Dharavandhoo is one of the populated islands in Maldives that is accessible by plane from Male and has reasonably priced accommodation.
For our first 5 nights in Maldives, my friend and I had purchased a package deal. The $1,000 fee included airfare for 2, 5 nights accommodation at the Dharavandhoo Stay guesthouse, breakfast and dinner daily, use of snorkel gear, a speedboat ride to a resort, a sunset fishing trip, and a snorkeling trip to Hanifaru Bay to see the Manta Rays. We talked to other tourists staying on the island and we had the most incredible deal of any. Our host was Adam who was a funny guy that smoked like a chimney.
The Island of Dharavandhoo
Dharavandhoo island was a locals island with several guesthouses and a new hotel around town. The western part of the island was covered by trees. The entire north coast was a beach.
Snorkeling from the Shore
Near to the town was a portion where the coral was cleared away for easy access for bathers and small boats. We found this was the best place to enter for snorkeling. There were some great things to see here including an eel and lionfish.
One interesting thing about Dharavandhoo is the extreme number of hermit crabs. There are 100,000s of hermit crabs of all sizes and colors. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Here’s a hermit highway:
We called this one Big Red. He was one of several crabs that had made home in plastic containers.
Dharavandhoo is also home to 100’s of fruit bats. Can you tell which ones are male?
A Day at a Resort
One day we headed to the nearby (barely) 5-star Kihaad Resort. After paying a $31 resort fee, we were free to use most of the facilities of the island resort.
At 10am there was a fish feeding so we got to snorkel with loads of stingrays and some fish that sort of looked like sharks.
We sat on the beach and did some people watching.
In the afternoon we took a swim in the pool and had a beer. All alcohol is banned in Maldives EXCEPT at the resorts as the islands are private.
I am glad we got to check out what a Maldivian resort is like but even more glad we didn’t stay at one!
Snorkeling with Manta Rays
The most famous site of the Baa Atoll is the Hanifaru Bay. The Bay is not what I typically think of a bay… The “shore” of this bay was completely submerged! An underwater coral atoll creates this bay. At certain times a year, it’s very easy to find Manta Rays here, with their 10 foot wing span. A few times of year, there will be 100’s of Mantas here in a feeding frenzy. While in Dharavandhoo, I made two trips to this bay:
The first trip was part of our paid package. We set out on a mostly sunny day with a few clouds in the sky. We got near the bay and told to jump in the water and swim a long distance. The boats aren’t allowed to enter the bay to protect the wildlife. So I started swimming but noticed the sky was getting darker. I was falling a little bit behind the pack when it started pouring. All the sudden the blue ocean turned dark gray, the small waves got bigger so that I couldn’t see the other snorkelers, and the rain worsened the visibility so bad that I couldn’t even see the boat. For a few seconds, I started to panic. One of the guides found me and told me to keep my head down and this helped me float and ignore the fact I was in the middle of a rainstorm in the middle of ocean (it seemed). A few minutes later the rain stopped and the sun came out. We saw a couple Manta rays in the now murky water but we were limited to 60 minutes in the water and we had wasted much of the time in the rain. It was really disappointing. Not the 100’s of feeding Mantas as I had hoped.
After the disappointment, I debated going again, but decided it was worth the extra $60 to give it a try again. My friend skipped this round, but there were a lot of nice people on the tour that day. The weather was beautiful this day. You can see how clear this water is on a clear day:
We were successful to see at least 5 Mantas this day. Not the 100s that I had hoped for but did get to see a Manta swimming in circles, where you could see their ghost white underbellies.
Sunset and Night Fishing
One evening we went out for sunset and night fishing. There were good views as we headed in a boat northwest from Dharavandhoo.
Five of us fishing caught a couple dozen fishes.
They made the unfortunate decision to boil the fresh fish that night since we got back so late but we convinced them to grill us some fish the next night.
We took a prop plane back to the capital city of Male with some great views of the atolls below.
Traveled Nov, 2015