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MALDIVES: Useful Information for Visiting Yachts – May 2015 – Part 1

By Jason Trautz — last modified May 07, 2015 11:45 AM
A very comprehensive report from Jason Trautz reporting on his recent visit to the islands. It is followed by a 2nd report on anchorages and other useful information.

Published: 2015-05-06 23:00:00
Countries: Maldives

The following information is provided to help sailors visiting the Maldives. This information is based on two U.S.A. citizens on the 42 foot catamaran

ARRIVAL DAY/ DATE: Monday, March 9, 2015

ARRIVAL PORT: Uligan, Maldives

DEPARTURE DAY/DATE: May 6, 2015

DEPARTURE PORT: Gan, Maldives

Consider the navigational information noted below as suggestions. You should consult other navigational sources and use your own sailing skills for accuracy and safety.

CROSSINGS

SAILING TO ULIGAN, MALDIVES:

If you visiting the Maldives during the first quarter of the year your sailing conditions will most likely be:-

FROM TRINCOMALEE, SRI LANKA:After leaving port and heading south along the eastern coast of Sri Lanka you will be faced with a current running north, up to 3 knots. When you are at the southern end of Sri Lanka you will have a neutral to favorable current flowing to the west, up to 2 knots. There are numerous cargo ships passing the southern tip of Sri Lanka, usually 10 miles or more off shore. The ships will remain with you until you are 250 km from the Maldives. South of India the current will flow towards the northwest at about 1.5 to 2.0 knots. In all of these locations you might have favorable winds, or most likely no to light winds. Make sure your fuel tanks and cans are full when you leave Sri Lanka, you might have to do 700+ nm of motoring!

FROM GALLE, SRI LANKA: South of India the current will flow towards the northwest at about 1.5 to 2.0 knots. In all of these locations you might have favorable winds, or most likely no to light winds. Make sure your fuel tanks and cans are full, you might have to do a lot of motoring! As soon as you leave the harbor you will see numerous cargo ships skirting the southern tip of Sri Lanka. These ships will be near you until you are within 250 km of the Maldives.

FROM KOCHI, INDIA: To get to Kochi you probably faced adverse winds and current. Upon departure along the coast of India they're in your favor heading south. However, when you approach the Maldives from the north you will be fighting a 1.5 to 2.0 adverse current. Suggestion, leave Kochi with full fuel tanks.

NOTE: A few yachts have made the passage to the northern Maldives under sail in early 2015. Most during the first quarter did way more motoring than they wanted.

CRUISING THE MALDIVES

Ten years ago over 130 yachts per year visited Uligan, Maldives and parts south. In 2015 the estimated number of transients will be less than 25. Why so few?

1) About five years ago the security issues related to traveling west of the Maldives was at it's peak. So, many yachts bypassed the Maldives in favor of safer southern waters.

2) The governmental fees for visiting the Maldives are unjustifiably high. They are right up there with running the ditch (Panama) and visiting the Galapagos. If you talk with a local about the high cost of cruising in the Maldives, they just shake their head, "All the money goes to Male (the capital city), and we never see any of it." To add insult to injury, the fees continue to climb year after year.

3) Many of the anchorages have deep water, and most cruisers try to avoid dropping their anchors in 25+ meters of water.

4) Safe and accessible anchorages are getting harder and harder to find. Given good weather the anchorage options are expanded. However, dozens and dozens of extremely expensive hotel businesses have leased many of the islands. In some cases, they not only lease the island where their resort is, but several other islands within 3 or 4 miles! These prime islands often have great beaches, shallow waters, and excellent anchoring potential. BUT if you drop your anchor, the hotel security guards will quickly contact you and make you move onward. Or, ask for $25 USD or more per person to stay, which is really quite reasonable in their minds, given the $1,000+ per night rooms found throughout the Madives. This comment brings the discussion full circle. If tourists arriving by airplane are spending thousands and thousands of dollars each week, why not charge those funky boat people a thousand, or more for a four to eight weeks stay? Supply and demand curves, combined with government mis-thinking, is truly a dangerous thing.

PORTS OF CALL

You can clear-in or out at four Maldives ports, from north to south they are:

1. Uligan Island, Ihavandhippolhu Atoll

2. Kulhudhuffushi Island, South Thiladhumathee Atoll

3. Male, North Male Atoll. Most yachts anchor at nearby Hulhumale Island

4. Hithadhoo Island, Addoo Atoll. Most yachts anchor at nearby Gan or Feydhoo Islands

Confused, any given island, reef, pass, or atoll goes by several names, depending on who you are talking with or what chart you are referencing? Is it Uligan or Uligamu? Tomatoe or tomato? Say, "Naibukaloabodufushi" fast three times while turning in a circle on one leg, then a chug a beer. Last sailor standing gets to sleep inside! And, to add to the confusion the same reef, island, or village name may be used four or more times, repeated at different atolls.

MALDIVES AGENTS

If you plan to stay in the Maldives more than 48 hours, you are REQUIRED to have a shipping agent when clearing in to and out of the country. This applies to all yachts and all ports. You must select and correspond with your agent PRIOR to arrival. Most shipping agents have their main office in the capital, Male. However, they often subcontract the clearance process to local firms or personnel at the other clearance ports.

I sent about half a dozen e-mails to potential agents asking for price quotes. Most responded, but not all, and the prices varied greatly. Give the positive historical reviews for Real Seahawks Maldives PVT LTD, and the fact that the owner quoted the lowest price, I decided to sign-on with Asad Mohamed and his two partners.

General Contact Information:

Real Seahawks Maldives Pvt Ltd.
G.Reynis / Rah dhebai magu 20145
Male', Rep. of Maldives

Work Phone: Country Code 960, 330-5922
Mobile Phone: +960 797-4520

Email: info@Realseahawksmaldives.com, or ops@Realseahawksmaldives.com, or m.rasheed@Realseahawksmaldives.com, or accounts@realseahawksmaldives.com, orwww.realseahawksmaldives.com
Skype: realseahawksmaldives

Uligan Contact: Mr. Asadulla (Asad) Mohamed, Director, assad@realseahawksmaldives.com, mobile phone +960 793-4946

Males Contact: Mr. Muzhid Rasheed, Managing Director, cell phone +960 797-4520 or 330-0794, m.rasheed@realseahawksmaldives.com

Gan Contact: Masood (Maththi/"Mattie") Saeed, (is Managing Director of MNS Maldives Pvt Ltd, mobile phone +960 790-6609marine@mnsmaldives.com

Make sure you place your agent's e-mail address in your SSB e-mail contact list PRIOR to leaving your last port. You will need to contact him just prior to arrival and give him your ETA. Better yet, put the numbers in your phone. Cell towers are everywhere here.

NOTES: Asad must sleep with his computer. Be it day or night, he responded to my phone calls and e-mails in a mater of minutes. He was informative and professional in every regard. Asad works in-the-box and often thinks outside-the-box to get you the lowest cost solutions for fuel, water, crew exchanges, etc. It is no surprise that his firm gets most of the yacht clearances in the Maldives. I certainly would use him again.

Real Seahawks Maldives accepts US dollars or Maldivian Rfiyaa. Credit cards are not accepted.

In 2015 several yachts did NOT use Real Seahawks Maldives, instead they used other shipping agents. Both yacht owners were not satisfied with the performance of their agents and were asked to pay about $400 USD MORE than the quoted price for their services.

MALDIVES VISA

You do NOT have to secure a visa in advance of landfall. Tourists get a 90 visa upon arrival.

APPROACHING ULIGAN

Our Navionics charts were spot on for the island of Uligan. Coming from the west you can use either of the wide deep passes to the north or south of the island. We initially anchored in 3.8 meters of water, sand bottom at 07.05.3 N and 072.54.9 E. Water visibility was about 12 meters the day we arrived.

It is important to arrive on your estimated arrival date. All of the governmental forms reference that specific date. When you are several days from making landfall give your agent a satellite phone call, or e-mail via SSB or satellite.

NIGHT TIME APPROACH

I was visiting Uligan for the first time, I would NOT try to anchor in the dark. I'm coral friendly and would insist on dropping the hook in a patch of sand. This would be very hard to accomplish in the dark. And, I hate unwrapping my chain from coral heads when it is time to depart, especially when the water is 20 meters deep.

CLEARING-IN PROCEDURE

The government offices are not in visual sight of the Uligan anchorage. After you anchor give "Uligan Customs" a call on VHF channel 16. Customs will tell you to sit tight for 30 minutes while the various officials and your agent are collected. A small launch will then approach your boat with six people. No need for fenders, the boat boy will drift in his craft behind your yacht.

Clearing in takes about 20 minutes. It is swift, painless, professional, and well organized. You will be signing, dating, and stamping at least a dozen pages of paper for your agent, Health Department, Customs, Immigration, and Coast Guard personnel. They certainly love boat stamps, so have plenty of ink.

Hopefully, you arrived on your estimated arrival date. If not, all of the pre-printed forms will have to be modified with additional signatures and stamps.

Most of the governmental forms are pre-printed with two exceptions:

1) A Customs form which requires you to declare Arms (guns), Drugs, Plants, Animals, Stores, and Alcohol. The Customs man will ask you for a list of ship stores. I said, "We don't have a list of ship stores." He smiled and quickly moved on without a word. The quantity and type of alcohol on board is ignored, regardless of fact or fiction. State whatever you have, the officials could care less.

2) A Coast Guard form which request basic vessel information.

When the officials leave your boat you will have the following dated, signed, and stamped documents. Make sure you retain all of them, they will be used as reference documents at future ports of call in the Maldives:

Agent Invoice

Security Check Clearance Form

Certificate of Practique (health form)

Crew List

Entry Clearance Certificate

Inter-Atoll Travelling (sic) Permit (cruising permit)

During the clearance procedure on your boat, or during your initial visit to shore, your agent will ask you to pay some of the fees associated with visiting the Maldives. In our case the initial payment was $165 USD. The estimated balance is due when you pass through Male. And, when you clear out in Gan you pay the small outstanding balance or get a refund for the days or weeks you plan on leaving the Maldives early.

VESSEL REVIEW OR SEARCH

It would truly be an exception if your yacht was reviewed or searched. Our governmental paper pushers never left the cockpit and never asked for a tour of my boat. During my 60 days in the country a government boat never approached my boat while traveling the full length of the country. No fishing boats approached me looking for handouts, and only one ferry pulled near me (while I was anchored) to get a few photos for the locals.

CLEARANCE COSTS

The costs noted below were charged by Asad with Real Seahawks Maldives. All figures are stated in U.S. dollars. There are no overtime, weekend, or holiday charges for agents or officials.

1. Visit for 48 hours or less: No agent required, however you must contact Customs upon arrival and pay them $130 USD. Cost per day is $65.

2. Visit 3 to 7 days: An agent is required, some will charge you a service fee of about $20 USD, and the Customs charge of $130 USD. Total price $150 USD or slightly more. Cost per day is $21.43.

3. Visit for 8 to 15 days. An agent is required. Same charges as option 4 noted below, except no Anchorage Fee and related taxes. Total price $822 USD or $54.80 per day.

4. Visit for 16 to 30 days, all funds will be paid to your agent, who will distribute the funds as noted below:

Customs Inward Clearance $ 64.85 Paid for Customs

Port State Control Permit $ 13.00 Paid for Port Authority

Health Sanitation Certificate $ 12.97 Paid for Heath Department

Cruising Permit $ 324.25 Paid for Tourism Ministry

Customs Outward Clearance $ 64.85 Paid for Customs

One Month Anchorage Fee $ 49.95 Paid for Port Authority, $3.33 for days 16 - 30

Government Tourist Tax, 12% on the above $ 63.58 Paid for all of the above

Subtotal of Government Fees $ 593.45 A tax on governmental fees and taxes, don't you love it?

Yacht Check In $ 75.00 Paid for Agent

Launch Fee for transporting officials $ 30.00 Paid for Agent

Entry Fee $ 4.00 Paid for Agent

Cruising Permit Processing Charge $ 30.00 Paid for Agent

Agent Fee $ 40.00 Paid for Agent

Yacht Check Out $ 75.00 Paid for Agent

Government Tourist Tax, 12% on the above $ 30.48 Tax on the Agent fees

Subtotal of Agent Fees $ 284.48 Paid for Agent

Total Cost For Visiting 7 to 30 days. $877.93 $29.26 USD per day

5. If you want to stay 31 to 45 days add the following to the one month cost noted above: $3.33 USD per additional day for an Anchorage Fee, plus an additional Agent Fee of $20 to $30 USD, plus a 12% tourist tax. So, if you wanted to stay 45 days the total cost would be $954, or $21 USD per day.

6. If you stay 46 to 90 days add the following to option 5 above: $5.33 USD per additional day for an Anchorage Fee, plus tax. Staying 90 days will cost $1,223, less than $14 USD per day. This amount includes the additional Agent Fee noted in option 5.

7. If you stay greater than 90 days the additional Anchorage fee is $10.00 USD per day, and you must also add the 12% tax.

Tumbling numbers isn't my thing, yet the trend is important... If you visit for less than 2 weeks your cost per day is very high, and you will spend very little time enjoying the Maldives. Basically, traveling 38 nm per day from the top atoll to the southern atoll. In contrast if you stay 45 to 60 days, the cost per day is significantly lower and you can truly cruise the atolls. I traveled top to bottom in 60 days, and my paced seemed rushed, given all the wonderful underwater adventures available.

Also, the fixed costs (government fees) of visiting the Maldives is $593.45 USD for a 30 day visit. The variable cost is the amount of money you pay to the agent, $284.48 USD in the above example. Good negotiators have been known to reduce the variable cost to about $200 USD. The Real Seahawks typically collects about $165 USD when you clear-in in Uligan, and collects the estimated balance ($713 for a 30 day visit) when you pass through Male. When you clear-out at Hithadhoo/Gan, the small balance due or overpaid is settled with the local agent. If you expect a refund in US$, you should contact the agent in Gan a few days early to allow him time to gather US currency.

CREW AND GUESTS

There are many unique regulations concerning the arrival and departure of crew and guests while in Maldives waters. Make sure you contact your agent for advice PRIOR to people leaving or joining your boat. In our case Asad with Real Seahawk Maldives made all the difference in the world when it came to working out the details for paperwork, transportation, and lodging. FYI, the fees noted above do NOT include the governmental charges for visitors to your boat.

CURRENCY

In March 2015 $1.00 was equal to 15.35 Maldivian Rfiyaa (MVR). Each month the government and banks fix the exchange rate for USD vs MVR. Most local businesses honor the exchange rate. However, be aware of the finger pointing games they typically play with their bank being their excuse. One, the US bills must be like new, no tears, no dog ears, no markings, etc. Two, businesses want large bills, 100's and 50's and will give you the official exchange rate for them, 15.5 MVR to 1.00 USD for example. Hand some businesses a 20, 10, or 5 dollar bill and they will claim it is only worth 15.0 MVR to 1.00 USD. Hand the merchant a one dollar US bill and they might switch the rate to 10.0 MVR to 1.00 USD, a 35+% cut in the exchange rate! They claim the bank won't exchange the small bills.

DEPARTING MALDIVES

Contact your agent two business days prior to your planned departure date. Give him all of the documents that you received when you cleared-in (see above), your passports, and a copy of your ship's paper. Your final agent invoice will be calculated and a small amount of money will typically be paid or refunded, since you literally pay for each day you stay in the Maldives.

The next business day your agent will give you your stamped passports, a Port Clearance Certificate, a Crew/Passenger List, your original Entry Clearance Certificate, and your original Inter-Atoll Travelling (sic) Permit.

In most cases you are probably in Gan, at the southern end of the Maldives, when you clear-out. Technically, you should be ready to sail onward, yet yachts often take up to 72 hours to shove off. The local officials don't seem to mind.

SUMMARY

After spending over a 18 months in southeast Asian ports, it is extremely nice to be in clear clean water and air. Watching the fish 30 meters below the keel is wonderful. The price of the admission is certainly hard to justify for many cruisers. If you are sailing the whole length of the chain of atolls and want to enjoy the wonders of this water paradise, you must stay in the Maldives at least 60 days.

Jason Trautz, s/v YOLO

More information follows in Part 2 of Jason's report.

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