to be a toss up between Emirates or Singapore airlines – similar in pricing at the higher end of the spectrum too.
Being so small, (population of about 300,000 when I lived there) and so spread out, there are many places that are still very much third world. There is a lot of support for locals to start their own BnB’s so if you are wanting to do it on the cheap look for Maldivian Guesthouses. You’ll be sure to have an authentic cultural experience but if opting for this, be sure to be extremely respectful of their religion and also that you won’t get access to booze or bacon but you will have incredible insight to their beautiful Mosques, untouched Beaches and simplistic way of life.