Travelling is a design problem. You start out with a sketch, you solve mystery after mystery and as you do, the end product becomes clearer and clearer. In school I learned once you think you have the problem solved, scrap the entire design and do it again. Do this two or three times. Each rendition is a stronger solution. Every time you retrace the steps, you know at what points you previously just accepted an avenue to follow and it did not become apparent that your chosen solution was not the proper direction until it was too late to change. The second or indeed the third time through you are able to foresee the future, so to speak, and the path then followed is a much a stronger route leading to a better end result.
That is how we ended up booking a room on a live-a-board dive boat in the Maldives. Our first premise was that we were going to be in Asia so what place is on our dive bucket list that is close to our travel hub, Bangkok.
The dive destination highest on the list is Sipidan. So, we start to do the research and things look good. The dive situation is a bit complicated because only so many people are allowed to visit the island of Sipidan each day and each dive operation only has a limited number of passes. There are other dive sites close by so you will dive, it is just that you will probably visit the reason for going to Sipidan only once or twice in a week. We are in the midst of trying to figure out that particular problem when a story in the newspaper tweaks our attention. For some reason the exact area where the accommodations for diving Sipidan are located there seems to be gun battles raging in the streets. I know I must read between the lines of any news story but the village named in the paper and on the Canadian, American, Australian, and UK diplomatic websites is where the airplanes land and could be where one chooses to stay as a base to dive from. The advice is “Only necessary travel recommended.” Brains take over from excitement, we scrap design number one.
Destination number two, The Maldives. If you have ever seen pics of the Maldives you will no doubt have it on your bucket list. (http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Hotels-g293953-zff8-Maldives-Hotels.html) (Thumb through a couple of the hotels on Tripadvisor and you will get the idea.) It is portrayed as Eden on water. The islands are the lowest land mass in the world and with global warming they are expected to soon be beneath the water. Anyway, preliminary sketches of the project look good. There is a flight from Bangkok direct to Male, the Maldives capital, and the websites of the resorts look just as imagined. There doesn’t seem to be any inherent gun play about. On to design development. We spend a good amount of time trying to figure out where the best diving is, what resorts have good dive operations and what might be expected at each of the resorts. The islands that make up the archipelago are small and for the most part every resort occupies its own island. Red flag number 1. When booked at a resort you dine at their restaurants, dive with their dive operator, frequent their entertainment, etc., because they are the only game in town. If you so happen to choose a place and it turns out not to be to your liking, TDB. (Too Damn Bad).
Then there is the fact that many years ago the Maldive government made the decision that their country will be an exclusive destination for travellers, thereby avoiding the problem of degenerate backpackers invading their panacea. This means the resorts cater to those with money and those funky over the water individual cabin hotel rooms are north of $600 per night. Of course there are less expensive ones but from best I can make from the reviews you get what you pay for and the Maldives has a different scale of value in comparison to the rest of the world. We talk and decide we will not pay $1000 a night, not even in the Maldives. Scrap design number two.
We are back to Bangkok and where can we get to easily from our hub. There are many locations. The close ones of course are the Thailand coast and Malaysia. Neither one is on our list and a cursory look does not excite us much. There are places a lot farther but that takes a day or two from our diving and we are reluctant to do that. We leave this option before we even reach preliminary sketches. That brings about a re-examination of the reason we want to go the Maldives. Our conclusion; “to dive.”
Sketch number four. If we are going to dive what is the best way to maximize the diving we are going to do and how do we choose the best dive sites. A live-a-board? Why not, they are expensive but our past experience was a good one, it was first class all the way. The boat moves around to the best dives sites and the whole boat exists because of the diving and therefore should have a top notch dive crew. We are captive like on a single resort island but I will take my chances on a dive boat rather than a land locked resort.
Back to the internet and see what is available. Things look good. There are many boats plying the Maldivian waters, the majority are slightly less expensive than the resorts and there are only about 20 people aboard. We understand that to do the live-a-board thing we should be divers and want to dive. Diving occupies most of the day, eating and sleeping are fit around the diving. I guess we could read or such but we would have to very happy being entirely sedentary.
Next we look for boats sailing on the days we have available, a few email inquiries, some talk back and forth and we have it nailed down to two boats. Debbie lays out one of her now infamous spread sheets to make the comparison and our choice is made. We contact the MV Orion (http://www.mvorion.com/) with some final inquiries. We then notice that there is an agent that works with the boat in Canada. After some discussion we book through the Canadian contact. In the long run it should cost a bit less. The Orion, as is usual in the rest of the world, charges for the using a Visa, the Canadian firm does not and this will save 4% on an already expensive venture.
We scrap the plan 3 times but with each redo the plan got better and now the final design is very strong and addresses the underlying question “What is the reason for us wanting to visit the Maldives?” A question it took us at until the third run through for us to put it to words. Don’t be in too much of a panic and don’t be afraid to start at the beginning over and over. The end result will be more to what you had in your gut when you first set out on your design problem.