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[Marko wrote]:

"Apologies if this is stating the bleedin obvious to those of you who’ve already been, but just in case someone posts another “recommend me a Maldives resort” question…
Spent two weeks in January at White Sands, formerly Ari Beach on a cheap deal with Airtours. I’d recommend the seaplane transfers as I heard that 50% of those on the three hour boat journey were sick – the seaplane takes 25 minutes and is around $90. We stayed in an Island Village bungalow which was perfectly clean and nice. Food is OK in the main restaurant though absolutely everything has a 10% “service charge” added.

The dive outfit is Eurodivers with a friendly and knowledgeable team. They offer free nitrox fills and the kit is pretty new.

Overall I’d say the diving was good for some things and not so good for others – the only other comparison I can make in the Maldives is with Meeru, which had some great current/drift dives and good coral. We decided to go to White Sands primarily because after some research it seemed the best place to have a chance to see Mantas at the time we were going.

Manta Point dive site was incredible – a ninety minute journey but worth every minute. At this time of year there are big mantas on every dive – up to ten of them and close enough to touch – for the entire dive if you want. They didn’t seem bothered by the divers – sometimes one boat, usually two or three around – and seemed to enjoy getting close enough for the bubbles to rub over their undersides.

Went on several dives looking for whalesharks – if you don’t see them (I didn’t and they hadn’t seen any for around three weeks) on those outside reefs there’s not a lot else and virtually no coral at all. After this, decided to focus on the Thila dives.

Kudarah Thila was the best - loads of coral, lots of fish life, a small thila you can explore all the way round. Seventh Heaven – another really nice thila – where others diving said the level of coral was the same as pre el-Nino. Digurah Thila – larger than the other two and a good drift dive in the current, but not as much to see.
Kudimaa wreck – a new wreck so not a lot of coral and fish life. A few white tips around.

Overall, the diving seemed pretty reasonable, particularly with the strong dollar, and cheaper than some other resorts. Ten dive package including kit costs around $300 + $100 for boat trips – and you get a free 11th dive when you complete ten. I also did the nitrox level one and two course for $170. All nitrox fills are free.

To sum up, if you want to see Mantas and have to go in January-April and on a b budget of around £800 for two weeks, then White Sands has to be a good option."
 
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