MALDIVES: Useful Cruising Information – May 2015 – Part 2
The 2nd part of a report by Jason Trautz on his recent visit to these islands, detailing anchorages and other useful information.
Published 8 years ago, updated 5 years ago
The following cruising information is provided to help sailors save time, eliminate headaches, and reduce expenses when 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.
For the most part, my electronic and paper charts were not accurate in the Maldives. According to my charts, I often sailed over reefs and islands! IN GENERAL, islands, and reefs were actually further east and north than repressed on some charts. And, dozens of reefs, sand bars, and large islands did NOT even appear on any of my charts. Sailing within or near the atolls at night is for fools or those with extensive local knowledge. There are numerous navigational aids which were NOT on my charts, and many of those which were noted on my charts did not exist. TG for Google Earth shots. And, given the great Wi-Fi coverage in the Maldives, you can sometimes have Google Earth live while cruising the tight spots. Eye-ball navigation in good light is a requirement in many locations in the Maldives, so plan your travel time accordingly.
From north to south I anchored at:
1. Uligmnu, 07.05.3 N and 072.54.9 E, 3.8 meters deep, sand patch, cleared into the Maldives. Good protection from an eastern wind.
2. Govvaafushi, 07.00.66 N and 072.55.11 E, 3 meters deep, sand, deserted island with a very large man on it who loved to screamed, “Go away” numerous times. Eventually, he got tired of screaming and left us alone. Anchor west of the island.
3. Dhapparu, 06.54.84 N and 073.13.82 E, 4 meters deep, sand bottom, entered the lagoon via the north pass which was 7.5 meters deep. Good snorkeling on the big coral heads. Plenty of protection from eastern or northern winds.
4. Baarah, approximately 06.49.2 N and 073.12.5 E, sand bottom, enter the lagoon via the marked channel from the northwest side. This anchorage is bulletproof. Cargo ships use the channel and sometimes anchor in the lagoon of this island.
5. Nolhivaranfaru, 06.43.1 N and 073.11.7 E, enter the marked channel on the southwest corner. I saw 2.6 meters of water for a second or two, otherwise, it was 4.3 meters or deeper. Have someone on the bow watching out for the coral heads, a few of them in the bay reach the surface. This is a great anchorage in a strong eastern wind.
6. Rasfushi, 06.42.8 N and 072.55.4 E, enter via deep water from the north or south, anchored in 19 meters of water, sand bottom. This is an exposed anchorage which should be used only in settled weather. Water visibility was 20+ meters, great snorkeling, and diving. While at anchor the current/tide will lightly push your vessel north and south, keeping you off the shallows to the east. Nearby snorkeling is about as good as it gets in the Males.
7. Kulhudhuffushi, 06.36.9 N and 073.03.9 E. This island has two boat harbors. You want to enter the “South Harbor” on the southwest corner of the island, which is where Customs is located. I anchored in the northern section of the harbor near the public beach, leaving room for the seldom visiting cargo ships. See Kulhudhuffushi Notes below.
8. Kanditeemu, 06.26.03 N and 072.54.34 E, southwestern corner of the island, approach from the west, anchored in 9 meters, broken coral bottom, good spot in settled conditions or winds out of the northeast.
9. Farukolhu, enter the lagoon from 06.12.063 N and 073.17.51 E and head to 06.11.98 N and 073.17.61 N, then use eye-ball navigation to your anchor spot. When crossing over the shelf into the lagoon I saw 2.6 meters of water depth several times, one hour prior to high tide. I anchored at 06.11.92 N and 073.17.67 E in 4 meters of water, sand bottom. Snorkeling on some of the bommies was great, others were very poor. Saw some very large fish and huge lobsters.
10. Dholhiyadhoo, enter the lagoon from the southeast, south, or southwest. When entering the shelf is 10 meters deep and inside the lagoon, it is 30+ meters deep. When I visited the wind was from the east at 15 knots. I dropped the anchor up on a sandy shelf in 9 meters of water, at 05.59.5 N and 073.13.3 E, then drifted back above 14 meters of water. The island has an abandoned resort on it, construction was started years ago and the project ran out of money about three years past. The 55 staff assigned to the island could care less if I visited and walked around. The manager of the island team is Sajid, and he treated me like a resort guest, even though there never has been a guest on the island. I tied YOLO to the end of the long pier at the western edge of the lagoon in 3.4 meters of water, topped off my tanks with 400+ liters of drinking water, and accepted three large fish and a lobster from Sajid. I cannot say enough about his hospitality. If you are interested, you can pick up the remaining 50-year lease on the property for 60 million USD! What a blue light special!
11. Viha Faru is a circular reef with just a small sand bar, which was being shoveled into local boats and taken to a nearby island when I visited the reef. I anchored on the south side at 05.40.9 N and 073.16.3 E, in 7.5 meters, sand bottom.
12. Diffushi, approach anchorage from the west and dropped the anchor at 05.22.8 N and 073.38.7 E, 7.5 meters of water, sand bottom with some coral well below the surface. FYI, I entered this atoll via the pass just south of Huravalhi Island, 05.31.2 N and 073.26.2 E, depth 25+ meters. Prior to my arrival, a huge cargo ship with construction equipment and materials entered the lagoon via this pass, so don’t worry, be happy.
13. Gaafaru Falhu entered the lagoon very late in the afternoon via the northeast pass. This pass has an east and west fork. I entered the east fork which requires a sharp turn to the east at the end of the channel. I then motored a short distance in the lagoon to the south and west, before turning north and dropping the anchor at 04.46.2 N and 073.27.3 N, in 10.5 meters of water, 100% and with no coral heads nearby. When you look at Google or charts you will see this beautiful anchor spot, which is near the southern end of the west fork. I left via the west fork and had 10+ meters of water all the way out. The current is very swift here as the tide flows in/out, so make sure to allow for sewing room off the sand tongue.
14. Maa Haa, entered via the north pass with 8 meters under the keels. Proceeded to the southeast corner of the lagoon and dropped the anchor at 04.36.1 N and 073.30.6 E in 7.5 meters of water, sand bottom. This lagoon does not have any land/island protection. In settled weather, we got a great night’s sleep. Departed the southern pass in 4.5 meters of water, JUST east of the stationary channel light.
15. Asdhoo, enter the anchorage area from the west with someone on the bow. I anchored at 04.27.7 N and 073.39.3 E in 10 meters, sand bottom the first day. This is a fair weather anchorage, like many I have visited lately. Good snorkeling right off the mother ship. I moved YOLO less than a kilometer to the west and enjoyed a better anchorage at 04.27.6 N and 073.38.8 E in 8 meters of sand. There is a 3+ kilometer reef that runs east from Asdhoo island to the west. This reef is north of the noted anchorages and will not disappoint snorkelers. Start a drift snorkel on the north side of the reef at one end of the reef and slowly drift to the other end during a 2 to 3 hour period. Great corals, plenty of fish, crown-of-thorns (unfortunately), eels, turtles, octopus, sharks, etc. were observed. I traveled a kilometer north of these anchorages to several unnamed reefs in my dinghy. One is several meters deep on the top of the reef and has an impressive vertical drop-offs of 50 meters walls. I also anchor the mother ship at an unnamed reef SSE of these anchorages at 04.26.0 N and 073.38.3 E in 10 meters of sand. I approached the anchorage area from the north side of the circular reef, via 7 meters of water. The nearby snorkeling was on mainly dead coral reefs, yet spotted sharks, turtles, and octopi in the area.
16. Boduhithi, manta cleaning stations, enter at 04.23.6 N and 073.21.42 E, anchor at 04.26.07 N and 073.21.54 E. The two manta cleaning stations will delight you for hours! They are located at 04.26.46 N and 073.21.73 E and 04.23.75 N and 073.21.49 E, according to other cruisers.
17. Masleggihuraa, is an anchorage between two deluxe resorts, there are several sand ledges to drop the hook on near the reef, I anchored at 04.19.5 N and 073.35.5 N in 10 meters of water.
18. Hulhumale, anchored at 04.13.4 N and 073.32.2 E, in 10 meters of water, sand bottom. The entrance through the reef is well marked and plenty deep. This location is commercialized, to put it mildly, large live-aboard yachts all around you during the weekends, and plenty of boat traffic to keep you bouncing. The vertical seawall ensures that there is chop in the anchorage, and the dozens of planes (day and night) adds to the joy of being near the international airport. When motoring through the anchorage have someone on the bow watching out for anchor lines. Most of the live-aboard boats and commercial vessels have two or three anchor lines in use at all times. And, each line may extend 75 METERS OR MORE from the bows of the boats.
19. South of Velassaru Falhu, less than 2 hours south of Hulhumale is an easy-to-find shallow spot for escaping the noise and traffic for the big city. It is in the atoll just south of Male. Enter the atoll in either of the north passes, keeping the reef that runs south of Velassar Falhu to starboard. The southern end of the reef is marked with a green buoy which must be kept to starboard when heading west. Drop the anchor in 11 meters of sand at 04.06.5 N and 073.25.8 N. Cool off with a swim and enjoy the small nearby reef to the south.
20. No named reef near Ellaidhoo Kandu, enter the lagoon of this small circular reef from the west side. The entrance is a minimum of 9 meters deep and it is over 10 meters wide. Anchor in the lagoon in 11 meters of water with a sand and coral head bottom. I anchored at 04.01.1 N and 072.57.3 E. Grab you dinghy and drift dive the pass, northwest outer wall, and northern outside wall. Observations: Four eagle rays, sting rays, turtles, sharks, large and small tropical fish, lobster, coral, and more.
21. Mandhoo, access the lagoon from the north and anchor at 03.43.7 N and 072.42.6 in 11 meters of sand. Drift snorkel on the east side of the reef to the east. Enjoy the wide variety of hard corals.
22. Gorraalhuhau, enter the lagoon on the south side towards the east end. You will see about 5 meters of water when crossing the entrance at 03.36.5 N and 072.48.6. I anchored in 12 meters of water, sand bottom between coral heads which were more than 6 meters down. Good holding sand. Enjoy the exterior of the reef on any side of the circular reef.
23. Bodufinolhu, the reefs southeast, and northwest of this island are extensive. You enter the lagoon via the atoll pass at the north end of the eastern and western reefs. Plenty of water depth for any vessel smaller than a supertanker. I anchored at 03.31.7 N and 072.43.5 N in 12 meters of water, pure sand below the keels. There are numerous huge coral heads and long reefs to the east and south of this location. Have a sundowner and watch the turtles and dozens of dolphins pass by. A short dinghy ride to the north and across the pass will take you to a deserted island which is used by the liveaboard boats as a sunset dining facility. Unfortunately, they leave all of their garbage on the beaches before they depart.
24. Auulee Falhu. You must have a shallow draft boat, less than 1.8 meters, to cross into this lagoon. AND, you must have someone on the bow or in the rigging to identify the coral heads you need to avoid. The entrance is on the southwest side at 03.17.4 N and 072.49.8 E. Anchor options on the inside are unlimited, 03.18.0 N and 072.50.3 E in the sand is a good spot. Drift snorkel the southern side of the southern reef for plenty to see.
25. Maavaru Faru, enter via the wide deep pass at the north end of this large reef. Anchored at 03.52.4 N and 72.43.3 E. There is plenty of coral reef to explore, dolphins in the lagoon, and a manta cleaning station located at 03.13.2 N and 073.25.4 E. Note: You must travel many miles east from the last anchorage and west to the next anchorage to enjoy Maavaru Faru, so you must truly want to see manta’s, if they are there during your visit, to justify all the miles.
26. Jinnathugau, enter the lagoon via the southwest channel which is 6+ meters deep, keeping the white channel marker to starb’d. Anchor just about anywhere in the lagoon, I dropped the hook in 24 meters of water at 03.11.9 N and 072.59.5 E, sand bottom. The huts on the nearby island provide some relief from the sun and a nice beach for shell collecting. Drift snorkeling the outer edges of the reef, be it north, south, east, or west side. While snorkeling I saw a family of 7 eagle rays working the northeastern section of the reef late in the afternoon. I also saw turtles, eels, and sharks.
27. Hulhudhelee Dekunu, I entered the north pass of the atoll and made for the west side. The channel into the lagoon is wide enough for a battleship and it was over 10 meters deep. Make sure someone is on the bow and you have good light while dodging the large easy to see coral heads. I anchored in 12 meters of water, sand bottom, at 02.49.8 N and 072.50.4. The lagoon is huge and long. Just south of my anchorage point are several large coral reefs, which run north to south. When I snorkeled on the western side of these reefs I saw four large rays feeding in the sandy spots. The coral isn’t that great; however, I saw two of the largest angelfish I’ve seen in decades and several very large groupers.
28. Kadufushi, is located at the northwest corner of the atoll. I entered the very wide and deep (30+ meters) pass at 02.32.0 N and 072.57.7 E with a strong NW wind behind me. Prior to the pass, I was doing 6 knots, however, at the time the pass had a 4+ knot outgoing current, reducing my SOG to 2 knots. The standing waves were 1.5 meters high and closely spaced. At the same time, other yachts were entering the atoll at other passes to the east, which were much shallower and extremely sloppy. One yacht got pooped from behind and their deck is almost 2 meters off the waterline. After clearing the pass I turned to port stayed in deep water, and then headed almost due north to anchor at 02.31.3 N and 072.58.7 E, 14 meters in the sand. The next day I drift snorkeled the eastern wall of the pass several times. Water clarity 30+ meters, amazing fish and coral. Keep an eye out for the large school of tuna I saw running the channel.
29. Veymandhoo, has a large lagoon and a boat harbor. I did not take YOLO into the boat harbor which has a separate entrance east of the lagoon. The lagoon has several entrances, I entered the one located at 02.22.5 N and 073.05.4 E. The channel is about 15 meters wide and a minimum of 3 meters deep. The channel slants through the reef when entering keep the small scrubby island to starb’d and the broken up concrete slabs to port. I anchored in 4.5 meters of water, sand bottom, at 02.11.3 N and 073.05.3 E. There are four or five large nearby islands at the southern end of this atoll, so expect plenty of small powerboat ferries to zoom by during daylight hours, with the locals taking phone photos. Make sure you stop in the village of 1500 people on Veymandhoo. It has a bank, regional hospital, five or six variety stores with food and other items, a hardware store, engine repair shop, three mosques, and four restaurants. Traditional foods are available, and most westerners will want to skip the pizza offerings. You should tie your dinghy off to the boat harbor wall. Diesel and gas are available at the boat harbor wall/wharf. FYI, fast ferries (4.5 hours each way) run daily to Male from here, cost of a round trip is $100 USD. Or, you can take the 18 hours “slow supply ship ferry” for much less. If you are flush with cash, the island across the channel to the east has the regional airport, which offers two flights to Male each day. Take a walk around town, the people are friendly, especially those at the hospital, school, cafes, and young people who are more comfortable with English.
30. Maavah, was my first stop in this atoll and the island/village is located on the west side. While sailing to this atoll I was surrounded by 50+ dolphins and went entering the “S” shape atoll channel just north of Maavah, dozens of additional dolphins joined the aquatic parade. The channel is deep, wide, and marked with two channel markers. I anchored just south of Maavah at 01.52.3 N and 073.15.2 E with the winds coming from the west and northwest. At this anchorage, I did like the local tuna boats…I edged YOLO’s over the sand shelf which was 3 meters deep, sand bottom, dropped the hook and backed up to the east. After 30 meters of chain, the boat was in 15 meters of water. You can get the basics in the island village, tie the dinghy to the boat harbor wall. Keep an eye out for the turtles, numerous were spotted eating the sea grass.
31. Un-named Reef, I dropped the hook at 01.53.3 N and 073.25.4 E, in the sand, with a water depth of 12 meters. What a wonderful place to snorkel, plenty of fish and live coral. Make sure you check out the nearby reefs, both the one to the east and the large one about one kilometer to the west. Dozens of spider conch, turtles, octopus, nudibranchs, etc. The size, color, and type of hard coral were outstanding. My one day stop turned into two because of the settled weather and underwater beauty. This location is just north of the southern atoll pass and makes for an easy exit for an over-nighter to the next atoll to the south.
32. Kolaamafushi, I anchored at 00.50.7 N and 073.11.1 E in the sand in 8 meters of water. You would NOT use this anchor location in strong winds from the east. See my comments about the nearby village, listed below. Several kilometers to the east is the deserted island of Hagrandhoo. If you have time make sure you snorkel or scuba dive the fantastic reef that runs south to north on the west side of the island. The southern end of the reef starts within a hundred meters of the island. The drop-off wall and coral will certainly impress you. A second north and south running reef are between the anchorage and Hagrandhoo, again a steep wall and impressive corals. Don’t be surprised by the dozens of dolphins working the waters of the Kalaamafushi area.
33. Haguvillaa, I anchored north of this island at 00.43.8 N and 073.15.0 E in 20 meters, sand and coral head bottom. This location gives you easy access to two passes (northeast and southwest) into the lagoon for snorkeling or diving opportunities in settled weather.
34. Fulangi, I let the chain fly at 00.43.8 N and 073.15.0 E. Caution: When traveling near this anchor spot make sure you have good light and use caution when using Google Earth shots. My Google Earth shot did NOT show some of the large bommies which came very close to the surface of the water. The area is safe for travel, just take it slow and be on your toes. The anchor spot bottom was sand and coral heads, 21 meters down. About 100 meters west of this anchorage is a very narrow reef that runs north and south. Drift snorkel down one side of it, jump in the dinghy and return to the far end, then drift down the other side. Good corals, plenty of reef sharks, turtles, and say “hi” to the largest puffer fish I’ve seen in years. When I return to this location I will anchor further west, in the sand, in 10 meters of water, so that the narrow reef is to my east. This preferred location can be accessed by motoring around the northern or southern end of the narrow reef in 15 meters of water. While having a meal in the cockpit you will be entertained by dozens and dozens of spinner dolphins. Their acrobatics above and below the water are amazing. For a close encounter, move slowly among them in your dinghy, they don’t seem to mind.
35. Thinadhoo, you approach the anchorage via a wide channel through the reef. The channel to the anchorage has a port and starb’d outside channel marker. When heading in keep the next two channel markers to port. The channel is a minimum of 2.8 meters deep. I anchored in 6 meters of water, sand bottom, at 00.32.0 N and 073.00.2 E. It is a short dinghy ride to the boat harbor wall which gives you access to food stores, water, banking, hardware stores, a Yanmar dealer, telecom shops, cafes, and a hospital. Fuel trucks will pump diesel and/or gas directly into your yacht if you med-moor to the boat harbor wall. The regional airport is just 2 islands south, with daily flights to Male. This anchorage gives you 360-degree protection. Thinadhoo is a good jumping off point for an overnight sail Gan, about 80 miles away. And, it gives you a decent wind angle given SW winds. Unfortunately, the Thinadhoo anchorage is very close to the government-run regional tuna processing factory. I.e., think flies, hundreds and hundreds of them…get out your screens.
36. Meedhoo, in the Addoo Atoll, anchored at 00.35.4 S and 073.12.4 E in 8 meters, sand bottom. Think of this anchorage location as your final exam for traveling in the Maldives. Good light is mandatory, Google Earth shots helpful, someone on the bow a must, and be prepared to turn sharply to port, starb’d, or stop. Meedhoo is a large island, where a great deal of the vegetables and fruits are grown. Think fresh and cheap, especially if you are going on a passage. Our last day in the Maldives was spent here, but we weren’t thrilled with the product selection because of the time of year and local harvest.
36. Gan (northwest corner), anchored at 00.41.0 S and 073.08.8 E in 32 meters of water, all sand, no coral. The nearby inner-lagoon is much shallower, yet is typically filled with local boats on moorings. You can also anchor at 00.40.2 S and 073.07.5 E in 10 meters of water, sand bottom, this is east of the causeway between Feydhoo and Maradhoo islands and is closer to the Feydhoo boat harbor which gives you easy access to shopping, fuel, water, etc.
You Are Free To Roam The Country: Yes, this is true in some parts of the Maldives. Safe and accessible anchorages are getting harder and harder to find. Given good weather, the anchorage options are expanded because you can hug a reef or drop the hook in an exposed area. However, dozens and dozens of extremely expensive hotel businesses have purchased many of the islands. In some cases, they not only by 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. NOT, if you drop your anchor the hotel security guards often contact you and make you move onward. Or, ask for $25 USD or more per person per day to stay, which is really quite reasonable given the $1,000+ per night rooms found throughout the Maldives! FYI, the cheapest backpacker bunk in a group setting in Hulhumale/Male starts at $85 USD per night. In the Maldives, about a hundred 5 to 7-star ultra deluxe resorts charge around $1,000 per night off season and nearly $2,000 per night during peak season. No wonder most of the resorts had very few visitors during my sortie.
Most of the islands with a village, town, or city have a boat harbor, and most of them are new and in good shape. In general, the bigger the island the bigger and more regulated the boat harbor. If you call the Harbor Master, Port Control, and/or Customs on VHF Channel 16, you can discuss the usage of the harbor. For example, “Kulhudhuffushi Customs, Kulhundhuffushi Customs, this is the sailing vessel YOLO on channel 16.” If Customs does not reply, repeat the hail for Port Control and the Harbor Master. Upon reply, you MIGHT be given permission to enter the boat harbor. In general, if a governmental office (Harbor Master, Port Control, or Customs) is on site, you will have to pay about $12 USD per day for visiting the harbor, be it anchoring, med-moor, or tying off to the wharf. Many of the wharves are built for large ferries and cargo ships.
Most small islands with a hundred locals or more have a boat harbor, which is good news. This island typically lacks the governmental who are looking for money and the local council will permit you to tie up to their wharf for free. The channel to the boat harbor and basin depth vary by the harbor, most being 3 or more meters deep. If in doubt, dinghy in to get the details before moving the mother ship into the boat harbor. At least a hundred free boat harbors exist in the Maldives. And, they offer a free safe place to tie up your dinghy.
I secured provisions, fuel, and/or water at the following locations. The latitude and longitude of the village are listed in the “anchorages” section of this document.
This island is the northernmost port of call in the Maldives. The neat and well-kept island has about 500 residents, 3 very small food stores, and not much else. In a pinch, you might be able to get some petrol and diesel, at inflated island prices. The shops basically sell beauty aids and junk food. If you want to purchase specific foods, vegetables, and fruits, contact your agent. He will arrange for them to be delivered to the island in a few days on one of the ferries. You can pick up a chip for your phone and Wi-Fi dongle at several shops. The shop owners speak very little English, so you might want to take your agent with you. The village has a boat harbor, which is accessible by most yachts. However, the local government officials do NOT want yachts in their boat harbor. Given extremely bad weather they might make an exception. Next to the north end of the boat harbor is a public well which you can use for washing clothes, rinsing off, etc. The well water is NOT portable. After a one hour visit to Uligan, most sailors call it a “wrap” and exit the stage door.
This island is located about 30 miles south of Uligan. It has two boat harbors. The one on the central west coast is for locals. The “Southern Harbor” on the southwest corner of the island is called the ‘international harbor’ for yachts and the occasional cargo ship. Call “Kulhudhuffushi Customs” prior to entering the harbor which is 5.5 meters deep. Anchor at the north end of the harbor or tie off to the wharf on the northeast side. This harbor and the wharf area is a “secured” area. You will have to show the Harbor Master your boat papers and your cruising permit. He will take one copy of your papers and give you back the original. The daily fee for being in this harbor is about $12 USD. You must depart and return to your boat via the security gate (not the public beach) and “nobody is permitted to visit your vessel.”
Several hundred meters outside the security gate is the petrol service station. It is open from 0700 to 2300 daily and has petrol and diesel. They deliver diesel to the boat harbor for no additional charge, so fill up since this is reportedly the cheapest fuel port in the Maldives. You can make an appointment for the fuel delivery or speak with the service station attendant who will have the truck stop by the harbor wharf 30 minutes later. 50 meters past the service station is an ATM, with no usage fee. You must pay “cash” for the fuel. Walk another 10 meters and you will see a variety of small grocery shops with limited provisions, one of the stores even takes credit cards. Keep walking if you want to visit the core village area. Rinse and/or drinking water can be purchased from the Customs office at the wharf.
Hulhumale and Male
This location is where one-third of the people of the Maldives live. It is the political and commercial hub of the nation. Used the short ferry terminal dock to access the island with your dinghy. Use two lines to keep the dinghy out of the high traffic boarding areas and off the seawall and dock. This “planned city” island has a large population of people who principally work in Male. Each building has two water systems, one for drinking and one for washing. Several small convenience stores, bakeries, and shops exist in the center of town/island. Cafes, hardware stores, banks, telecom, and other small shops also exist on the road that runs north and south on the east side of the island. A ferry ride to the big smoke, Male, is 50 cents USD each way, with a ferry leaving every 15-20 minutes. The Laundry which is located just south of the ferry terminal, call 960+ 335-1007, will wash and dry your clothes, yet they are rather expensive. For example, washing a single bed sheet is $4.00 USD. Most of the time you should expect your items back within 24 hours. Hulhumale and Male are not considered tourist destinations by most visitors and cruisers. You can purchase fuel from the near waterfront petrol station at the south end of the island, or get it from the fuel barge. The largest drinking water container that I observed was 5 liters in size. The buses running around the island are almost free, and you pay about $2 USD for a taxi unless it is going to the airport, then the cost rises to $8 USD. There are garbage cans located near the ferry terminal docks and in the small park across the street.
Male is the capitol city and has just about everything. Ask around and you can find a wide variety of foods (local and western), numerous banks/ATMs, boat parts, etc. There are two open markets for fresh stuff and several big grocery stores. There are at lease 10 well-stocked hardware stores, plenty of outboard and diesel shops, a nice variety of restaurants, electronic shops, and much much more. Nobody that I know of anchors near Male because of the deepwater depth, lack of safe dinghy access, and the never-ending commercial boat traffic. Don’t even think of taking a yacht or dinghy to Male proper. Use the ferries from Hulhumale.
The village has 1,500 people. It has a bank, regional hospital, five or six variety stores with food and other items, a hardware store, engine repair shop, three mosques, and four cafes. The cafes have traditional local foods, and most westerners will want to skip the pizza offerings. You should tie your dinghy off to the boat harbor wall. Diesel and gas are available at the boat harbor wall/wharf. FYI, fast ferries (4.5 hours each way) run daily to Male from here, cost of a round trip is $100 USD. Or, you can take the 18 hours “slow supply ship ferry” for much less. If you are flush with cash, the island across the channel to the east has the regional airport, which offers two flights to Male each day. Take a walk around town, the people are friendly, especially those at the hospital, school, cafes, and young people who are more comfortable with English. There is a community park along the boat harbor. Just to the north of the metal archway, you can get free well water for washing clothes. The nearby shaded benches make the clean-up quick and easy. A free fresh drinking water tap is located just west and south of the arch
The village has 1,200 people, no bank, a health clinic, petrol, diesel, two cafes (only beverages for lunch, and a limited menu for dinner), a half dozen shops with basic food items, one hardware store, a diesel/engine mechanic, and plenty of tuna boats in the boat harbor. You can take your dinghy or mother ship into the boat harbor via the marked four-meter deep channel. The tuna boats and ferries med-moor to the harbor wall, so make sure you keep a sharp eye out for their anchor lines which often stretch out to the eastern side of the harbor. If you need to get someone to or from Male you have two options: 1. The local supply ship makes a 48 hour one way run to Male each week. 2. On the east side of the atoll is the regional airport with daily service to the capital. If you need assistance finding something in the village, grab a young person, tuna boat captain, or one of the local government men sipping coffee at the cafe at the southern end of the boat harbor park.
The community has about 2,000 citizens, and it is a short dinghy ride to the boat harbor wall from the anchorage, which gives you access to food stores, water, banking, hardware stores, a Yanmar dealer, telecom shops, cafes, and a hospital. Fuel trucks will pump diesel and/or gas directly into your yacht if you med-moor to the boat harbor wall. The well-stocked grocery store near the ferry terminal even takes credit cards and their large sections of fruits and vegetables are refrigerated. The regional airport is just 2 islands south, with daily flights to Male. This anchorage gives you 360-degree protection. Thinadhoo is a good jumping off point for an overnight sail Gan, about 80 miles away. And, it gives you a decent wind angle given SW winds. Unfortunately, the Thinadhoo anchorage is very close to the government-run regional tuna processing factory. I.e., think flies, hundreds and hundreds of them…get out your screens.
This is the southernmost point of the Maldives and the country’s second largest city. If it exists, you can find it in Gan, just ask your agent if you need assistance. Jet service is offered at the local airport. Fuel, water, and a large well-stocked grocery store are located at the Feydoo boat harbor. The 3S grocery store, several cafes, ATM, and fuel station are located at the Feydoo boat harbor. Walk north along the lagoon side road and you will see Happy Mart which gives you the best prices on drinking water, juices, meats, cheese, and pasta. Grab a land taxi for 100 MVR ($6 USD) each way to the big island of Hithadhoo. Hithadhoo has parts stores, hardware stores, clothes, gifts, groceries, etc. Caution: Clearly agree on the tax rate prior to getting into the cab, one newbie yachtie was charged 1,800 MVR for a round trip to Hithadhoo, 9 times the normal rate! Call Mr. Abbas at 778-2665 to make arrangements for drinking water or purchase five-liter bottles of drinking water from Happy Mart. Purchase petrol and fuel from City Fuel Supply which is located at the wharf in the Feydoo boat harbor. FYI, the MARKED channel into the Feydoo boat harbor and the harbor itself is almost 4 meters deep. Tie off to the concrete wall and the water and/or fuel will be delivered to your vessel. An honest taxi driver is Hosman, call 990-0083.
Language: All classes in the schools are taught in English, so many of the young people speak it. English is also the language of choice in the resort areas and many Male businesses.
Most citizens know three languages. Maldivian (Dhivehi) the local language, English, and Hindi. The young people and expats are often comfortable with English, especially since 75% of the TV and radio programs are piped in from the USA. About 20% of the TV shows are imported from India, thus Hindi. Those in the tourist trade, speak English, however many of the older citizens have a difficult time speaking English since they have been out of school for years and don’t have a chance to practice the confusing language.
AIS Tracking: All Customs offices and Coast Guard stations track vessels with AIS, 24/7. Some agents strongly suggest that you keep your AIS OFF at all times. Why…technically you need a Maldives permit for your AIS ($$$???) and government officials are not pleased when yachts hang out at some island communities. If you insist on using AIS, you and your agent will have to complete additional paperwork and you may have to restrict your travels within the Maldives.
People and Culture: The Maldives claims to have about 400,000 people, one-quarter of the residents are from other countries. The ex-pats are the well-paid professionals, high-level managers, and technicians that provide first world services. I.e., doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, etc. The Maldives does not have a university, so higher learning must be achieved off-shore, which is where many of their brightest and best stay. The expats throughout the country love to talk to cruisers and are a great source of information and assistance. You’ll find them at any health care facility or school.
All of the Maldives has the comforts of developed nations. Despite the isolated and decentralized population, most of the islands/villages have 24/7 electricity, water, satellite TV, health clinics/hospitals, schools, cell phone coverage, and Wi-Fi. All of these goods and services seldom see outages, which is impressive. And, the locals appear to maintain their buildings and systems in tip-top-shape, which is a nice change after being in SE Asia for several years.
Islam is the only allowed faith. With it goes the total outlawing of alcohol, dogs, pigs, gold jewelry for men, and discussions about family planning. Most mosques have 5 or 6 prayer sessions per day. The first one is at 0445 and the start time for the other five varies a few minutes each day, ending around 2000. Legally men are allowed to have four wives or less, and women are often covered head to foot. Dress as you like at a resort, but respect those around the city and villages by covering up (long pants and a collared shirt will make you well received). The men pray at the mosque, the women and small children pray at home. After the first prayer session in many villages, all the women take to the streets and rake/sweep the roads/paths as a civic responsibility. I.e., villages are for the most part liter free. Five prayer sessions per day MINIMUM is typical of EVERY citizen. So the shop hours for businesses are flexible, outside of Male. Each prayer session takes 15 to 25 minutes, so find a shady spot and chill out for a few minutes if the shop is closed.
For the most part, each atoll has an excellent regional hospital, airport, and secondary school. These and other critical service centers are often centralized on the largest and most populated island in the atoll.
Many of the locals outside the tourist trade, school system, or medical services industries appear to be shy or cool towards westerners. Western standards and the typical small village Islamic way of life aren’t in concert with each other, by a long way. However, if you tone down your approach to a conversation, or involve a young person, you will often be welcomed into their homes and community.
FYI, don’t be surprised by the sign in Uligan which reminds all villagers, “Remember, all Israiles are terrorists.” And, to my surprise I asked several teens if they could travel ANYWHERE in the world for free, where would they go? Their reply, “Palestine”…honest to Allah, I’m not making this up. When visiting some island communities you will be warmly greeted, or as in one case the cruisers were effectively snubbed and told to leave town.
Gifts/Payoffs/Considerations/Etc.: While in the Maldives I never had to back-hand anybody to do their job. And, I was never asked directly or indirectly for a bribe. After Southeast Asia, this was a welcome change.
Cost of Living: Teachers earn about $12,000 USD per year. Doctors earn about $30,000 USD per year unless they are a specialist. However, the locals doing the grunt work typically earn much, much less. Most of the money earned by the expats are sent back to their family members in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Egypt, etc.
The richest men on the islands tend to be the tuna boat and ferry owners. Tuna is the largest money maker in the Maldives. One tuna boat typically has 15 to 20 young men fishing with single line poles off the flat aft deck of the boat. During one day of fishing, the typical catch is 14 tons of tuna! A really good day brings in over 30 tons of tuna per boat. The tuna boats in this part of the world do NOT run long lines or nets, thank Allah. So, don’t get overly excited by a nearby tuna boat. Most large tuna boats have a 2-meter draft, so if you see one using a channel or boat harbor, you have a good idea what the depth of the water is. And, most atolls have a government-run tuna factory, which has a steady stream of tuna boats coming and going to it. These locations also sport water and fuel opportunities for the fishermen and yachts.
Tipping: Tipping doesn’t exist outside of the resort areas. Taxi service is typically a flat posted rate.
Prices: In Gan, a liter of gasoline/petrol or diesel is a little less than $1.00 USD. A cup of coffee plus a bottle of water is about $1.00 USD. Prices are often posted, and it appears that the local price is usually the tourist price. A loaf of sliced bread is about $1.00. A good meal in Male at a cafe will cost about $7 per person. There are NO liquor stores/bottle shops, none. If you pay the cover charge for entering a resort, you can then pay an astronomical price for a beer, glass of wine, mixed drink, or a meal. Few sailors are that desperate. Ferries are dirt cheap, along with the tuna, the countries biggest export. Four hands make fishing lures for tuna cost $3.00 USD, a small bottle of cold drinking water 50 cents, and a simple local meal for lunch in a village cafe $4.50 USD. Recently, the government doubled the price of a pack of cigarettes to $3.50 USD.
Currency: 15.35 MVR (Maldivian Rufiyaa) gets you about $1.00 US dollar, as of March 2015. Cash is king in this country. You will be hard pressed to find a non-tourist vendor who accepts credit cards, with the exceptions being a few grocery stores. However, most businesses will accept U.S. dollars. Each month the government announces the official U.S. dollar exchange rate, which is fair and reasonable, and all businesses in the Maldives use that rate for payments in USD.
Banking: Uligan has 500 citizens and it does NOT have a bank or ATM. U.S. dollars are gladly accepted at the few shops and by the agents. Most villages with 750 or more people have banks and ATMs.
Business Hours: Most businesses are closed on Friday for religious purposes. Government offices are closed on Fridays and Saturdays. Business hours during the other days revolve around the Islamic prayer sessions.
Services: Several locals noted that you get what you pay for at a reasonable price. However, they warned me to make sure that a Malevendor commits to a firm price prior to using them. I’m guessing from the comment that the people of Male are known for charging tourists inflated prices, what’s new?
Garbage Disposal: Uligan: Your agent will dispose of your trash and used oil for no charge. Trash cans can be found near the boat harbor or in the parks in most villages.
Weather: I seldom experienced much wind or waves during March and April 2015. A breeze of 5 to 8 knots was considered exciting, and during the 8 weeks motoring from the north to the south, I only saw wind above 10 knots on 5 days. The very light winds came from all points on the compass, which allowed me to anchor in very exposed anchorages with no worries. I consulted several sources of weather each day via the Internet. The rain was frequently predicted, yet seldom occurred, and typically lasted less than 30 minutes. You can see squall lines coming.
Security: Security issues never presented themselves in the Maldives, and I felt safe at all times in all locations. Per normal, I was on YOLO at night and seldom visited the cities and villages in the Maldives after the dinner hour. In the villages, citizens seldom lock their homes and they leave their keys in their cars and motorcycles.
Transportation: Most of the larger islands have a big village, town, or city on it. And, the passenger/supply ferries frequently run between these islands and the nearby atoll. There is usually one airport per large atoll, with commercial and private flights to Male. The country has two international airports. You will frequently see seaplanes servicing the guests at the big bucks resorts.
Transport/Courier Service: Your agent should be contacted to coordinate the importation of boat parts.
Communications: The small food shops in Uligam sell voice and data SIM cards. The best coverage is provided by Ooredoo, The cards cost about $6 USD and last 30 days. 2GB of data costs an additional $13 USD. Top-up in any city or village. Just about every island has a cell tower. Coverage is great, G3 most places, and 4G in Male. Downtime was rare and the speed was excellent. The coconut network is a thing of the past in the Maldives. Just about every village has several top-up vendors. The owner of the small Ooredoo shops often do NOT speak English and may send you out the door empty-handed. However, if you find a local English speaking person, often a teenager, and return to the shop, you will get the additional minutes or GB you wanted. Make sure you take your phone and Wi-Fi dongle with you to the shop.
Laundry: If you get your laundry done in Uligan, the going rate is $2.00 USD per kilo. One yacht that paid for the service received wet clothes back, so you might want to make sure that your request for services including drying. Laundry services are also available in the Male area, again expensive.
Food/Groceries: Uligan has three food shops, about the size of your boat. About half of the shops were dedicated to candy and junk food. This is true of all the stores on all the islands, except Male. Male has two traditional grocery stores. Fantasy has a good selection of western foods and caters to westerns and STO is the other option. Most villages have a hand full of small shops and there are several large grocery stores in the Gan/Hithadhoo Island chain.
Water: Uligan has a freshwater well near the harbor. Do NOT drink the water, but use it for rinsing or washing clothes, free. Rainwater is used by most local homeowners. This situation exists for most islands. Megabuck hotels have potable water, and drinking water in bottles is available in all villages and cities. Many island villages have a free portable and non-portable water, usually, the water spigot is located near the boat harbor, in the village park, or at the island’s main government building. Ask a local for directions.
Booze: No drive-thru liquor stores here. In fact, I never saw a single retailer offering booze. The high-end hotels where beautiful people stay have bars. Bottom line, bring your favorite beverage, go without sundowners, or pay through the noise at the pool bar (after you pay your anchoring and visitor fees).
Pharmacy: All of the regional hospitals have pharmacies. The larger villages will also have a private pharmacy. And, if it is available in the Maldives, you will find it in Male.
Weather: It is totally unpredictable. My best suggestion, go outside and look around, and draw your own conclusions. In general, during my stay, the winds were very light from every direction. The mass majority of the time my sails were not used and an engine was used to head south. Keep an eye to the sky because sudden fronts can pass by at any time. Most of the fronts that I experienced were in the afternoon and night, 30+ knot winds from all points of the compass, and they lasted around 30 minutes.
Noise: You will hear the five calls to prayer in Uligan, in fact, it is so loaded you might feel it. If you stay away from the airports you will enjoy peace and quiet at just about all other locations. Jetski and water sports boat traffic is typically experienced near the resorts.
Clocks: The MVT (Maldives Time Zone) has a UTC offset of +05:00 hours.
Navigation, Tides, and Currents: After leaving Uligan our Navionics and paper charts were often off. According to our instruments, we often anchored on land and sailed across reefs. In general, land masses and reefs were further east and south than they appeared on our charts. TG for Google Earth shots. And, because of the great Wi-Fi in the Maldives, you can navigate with Google Earth live. Eyeball navigation is required in any location in the Maldives. Tides run less than a meter, often half a meter. The currents are a mixed bag, depending on where you are. Water often flows quickly through shallow and narrow passes and towards the center of the atolls or outer rims depending on the tide cycle. Between atolls the current usually pushes northward, making it a challenge to head south at times.
Fuel: Prior to purchasing fuel, contact your agent and he will generate the appropriate paperwork so that you can legally secure the liquid carbon. No agent letter, no fuel, let’s hear it for more government jobs and related votes. Prices in Kulhudhuffushi are as follows:
Gasoline/petrol, 13.2 MVR, $ .87 USD
Diesel, 13.2 MVR, $ .87 USD
I topped off the tanks at Kulhudhuffushi via the fuel truck on the wharf. And, a first occurred since being in Australia several years ago…the fuel truck pump was calibrated so that I got every drop of fuel I paid for. Wow, there goes the historical Asia fuel pump trend of shorting all customers. An agent-generated fuel permit was required.
If you purchase diesel in Male or Gan (the southernmost port) you will pay about 10 cents USD more per liter. The price per liter for petrol remains the same as the Kulhudhuffushi price.
You can purchase fuel WITHOUT a fuel permit in Gan/Feydhoo, at the Feydhoo Boat Harbor.
If the nearby boat harbor has large tuna boats in it, the port probably has fuel (petrol and diesel) delivery trucks which can sell you fuel. Also, you will often see very small all white cargo ships anchored near villages that have large tuna boats. Watch these white ships and you will see the tuna boats tie off to them and refuel. This is another source of fuel.
Tourism: Selling sunshine, the tourist dollars fuel the Maldives economy, end of the topic.
Jason Trautz, s/v YOLO
Read the Maldives: Useful Information for Visiting Yachts – May 2015 Part 1 on Noonsite for more information.