Ever dreamed of a trip to paradise? The POD is delighted to continue offering this tropical destination for those wishing to encounter whales and dolphins in the wild. This exciting 10-day cruise offers you the chance to see more than a dozen different kinds of dolphins and whales...and to snorkel areound the idyllic atolls of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Picture yourself in water so clear, so blue, so warm...
WHERE ARE THE MALDIVES?
The Maldives is a small island nation in the central Indian Ocean, some 500km south-west of the southern tip of India. The country is composed entirely of coral atolls. On the atolls are some 1200 sandy islands. All are small, and most can be walked around in less than an hour. These are the picture postcard islands of your dreams, with swaying palm trees, white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons. The temperature of both air and water in the Maldives is pleasantly warm year-round.
The Maldives is an independent Republic, with the capital on the central island of Malé. This 'quiet capital' can be reached by direct flights from both Europe and Asia, with frequent connections via Singapore or Malaysia from destinations in North America or Oceania. There are also direct flights from the countries of the Arabian Gulf.
WHALES AND DOLPHINS OF THE MALDIVES
The antics of the frequently-sighted spinner dolphins are always memorable, and on our recent trips we were able to enter the water with different pods of these playful dolphins every day! We also encountered stately pilot whales, as well as pods of Risso, bottlenose, striped and spotted dolphins. We were lucky to see the same pod of mighty orcas on three occasions, and one highlight was three hours spent in the company of a pod of the world's rarest whales - the pantropical bottlenose whale.
Throughout the trip we shall also keep an eye out for the magnificent Blue Whales that can be seen in the waters of the Maldives. These blue whales are believed to belong to the distinct ‘pygmy' (smaller) blue whale form, although ‘pygmy’ is a relative term when it comes to the largest animal on Earth! These whales still grow to 20 metres in length. They may represent a distinct northern Indian Ocean subspecies, and research is currently underway to determine their true status.
The voyage takes in idyllic island and reef scenery, with very frequent of sightings of dolphins and whales. With wild animals nothing can ever be guaranteed, but past experience has shown that everyone will have many great sightings. The small-launch vessel we use is able to get particularly close to the animals, giving great photographic and interaction opportunities.
The trip runs for 11 days, from 15-25 March 2008. This is the best time of the year in the Maldives for the calmest of seas, and hence great whale and dolphin encounters, pleasant air and sea temperatures. It is also an off-peak season, which means lower airfares.
On this trip we travel through the Maldives to view whales and dolphins from on board our specially chartered liveaboard vessel, MV Fathima . Our voyage will take us past idyllic island and reef scenery, with plenty of sightings of dolphins and whales. Our trip is planned for one of the calmest times of year, when we hope to have light winds or dead calm.
Our itinerary will be very flexible, to make the most of cetacean sightings. We will travel past the atolls, enjoying the beautiful scenery, and taking our time to watch dolphins, whales, flying fish and seabirds, and perhaps also magnificent. As is normal practice in the Maldives, we will travel by day, and anchor early each evening in a sheltered atoll lagoon. Depending on our location there should be opportunities for a snorkel or island visit at these times. And after dark, far from city lights, the top deck offers stunning views of the night sky.
In summary, this is a superb trip that promise great cetacean sightings, a delightful tropical cruise, coral reefs, paradise islands, and friendly local people.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT THE TRIP?
The Maldives is one of the few places in the world where blue whales are seen on a regular basis. It is also a country where dolphin and whale eco-tourism is in its infancy, and therefore we will often find ourselves with the ocean to ourselves - with very few other boats around…just dolphins and whales - and a few beautiful mantra rays! The sheer variety of dolphins and whales that can be encountered within a few days is breath-taking. What might take 3 months of travelling around and patient waiting in other parts of the world can be witnessed in a few short days in the waters of the Maldives! This is truly a cetacean playground.
The tour has also been designed with flexibility in mind. As transportation to and from the Maldives is not incorporated into the tour, why not take the opportunity to spend a week exploring the country before the tour starts, or stay for a few days after the tour finishes? You may wish to stopover in Singapore, Sri Lanka or the United Arab Emirates, depending on your routing, for no additional expense, or may choose to participate in this tour by cashing in some frequent flyer points and hopping on a plane! The travel options are up to you, your budget and your time constrictions. As the tour is boat-based, all meals are supplied for the duration of the trip. Because of the large number of reefs it is not possible to travel overnight. Instead, as is normal practice in the Maldives, we will travel by day, and anchor early each evening in the sheltered lagoon of a suitable island, perhaps a resort, an island with ancient Buddhist remains, or an uninhabited island.
The trip will be led by Dr. Charles Anderson, a professional marine biologist who has lived and worked in the Maldives since 1983. He is the foremost authority on both cetaceans and fishes in the Maldives, and the pioneer of whale and dolphin watching there. He has published a series of six guides to the marine life of the islands, as well as numerous scientific papers. He is an accomplished underwater photographer, and will present a series of evening slide shows on marine life. With his long experience in the Maldives and his unparalleled knowledge of its marine life he will provide you with a trip that is simply not available from anyone else.
All cetacean sightings will be recorded as part of an on-going survey. Guests are welcome to participate as much or as little as they wish in this study. There is a hydrophone on board for listening to whales and dolphins, which adds greatly to the excitement.
We travel at the calmest time of year, when we can expect to have weeks of light winds or dead calm. Our journey takes us far outside the normal tourism zone, which is concentrated in the centre of the country. We will therefore be privileged to see the local people working on their islands and traditional tuna fishing boats as few outsiders have seen them.
WHO IS THE TRIP FOR?
Whether you're travelling alone, in a couple or in a group – tours of this kind typically attract a wide variety of people of different backgrounds and ages - the only pre-requisite is perhaps a love of water! (Though you don't need to be an expert swimmer, as full guidance is given on how to use a snorkel and fins). The trip is not suitable for children under 10 years of age.
The trip is open to residents of any country. The tour officially begins and ends in the Maldives, and because you make your own way there it really doesn't matter where you begin the journey!
ITINERARY & TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS
Day 1: Arrival in Maldives . Arrive at Malé International Airport and transfer to Fathima. Depart. With a little luck we can expect our first cetacean sighting while still in sight of the airport! Tonight, and every night we will anchor in a sheltered location within one of the atolls. Depending on anchoring time there may be time for a swim, snorkel or island visit. This first evening there will be an orientation talk, and most other evenings there will be a slide show or video.
Days 2-6: Heading south and west. Depart each morning and head south past the atolls, watching out along the way for migrating whales and dolphins. Each evening we will anchor in the lagoon of an atoll, and there should be opportunities to swim, snorkel or visit an island.
Days 7-10: Heading north and east. Depart each morning and head north past the atolls, following a different route from the one taken south, and sailing alongside migrating whales and dolphins. Each evening we will anchor in the lagoon of an atoll, and there should be opportunities to swim, snorkel or visit an island.
Day 11. Malé Atoll: Full morning cetacean watching. Fathima moves to Malé. Optional afternoon sightseeing in Malé. Farewell dinner on board. Transfer to airport for departure.
While the tour does not include transportation to or from Malé in the Maldives, we shall send a detailed information sheet to each person joining the tour (on receipt of the deposit) which outlines the travel options available, approximate prices, etc. You can book flights through to Malé directly with the airlines listed in the sheets or through a travel agent. Prices in February/March are usually at their lowest.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM THE TRIP?
An understanding of dolphin and whale's evolution, physiology and social behaviour by encountering an amazing variety of species in vivo
An experience of the immense grace of large whales and playful dolphins, including many species rarely encountered in other parts of the world, close up from a comfortable boat
The joy of island-hopping and exploring uninhabited atolls with swaying palms and golden sand
An opportunity to see the underwater corals and vibrantly coloured tropical fish in the warm, clear waters of these pristine Indian Ocean atolls
A chance to encounter the friendly inhabitants of this remote, safe and friendly corner of the world, well off the beaten path, with time to yourself in stunning natural surroundings
The opportunity to unwind, laugh, reflect, learn something new and meet like-minded dolphin and whale enthusiasts from different countries
WHAT DOES IT COST?
The total cost of the 10-day tour is US$3300 (Click here to convert to a different currency). This price is based on double-occupancy (solo travellers sharing a berth). This price includes all of the following:
Eleven days on the boat, chances to explore the coral reefs and beautiful atolls
All declisious meals on the boat
Whale and dolphin audio-visual presentations provided by international dolphin/whale authority Dr Charles Anderson, who will be leading the tour
Transfers to and from Malé International Airport for those arriving/departing on trip start/end days
The MV Fathima is a solid 25 metre registered vessel, fully equipped to local standards. As is normal in such vessels, all cabins are below deck, but each has a porthole, air conditioning and attached bathrooms. Access to the cabins is from the wheelhouse. This incorporates a saloon where time can be spent relaxing or socialising. There is a VCR and slide projector for evening presentations, and a small collection of reference and reading books. There is also a small bar, with a limited range of alcoholic drinks.
Meals will normally be taken in the saloon, but will sometimes be served on deck, where most time will is spent. There is shelter from the sun for those who want to spend long hours whale-watching or reading and snoozing in a deck chair, but sufficient open space for serious sunbathers. There is a full-time crew on board. The cook serves tasty, wholesome meals, which will be seafood and vegetarian-oriented. The boat has a tender for island transfers, snorkelling trips and closer encounters with cetaceans.
The price does not include:
· International airfare to the Maldives (you will be supplied with full details about booking these, how to find the best deals, etc., when you pay your deposit)
· Accommodation/food in Malé before or after the tour (if you choose to stay in the Maldives before or after the trip)
· Travel Insurance and any local airport/entry/departure taxes
HOW TO BOOK
The trip is now open for bookings - do book early! E-mail The POD to request a booking form, which should be accompanied by a non-refundable deposit of US$800 (Click here to convert to a different currency) to hold your reservation. Full payment and final booking deadline is February 28th, 2008.
Please note that, in the event that you need to cancel your place(s), this must be done in writing. Refunds of any payments made after the deposit will only be given if your place(s) on the tour can be filled.
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© The POD - People, Oceans, Dolphins 2007