Diving Squad Rating:
“”Soleil 2 is one of the all-time best liveaboards in the Maldives for service, value for money and diving itinerary.
Guests can look forward to unique experiences including stingray and guitar shark feeding frenzies around newly discovered dive sites, vast schools of grey tip sharks, manta ray feeding stations and night dives with countless nurse sharks.
This is an incredibly comfortable liveaboard to stay on; featuring private balcony options and a spa as well as a colossal partially shaded sundeck complete with Jacuzzi, hammocks, beanbags and sun loungers.
There’s also the option for extra activities such as night-time snorkelling with dolphins, kayaking, fishing and flyboarding plus a beach bbq with authentic traditional dance and drumming.
Soleil 2 is also one of the few liveaboards where the owner (Shad) is present for nearly every trip and he is extremely passionate and knowledgable – just like the rest of the incredibly friendly and hard working crew.
Despite all these awesome qualities, Soleil 2 is actually one of the most affordable liveaboards in the entire Maldives! I had a truly incredible time when I dived with them”!
Soleil 2 usually tours either the central Maldives region which is the most famous and easy-to-dive part of the island nation… or the deep south which is more off the beaten track!
Trips usually last 7 nights and require guests to have their advanced open water certification and a minimum of 50 logged dives.
When I went with Soleil 2 we toured the central region which has more dive sites than anywhere else in the Maldives, many of which are actually quite easy to dive.
We saw…so much! Groups of manta rays, hundreds of schooling grey reef sharks, dozens of guitar sharks and nurse sharks, whitetip reef sharks, a tiger shark, a bull shark, numerous dolphins, turtles, big pelagic fish, small reef fish, stingrays, octopus, nudibranch, pipefish…it was insane!
Some guests also saw a whale shark whilst snorkelling but I missed it! You might think I’d be a little gutted about that but I’ve never before witnessed such an incredible abundance of marine life in so little time so I wasn’t actually that bothered!
I found everything on Soleil 2 to be run in an extremely smooth, professional and friendly way – from the moment I arrived at the airport to be greeted by staff all the way through to the orientation meeting, daily dives, extra activities and departure.
Shad and his crew are very much like one big family and they work like crazy to keep every guest happy, safe and well looked after. They’re also an infinite source of knowledge about the Maldives and its incredible marine ecosystem.
They’ve personally discovered several new dive sites and are always on the hunt for more. Whenever they find somewhere new, they keep it a secret for as long as possible meaning guests have exclusive access there.
I made several special requests such as asking for the Donny to take me out to photograph Soleil 2 from afar, switching dive groups so I could photograph different guests and swapping video footage with Shad and they were all met with a smile and a hearty “of course”!
The Soleil 2 liveaboard itself is an extremely spacious vessel; catering up to 30 guests and at 45 meters long, it’s bigger than most other Maldives liveaboards.
All of the cabins are pretty massive and feature ensuite bathrooms with some options even toting private balconies! Room service is excellent, you always have clean sheets and a freshly made bed by the time breakfast is finished.
There is a huge partially shaded sundeck up-top with hammocks, beanbags and sun loungers as well as a hot tub. I really like the numerous plants up there as they add a homely and organic feel.
Meanwhile, the indoor saloon, bar and dining area is rammed full of giant shark teddies and features a huge projector screen and whiteboard which makes dive briefings visually engaging.
Dive briefings are announced over the intercom with a hearty “briiiiiieffffiiiiiiiing”!!! It’s impossible to miss.
There’s also a second, small shaded lounge just out the back of the indoor saloon which is a great space from which to watch (or even go snorkelling with) dolphins at night.
As with most Maldives liveaboards, there’s no dive deck, so diving will take place from the dhoni; a small Maldivian boat used for transporting divers to dive sites.
There’s actually quite a bit of space on the dhoni; you can easily wander around and take in the views.
Nitrox is free for certified divers and it’s even possible to complete your nitrox course during the trip.
Honestly, I had an absolute blast on Soleil 2. I’m still fairly new to liveaboard diving but I’ve already been on a few and Soleil 2 really stood out.
Why? It’s not just the fact that you get to stay on what feels like a luxury liveaboard for a budget price or even the range of extra activities and awesome staff (although these things helped!).
For me personally, what really made Soleil 2 special was the structure of the diving itinerary.
I loved that we had special themes for every dive – from feeding frenzies to manta cleaning stations, schooling grey reef sharks, drift dives, hunting for macro critters and night dives with nurse sharks, everything was so carefully planned out and each dive complimented the last superbly. Shad and his crew have truly made an art of how to structure the perfect diving itinerary.
Soleil 2 is a one-of-a-kind liveaboard. I will definitely be back.