Choosing the Black Pearl Liveaboard
Having already been scuba diving in the Maldives, my friends knew that the best way to explore as many dive sites as possible in our 2-week holiday was to go on a liveaboard holiday. It is also the cheapest way to see the Maldives, considering the prices of these amazing resorts. The nice ones can run at way over USD 500 each night! The last time my friends visited, they booked through a company called Maldives Dive Travel and had been really happy with the trip, so we decided to go with them again. Looking at the Maldives Dive Travel site and other similar sites, I noticed that Maldives Dive Travel has the best selection of liveaboard boats and the site is really user-friendly. You can see loads of photos of the boats and all the information you really need. The Black Pearl is one of the cheaper boats that they offer, which is a big part of why we chose it. All we really care about is the scuba diving and having a lot of fun in a group, so the Black Pearl was perfect for us.
Black Pearl Liveaboard Facilities
The Black Pearl really has everything you could need on a scuba diving holiday and more. The Black Pearl holds 14 people comfortably and there were 12 in our group, so we had a little extra space. Of the 12, 10 of us were scuba divers. I was a little concerned for the non-diving members of the group because I didn't know what they were going to do all day, but they had a great time relaxing on the boat, sunbathing and snorkelling while we were diving. There are other activities on Black Pearl that we all took part in, a part from scuba diving like fishing – it was great when we caught some tuna and the chef would prepare it ‘sashimi-style' with ginger and soy and we would all tuck in. There's really nothing like the taste of fresh tuna, especially when you catch it yourself!!!
The rooms on Black Pearl are very comfortable; all have en-suite, hot water bathrooms, air-conditioning and exterior windows so you can see the amazing blue water all the time during your holiday. There is a nice communal living area with a bar – fully stocked, thank goodness, and a dining area. There are comfortable sun-loungers to relax in while you are not diving. It is quite a big boat, just less than 100 feet, and so even with 12 guests and all the crew on board, it never felt crowded.
Black Pearl Service and Food
After the scuba diving, the food in the Maldives was probably the next biggest highlight for me. We were served three meals every day, plus afternoon snacks and there was plenty of food. As you know, scuba diving really works up a hunger (and a thirst), but the catering on the Black Pearl totally satisfied! Most meals included fresh fish and rice, all cooked to perfection. The chef does a good job of combining international cuisine with local Maldivian specialties, so we all got to try new things, without being thrown out of our comfort zones. There were no complaints from our party on the Black Pearl, and all our plates were always clean at the end of the meals. The bar also got a "thumbs up" from our group. We drank mainly beer, but there was a full selection of wine and liquor on board.
As far as service is concerned, the Black Pearl did a great job. All the crew members were really friendly and the dive instructors were informative and inspired confidence. They knew everything about the dive sites we visited each day and all about the animals we saw under the water. They were also all really down to earth and genuinely excited for us and our new diving experiences. I liked this; so many times the dive instructors can be aloof and behave as if they are superior.
Black Pearl Itinerary
The Black Pearl offers 7 and 12-night holidays. Since our trip to the Maldives was a 14-night trip, we did the 12-day Black Pearl diving safari and then spent two nights at the W Hotel Retreat to finish off the holiday and rest our weary scuba diving bodies. Upon arriving at Male Airport, we were collected at the airport and taken to the Black Pearl. As soon as everyone was on board, the ship set sail and headed off towards the first dive site. When we got there, to Lion's Head, we took our initial "status" dive which helps the dive instructors and dive masters understand what level everyone is at and if you hadn't dived for a while, like me, it serves as a great refresher. The Black Pearl personnel are obviously conscious of everyone's safety which was really reassuring. We took 2 or 3 dives each day and one night dive, for a total of 30 dives throughout the trip. It sounds like a lot of scuba diving, but I think it was the perfect amount and it satisfied our ‘cravings' for another few months, at least!
Black Pearl Diving
The diving in the Maldives was definitely first-class. What was great about the Black Pearl and all other dive boats was that there was a second boat accompanying the Black Pearl, called a Dhoni, where we kept all the equipment. We used this boat to actually take the dives which made the whole experience more comfortable. Some people brought their own equipment, although the majority of us hired the equipment from the Black Pearl and it was all in great condition – no complaints here. As far as marine life goes, we saw some amazing things, including the most important creatures in the Maldives – the Whale Sharks and Manta Rays. We also saw turtles, dolphins, moray eels, reef sharks, barracuda, nurse sharks and a whole array of fish, from massive napoleon wrasse to tiny Oriental Sweetlips. It was simply amazing!
All in all, our Black Pearl adventure was excellent. If I had to rate it, it would definitely get a 9 out of 10, maybe even a 10 and I truly hope to be able to return another day for more Maldives adventures.