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Mantas, Dolphins & Coral Reefs - A Maldives Cruise

Tour Code: MDV01

A 10-day holiday, including a 7-night whale-watching cruise through the warm, turquoise waters surrounding the Maldives.

10 days from £3795(inc flights) Land Only Price: £3195 SRS: £995


The Maldives are the quintessential ‘desert islands’ … a string of small coral atolls edged with fine sandy beaches and swaying palm trees, surrounded by warm turquoise seas. Within these seas lives a wonderful array of marine life including an abundance of tropical dolphins and whales, huge Manta Rays and a diversity of tropical fish to rival anywhere in the world! This holiday offers the opportunity to enjoy up to a dozen species of cetacean including Spinner, Fraser’s and Risso’s Dolphins, Long-finned Pilot Whale, Dwarf Sperm Whale and Bryde’s Whale. The water is warm and crystal clear, and the snorkelling is superb. Other highlights include the chance to snorkel with Manta Rays, an interesting selection of seabirds, and the occasional Whale Shark.

  • Exclusively chartered small ship (max 15) focusing solely on whale watching & wildlife
  • Led by marine biologist Dr Chas Anderson & a Naturetrek naturalist
  • Up to a dozen species of dolphin & whale
  • Species include rarely seen Dwarf Sperm Whale & Longman’s Beaked Whale
  • Snorkel over some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs & with Manta Rays
  • Escape the northern winter to a tropical island paradise
  • Pre-cruise night on a small resort island
  • Chance of encountering Whale Shark & Blue Whale

Food

All included in the price except for lunch and dinner in Malé.

Accommodation

For this voyage Naturetrek has exclusively chartered the MV Ari Queen (see the full itinerary for more details). Cabins are double or twin bedded (some with bunks), and air-conditioned with en suite facilities. In Malé we stay at a resort island close to the airport.

Spinner Dolphin (Dr Chas Anderson)

Spinner Dolphin (Dr Chas Anderson)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Depart London

Day 2 Malé

Day 3/9 Maldives cruise

Day 10 Fly London

Far out in the Indian Ocean, nearly 600 kilometres to the south-west of India, lie the beautiful coral atolls of the Maldives. These really are the desert islands of our dreams — warm turquoise waters lapping against white sandy beaches edged with gently swaying palm trees! Many of the 1,192 islands that make up the archipelago (only 300 are inhabited) are also ringed by pristine coral reefs, famed for their marine-life which attracts divers and snorkellers from around the world. For many people these exquisite islands and encircling coral reefs require little introduction, but the waters surrounding the Maldives hold a less widely known, but equally exciting natural attraction, cetaceans. In the past two years, 18 species of whale and dolphin have been recorded in these waters. Spinner, Bottlenose and Risso’s Dolphins are all common, as are Short-finned Pilot Whales, Sperm and Dwarf Sperm Whales. Even the Blue Whale, the largest animal thought to have ever inhabited the Earth, is seen regularly; and in recent years there have been increasing sightings of several of the beaked whale species, that group of rarely observed, deep ocean cetaceans that we still know very little about.

With such an abundance of marine-life on offer, the best way to explore this archipelago is by boat. We have therefore taken the exclusive charter of the 32-metre MV Ari Queen — a comfortable cruise vessel that accommodates just 15 guests in en suite, air-conditioned cabins — for this voyage. This will be our home for seven nights as we explore the many bays, atolls and reefs in search of cetaceans, huge Manta Rays, graceful White-tailed Tropicbirds and an abundance of other marine-life.

Our holiday begins with a flight to Malé, the capital of the Maldives. After a night to enjoy our first taste of this tropical paradise, we will board the Ari Queen and head out to explore the multitude of islands and atolls that dot these turquoise seas. Our exact itinerary will be kept flexible and in the hands of our guide, Dr. Chas Anderson, a professional marine biologist who has lived and worked in the Maldives since 1983. Each night we will anchor in a sheltered lagoon within one of the many atolls and start each day with the opportunity to snorkel on the reef. We will then head out to sea in search of cetaceans and other wildlife, returning to shelter once again in the evening, to snorkel, eat and sleep.

The great attraction of whale and dolphin watching in the Maldives is the diversity of species that can be seen here. On this trip we can expect to see about a dozen species, the calm clear waters often allowing unrivalled views. Large pods of Spinner Dolphins are a common sight leaping out of the water and twirling in the air as their name suggests. Risso’s and Striped Dolphins are also regularly seen, together with Cuvier’s Beaked Whale and Short-finned Pilot Whale. Dwarf Sperm Whale, the smallest ‘whale’, is common in the Maldives, but rarely seen elsewhere. Indeed, this cruise probably offers the best opportunity to see this elusive species anywhere in the world! Other species to look out for include Bryde’s and Sperm Whales, pods of False Killer Whales and a few rarities such as Rough-toothed Dolphin and Blainville’s Beaked Whale. For the very fortunate there is the ultimate goal of a Longman’s Beaked Whale, one of the rarest species in the world, but one that Dr Anderson has seen, and photographed, several times in these waters!

Birdlife on the Maldives is not prolific, but there are some interesting and beautiful species to look out for. The graceful Whitetailed Tropicbird is likely, along with Audubon’s Shearwaters and the menacing outlines of Lesser Frigatebirds. Of all the bird families, however, it is the terns that dominate here and we could see 10 or so species including Saunder’s Little Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Black-naped Tern and Lesser Noddy.

The Maldives are rightly famous for their sea-life and, in addition to the cetaceans, our cruise will introduce you to a wealth of marine creatures from the diminutive clown fish to the mighty Manta. Over 1,000 species of fish have been recorded here and you can expect to see over 200 of these whilst snorkelling. Hawksbill and Green Turtles are another treat to look out for on the reefs, whilst flying fish are abundant in the open water and regularly flushed into the air as we cruise from one atoll to the next. Even a Whale Shark or two is possible! There will also be the opportunity to snorkel with Manta Rays, one of the ultimate marine experiences. The sight of one, or more, of these magnificent creatures (which have a wingspan of over two metres) effortlessly gliding past beneath will not only fill your thoughts on the long journey home but be sure to remain in the memory for life.

Gold-striped Emperors with Yellowstripe Goatfish by John StannardDouble-saddled Butterflyfish by Brian W JonesApproaching RadhdhiggaDolphin watching from the boat (Kerrie Porteous)Off RadhdhiggaRisso's DolphinRisso's DolphinShort-finned Pilot WhaleBlacktip Reef Shark (John Stannard)Snorkelling at sunset (Kerrie Porteous)Maldives (or Black-foot) Anemonefish (Brian W Jones)Manta Rays (Brian W Jones)Maldivian island resort (Kerrie Porteous)Hawksbill Turtle (Kerrie Porteous)Whale Shark (Paul Marshall)Striped DolphinStriped DolphinStriped DolphinNeon Fusiliers (John Stannard)Oriental Sweetlips (Brian W Jones)A resort island in South Male AtollBlack-blotched Stingray (Kerrie Porteous)Red-toothed Triggerfish (Kerrie Porteous)Batfish & Naturetrek clients (Kerrie Porteous)Early morning snorkel (Kerrie Porteous)Chevron Butterflyfish (Brian W Jones)Jounain's PetrelSpinner DolphinSpinner DolphinSpinner DolphinSpinner DolphinsSpinner DolphinsEagle Ray (Brian W Jones)Indo-Pacific Bottlenose DolphinsTypical Maldivian sunsetManta Ray (Brian W Jones)Manta Ray (Brian W Jones)Oriental Sweetlips & Black Pyramid Butterflyfish (Kerrie Porteous)Red-toothed Triggerfish (Brian W Jones)Reef Squid (John Stannard)Roundhead Parrotfish (final phase) by Brian W JonesSnappers (Kerrie Porteous)Spinner Dolphin (Chas Anderson)Titan Triggerfish (Kerrie Porteous)Whale Shark (Chas Anderson)Yellowstripe Goatfish with Gold-striped Emperors (John Stannard)Ansanga Ihuru (John Stannard)Blue-faced Angelfish (Brian W Jones)Blue-green Chromis (John Stannard)Breaching Risso's (Chas Anderson)Eagle Rays and Red-toothed Triggerfish (Kerrie Porteous)Convict Surgeonfish (John Stannard)Bandos' house reef (Graham Smart)Sabre Squirrelfish (Brian Jones)Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (Chas Anderson)Manta Ray (Brian Jones)Black-spotted Puffer (Kerrie Porteous)Saddled Sharpnose Pufferfish (Kerrie Porteous)Morning snorkelling (Kerrie Porteous)Giant Moray & Powderblue Surgeonfish (Kerrie Porteous)Crescent-tail Bigeye (Kerrie Porteous)Coral reef (Kerrie Porteous)
A.M.
Tyne & Wear
I loved this holiday from start to finish (particularly the snorkelling). This was my first holiday with Naturetrek so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very well looked after, right from the pre-departure information that was sent out, all the way through to the end of the tour.
E.G.
London
Chas Anderson was a superb tour leader and I enjoyed his nightly lectures very much. His lecture on the deck about the stars was an amazing experience.
Mr & Mrs B.
Highland
Jenny was an enthusiastic and thoughtful leader who looked after her 'flock' extremely well. Chas was an outstanding guide to the wonders of the Maldives combining amazing academic expertise with an unfailing human touch. The Ari Queen was an extremely comfortable vessel which was very well run. The staff were friendly and helpful, the food was excellent and plentiful - we loved the great variety of fish we were given, often caught the previous evening off the boat.
F.W.
London
The trip was very well organised and the staff on the Ari Queen were very helpful. The food, considering it was on board was very good, very imaginative and also could not have been fresher as it was virtually sea to table. Chas and Jenny also very good and were informative and helpful. A thoroughly good holiday.
D.W.
Hampshire
The whole holiday was an amazing experience - the boat, crew, food and Chas with his wealth of knowledge to share with us. If you told anyone that the hour-long 'lectures' each evening were sensational and left us wanting more information, they probably wouldn't believe you! The sight of a mother blue whale coming alongside the boat, looking like a submarine hull it was so huge, and then realising that it had a calf beside it was overwhelming - not something you expect to see in real life!
Mrs S. C.
Cornwall
A brilliant holiday - sun, sea, wildlife and snokelling - what could be better!
Mr & Mrs F.
Derbyshire
(Paul Marshall) gave us lots of encouragement as novice snorkellers and without his help we would never have seen a manta ray...We learnt a huge amount about whales, dolphins and reef fish on the holiday as well as really enjoying life on the boat. The quiet efficiency of the captain and crew was impressive, and the relaxed style of the organisation made for a very good atmosphere.
Miss E. S.
Dorset
The snorkelling was fantastic, the manta rays and even a whale shark were swimming with us...The Spinner Dolphins put on a fantastic display. Thank you so much for a really memorable holiday.
Mr & Mrs T
Bristol
We were delighted to have such wonderful encounters with Pilot Whales, Risso's Dolphins, Spinner Dolphins....snorkeling with Manta Rays and Whale Shark, and (we were) amazed by the topography of the Maldives themselves....The overall feeling we had on our return was that we had been to an exotic world and loved every minute of it.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Thu 22nd February 2018 - Sat 3rd March 2018

YES

£3795

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £3195 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Thu 1st March 2018 - Sat 10th March 2018

YES

£3795

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £3195 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Maldives

Detailed tour map

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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

I loved this holiday from start to finish (particularly the snorkelling). This was my first holiday with Naturetrek so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very well looked after, right from the pre-departure information that was sent out, all the way through to the end of the tour.
A.M., Tyne & Wear