The Maldives in the Indian Ocean is a destination for lovers of manta rays, whale sharks and tropical waters. Here, you’ll visit coral atolls specifically in search of these gentle giants and more. On a good trip, you might spot manta rays, whale sharks, hammerheads, nurse sharks, reef sharks, barracuda and a variety of tropical fish.

While diving in the Maldives, you’ll get to see a wide range of underwater environments. Most experienced divers will want to head for the underwater pinnacles (thilas), which are caked in corals and home to huge schools of fish. Further afield, the passages between islands (kandus) are offer epic drift dives with big marine life.

Because the Maldives is home to hundreds of small islands, often isolated with minimal diving facilities, many areas are only accessible by diving safari. While it is possible to island hop by sea plane, diving from a liveaboard is often a much more cost effective way to see the best dive sites.

the best liveaboards in the maldives whale shark

Liveaboards in the Maldives usually depart from Male, which is the capital city and located in the North Male Atoll. However, some itineraries begin in the country’s north or south and require short flights from the international airport. The typical length of liveaboard trips in the Maldives is seven days, but some more remote itineraries may be as long as 14 nights.

The best time to dive in the Maldives is from January to April. During this time, the northeast monsoon arrives, bringing excellent sea conditions and plankton-rich waters. This, in turn, attracts mantas and whale sharks to the atolls. With that said, it is possible and enjoyable to dive in the Maldives year-round.

Do note that some itineraries in the Maldives may only be suitable to intermediate and advanced divers due to heavy and unpredictable current.

Best Liveaboard for Non-Divers: Scubaspa Yang

One of the most luxurious liveaboards in the world, Scubaspa Yang is one of the biggest and most comfortable ships ever built in the Maldives.

The magic of the Scubaspa Yang liveaboard (and its sister ship – the Scubaspa Ying) is its dual purpose as both a dive boat and a five-star wellness retreat. The spa occupies an entire 300-square-meter (3000-square-foot) deck, so you can rest assured that this ship will take care of you both under and above the water.

When you book a Scubaspa holiday, you’ll have to choose which combination of spa and diving suits you best. You can go for all diving, a combination of diving and spa treatments, or even just spa treatments for the whole week. If you travel with a non-diving partner, this ship is a great choice.

A large ship with 19 cabins, the Scubaspa Yang has three decks to provide enough room for everyone. In addition, the boat is staffed with a large and accommodating crew.

If you’re looking for a holiday combining wellness and diving in the Maldives, Scubaspa Yang is right for you.

Best Luxury Liveaboard: Maldives Blue Force One

Featuring a design dreamed up with both divers and non-divers in mind, the purpose-built Maldives Blue Force One has something to keep every guest happy. 

For the majority of the year, aside from a select number of seasonal jaunts into the south, this 42-meter (138-foot), motor yacht explores the central atolls, where encounters with manta rays, hammerheads and whale sharks are commonplace. To deliver diver comfort and maintain non-diver peace and quiet, all diving is done from a dedicated, 18-meter (60-foot) dhoni.

Onboard, the Maldives Blue Force One offers resort-level luxury throughout the 11 air-conditioned cabins, spacious TV lounge, upper deck bar and communal spaces. An outdoor dining area allows guests to make the most of the idyllic surroundings as they dine. Solariums, sun beds and two hot tubs also mean relaxation is never more than a few steps away. And if you ever feel like you haven’t enjoyed enough time in the water, stand-up paddleboards, surf boards and kayaks are available for use.

If you’re looking for a mix of outstanding luxury and comfort, or have a non-diver in your party, it’s hard to beat the Maldives Blue Force One.

Best Mid-Range Liveaboard: Emperor Leo

A great choice for experienced divers, the Emperor Leo combines touches of luxury with a diving-centric holiday.

The ship itself was fitted for divers by divers and has an accompanying 20-meter (66-foot) diving dhoni for greater convenience. Each itinerary is scheduled to take advantage of the best conditions for wildlife viewing, and this ship offers trips to rarely visited destinations, including the southern atolls. Furthermore, the boat can accommodate rebreathers, and Nitrox is included.

In terms of topside amenities, the Emperor Leo has it all. There’s a jacuzzi on deck, and a full bar is staffed by the helpful crew. 24 divers can travel with the boat in 12 air-conditioned cabins.

For experienced divers or those searching for a well-priced boat with a touch of luxury, the Emperor Leo is a great choice.

Best Budget Liveaboard: MV Ari Queen

One of the world’s best budget liveaboards, the MV Ari Queen will show you the best dive sites in the Maldives at a budget-friendly price.

Well-equipped in terms of scuba diving facilities, the MV Ari Queen promises that all guests will have the best possible experience. Two dive pros are ready to accompany divers on all dives, and the spacious dive deck has room for everyone’s equipment. On a typical itinerary, you’ll enjoy one dive on the first day along with three dives on each full day and one dive on the last day of the trip. This means you’ll dive a total of 17 times. Occasionally, this budget-friendly liveaboard offers two-week itineraries.

Topside, the steel-hulled yacht provides 24 guests with 12 ensuite cabins. There’s also a lounge with a TV, and the sundeck hosts an open-air bar for enjoying the sunny views while sipping on your post-dive cocktail. 15 crew members will ensure your every need is catered to.

If you’d like to visit the traditionally pricey Maldives, but are worried about the price, look no further than the MV Ari Queen.

Best Global Reputation: Maldives Aggressor II

If you’re looking for a liveaboard backed by a global liveaboard fleet name, the Maldives Aggressor II is ideal. Operating across 16 countries, the Aggressor fleet ensures each Aggressor liveaboard is of the top standard on deck and below the surface. This vessel houses 11 cabins and was renovated in 2017.

Itineraries onboard the Maldives Aggressor II take in all the best of Maldivian dive diversity, including drift dives, pinnacles, incredible reefs and manta cleaning stations.

The Maldives Aggressor II offers 7 nights/8 days and 10 nights/11 days trips. Prices range from USD $2,500 to around USD $5,000 per trip, and this fleet often offers seasonal deals. Several additional features provide extra comfort onboard, including personal gear lockers, spacious camera tables, WiFi and nitrox (at an extra cost).

For those confused about which liveaboard to go for, and to whom a global reputation is important, head to the Maldives Aggressor II.

Ready To Dive Into the Maldives?

The five liveaboards you’ve read about were hand-picked by our Scuba Travel Experts, but there are numerous other boats available. Packages are customizeable with PADI Travel, meaning you can get everything you need and leave anything you don’t. This includes transfers, nitrox, rental equipment, and even the choice of single occupancy cabins on many liveaboards. To see the full list of liveaboards in the Maldives, click the button below.

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