ADDU Diving on the Maldives' Southernmost Frontier

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Most people do not come across barely touched remote dive locations. Last February, we visited Addu Atoll on a whim, and my whole take on diving changed. I had found a series of Indian Ocean islands with steep walls, coral covered reefs and passages with currents that brought in Manta Rays and sharks. And to cap it all, in the centre of the Atoll sits the enormous wreck of the Motor Tanker, British Loyalty. The size of the Atoll islands chain makes for scores of dive sites, and with few hotels, the number of dive boats can be counted on one hand.

ADDU DIVING

Addu Atoll is famous for its sharks that inhabit its passages and its manta cleaning station, where Manta Rays come by and peer at divers in 30m visibility. But Addu should be dived for so much more than the sharks and Manta Rays.

Addu Atoll is one of the final frontiers of global scuba diving. It is host to the healthiest, most vibrant coral reefs that I have seen in 30 years.  Every reef is packed with fish.  If you wish to explore the outside of the Atoll, you can jump onto walls that descend down to the Indian Ocean floor. You drift through “farms” of gorgonian fans that stretch down from 10m-50m.  Sometimes sharks will appear from nowhere, have a look at the divers and then disappear. Down deeper we see 300lb tunas investigate us.

On your safety stop the barracuda, turtles, eagle rays and jacks swim past you.  In the lagoon, close to the pier of Maradu-Feydo, lies the MT British Loyalty. This magnificent wreck lies on her side in 32 metres of water, but only 14 metres from the surface.  Sunk twice by the Germans and Japanese and refloated twice by the Royal Navy, the MT British Loyalty is a magnificent giant coral reef. Swimming into the cavernous engine room, the giant Sulzer engine is covered in yellow snapper. To sum up the diving in Addu: everything is pristine, untouched, unbroken and vibrant. Best of all you’ll be very unlucky to see other divers. Everything in this world is about people, and Marc Kouwenberg, the owner of Aquaventure, is no exception. His drive in searching out the most interesting sites in Addu has created a dynamic and welcoming dive centre. Aquaventure dive three times a day from their safe, reliable boats with excellent dive guides.

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WHERE IS ADDU?

Addu Atoll is a series of slightly larger islands by Maldivian standards, that lie 620 nautical miles south west of Colombo, 300 nautical miles south of Male, and only 200 nautical miles north of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The heart shaped atoll is made up of three large islands: Hitaddu, Maradu-Feydoo and Gan. To the east smaller thinner islands make up the right hand side of the atoll offering an enormous protected but deep lagoon.  The islands of Addu Atoll lie just below the equator, with Gan Airfield at 0.69’S and 73’ E. The southern tip of Gan is also the southernmost point of the entire Maldives.

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ADDU CULTURE – STEPPING BACK IN TIME

When you land in Addu Atoll you will feel as though you have stepped back in time; to an uncomplicated world where people move at a slower pace. The crushed coral streets of Maradu-Feydoo are spotless; the people polite and incredibly kind. Behind the houses you can find dreamy lagoons with tiny clean beaches. Inside the main lagoon there is a seafront walk where fishing boats occasionally go out through the breakwater.

Addu offers you a real view of the authentic Maldives. Uncluttered with concrete and with a truly relaxed atmosphere, Addu Atoll is a series of calm islands, charming café’s and a world class dive destination.

ADDU ACCOMODATION

There are some excellent guesthouses in Addu Atoll, most of which are found on Maradu-Feydoo, and these are easily arranged through our friends at Aquaventure. But for this particular journey we will stay in keeping with the history of Gan and base ourselves in the Equator Village Resort. This is the most unlikely but utterly charming hotel in the Maldives. The Equator Village Resort is in reality the (totally refurbished) former Royal Air Force Station.  The rooms are quaint little houses with tin roofs in a series of palm fronts. But inside they are fully air-conditioned, spacious and appointed to international standards.  The bar and restaurant are situated in the old sergeants’ mess and the swimming pool is brand new. The Equator Village Resort sits on a beach between two old British jetties. The coral reef in front is as vibrant as any, and snorkelers will often see reef sharks along with other coral reef fish.

The restaurant serves an excellent choice of western, eastern and healthy Asian dishes. Most diets can be catered for, and the bar has a selection of wines and whiskies. Beer comes from Singapore.

TRIP DATES

09th February Arrive Male (Hulhumale) Guest house.

10th February Fly Male to Addu on Maldivian  approx. 1300hrs

10th February-19th February Stay at Equator Village Resort, full board, 20 dives.

19th February Optional Island tour by Boat or on land, or day off.

20th February Check out- Transfer to Gan Airfield. Fly to Male. Check in for international flight.

TRIP COSTS $2991.00 if paid by SWIFT MT

Trip includes: 1 night Huluhmale Guest House Bed and Breakfast, airport transfers Male, flight Male- Gan-Male. Airfield Transfers Gan. 10 nights’ accommodation at the Equator Village Hotel, including all meals, water, soft drinks, beer, wine, selected spirits. 20 dives at Aquaventure Maldives, transfers to the dive vessel.

Not included: International flights, tips and gratuities, night dive surcharge, dive equipment, premium spirits, premium wines, personal items, souvenirs, shopping, optional Addu tour, anything not mentioned above.

ADDU AIRPORT

The most important island in the chain was Gan, a large flat island that had enough land that a runway could be placed there in an east west direction.  In WW2 the Royal Navy established a base named Port T at Gan and built a small airfield called RNAS Addu Atoll. Fuel for ships was kept in the hulk of the MT British Loyalty. But by 1944, the station’s importance was waning and it was shut down in 1946. The MT British Loyalty was scuttled by the Navy. In 1957, with the independence of India and Pakistan throwing the security of Royal Airforce Air Transport Routes into question, Gan was handed over to the Royal Air Force. The Maldivian Sultan was prepared to let Britain have an airstrip on this outlying island. Work began on a much larger runway, which could take VC 10 Jet Aircraft. Gan remained the independent air refuelling stop to Singapore until 1974, when the far east air force was shut down.  In 1976, the final signal went out from RAF Gan and the last RAF servicemen sailed away. The airfield was then hardly used, until it became Gan International Airport in 2008. Now it provides the Maldives with its second longest runway and the southern regions of the nation with international access.  We will arrive on a Maldivian Dash 8.