Alex's Favourite Maldives Liveaboard: Soleil 2

“In December 2022, I spent a week scuba diving the Maldives Central atolls with the mighty Soleil 2 liveaboard. 

Soleil 2 is bigger than most other liveaboards; with huge cabins (some with private balconies), a jacuzzi and massive common areas. 

I was really surprised to find out that despite all this, Soleil 2 is actually one of the cheapest Maldives liveaboards out there!

You can expect amazing encounters with mantas plus many sharks; including a night dive with a hundred nurse sharks and several channel dives with hundreds of grey reef sharks. 

There’s also many extra activities such as night-time snorkelling with dolphins, kayaking, fishing, flyboarding plus a beach bbq with traditional dance and music.

Soleil 2 is also one of the few liveaboards where the owner (Shaeid) is present for nearly every trip and he is extremely passionate – just like the rest of his incredibly friendly and hard working crew”!

Although Soleil 2 sometimes offers trips to the rarely visited North and South atolls, most itineraries last 7 nights and are around the Maldive’s Central Region; this is what I did.

The Central Atolls (primarily consisting of Male, Ari and Vaavu) have hundreds of dive sites across a varied and dramatic underwater landscape of many pinnacles, reefs, walls and channels. 

We saw so much! Multiple mantas, eagle rays, grey reef sharks (sometimes hundreds together!), guitar sharks, nurse sharks (almost a hundred on 1 night dive!), whitetip reef sharks, a tiger shark, turtles, big pelagic fish, small reef fish, many stingrays, octopus, nudibranch, pipefish… dolphins appeared at the end of one dive and almost every night around the boat so we could snorkel with them. 

Some guests saw a whale shark whilst snorkelling in the day but I missed it! I didn’t mind. Never before have I seen such an incredible diversity of big marine animals as I did at the Maldives with Soleil 2.

The staff of Soleil 2 were fantastic.  Every part of the trip was run in an extremely smooth, friendly and professional way –  from the moment I arrived and was at the airport by the staff through to the briefings, meals, dives, evenings, extra activities and departure.

Shaeid and his crew are very much like one big family and they work their butts off to keep every guest happy, safe and well fed whilst choosing the best dive sites according to weather and season.

They’ve actually discovered several new dive sites and are always on the hunt for more. Whenever they do find somewhere new, they keep it a secret for as long as possible so guests have exclusive access.

I made a few specific requests; like asking for the Dhoni to take me out to photograph Soleil 2 from afar, switching dive groups so I could photograph different guests and swapping video footage with Shaeid and they were all met with a big smile and a hearty “yes”!

The Soleil 2 liveaboard itself is an extremely large vessel; catering to 30 guests at 45 meters long, it is bigger than most other Maldives liveaboards and feels very spacious. 

There is a massive, partially-shaded sundeck up top with a jacuzzi plus ocean-facing hammocks, loungers, rocking chairs and beanbags; this area has been totally pimped out with plants, which add a very homely, organic feel!

On most evenings guests would either chill up here with music and drinks or down at the second, smaller outdoor lounge at the stern of boat to watch or snorkel with dolphins at night.

All of the 14 cabins are massive with plenty of storage space, comfortable beds, aircon and ensuite bathrooms. 

On the upper deck are 6 Private Balcony Cabins whilst on the main deck are 2 Master Cabins with extra space and huge beds. Down on the lower deck are the twin and large double cabins. 

Room service is excellent, you always have clean sheets and a freshly made bed by the time breakfast is finished. 

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. 

Food is served buffet style and consists of Maldivian and International Cuisine. There is meat or fish with every meal plus pasta, rice, potatoes and veggies. For breakfast you can get eggs ay style, pancakes, yoghurt, bacon, coffee, tea and juice. 

Dive briefings are announced over the intercom with a hearty “briiiiiieffffiiiiiiiing”!!! It’s impossible to miss and will definitley be loud enough to wake you up in the mornings. 

As with most Maldives liveaboards, there’s no dive deck on Soleil 2, so diving will take place from the dhoni; a traditional style Maldivian boat with an engine that’s used for transporting divers to dive sites.

There’s a bit of space on the dhoni; you can easily wander around and even climb up on top to soak in the incredible 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. Why? It’s not just the fact that you get to stay on what feels like a luxury liveaboard for the price of a budget one. No, for me, 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, channels with hundreds of grey reef sharks, drift dives, night dives with countless nurse sharks, everything was so carefully planned out and organised so that each dive rolled seamlessly into the next one and we never got bored!

Shaeid and his crew have truly made an art of how to structure the perfect diving itinerary. Add to this the fact that they create a genuinely warm and friendly atmosphere onboard and this is what, in my opinion makes Soleil 2 a very special, one of a kind liveaboard. 

 I will definitely be back.  

Written by:

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Scuba fanatic, travel ecstatic and loveable rogue. A rootless divemaster and perpetual adrenaline-junky, Alex holds the esteemed rank of Grand Admiral of the Diving Squad; a title he most nobly awarded to himself. A scuba-junky since 2014, he's dived much of the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, Red Sea, Ireland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. It's hard to say where he'll pop up next for he never settles; forever a leaf on the wind... or perhaps a lone bubble blasted along on the current.