I made a splash in slick scuba gear, slowly sinking into warm, crystal clear turquoise water. I’m immediately transported from the breezy palm adorned sun swept beaches the Maldives are so famous for, into a rich cobalt blue world full of wonder.
My jaw drops at the aquatic life swarming around me but am quick to squeeze my mouthpiece between my cheeks to ensure I keep breathing safely through it all. Bjork’s orchestral Oceana ballad beats through my brain, offering a perfect soundtrack for this unforgettable moment.
I’m diving one of the Maldives most famous sites, the simply titled Fish Head, known as a favourite feeding ground for sharks. The name came about as local fisherman would joke that once they let out their line and pulled back their catch all they’d have to celebrate was a gnawed off fish head, the remainder stolen as a shark’s lunch.
I maneuver through a column of bubbles as thousands of violet tinted red tooth trigger fish swoop across an endless multicoloured coral garden. I follow my guide along the terrace edge and survey the sun-drenched scene. At 25 metres below sea level the clarity here is world renowned and as I glide past friendly meandering tallfin batfish I can’t help but feel as though I’m soaring over the Grand Canyon.
My group literally hangs out inside an underwater cave as a choir of blue line snapper form a cloud of yellow and white. A duo of white tip reef sharks swim a few feet from my flippers and appear affectionate, the puppy dogs of the sea. I look up as a storm of snapper quickly jolt out of view, revealing a team of massive, slow-cruising grey reef sharks. We stare in awe at the beautiful creatures as their tails sway slowly across the underwater landscape before we rise gracefully to the surface.
After hauling myself up a wooden ladder I slither out of my wetsuite and head to the back of the boat to rinse the salty sea out of my hair via verbena scented L’Occitane. After a short cruise we arrive back at our floating home sweet home, the Explorer, affectionately dubbed “the world’s smallest Four Seasons Resort.” After skipping onto the deck we’re greeted by a sweet watermelon muddled lime shooter and refreshing ginger and lemongrass oshibori towel. This is a divers dream, the ultimate scuba safari.
The Four Seasons Explorer is a luxurious, 11-cabin, three-deck catamaran that cruises through the Maldives sun-drenched islands and atolls. Guests hop on at Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa or Landaa Giraavaru, adding a private isle experience to the start or finish of their marine odyssey into the undiscovered Maldives.
The fastest and most luxurious liveaboard in the Maldives, Four Seasons Explorer offers scuba divers effortless access to a large range of exceptional dive sites and some of the Maldives’ most sought after locations; untouched reefs, vibrant thilas, exciting channels and wrecks, prime sunrise and night sites plus seasonal manta ray and whale shark hotspots.
The Four Seasons Explorer offers the world’s ultimate scuba safari via all-inclusive 3, 4 and 7 night itineraries that incorporate a minimum of three dives a day. Want to take a break from the underwater world? Guests can still enjoy the warm waters here by opting to snorkel, water-ski, windsurf, fish, kayak or sail. Or simply cozy up to a cocktail on the top deck while chatting with the onboard marine biologist, a wildlife lovers dream date.
Blissful memories onboard also include sumptuous gourmet feasts, a visit to a secluded island for a cultural castaway experience, stroll through an isolated arts and crafts village and a romantic feast under the stars via al fresco sandbank BBQ.
Many plan a trip to the Maldives just to have the opportunity to swim with the massive and mysterious Whale Sharks that are indigenous to the area. Your best bet at spotting these magnificent beasts is by snorkelling around Maamigili Island, a tiny isle located in the South Ari Atol Marine Protected Area.
Our captain spots a congregation of boats in the distance. We zoom over in just a few minutes and once we coast to a halt, immediately hop into the water with our snorkel gear. There is most certainly a sense of urgency here as nature doesn’t wait. I let out a wee scream moments after splashing into the sea. A 5 metre long Whale Shark the size of a small school bus is swimming directly towards me. I hover to the surface and immediately swim as fast as I can in an attempt to keep up to the massive fish. I spend the next 10 minutes enduring one of the most intense workouts of my life simply to soar in a magical moment.
One can’t help but be impressed with the fact that a lone massage therapist travels onboard the Explorer simply to cater to the aches and pains of its guests. Spa fans can opt to indulge in a massage on the catamaran’s top deck or enjoy a more magical moment via private island beachside rub.
After hopping on a tender bound for the dreamy white sandy beach of Meerufenfushi I’m escorted into a secluded jungle where smiling therapist waits. I’m but a stones throw from the shore when I disrobe and quickly hop on a comfy massage table. I doze off as the whistle of the wind runs through my hair, fragrant virgin coconut oil slathered across my body.
Most who visit the Maldives rarely have an opportunity to have an authentic interaction with locals as the remote resorts they visit are never situated on inhabited islands. The separation of tourists and locals is intentional as the Maldivian government requires resorts to build outside of local communities. The strict muslim country has criminalized pork, alcohol, nude bathing and even dogs (so leave your pooch at home) but resorts are offered an exception to the rule and act as a bit of a bubble.
Guests on the Four Seasons Explorer are offered a unique opportunity to wander through the local village of Dhangethi to get a better understanding of how Maldivian’s live out their day to day lives. We stroll through a tiny boulevard, flanked by tourist shops and convenience stores, wave at a group of smiling children who are playing a fiercely competitive game of football and pop by a tiny shipyard where old boats can be found sitting in the sun ready for repair.
On my final evening we enjoy an unforgettable feast under the stars. After splashing onto Meerufenfushi’s shore we walk along an al fresco alley featuring flaming tiki torches. We are greeted by Mai Tai filled fresh coconuts which we clasp tightly in our hands as we manoeuvre into a manmade feasting table hollowed out of the islands natural sandbank.
The intimate feast is served family style featuring fresh potato salad, a tossing of mixed greens, creamy hummus and roasted vegetables. Over the course of the next two hours our server presents endless platters of perfectly barbecued prawn, lobster, chicken and lamb. After nibbling our last bite we arch backwards, staring up at the twinkle of the Milky Way. We’re delighted as a band playing local indigenous tunes arrives, encouraging us to finish the eve with an impromptu sand dance. Our surprised smiles illuminated by the full moon. Pinch me this is perfect.