After traveling 44 hours to get to Male, we checked in for our seaplane ride to the resort. There was no flight time on our tickets and when we got to the seaplane terminal we saw all flights had been rescheduled due to weather. Over 5 hours after arriving in Male, we left for our 15 minute flight to Helengeli. This was a very bad start. Although both Trans Maldivian Airlines and the Resort blamed the delay on the weather, the real reason is there were only 8 people going to that resort that day. The morning weather affected their schedule and they lost the use of a plane because it was damaged when it hit a dock. It was a calculated business decision to wait until all 8 people arrived and send only 1 flight. It meant we were inconvenienced a lot so more people would be less affected. It is a business decision I would have made but I would have been honest with my guests. If we knew we would have to wait that long, there were 2 day beds in the VIP lounge where we could have at least slept but every time we asked when we would leave, we were given a time about as half hour later.
We expected to be at the resort in time for lunch and an afternoon dive. We arrived just before dark and after registration, we went directly to the dive school and were able to convince them that we had the experience to do a night shore dive by ourselves on a reef we had never seen before. Tanks for night dives are available only with prior approval and must be completed before 9PM. Reluctantly they agreed and we did get in the water that night which made us feel much better. We then raced back to the room to change because there was only 30 minutes left before the restaurant closed and all of the buffet was put away.
Before we finished dinner, we were presented with a bill for US$4.90. I initially though it may have been for tea and coffee but it was not. It was for a 1.5l bottle of water. Our Full Board package did not include any drinking water. We have been to hundreds of hotels in over 40 countries including much poorer and less developed countries and NEVER have we had to purchase all of our drinking water. Even the lesser hotels in Mexico and Honduras provide a liter of drinking water per person per day. We had a $60 drinking water bill for the week. It would have been a lot more if we didn't drink a lot of tea which was included. If you go to this resort, take a portable water purification system. It will pay for itself in one week. Reading other TA reviews, we are not the only ones offended by this expense.
The Resort was generally very nice. The food was excellent with good variety. Our room was spacious with a very nice bath with a Balinese shower in addition to the regular shower. There were clean towels and hot water. There were large black ants all over the bathroom floor every night. This was usually not a problem unless one of then got cold and decided to crawl into bed with us. All of the rooms are on the island, not over water like many other resorts. There is a main path in the middle of the island but the beach is interrupted so you can't get to most rooms by walking along the beach. Since all of the paths are sand, no matter how many times we tried to wash and wipe our feet and no matter how many times they cleaned the floors, it seemed that every night there was a little sand in bed.
We chose this resort because it offered shore diving. It described 6 access points for shore diving so we thought there would be 6 different sections of the reef we could see. But the 6 access points are cuts through the coral or the sandy point at the end of the island which are all good for snorkeling. The only good dive entry was from the dock and that was almost .5km from the dive shop. It's a nice walk without dive gear but a very long walk with equipment including a tank. 3 of the others were somewhat closer but required a long walks/swim through the coral cut. Also the currents can be strong and variable. One day we did entry 6 to the dock and it took only 20 min. Another time, the same dive took 52 minutes. The shore diving was both more difficult and less interesting than we expected.
The Dive operator is Ocean Pro. It is a German run operation and as would be expected, is very professional. But it is the most expensive diving we have ever done. The 6 day "Unlimited" diving package is US$474. But that doesn't include any boat dives. 2 boat dives in a day cost an additional US$25 PLUS a $2 "service charge," probably for taking your equipment and tanks to the boat and back. We have been to over 80 different dive resorts and when shore diving is available, it is complimentary on the days you do boat diving. Ocean Pro charges $40-50 PER extra shore dive even if you are doing both boat dives that day. Also the boat schedule and meal schedule makes it extremely difficult to add shore dives if you do both the morning and afternoon 1 Tank boat dives. On the days we did both dives we had time for only one additional afternoon dive or a rushed, early night dive before dinner.
The boat dives are worth the extra cost, relatively speaking. They can be up to 75 minutes. They are drift dives so you don't have to fight the current as much and they are to better sites than the house reef. There are 35 dive sites in their book although some are just different parts of the same reef. Although there was different topography, the marine life was pretty much the same. There were a lot more and larger fish than the reefs closer to Male which we did the following week. Unfortunately, in 16 dives, we did not see a single Manta even though this was prime Manta season. After traveling halfway around the globe, this was a major disappointment. Another major dissatisfaction is there was no drinking water on the boat. As with the resort, drinking water is available for purchase at US$4.20 plus tax and service for a 1.5l bottle. We have never been on a dive boat that did not have plenty of water (and often juice) and encouraged you to drink a lot as that is the best known prevention for DCS. Also instead of a refreshing piece of watermelon of orange, they offered a piece of dry coconut after the dive. The crew probably drinks the coconut water.
Several other TA reviews made reference to the seaplane delay. Apparently this is not an uncommon problem. If you have any questions for us, please feel free to contact us through TA. We are unlikely to go back to the Maldives. There are other, better places to dive that are much easier for us to get to and less expensive