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99 > 100: A True Story



Nikhil Chinapa – 95 dives completed. That was in January 2010.

I knew that the next time I went diving, I’d hit 100 dives and though they’re a far cry from my buddy Shaff (who has well over 3,000 dives logged), I wanted the 100th dive to be special.

So I considered diving in a 3 piece suit, diving naked and diving with great whites. Much thought and time was spent as to how and where I’d do my 100th dive. Ok, That’s not entirely true as most of my time was spent partying, dj-ing and drinking lots of beer across various nightclubs in India. However when conversation amongst friends wandered around to diving, I did wonder where dive #100 was going to be. The pieces of the puzzle finally fell together when I got a call from the Maldives.

I’d more-or-less decided that it had to be the Maldives. I’d done most of my diving here and I wasn’t particularly gung-ho on a stunt dive or dive where I was going to be bitten by a shark , an eel or a Napoleon Wrasse looking for a banana. I wanted great visibility, warm water and a fun bunch of friends around me when I went diving.

My buddy Shaff had been pestering me for a while to accompany him to a spot that was teeming with Manta. I’d never found the time to make it happen, but the wheels of fate were in motion. Shortly after these exhortations from Shaff I read a piece in the National Geographic that had an article on Manta in the Maldives – in one particular area. It had been documented as a place where mantas and whale sharks gathered between the months of July and September to feed on plankton that had been drawn up from the deep ocean and then funneled into a particular bay by the prevailing monsoon ocean currents.

It was a place called Hanifaru Bay.

It’s a tiny dive spot, ostensibly in the middle of nowhere, but in reality quite well known in Baa Atoll in the Maldives. The dive site has over the past few years, become quite well known across the world and the Maldivian government has now designated it a protected Marine Reserve.

We got to Baa Atoll on the Atoll Cruiser live-aboard along with 12 other divers – mostly from India. The journey from Male had taken us a day, during which check dives had been completed and a juvenile humpback whale had been sighted. Rather rare in the Maldives apparently, but then so are a bunch of Indian divers on a live-aboard!

The dive site at Hanifaru bay looked like – well, like nothing really. It looked shallow and had a reef ridge running on the outside, with a channel beyond. Islands were all at a distance and to the first timer, it looked like the dive guides had either lost the location, or had just run out of ideas. Underwater, the visibility was poor (hello plankton!) and there were a few coral blocks. Maximum depth – a grand 12 meters.

The first dive was largely uneventful. We wandered around, lost; sat by a coral block for 15 minutes and saw one passing manta. Some of us in a group tried wandering across to some other coral blocks and spotted, well not much. Hanifaru bay was certainly not living up to its reputation, nor was it anything like what I’d seen in videos on YouTube.

Now I won’t lie to you – my 100th dive was actually quite ordinary. We saw some Manta on that dive and may have even seen a turtle and some of the Maldives brilliantly coloured reef fish. The odd lionfish was also observed, as were schools of scuba-diving tourists with the obligatory cameras in hand.

My 99th dive however, was the kicker. It was a dive that I for one, won’t forget in a hurry because it was the first time I saw a whale shark. It was also the first time that I saw over 50 mantas on a single dive – and they looked like clouds of dive-bombers descending from the surface towards us.

Now I never usually carry a camera underwater, preferring to instead drift along and watch the world go by. I don’t particularly like being stuck behind a lens for my entire dive, desperately trying to capture pictures to post on Facebook or to boast to my friends with. It works well for me as my regular dive buddy Shaff is an avid underwater cameraman and has a brilliant camera to boot – I just “borrow” his pictures and video to make my albums and my dive video edits!

However on this dive, a friend gave me his spare camera, set it to picture mode and asked me to take pictures “if anything special popped up”… and pop up it did.

We entered the water over a shallow sand bank and descended to the bottom – which was about 5 meters. We started to swim towards deeper water, where we hoped the mantas would appear sooner or later. As I swam slowly towards deeper water and the sand bank started to fall away beneath me, I casually turned to glance over my left shoulder… And appearing out of the plankton haze – not more than 20 feet away was the biggest whale shark I had ever seen in any video!

I grabbed the camera and desperately began the 3-step process to switch from picture to video mode. It took me a few seconds and by the time I got it ready, the whale shark was almost at touching distance. I swung the camera up and stabbed at the record button and managed to shoot the best whale shark shot of the entire dive trip! Her snout went right by the camera and the entire animal swam slowly past me at a distance of just a few feet.

My dive holiday had been made… but there was more to come. As we swam towards the now familiar coral block, the mantas appeared. Clouds and clouds of them with flowing cephalic fins guiding plankton rich water into their gaping mouths. Most were at the surface and could be observed by snorkelers, while divers desperately tried to maintain their buoyancy at 3-4 meters to be in the middle of the feeding rush.

Incredibly, as mantas rushed over, around and under you, they were acutely aware of the divers and where other mantas were. I never once saw any collisions or felt like I was in danger of being knocked over by one of the giants. We swam with them, did clumsy loops as they passed over our heads and watched as they chased their own tale in acrobatic loop-de-loops when they hit a particularly rich plankton spot in the water.

After a while I drifted down to the bottom and lay down beside the coral block to observe a single manta allowing itself to be cleaned by the army of cleaner fish. The next 20 minutes were pure nirvana.

This lone manta was almost in performance mode. It swam ultra-slowly and often a few feet over me as I lay on the sand and rolled over on my back to watch it swim overhead. It was like having my living room fly over my head; it was that huge (or looked like it underwater). On one occasion, it opened it’s mouth to the cleaners as it flew over my head and I swear – it felt like I could just reach my hand up and pull myself into it’s gaping mouth – it was THAT close.

What started off with just me watching this one manta, ended 20 mins later with over 20 divers lying on the sand around the coral block behind me. It was magical. The rest of the dive was occupied by watching more manta (the guides estimated there were over 400 in the bay that day) and the whale shark as it made more runs past us.

So dive #99 was better that #100. But is any dive in the Maldives ever a waste? I’d say no- the visibility, the company and just being underwater in warm water more than makes up for anything that you may not see… or for that matter, is nicer than anything you do see.

It’s been 4 months since I dived at Hanifaru and with visions of that lone manta drifting lazily over my head, I can’t wait to get back to the Maldives again!

Editor’s note: Written by Nikhil Chinapa, the article was sent to share his experience of Maldives with us. The article was also published in Maldives Finder, and the publisher being a friend of Maldives Promotion House decided to put it up on our site.

About the Author: Nikhil Chinapa is a famous MTV presenter, an Indian radio jockey, video jockey and disc jockey. He is also a keen diver.


Endless Fun in the Winter Sun at Cora Cora Maldives



Cora Cora Maldives invites you to escape the winter chill and bask in the glory of sun-kissed beaches and crystal-clear waters. This festive season, the island is transforming into a haven of excitement, offering a unique blend of holiday magic and paradise charm.

Santa’s Tropical Arrival

Prepare for a surprise like no other as Santa Claus makes his grand entrance at Cora Cora Maldives. Ditching the traditional chimney descent, Santa is embracing a tropical twist to his arrival, promising a festive spectacle that will captivate visitors of all ages. Stay tuned to witness the magic of the holidays seamlessly merging with the allure of this sunny paradise.

The Rocking Eighties at CoRa kids® Club

Keeping the winter blues at bay, Cora Cora Maldives presents the Festival of Decades at the CoRa kids® Club. Transport your children to a world of endless fun with a range of themed activities, from creative modeling and enchanting storytelling to retro 80s hair and nail art. Families can bond and create lasting memories under the warm winter sun, making this club the perfect playground for young and old alike.

Exclusive Offers for Direct Bookings

For those eager to embrace the warmth, beauty, and luxury of Cora Cora Maldives, the resort offers an unbeatable deal for direct bookings. Save up to 40% off when you book directly through the Cora Cora Maldives website. It’s the perfect excuse to trade grey skies for endless summer sunshine and make the most of this island paradise.

Repeaters Rave 2023 – A Celebration of Familiar Faces

The joy of familiar faces returning to Cora Cora Maldives is unparalleled, and the resort is set to celebrate this reunion in style with the exclusive ‘Repeaters Rave.’ This unique luncheon, set to the rhythm of the Indian Ocean’s best playlist, is dedicated to cherished repeat guests. Attendees are invited to don their favorite 20s or 80s-inspired attire for a dash of retro fun, creating a perfect atmosphere for mingling and creating new memories with fellow repeaters.

As the festive season unfolds at Cora Cora Maldives, guests are promised not just a vacation but a journey into a world where luxury, warmth, and celebration come together to create an unforgettable experience. Book your stay now and be a part of the magic in the winter sun.

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Places To Go

Escape to paradise: A review of Amari Raaya Maldives



Amari Raaya Maldives resort is a true gem in the midst of the stunning Raa Atoll. From the moment I arrived at the airport, the resort’s warm hospitality and attention to detail impressed me. The seamless transfer by seaplane was an exhilarating experience, and the Manta Air lounge provided a comfortable and enjoyable waiting area with delectable snacks and drinks.

Upon reaching the resort, I was welcomed by the friendly resort team and treated to a delicious lunch at the Amaya Food Gallery, which set the tone for the culinary delights that awaited during my stay. My accommodation, the Beach Pool Villa, was a haven of luxury, offering a spacious and well-appointed retreat with the added indulgence of a private pool overlooking the pristine beach.

The variety of villa options at Amari Raaya caters to all preferences, whether guests seek proximity to the beach, breathtaking ocean views, or the magic of Maldivian sunsets. The resort leaves no stone unturned in ensuring every guest’s experience is unforgettable.

The culinary journey at Amari Raaya is an exceptional highlight of the resort. With eight diverse dining options, guests can explore a world of flavors and indulge in a gastronomic adventure. From the vibrant and flavorful street food at Amaya Food Gallery to the delightful rooftop bar Ampers&nd, offering stunning sunset views and delectable cocktails, every meal was a delight to the senses. The incorporation of Italian favorites and locally-inspired seafood dishes further added to the culinary magic.

As the sun set, the resort transformed into a vibrant hub of cultural experiences. With live music, traditional Boduberu nights, and cultural events, guests could immerse themselves in the local traditions and create lasting memories of their time in the Maldives.

Amari Raaya Maldives resort is a perfect fusion of luxury, natural beauty, and authentic experiences. Whether you seek relaxation on the beach, exploration of marine life, or the excitement of cultural festivities, the resort offers something for everyone. The attentive staff, incredible dining options, and enchanting surroundings make Amari Raaya a dream destination for any traveler looking to experience paradise in the Maldives. I can’t wait to return to this slice of heaven in the future!

In Summary

  • Accommodations:
    • Beach and overwater villas provide unobstructed views of the Raa Atoll waters.
    • Range of options including Beach Villas, Ocean Pool Villas, and the lavish Amari Presidential Villa.
  • Dining:
    • Eight food and beverage outlets offer a fusion of Thai, Asian, Maldivian, and Western flavors.
    • Options include the vibrant Amaya Food Gallery, romantic Ampers&nd, and private beach dinners.
  • Recreation and Play:
    • Dive into a variety of recreational activities, including scuba diving courses and water sports.
    • Facilities like Fitness and Yoga Pavilion, Artist Zone, and Chef’s Garden cater to diverse interests.
  • Services:
    • 24-hour room service, tailored excursions, and family-friendly amenities like baby care and babysitting.
  • Special Occasions:
    • Ideal venue for weddings, events, or exclusive island takeovers, turning dreams into reality.
  • Overall Atmosphere:
    • A castaway experience amid 5-star luxury, combining natural beauty with unparalleled hospitality.

Amari Raaya Maldives invites guests to escape the world and celebrate life’s best moments in this tropical haven.

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Places To Go

JA Manafaru: A luxurious oasis away from the rest



My recent stay at JA Manafaru, a private island resort at the northern tip of the Maldives, was nothing short of a dream come true. From the moment I arrived, I was enveloped in a world of unparalleled luxury and natural beauty. The Island Residence, with its three bedrooms and two stunning swimming pools, provided the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable vacation.

Upon my arrival, I was treated to a truly unique experience – a floating lunch in the private pool. As I savored delectable cuisine while gently floating in crystal-clear waters, I knew that this would be a vacation like no other. The attention to detail and the commitment to providing exceptional experiences was evident from the very start.

One of the highlights of my stay was the exclusive dinner I attended at the launch of ‘Wellness Your Way,’ a lifestyle dining initiative focused on luxury traveler wellbeing. This innovative concept aims to cater to the evolving tastes and preferences of guests, offering a range of plant-based meat, cheese, and seafood options. What’s more, they serve homemade low-carb bread and pasta made from konjac. Executive Chef Moosa and his team deserve special recognition for their dedication to creating delightful vegan dishes like “buffalo” mozzarella and sugar and low-carb nut brownies. This commitment to offering diverse and health-conscious dining options is truly commendable.

Another memorable experience was the beachside picnic lunch, where we were treated to stunning ocean views while indulging in a delicious meal. The blend of nature and culinary delights made it an enchanting and picturesque affair.

JA Manafaru is more than just a luxury resort; it’s a soulful sanctuary that seamlessly combines Eastern spirituality and Arabic hospitality. Nestled in the Haa Alifu Atoll, this resort offers a level of privacy and seclusion that is truly unmatched. Surrounded by the endless blue of the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, the location alone is awe-inspiring.

The resort’s accommodation options are equally impressive. From spacious beach villas to stunning water villas and residences, each comes with its own private pool, and in some cases, even two pools. The sizes of these accommodations range from 135 sqm to a massive 2000 sqm, ensuring that every guest enjoys a generous and comfortable living space. Even the entry-level options here surpass the deluxe categories found at most other Maldivian resorts. The accommodations are designed to make every moment of your stay special, from the breathtaking views to the modern amenities and elegant decor.

What truly sets JA Manafaru apart is the unwavering commitment to providing exceptional service. The staff here understands the art of hospitality and goes above and beyond to ensure that your every need is met. Whether it’s arranging a special meal, planning a surprise, or simply offering warm and friendly assistance, the service is impeccable.

JA Manafaru also prides itself on offering a holistic wellness experience. The resort is dedicated to rejuvenating not only your body but also your soul and mind. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Maldives, you’ll find it easy to let go of stress and embrace tranquility. Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway, a honeymoon destination, or a place to recharge, this resort has it all.

JA Manafaru is a tropical paradise that exceeds all expectations. From the lavish accommodations to the innovative dining experiences and the natural beauty of the Maldives, every aspect of this resort is designed to create unforgettable memories. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor to the Maldives, JA Manafaru is an experience that will leave you in awe. This is where luxury, wellness, and natural beauty converge, making it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an exceptional tropical getaway.

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