For those of you who don't yet know where Maldives is, you better learn quickly, as it may be one of the first places to disappear as a global warming disaster. And for divers or snorkelers, many say, it is the best in the world. Close to Sri Lanka, this country has over 1000 islands, glorious pure white beaches and turquoise lagoons. It is a paradise! It's home to fabulous reefs, crystal water and a wealth of marine life seldom seen in other places. There are over 80 resorts priced from expensive to Oh-My-Gosh! And if you have the money, go for it. They are fantastic with great dive programs. There are so many dive sites and so much to see you simply will NOT believe it. However, if a big buck holiday is not in your bank account, here are some ideas:
Book holiday during the off season. Think June and July. It can be damp as the monsoon comes through but if you are underwater anyway, who cares. Book early to make sure you have a place to stay. Hotel and resort occupancy in the Maldives is quite high. The monsoon may have effects on the weather but not enough to discourage you from taking a cheaper option. If you stay in Male, you can call up one of the resorts on Thursday evening and you may be lucky to get a cheap rate for the weekend when they have room. You can then have a resort experience added to your Male stay.
Book yourself a hotel in Male, the capital island. The hotels are cheaper and many of the best diving sites are within reach of Male. There are several hotels that are less than $100: Mookai Hotel, Relax Inn., Central Hotel, Kam Hotel. Check the internet. By the way, upon arrival in the airport, you are not yet in Male. The airport is one island called Hulhule. Go to the ferry that takes you to Male, a very, very short ride that costs $1 and there is one every 10 minutes or so. If you want to save more, you can also stay at some of the guest houses in the neighboring islands of Hulhumale and Vilinghili. There are regular ferries and the rides are quite pleasant. And you can snorkel right outside your front door.
Get a dive package from one of the Male dive centers. There are several diving desks that offer affordable packages in Male. A good one is the Ocean Dive Desk right at the Ferry landing from the airport. The dive shops provide everything you need to dive and it ain't all pretty but it's in good shape and you will have fun. You have to be prepared to assist the crew when you go out to dive. At the resorts, equipment is carried for you, towels are provided when you come back to the boat as well as cool drinks and some food. And of course, the equipment are top of the line in most of them. But these Male Dive Shops have equally qualified and often more experienced dive masters and they bring you to exactly the same places where the resorts go. The folks you dive with are a bit different too! They are mostly Europeans or North Americans working in Maldives, sometimes with Red Cross or UN agencies, and may be more interesting that the usual crowd of tourists. Oh and you can do your certification with the Dive Shops as well.
Schedule two dives a day. On the boat at 10 am, dive by 11. One site close by is Manta Ray, a cleaning station for the Manta rays. It is full of cleaner Wrasses to sort out a hotel. The Mantas are 3 and more meters across and they "fly" just centimeters from you head.
Then, take a wait period and a second dive in an entirely different coral and flora and fauna environment. Take cookies and drinking water. For less than half the cost of the resort dive package, you will have the time of your life.
Don't dive. Snorkel...it's free. Bring fins, mask and snorkel, get up early and take the ferry to Hulhumale or Vilinghili and walk to the water. The fish are right there, thousands of them in a kaleidoscope of colours.
Consider a diving holiday on a safari boat. You may be able to get better deals in some of the packages offered especially during the off season. You will also have the experience of night diving, diving anytime you want and experiencing some sites far off from Male. There are many packages you can consider depending on your schedule and budget. If you are a serious diver, this might be the best value for your money.
Take a compromise. Book into the airport hotel (Hulhule) for somewhat less than the price of a resort. Great pool and food and bar (not allowed in Male) and organize your diving/snorkeling through the front desk.
This place will not be here forever. Tsunamis and global warming have proven to be unforgiving to islands with a meter of altitude. Try this soon and make one of life's great experiences affordable.