Floating Away in Bliss

Head off on the five-star Scubaspa Ying resort vessel in the Maldives. Whether an experienced diver keen to night dive with nurse sharks or relax in the extensive spa, there is wonder and relaxation for all

Article by Kate Morfoot

Scubaspa ‘Ying’ and her twin sister ‘Yang” are five-star floating resorts based in the Maldives. It’s a clever concept combining a decadent escape with fine dining, scuba diving, snorkelling and indulgent spa treatments offered over four or seven nights on a super boat cruising around the Indian Ocean. Can life really get any better?

You can take your watery escape on either of the 50 metre long vessels created exclusively for luxury scuba diving and spa experience each catering for up to 40 guests. This incredible getaway in one of the most beautiful parts of the world begins from Malé Harbour which is across the road from Velana International Airport where the Scuapspa dive boat ‘dhoni’ is ready to pick you up and deliver you to one of the two floating resorts of your choice.

There are three packages available from which guests must choose one.  The options are: Scuba holiday, 15 – 17 dives, Spa holiday, eight spa treatments or Scuba & Spa holiday, six dives and four spa treatments.

It’s a great holiday for couples where one is a certified diver and the other isn’t because of the flexibility in the packages. I chose the scuba and spa option as I recently undertook the Open Water PADI course and qualified at OBLU by Atmosphere Helengeli Island resort in the Maldives before arriving on the luxurious Scubaspa vessel. My husband opted for the spa package as he wanted to relax, snorkel, sunbathe.

There is spacious accommodation with a mixture of nine suites and 10 cabins all en suite with air conditioning. Cabins either have a panoramic sea view or port lights. Guests can choose from queen, king or twin bed combinations.  Our Sea Star cabin was bright, clean, with modern décor and a comfortable bed.  The cabin was cleaned daily with fresh drinking water available in the room.

On our arrival onboard Ying, we were given a short informative briefing by the manager, Mario. This included general boat safety, diving and spa information, meal times and fun things to expect during the holiday. After the briefing we met some of the other guests onboard who were from all corners of the globe, including Australia, Austria, Poland, Canada, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Russia and the UK.

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The professional dive team are highly skilled and trained ensuring each dive is planned safely. I was aware of my diving inexperience and limitations however, I was also excited as I had only just qualified for my Open Water PADI.  Myself and my dive buddy Natalie from Hong Kong were assigned to a dive group which included two Australians, Gail and John and headed by a wonderful lady called Riks who came from Denmark. The Dive Master briefed us before each dive explaining in particular where the dive boat would drop us, potential currents, maximum dive depth, minimum air and safety stops and he would describe what you would most likely encounter on your dive (from black tip reef sharks, eagle rays to manta). Typically, there would be three dives per day starting from 6am, 10:30am, 2.15pm or a night dive.

Riks was excellent in making sure that the allocated six dives I chose within my package were well within my capabilities, each exciting memorable dive lasting around 35 – 50 minutes depending on my air consumption.

The Rasdhoo Madivaru dive site around the Ari Atoll features a healthy reef full of interesting caverns and coral overhangs. It also has a ridge that attracts a large number of hammerhead sharks.

On one early morning, I dived to see grey reef sharks, white tipped sharks along with triggerfish, blue fusiliers and my favourite find, a napoleon wrasse!  At Fish Head, I took another early morning dive that was tremendous, my confidence at depth was growing.  In the Maldives an Open Water diver can dive to a maximum depth of 20m instead of 18m that applies in the UK. I dived the maximum depth and encountered grey reef sharks, morary eels, Hawksbill turtles, shoals of colourful fusiliers, angelfish, clown fish and many checkerboard wrasse.  The coral on this dive at Fish Head was colorful, there were walls of beautiful overhangs with stunning fish darting next to it.

I was able to take a night diving course on board as I wanted to get close to and meet the nurse sharks.  The short course which included a questionnaire and a quick theory session with Riks together with a briefing session with the Dive Master, allowed me to take my first Night Dive at famous Alimatha. There were many divers who too were excited to experience the nurse sharks who behave like inquisitive puppies under water. Diving at night is both scary and surreal but also calm.  With our dive team all with our torches turned on we followed our instructions to slowly descend to the bottom at a depth of 12m and wait on the sandy seabed.

No sooner had I got to the bottom when a large sting ray glided slowly over my head followed by a nurse shark that passed me by.  Within minutes, nurse sharks where elegantly brushing in and out of our diving group with some circling above our heads.  Are they really that friendly?

My air consumption hit an all-time high as of course I was slightly anxious. But yes, they are, stay calm, keep your hands to yourself and just watch as they play, swim in and out and glide very closely past you, they won’t harm you as long as you respect them.

Scubaspa offers many memorable encounters with the underwater world including snorkeling with a whale shark. There is a particular area at Maamigil where diving and snorkeling with whale sharks is popular, it’s very busy and although the sharks seemed happy, you need to be a fairly strong swimmer to cope with the amount of pushy humans.

My Aqualung scuba diving equipment included the compulsory dive computer, mask and snorkel, a Mikron breathing regulator and a 3mm ‘Mahe’ ‘shorty’ wetsuit.  My kit also included Phazer Fins with 5mm Ellie Ergo boots and an Outlaw BCD (buoyancy control device) which is perfect for overseas travel.  If you don’t have your own kit, you can hire diving gear from Scuabspa*

It’s important to have good travel insurance if you are considering water sports.  I was insured by UK travel insurance provider, InsureandGo, and was able to enjoy my scuba diving adventures safe in the knowledge that this activity was included as standard within my policy.

The Scubaspa dive centre is based on a separate 19 metre ‘dhoni’ boat which accompanies the main ship.  There is also a dinghy boat to take guests to nearby paradise islands for sunbathing or reef snorkelling. Snorkelling proved to be just as fabulous as diving on occasions, it was also enjoyable to step off the boat and onto some idyllic white sand flats surrounded by the beautiful azure Indian Ocean to take pictures and sunbathe.

With water temperatures of around 28 degrees and so much to see, scuba diving and snorkelling opens up another world of ocean floating holidays. For those not scuba diving, Scubaspa has dinghy boat available to take guests to nearby paradise islands for sunbathing or reef snorkelling. Snorkelling could be just as fabulous as diving on some occasions and it was nice to step off the boat onto some idyllic white sand flats between the azure Indian Ocean.

For those not snorkelling, diving, sunbathing or reading then the SPA was the only option! The SPA covers 300 meters of the boat with five treatment rooms including a couples room and an outside deck for relaxation. My husband was on the spa package and made the most of the Swedish, Balinese and sports massages while I opted for the specialist Ayurveda massages and reflexology with Abi, a former trained Ayurveda nurse now therapist.

Abi also takes the Sunrise Yoga class on the deck from 6.15am which includes gentle stretching, mantras and breathing techniques.  This was a wonderful way to start the day if an early morning dive or a ‘lie in’ wasn’t on my agenda!

Breakfast, lunch and dinners are included in your Scubaspa stay together with a night time beach BBQ lit up by candles, showcasing the Milky Way and green plankton sparkling in the sea. The buffet-style meals were of consistently fresh quality and delicious.  There was a memorable BBQ steak night, as well as Mexican and Italian nights on board. Fresh fish, grilled meat and curries were available and complemented by a lovely selection of fruit, puddings, and ice cream which could be enjoyed by choosing an excellent wine from their expansive list.

Party nights were held in the bar where the disco lights attracted the dolphins and nurse sharks to the boat.

On-board everyone relaxed, shared their holiday experiences and talked about their own memories made with Scubaspa of the idyllic ocean paradise in the Maldives.  riddle_stop 2

 

Enquiries:

How to get there:

Parking with Airport Parking & Hotels  01342 710 071 / https://www.aph.com/gatwick-airport/parking

Kate flew direct from London Gatwick to Velana International Airport with British Airways. 

How to Book:

Prices with Scubaspa from 7 nights start from $2,190 per person, excludes taxes and flights.  Visit  https://scubaspa.com / sales@scubaspa.com   

The Scuba Holiday Package is only available for certified divers, if you wish to complete PADI Open Water Course you are required to take Scuba&Spa Holiday Package, this course is only available during 7 Nights Holidays, due to its length and intensity. If you booked the Spa Holiday Package you can request a payable Discover Scuba Diving Course. Those who have selected the Scuba Holiday Package may book chargeable spa treatments, depending on availability. 

Travel Insurance: 

Travellers will find that InsureandGo’s lead-in budget policy includes 50 activities and sports as standard. An InsureandGo annual Worldwide (excluding USA, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean) Budget policy starts from £40.99.  www.insureandgo.com

More information: Visit Maldives and Aqualung

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