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Best Liveaboards in the Maldives

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As a remote, island nation with over 1,000 coral-fringed islands separated by current swept channels, it’s easy to understand why the Maldives is one of the world’s top scuba diving destinations.

From healthy coral reefs teeming with schools of fish to whale sharks, manta rays, and even tiger sharks. You name it, the Maldives has it. The abundance of marine life in the Maldives is truly breathtaking.

With the archipelago stretching over 35,000 square miles, the Maldives are, without a doubt, best explored on a liveaboard.

And as a result, there’s an overwhelming variety of dive liveaboards to choose from.

That’s where OtterAquatics comes in.

AT A GLANCE: OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST MALDIVES LIVEABOARDS

We’ve done all the research for you, so you can choose the boat that best fits your budget knowing you’ve picked one of the top liveaboards on offer.

In this article, we’ll also be covering:

  • The different liveaboard routes in the Maldives
  • The best time of year for a liveaboard in the Maldives
  • Frequently asked questions about Maldivian liveaboards

So let’s dive in…

  • Dolphin
  • Infiniti

  • Solitude One
  • Seadoors

  • Atlantis Azores
  • Philippine Siren

Best Liveaboards In Maldives

Budget Options

  • # Divers: 20
  • # Cabins: 10
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes (extra $)
  • Nitrox: Yes (extra $)
  • Price: Low – Mid-range
  • Routes: Central

If you’re looking for an affordable, yet top quality, liveaboard in the Maldives then look no further than the MV Ari Queen.

Ari Queen offers 12 twin or double cabins each with individual temperature controls, private hot-water bathrooms, and ample storage space. The deluxe cabins and luxury suites also feature a flat-screen TV, mini-fridge, and endless ocean views.

When you’re not asleep or underwater, there’s plenty of space to relax onboard. Enjoy the entertainment system in the large air-conditioned lounge, sip on a cool drink at the open-air bar, or top up your tan on the spacious sun deck.

With 3 delicious buffet-style meals served in the spacious saloon and complimentary snacks and beverages available throughout the day, you’ll never go hungry.
And don’t forget there will be a beautiful sunset BBQ dinner on a deserted island. A highlight of every trip!

With shore excursions and snorkel visits available for non-divers, and group discounts available, Ari Queen is superb value for money if you’re a group of divers and non-divers looking for an unforgettable experience.

What we love

  • Open-air bar
  • Hot showers
  • Affordable
  • Suitable for non-divers

Downsides

  • Wi-Fi not included
  • Nitrox not included

  • # Divers: 20
  • # Cabins: 10
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes (extra $)
  • Nitrox: Yes (extra $)
  • Price: Mid-range
  • Routes: Central, South & Deep South

And the final budget-friendly liveaboard on our list is the Blue Force One. Designed with both divers and non-divers in mind, it’s the perfect choice for those traveling with a non-diving buddy.

Blue Force One offers 4 different types of ensuite cabins including a family suite, all beautifully designed with your comfort in mind. And with three spacious sundecks, a plush living room, and upper deck bar you’ll never be short on space to relax onboard.

Not only will this magnificent yacht show you the magic of the Maldives underwater world, but it’ll also provide you with an unrivaled experience above the surface.

When you’re not diving or relaxing, you can enjoy a variety of watersports including stand-up paddleboards, surfing, wakeboarding, water skiing, or kayaking. There’s even the opportunity to take a spin on one of the jet skis!

A highlight of a trip on the Blue Force One has to be soaking in one of the two onboard jacuzzis under a sky full of stars.

If you’re looking for the perfect balance between entertainment and relaxation, Blue Force One is the best liveaboard for you.

What we love

  • Two Jacuzzi included
  • Watersports included
  • TVs inside cabins

Downsides

  • Wifi not included
  • Nitrox not included
  • No onboard spa
 

Mid-Range Maldives Liveaboards

  • # Divers: 20
  • # Cabins: 10
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes (extra $)
  • Nitrox: Yes (free)
  • Price: Mid-range
  • Routes: Central, South & Deep South

This beautifully designed modern yacht will take you to the best scuba diving spots in the Maldives without breaking your budget.

Despite being included as one of our budget liveaboard options, the Carpe Novo still offers you a luxury experience.

Each of the 20 carefully crafted cabins features ensuite bathrooms, air conditioning, ample storage, and a selection of movies and music on flat-screen TVs.

The main deck features luxurious single suites that although are more expensive, are extremely popular with divers on the Novo.

Carpe Novo boasts an inviting indoor lounge where you can simply relax, enjoy a book from the onboard library or make the most of the HD entertainment system. And on the upper deck, you’ll find a luxurious al-fresco dining room, a fully equipped main bar, and a spacious sun deck.

The swim platform provides guests with the opportunity to take a refreshing dip whenever the boat is anchored.

As well as trips to the most iconic dive spots throughout the Maldives, MV Carpe Novo also offers specific manta-focused itineraries for fans of these charismatic creatures.

If you’re looking for top-quality service with a reasonable price tag, then you simply can’t go wrong with the Carpe Novo.

What we love

  • Two Jacuzzi included
  • Watersports included
  • TVs inside cabins

Downsides

  • Wifi not included
  • Nitrox not included
  • No onboard spa
 

  • # Divers: 22
  • # Cabins: 11
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes ($)
  • Nitrox: Yes ($)
  • Price: Mid-range
  • Routes: Central, South & Deep South

With the Aggressor II you don’t need to compromise on comfort to experience the best diving the Maldives has to offer.

This elegant liveaboard features 11 lavish staterooms all equipped with private bathrooms, individual climate control, port window, and TV.

Enjoy your time between and after dives relaxing in the shaded outdoor lounge area or in the jacuzzi up on the sundeck. Or unwind with one of the movies on the HD entertainment system in the spacious indoor saloon.

The chefs aboard the Aggressor II know how to keep you fuelled for your diving adventures. With an impressive range of local and western cuisine served buffet style at breakfast and lunch, followed by a delicious 3-course dinner menu, you’ll never go hungry.

Plus there’s a selection of fruit juices, soft drinks, tea, coffee, and local beer and wine all complimentary throughout your trip.

With top-notch dive guides, fantastic food, and beautiful interiors the Aggressor II offers you an amazing all-round liveaboard experience at a reasonable price.

 

What we love

  • Luxurious cabins
  • Jacuzzi deck
  • Complimentary soft drinks
  • Suitable for non-divers

Downsides

  • WiFi not included
  • Nitrox not included
  • No onboard spa

  • # Divers: 26
  • # Cabins:13
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes ($)
  • Nitrox: Yes (Free)
  • Price: Mid-range
  • Routes: North, Central, South & Deep South

Emperor Explorer is one of our favorite liveaboards in the Maldives. Built and launched in 2019, this contemporary yacht combines world-class diving with world-class hospitality.

Akin to a floating boutique hotel, each of the 13 luxurious cabins offers aircon, private hot-water bathrooms, and plenty of storage space. There’s a comfortable air-conditioned lounge on the main deck that opens up to a stunning open-air dining area.

The upper deck boasts both a spacious covered and open area ideal for checking out the footage from your day of diving or just relaxing, star gazing, and soaking up the wonderful Maldivian ambiance.

What makes the Emperor Explorer one of our favorite liveaboards are all the little extras they provide. As well as an onboard spa they provide free nitrox and a complimentary glass of wine with dinner. Even the non-divers are also looked after with free snorkeling equipment and a $50 voucher to spend onboard.

The Emperor Explorer’s experienced crew go above and beyond to provide you with an unforgettable diving trip, providing the professionalism and top quality service that you’d expect from an Emperor liveaboard.

What we love

  • Free nitrox for certified divers
  • Onboard spa for added relaxation
  • Complimentary glass of wine with dinner
  • Contemporary, spacious 42m liveaboard

Downsides

  • WiFi not included

Luxury Maldives Liveaboards

  • # Divers: max 26 divers but max 40 guest total 
  • # Cabins: 19
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes (extra $)
  • Nitrox: Yes (free)
  • Price: High
  • Routes: North, Central, South & Deep South

Winner of the South Asian Travel Awards Leading Liveaboard 2016 – 2018 and an official PADI 5* Maldivian vessel, the Scubaspa Yang offers an unbeatable experience.

With a team of highly experienced PADI instructors and dedicated divemasters you know you’re experiencing the best diving that the Maldives has to offer.

Prepare your body for a day of world-class diving with a sunrise yoga session on the spacious upper deck. Pamper yourself in between or after dives at the award-winning onboard spa offering you the ultimate in floating relaxation. And finish the day with a movie beneath the stars in the open-air HD theatre.

This spacious and elegant liveaboard offers 10 cabins and 9 suites, each artfully crafted and individually decorated to the highest standard. As well as ample space to unwind with a large air-conditioned saloon, elegantly designed terraces and spacious sundeck complete with hot tub.

Food on the ScubaSpa Yang is an experience in itself. From grilled salmon to roast lamb, creative vegetarian options to tantalizing desserts, your taste buds will be well and truly looked after onboard. And don’t forget about the sizzling BBQ on an uninhabited, sugar-white sandbank and the farewell cocktail party!

Scubaspa Yang and her crew really do have every detail covered to ensure you have a truly unforgettable trip, both above and below the surface. They can even cater for weddings and honeymoons onboard!

If comfort and relaxation are your priority, then you can’t go wrong by booking a trip on the Scubaspa Yang.

Although a little higher price than most liveaboards, it’s most definitely worth it!

 

What we love

  • Beautifully-designed cabins
  • Free WiFi
  • Fishing & kayaking available.
  • Onboard gym, jacuzzi, spa, yoga and open-air cinema
  • Plenty of activities for non-divers incl. try dives

Downsides

  • Nitrox not included
  • Quite expensive
  • Mix of divers & non-divers may not be for everyone

  • # Divers: 26 divers but max 40 people onboard
  • # Cabins: 19
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes (extra $)
  • Nitrox: Yes (free)
  • Price: High
  • Routes: North, Central, South & Deep South

If the Scubaspa Yang doesn’t have availability or you’re looking for a different itinerary, we highly recommend checking out the Scubaspa Ying – they’re pretty much identical twins.

As you can probably tell by the name, the Scubaspa Ying is the sister ship of Scubaspa Yang. Similar to its sister, this elegant yacht also boasts incredible onboard facilities so you can fully refresh yourself ahead of your next underwater adventure.

The beautiful interiors of this boat combined with the variety of entertainment and relaxation options make it the perfect choice for divers looking for a little luxury.

What we love

  • Beautifully-designed cabins
  • Free WiFi
  • Fishing & kayaking available.
  • Onboard gym, jacuzzi, spa, yoga and open-air cinema
  • Plenty of activities for non-divers incl. try dives

Downsides

  • Nitrox not included
  • Quite expensive
  • Mix of divers & non-divers may not be for everyone

Why Choose A Dive Liveaboard In The Maldives Overstaying In A Resort?

You might be thinking…

‘Can’t I just base myself in one of those beautiful resorts and dive?’

Yes, you can dive in the Maldives from one of the beautiful resort islands. You’ll be able to enjoy the space, comfort, and convenience of a hotel. But you’ll miss out on the best diving this country has to offer.

On a dive liveaboard you have access to many more, and if we’re totally honest, much better dive sites than those reachable from the islands.

And if that’s not enough, your dive trip will also be cheaper.

Yes, you read that right.

Think about it:

When you take into account the additional cost for the accommodation on top of your diving you’ll find that a liveaboard trip offers you much more for your money than diving from a resort.

Of course, this depends slightly on the level of luxury you’re looking for. But for the number of dives, liveaboards tend to be a more affordable option. And we know you’ll want to clock up as much bottom time as possible in this diver’s paradise.

So, now you’re certain that a liveaboard in the Maldives is the way to go, let’s take a look at your options.

Liveaboard Routes In The Maldives

The Maldives covers a huge expanse of the Indian Ocean and as a result, you’ll have to choose an area or route for your trip. So which area of the Maldives is the best for a liveaboard trip?

Well, it mostly depends on the time of year and a little on which marine life you are most interested in seeing. Maldives liveaboards offer different routes and itineraries depending on the season.

We’ve put together a brief overview of the different areas that liveaboards visit in the Maldives to help you plan your trip. You’ll find a full rundown of the different areas, also known as atolls, in our complete guide to scuba diving in the Maldives.

Central

The central region of the Maldives includes the atolls of Male, Vaavu, Ari, and Rasdhoo, and is the most visited region of the Maldives. This is also where the capital city, Male, and the only international airport are located which makes it the easiest area of the Maldives to access and where a lot of liveaboards start from.

The most well-known diving spots in the Maldives are around the central atolls of Male and Ari, as these were the first to be properly explored and the most easily accessed. This does mean that these areas are often the busiest for liveaboards especially during the peak seasons (December to May)

Here you’ll experience exciting drift dives, an abundance of reef sharks, manta ray cleaning stations, and a whole plethora of magnificent marine life!

Male atoll also offers a wide variety of underwater typography including walls, overhangs, and caves as well as some of the healthiest corals in the country. Ari Atoll, also located in the central region of the Maldives is the best place to dive with whalesharks, and Rasdhoo atoll, also central, is a top spot for hammerhead shark sitings.

The majority of liveaboards in the Maldives cover the central region, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Plus, as most liveaboards will depart from central, you often have the opportunity to cover some of the best spots in this area on the way to your next region!

South

If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten track experience, then we recommend heading south. The southern atolls include Meemu, Laamu, and Thaa and are popular with more experienced divers due to their exhilarating drift dives and epic underwater landscapes.

As you go South you’ll start to encounter more of the big pelagics including grey reef sharks, eagle rays and dogtooth tuna. Plus a variety of manta cleaning stations and spots are frequently visited by whale sharks.

There are many beginner-friendly sites as well as those for the current junkies, in these sheltered lagoons, you’ll see gorgeous coral reefs, ginormous napoleon wrasse, and sea turtles.

Many liveaboards offer itineraries to the south of the Maldives, often combining these routes with the best spots in the central atolls.

Deep South

Although you’re likely to encounter big marine animals throughout all the country, the deep south is the best region in the Maldives when it comes to diversity and abundance of the big bucket list animals.

On a liveaboard to the deep south you’ll not only encounter silver tips, white tips and grey reef sharks, but you’ll also have a very high chance of spotting thresher sharks and tiger sharks. Plus hammerheads, mola mola, and oceanic mantas can also be spotted here by lucky divers.

The deep south includes Huvadhu, Addu, and Fuvahmulah atolls. Because this area is pretty much on the equator, diving here is not as affected by the seasons so you get good visibility, clear skies and calm seas almost all year round.

Another highlight of a liveaboard in the deep south is the Maldive’s largest shipwreck, at 134 meters long this British ship is covered in a plethora of soft and hard corals, and home to multiple species including crustaceans batfish, frogfish and scorpion fish.

Due to it’s distance from Male and the airport, you’ll most likely have to take a seaplane to reach a liveaboard for the deep south. Although you will find some extended itineraries to the deep south that start from central, covering all the best spots in the center, south and deep south.

North

The north region includes Lhaviyani, Raa and Baa atoll and tends to be a little less visited than the other areas by liveaboards. So it’s a great spot if you want quieter dive sites.

The north region is home to the famous Haifaru Bay, a marine reserve located in the Baa atoll, where between May and October you’ll find more whale sharks and manta rays gathering here than anywhere else in the Maldives. While scuba diving is prohibited here, it’s still a really epic snorkeling spot that’s not to be missed.

On a liveaboard in the north of the Maldives, there are a variety of manta cleaning stations, epic drift dives full of black tip and silver tip reef sharks, grey sharks plus turtles, scores of eagle rays, and some seriously dramatic typography.

Far North

The far north of the Maldives is the most remote and least visited region of the Maldives and, as a result, is arguably one of the best spots of a liveaboard in the Maldives. The far north includes Shaviyani, Haa Alifu, and Haa Dhaalu atolls with many new dive sites still being discovered.

At the most northern point of the Maldives is the Haa Alifu atoll, a whopping 300km north of Male which has some incredible drift dives, several manta ray cleaning stations, the 80m long Madoo shipwreck, and is an excellent area to see leopard sharks.

Shaviyani atoll is a great area to see guitar sharks and several different ray species, plus new dive sites are still being discovered here.

Haa Dhaluu offers mighty underwater walls and rocky pinnacles carpeted with colorful corals and teeming with an overwhelming diversity of reef fish as well as marble rats, white tip sharks, nurse sharks, and other pelagics.

There are only a few liveaboards in the Maldives that venture up to the far north, our top pick would be the Carpe Novo.

For a more detailed look at scuba diving in the different atolls in the Maldives, take a look at our full guide to diving in the Maldives. 

The Best Time For A Liveaboard In The Maldives

Dive liveaboards operate throughout the year in the Maldives. Although the majority of liveaboard trips run between December and May. This is also known as the dry season.

With clear skies, calm seas, and little rain it’s considered the peak season for diving. Trips during this time will often be fully booked in advance so it’s best to secure your spot early.

Between June and November, the southwest monsoons bring strong winds and high seas to most areas. During this time many liveaboards go into dry dock for their annual refurbishments, but not all.

Several operators still run liveaboard trips with modified itineraries to visit atolls which are better protected during the wet season. The diving conditions are still good but the weather is unpredictable so be prepared for some waves. You’ll also find some great deals on liveaboards trips during this time.

For more information on the diving seasons check out our Ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving in The Maldives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most liveaboards in the Maldives welcome divers from all abilities. But they will require an advanced certification for dives deeper than 18m / 60ft. 

We highly recommend getting your advanced open water certification for liveaboard diving in the Maldives. 

Not only will you be able to explore the deeper part of each dive site, but you’ll also gain additional knowledge, experience, and, most importantly, the confidence to really make the most of your liveaboard experience.

Not advanced certified yet? 

Don’t worry. The majority of liveaboards offer you the opportunity to complete your advanced certification whilst onboard. 

Generally, a liveaboard in the Maldives includes your accommodation on board, all your dives, food, drinking water, tea, and coffee.

Some liveaboards may include some or all of these extras without additional charge but it’s important to keep these extra costs in mind when planning your liveaboard trip.

Nitrox Most liveaboards in the Maldives will offer you the opportunity to dive with Enriched Air Nitrox. Some will offer this for free, others will charge per tank. 

When you’re making multiple dives per day during a liveaboard, diving with Nitrox can be extremely beneficial. Check out our guide to Enriched Air Nitrox to find out why 

Soft drinks & alcohol You’ll be able to purchase additional soft drinks and alcoholic beverages from the bar on board. If you love a drink or two at the end of a day’s diving bear in mind that alcohol is expensive in the Maldives due to high import taxes.

Dive gear All liveaboards will offer you the opportunity to rent a full diving kit or individual items at a daily rate. On average, a full diving kit, excluding a dive computer or torch, will cost you $40 per day. 

That quickly adds up across a week or two of liveaboard diving! 

So, if you want to be smart and save some money for future dive trips it makes sense to invest in your own dive gear. 

Check out our extensive dive gear reviews to help you choose the right diving equipment for you.

Tips The crew put a lot of effort into keeping a liveaboard running. Although rarely mandatory, it is customary to tip a liveaboard crew about 10% of the total cost of your trip.

Remember if you take good care of the dive crew, they’ll take good care of you!

Green Tax & Marine Park Fees In the Maldives, a Green Tax of $6 US per person, per night applies for every tourist in the country. Some islands and marine parks also have national park fees that are not included in most liveaboard packages. 

WiFi Some high-end boats will offer free WiFi but for most, you will need to buy an internet package if you wish to stay connected. Bear in mind that WiFi may not be available during remote crossings. 

The majority of liveaboards in the Maldives don’t require a certain number of logged dives. The team on board will let you know if there is a more advanced site

However, there are some liveaboards that focus on taking divers to more advanced sites, think strong currents and deep pinnacles, that will require a minimum number of dives. 

When you’re on a liveaboard in the Maldives you’ll be making 3, sometimes 4, dives per day. And you want to be able to make the most of it. 

Diving with enriched air nitrox significantly increases your bottom time, especially when making repetitive dives. Plus it reduces your risk of decompression sickness. 

Using nitrox during a liveaboard trip is a no-brainer. Who doesn’t want the maximum bottom time and safer diving?

What’s more, is that some liveaboards offer free nitrox to certified divers. Make sure you can take advantage of this! 

Don’t have the time or opportunity to get the nitrox certification before your trip? 

No problem. The majority of liveaboards provide the opportunity for you to complete the nitrox certification onboard. And it’ll only take you a few hours. 

You’ve probably read about Maldivian liveaboards having a dhoni. But maybe you have no idea what a dhoni is or what it means for you.  

In the context of a liveaboard, a Dhoni is a specifically outfitted dive tender (think small boat which tags along with the main yacht), that houses the compressors and all the dive gear. 

Using a dhoni means that they can maximize the space onboard the main yacht for your comfort. As well as keeping the noisy compressor as far away as possible so you can enjoy the peace of the ocean uninterrupted. 

You’ll often be diving from the dhoni as the main vessel won’t always be able to anchor at the dive sites. Most liveaboards will also use a zodiac, basically a small speedboat, that will drop you at the perfect spot and quickly pick you up after drift dives. 

All our recommended liveaboards make use of a dhoni and one or more zodiacs. 

 

Dive insurance is mandatory for the majority of liveaboard operators in the Maldives. If you are not able to show proof of your diving insurance then you will be asked to purchase insurance locally before you can begin diving. 

Not sure what diving insurance is or the best option for you? Check out our complete guide to the best dive insurance. 

The majority of liveaboard trips run for 7 or 10 days. You can also find extended itineraries available for 14 days exploring more remote atolls.

The majority of liveaboards begin in the Male atoll and will often pick you up directly from the international airport.

Some of the more remote itineraries will arrange a short seaplane flight to bring you to the departure point.

Of course, we’re here for the diving. But many itineraries will incorporate other activities to help you make the most of your surface intervals and preflight day. 

Additional activities include the opportunity to visit a local island, enjoy a fresh BBQ on an uninhabited island or some epic snorkelling spots. Or there’s always the onboard spa to enjoy on more luxurious boats.

As mentioned above, many liveaboards will offer additional non-diving activities and are happy for non-divers to join the trip at a reduced rate.

As well as snorkelling, non-divers can enjoy a variety of watersports including stand up paddleboarding, kayaking and even jet skis!

If you’re looking for the best liveaboard experience for non-divers, we recommend Blue Force One or Scubaspa Yang as these offer an impressive variety of activities to keep those who aren’t diving satisfied.

If you have a non-diver accompanying you, it is best to check directly with the operator if your chosen boat and itinerary are suitable. There are also a few liveaboards that offer dedicated non-diving charters. 

Conclusion

Now you’ve got all the information you need, it’s time to cross a Maldives liveaboard off your scuba diving bucket list.

And trust us. 

You’ll be so seduced by the beauty of the Maldives and its underwater paradise that you’ll be planning your next liveaboard trip as soon as your first one finishes. 

Luckily for you, the Maldives has 26 different atolls and enough dive sites to keep you occupied for a lifetime. 

And if you go with one of our recommendations you’re sure to have an epic adventure! 

Which trip did you pick?

Let us know in the comments!

Alexa Worswick Administrator
Alexa is a scuba diving instructor currently based in Indonesia. She’s been diving since 15 years old and has always been obsessed with the ocean. After leaving the UK at the beginning of 2017 to travel around South East Asia. A series of opportunities allowed her to stay, where she gained online marketing experience and pursued her passion for diving. What she loves most about diving is the people. Diving allows her to connect with people from all over the world, from all different backgrounds with different experiences, who all come together to share their love for the underwater world.
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    My name’s Austin, and I created OtterAquatics to help readers become better divers, help them buy their first gear, and plan their next dive vacation!




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