I admit it: the days start to run together in paradise.
Can you blame me? Aboard the Wander Women edition of the ScubaSpa Maldives, your troubles are left behind at embarkment, and you start to melt into a beautiful routine of meals made with love, yoga classes taught with flair, spa treatments given with skill, and waters jumped into with great enthusiasm.
I wasn’t not trying to figure out how to live onboard the ship and permanently reside in my cabin, if you know what I mean.
The divers had another gorgeous morning of mantas ahead on what I now calculate to to be day four aboard the ScubaSpa Maldives, at Rangali Nadaviru and Maamagili Beyru.
And I was truly enjoying playing around with my own underwater camera setup. While our amazing onboard photographer Rayna was doing the heavy lifting, I was at least messing around with trying to learn my strobes.
Looking for a midrange setup of your own? I use the Canon G7X Mark II and the Fantasea housing (this is my first time stepping out of the Canon housing bubble!) and basic video lights, since I flooded my strobe on my last liveaboard (womp womp.) To be honest, the camera itself hath bitten the dust since, so I’ll probably be selling this setup on eBay soon and upgrading to something new. I had them for several years — they did their duty.
If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments!
In case you can’t tell with your eyeballs, ha, the photos below, as well as the eel above, are all mine — the rest are the mega-talented Rayna’s!
The best way to warm up post-dive or snorkel? On the top deck, of course! Whether soaking in the jacuzzi or reclining in the sun, I always knew I could make my way to the top deck and find a friend there.
And we didn’t just have ocean-lovers onboard… we also had some aerial queens! I absolutely love doing friend setups and so was thrilled when I realized two of my guests who love pole were going to be on this trip. It didn’t take them long to start turning the boat into a stage.
Soon, we were hopping in for another dive, this time at Machafushi Wreck. While The Maldives isn’t known for wreck diving, it’s always nice to shake things up a little when you’ve got a whole week of diving to splash around with.
The pink corals really brought this wreck to life — as did our group’s silly sunken vibes!
Dive, luxuriate, dive, drink… yeah, I could get used to this.
Once again, my favorite memories were back onboard, where everyone who’d been off on their own adventures at the spa, on a snorkel, or on scuba all reconvened to swap stories and soak up every moment of this experience.
I know I keep raving about how much the ScubaSpa staff spoiled us but it really was the little things, like fun snacks between meals, served with the biggest smiles, that made the experience feel so luxurious. As a host, I loved it, because it gave me so much more time to really connect with this amazing crew we had assembled.
Like Lauren, our incredible Wander Women illustrator, who could often be found with her watercolors in hand, capturing what she’d just seen underwater. Lauren was one of the first to sign up for Raja Ampat, and I can’t wait to see what inspires her on that trip, too!
Personally, I knew what I found stirring — another epic sandbar adventure!
Arriving at these little mercurial slices of paradise, straight out of an old-fashioned postcard, and having them totally to ourselves? It felt like the most exclusive party in the world; guest list of twenty five.
We worked very closely with ScubaSpa to take their already incredible roster of experiences, and give them a Wander Women twist. Like this sunset sandbar happy hour?
For us, it became our day’s Wander Women yoga class — our signature Sip N Stretch! With ScubaSpa’s own yoga instructor onboard, we were actually able to offer two yoga classes a day — one led by Shannon or I in the afternoon or evening, and one led by the onboard instructor each morning.
This one came up often when everyone listed their favorite classes at the end of the week.
With eagle rays dancing in the surf, the sun setting softly in the distance, Shannon serving up an epic sequence designed to bring drink to lips often, and refills being delivered to the mat by yours truly, it would indeed be a hard one to top.
These photos just make my heart happy.
They are everything I ever dreamed of for Wander Women, come to life! And not an image you often see of the Maldives — a group of women making memories, drinking mojitos, and manifesting their absolute best life.
When we finally made our way (perhaps tipsily!) back to the boat, another beautiful dinner was awaiting us.
And the next morning? Surprise! Yet another breakfast made with love. Actually, typically the first dive of the day was pre-brekkie. I’d get up early, watch the sunrise over tea and a banana, then head to the main deck for the dive briefing. By the time we were back, a gorgeous meal was being served, and we’d listen up for another briefing. Then lunch, and repeat!
While there were one or two guests who did every single dive, the majority would listen to the briefing then decide if they were up for a splash or would prefer to hit the spa, join the snorkelers, or luxuriate onboard.
Personally, I did one or two dives per day, and a spa treatment every other day. It was a blissful balance and I left feeling refreshed, rather than exhausted like I do after some dive trips.
On this morning of day five, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to have chosen to jump in, however, at Kudarah Thila and Idagura Beyru. In the Maldives, the dive site names are even fun to say.
It was an underwater explosion of color, coral, and crews of schooling fish. Can you even believe all these pinks?
These were some of my favorite dives of the entire trip! I love me a fuchsia anemone, and spent quite some time with these little beauties below.
That afternoon, the entire retreat gathered on the dive dhoni for an epic adventure — a whale shark search! These gentle giants of the sea are Maldives regulars, and spirits were high as we hopped aboard to seek out their company.
Many of us chose to attempt to call them in, in disguise — our favorite under-the-sea prints from Waterlust!
This environment-focused small business is such a joy to buy from, thanks to everything from their inclusive and positive sizing (M stands for Mighty, for example) to the charities they partner with to donate a percentage of sales to.
Methinks they need to look no further than the SS Wander Women for their next set of models, no?
Now, I can’t bury the lede too deep — sadly, we saw no whale sharks. I can’t lie, it was a disappointment.
While I’ve been lucky to swim with these beauties everywhere from the Philippines to Mexico to Thailand and to Panama and probably elsewhere my insanely blessed brain is forgetting, I’ve never wished harder for one to appear that day — not for me, but for my girls still awaiting their first sighting!
Sad I as I was it didn’t take place, I must say that this was still one of my favorite days of the trip — having everyone all together, jamming out to great music, soaking up the sun, and swapping travel stories on the top deck.
And hey — that means anyone onboard yet to have their first sighting still has one of nature’s great truly awe-inspiring encounters ahead of them.
Eventually, we all decided to get in the water anyway. Some of the hardcore bubble-blowers got on scuba, while the majority of the group went for a fun little snorkel and freedive all together.
I’ve gotten super into freediving lately (look out for an upcoming retreat featuring a PADI Freediving certification!) and loved taking this time to lose the tank and just enjoy that feeling of total freedom in the water.
And the universe was looking out for us, treating us to an adorable baby turtle sighting as we swam.
I think on our upcoming Raja Ampat Retreat, I might spend even more time freediving with the snorkelers. I love so much that ScubaSpa truly caters to both, making it the perfect boat for dive enthusiasts that want to travel with a loved one that’s not certified. (How I would have absolutely loved to bring my mom onboard!)
That afternoon, we had a long crossing to our next atoll, so scheduled an underwater photo editing workshop with Rayna for the shutterbugs onboard. It was a hit and such an incredibly invaluable knowledge share!
Certainly there’s not a diver — or snorkeler, for that matter — onboard who didn’t leave more comfortable in the sea. But it was cool that the photographers absolutely left with an up-leveled skillset, too! Like our Raja Ampat charter, I’m really proud that we were able to offer this charter for the same price as ScubaSpa themselves, yet add so many incredible value-adds, like this one.
Once we dropped anchor, I led a slow flow on the spa deck that was sequenced to release all those swimming muscles.
Diving and yoga and the connection between them was a big part of the inspiration for Wander Women Retreats, and I love coming back to that connection between the two — the breathe, the meditative vibe, and the connection between our self and our surroundings.
Whew. Having all my favorite activities catered to constantly is exhausting! I think a spa treatment was much deserved after all that, no?
With therapists from around the world, there were a wide array of treatments to choose from, from scrubs and wraps to massage types I, a spa enthusiast, had never even heard of. I couldn’t resist trying a hot bamboo massage one day, though a lava shell massage, using eco-friendly, authentic Tiger Clam Shells from the Philippines also called to me. Next time!
I had worried that spa scheduling might be an issue but with the number of treatment rooms and therapists onboard — not to mention hours in the day — they always seemed able to get everyone in who needed some pampering.
Now, if you’ve been reading Alex in Wanderland for a while, you’ll know that I’m not exactly a night diving evangelist. But even I must admit — the Alimatha night dive is what dive dreams are made of.
Rays, crabs, but mostly sharks. Literally all the sharks.
I haven’t seen Sharknado, but after looking at these photos, I feel like I’ve seen Sharknado, if you know what I mean.
Like, hello! Like my manta ray night dive in Hawaii years before, divers deflate down to kneel on the sand for this one, with the intention to keep their hands to themselves. But someone tell that to the curious nurse sharks’ fins.
Back onboard, there was a palpable buzz from everyone who emerged from the inky waters. It was contagious!
And quite the treat awaited us. While most meals were either buffets or BBQs, we had one coursed plated dinner which we ordered off a menu for, and felt fit for a several star establishment. While high winds kept it from being served on the top deck as planned, we knew there were no shortage of special moments ahead.
We took it as an opportunity to get all gussied up for the night, because why not!
After, the staff had yet another surprise and delight moment in store — movie night under the stars! We all gathered on the spa deck, which had been converted into a cinema complete with a popcorn machine. While in retrospect Sharknado would have been a good thematic choice, we opted for Into The Blue, a surprisingly fun to watch with a group of ocean enthusiasts able to laugh together at all the inaccuracies.
When I started Wander Women Retreats, I had a dream of always staying in a big house or villa together… of course over the years we’ve expanded to destinations that lend themselves to other kinds of accommodation, but let’s just say that since the beginning I’ve been drawn to that big sleepover energy! And this beautiful private yacht brought it, big time, with cuddled up cinema nights, late night dance parties with dolphins, and lazy afternoons whispering on the spa deck. I really loved all the time and togetherness we had to get to know each other. And it wasn’t over yet.
Stay tuned for the final installment of these recaps!
Have you been to the Maldives? If not, am I tempting you?
Amazed by this epic adventure? Don’t forget to check out our next liveaboard coming up this March, with spots for divers as well as snorkelers and spa-goers! There are two spots left, and this is the one and only time Wander Women will charter this boat!