Wander Women Maldives Recap Part I: Welcome to Paradise
Where we’re at: I’m recapping my trip to The Maldives in March 2022. Interested in setting sail with us? Check out our next ScubaSpa retreat to Raja Ampat in March 2023! There are two spots left.
We did it.
And I’m naut (see what I did there?) sure I’m ever going to be over this week at sea for Wander Women Maldives.
Flashback to late 2019, and I was walking the floor at DEMA, the big global show for dive pros, and thinking about how I was going to get my life back on track. It was about a month after my mom died and after taking a year of stepping back from my career to help care for her, I was feeling lost.
I walked by the booth for this dream boat in the Maldives and I felt something — a fire and excitement that I hadn’t felt in a long time. A spa. A yoga deck. Beautiful cabins. Incredible diving. I looked at the size and the pricing and it was so far outside of anything I’d ever done it didn’t even feel remotely attainable.
But yet something inside me said, very confidently, someday, I’m going to charter that boat for Wander Women Retreats.
Soon after, the world turned upside down and it was the last conference I’d go to for a long time. Yet somewhere in the peak of the following two years’ uncertainty, I felt that voice calling me back to ScubaSpa Maldives.
I was able to negotiate an unheard of price for a future charter (sorry future guests, we’re never getting that rate again, ha) and holding my breath, made the largest wire transfer of my life, just trusting in the universe that I’d be able to fill this trip and that the entire travel industry wouldn’t collapse by then.
When it came time to release the trip, I had a moment of doubting my vision. Would women invest so much in a trip to a traditionally honeymoon destination, without a partner? A few comments got in my head and I considered releasing my first co-ed trip, out of fear.
But I heard that inner voice again — and it told me to trust. Within thirty minutes of launch, sales started to roll in. I cried when a room category was gone in an hour. The trip sold out in four days.
And so we found ourselves, twenty five women on a honeymoon with ourselves, spending a barefoot week sailing the islands of this archipelago nation, stopping for sandbars, coral reefs, and sunsets along the way. If you’re curious what it’s like to spend a week onboard a Maldivian liveaboard, or looking for an in-depth review of the ScubaSpa Maldives, this post is for you!
While we met some incredible new women who are now beloved members of the Wander Women family on this trip, many too were alumni repeat visitors — which made welcoming everyone onboard feel like a true homecoming.
The ScubaSpa is massive, and can technically fit around forty guests. As our usual retreats are twelve to fourteen, that sounded overwhelming, so we arranged the boats primarily with single cabins. Spread over two decks, we sold rooms as superior doubles or superior singles on the top deck, or snug singles, at a more accessible price, on the lower deck. With privacy being such a luxury on a ship like this, I don’t think there was a bad cabin on the boat.
If you’ve ever been on a liveaboard before, you’re probably thinking, dang — those rooms are huge! And they were!
I may be biased, but I also think our rooms were made all the more magical by our gift bags awaiting our guests inside of them! If you’ve been reading my retreat recaps for a while, you know gifting is my love language and I adore putting these together.
On this trip, we worked with some incredible small businesses. We created custom gift bags from Steam2Sea, featuring their leave-in conditioner, their sunscreen, their chapstick, their shampoo and their body-wash combo, all the most eco-friendly ocean-safe items on the market! Everyone also received a water bottle, which allowed the boat to go single-use plastic free, too.
We also gifted each of our guests a different ocean animal Fin Pin, a cute female-owned brand that gives back to ocean charities, and our custom omnipresent print and card from Green Blanky Studios — made even more special by the fact that the artist, Lauren, was on this retreat!
Finally, we rounded things out with some blue heart sunglasses that made for great group photos, a seaweed face mask for some extra spah-ing, custom retreat totes, and some Maldivian keepsakes, a keyring and a luggage tag, from local artists. Now that we’ve been, we have some great connections and will feature more in the future!
Um, and did I mention the largest floating spa in the world was onboard? Hello, gorgeous treatment rooms, peaceful spa deck, and menu full of epic awaiting treatments!
Typically, ScubaSpa boards in the afternoon, a bit inconvenient for all of those flying in on red-eyes, or those checking out of hotels after our very own Malé Cultural Extension.
We were able to sweet talk our way into early boarding, which meant our guests boarded and had lunch right away — such a treat!
After, we had a boat briefing and welcome circle, and of course, a toast to the good life!
Whether sipping on fresh-stamped coconuts or cocktails from the bar, we took some time to settle in to our cabins, unpack our dive gear, and get to know our new floating home.
As the sun set, we gathered on the top deck for a vinyasa yin massage workshop team-taught by myself and Wander Women Retreats Coordinator and Sparkle-Bringing Shannon.
Watching the sun dip under the watery horizon line while the stars blinked on above for that very first practice onboard is a memory I won’t soon forget.
The next morning, it was time to get in the water — finally!
On ScubaSpa you can choose between various packages, one with unlimited diving, one with daily spa treatments, and one with a mix of both. You know me, I couldn’t choose between my two loves, and settled on the scuba and spa package, knowing I could jump in and snorkel or freedive anytime, too.
In most locations in the world, “checkout dives” might be ever-so-slightly underwhelming. In the Maldives? What an incredible underwater world we were treated to every time we went underwater!
The Maldives is one of those dream diving and snorkeling destinations for a reason, and it’s this: the big stuff. Turtles, sharks — SO many sharks — octopus, dolphins! The first three even came to bless us on our little “check out dives” at Rasdoo Madivaru.
You’ll see so much more underwater magic in the rest of this series, but suffice it to say this first glimpse, mostly from our incredible onboard photographer Rayna of Ocean Rays Photography, was a pretty epic preview of all to come.
As always, we divided the divers into groups based on their experience levels, if they were diving with cameras, etc. I keep a close eye on how everyone’s doing together and if everyone is comfortable where they are, and I love seeing these little dive families develop throughout the week!
Pretty epic stuff for our first day of diving, no?
Even I snuck in a few shots (those below, and the black and white shark and turtle shot above!) All of us onboard with underwater cameras big and small were so lucky to have Rayna as our mentor this week.
That afternoon, we were off to our first sandbar excursion. As much as we were loving being at sea, we couldn’t wait to dip our toes in the white sand, too!
While the ScubaSpa staff immediately went to work setting up an epic surprise for us, we got down to downward dog-ing.
My heart was exploding — perfectly apropos for this heart-shaped island! I mean, can this even be real?
One of the things I adore about our yoga offerings at Wander Women is we really shake it up and share a wide variety of styles. You never know what’s going to resonate with who! I laugh sometimes when I try to explain what our yoga retreats are all about and that they tend to have as many happy hours as they do hatha sessions, ha. What we really want our guests to walk away with more than anything is a sense of joy in movement and meditation… whatever that may look like for them.
On this retreat, on this day, that meant acro-yoga on the beach.
And I see a lot of joy in these photos.
We’ve been teaching partner yoga on our retreats for years but I’ve recently had the confidence to step it up and start teaching beginner acro-classes. When you have the soft sand to fall into… why not?
(And the memory of Shannon and I in my cabin practicing before this class, at sea, still makes me laugh to this day.)
Guess what — our girls crushed it! It made me so happy to see everyone getting the hang of basic poses like bird, and making pacts to keep playing together whenever we made a landing.
Now, that would have made for a pretty special night all on it’s own. But can we just talk about what we found when we opened our eyes from our sandy savasanas?
I said often that the ScubaSpa crew spoiled us and wow, was I not joking. I couldn’t believe the heart and soul that went into this beach BBQ, complete with a full cocktail bar setup, an elegant candle-lit table, and a manta ray sand sculpture that was so sweet it almost made a few salty tears appear!
I couldn’t think of a better way to toast to our first two magical days together at sea in the Maldives. And wow, can I not wait to see what they have in store for us in Indonesia, too.
We woke up on day three to… surprise! Another perfect, beautiful, are-you-sure-it’s-even-real kinda situation.
I pretty much sprung out of bed each day already dreaming about breakfast, which included an array of options including an egg station, artful lattes, and the staff greeting you by name with a smile.
The morning of day three, the divers piled onto the dive dhoni and it was, as usual, a true neoprene catwalk. I loved seeing everyone’s fun wetsuits and dive gear; a true joy of a hype-girl style all women’s liveaboard.
We were in for some epic manta spotting, this day! I’ve been in love with manta rays since I first saw their majestic wingspan overhead in Hawaii, and was once again mesmerized by every moment with them.
Mantas tend to congregate at feeding stations where plankton-rich waters get swept through strong currents. Our ScubaSpa guides got us all set with reef hooks so we could clip in and enjoy nature’s beautiful show!
As usual, Rayna’s incredible photography blew me away and brought me right back to the moment.
As memorable as our dives were though, when I think about this liveaboard, my mind really does go first not to those National Geographic-worthy sightings but rather to the little moments — chats on the deck with a drink in hand, giggles in the jacuzzi with the sun overhead, and naps on the lounge with a good book by your side.
And um, yeah, back to food — did I mention we had a different lunch and dinner every day? I truly don’t know how it could have been better, and how they made it all happen with just a small onboard kitchen!
There were so many healthy and indulgent across every cuisine over the week. My inner adventurer was thrilled, and my inner host was delighted that we were able to offer a fully meal-inclusive retreat.
That night, many of us fresh from the spa (more on that later!) Shannon led a beautiful yoga class on the top deck at sunset.
Both Shannon and I learned a lot in a very quick period of time about how to sequence classes to account for the tiny movements of the boat, ha! It was a teaching challenge for sure, but mixing up classes between the decks and the sandbars, and modifying on the go was the perfect solution — and now we are experts in time for our next adventure at sea!
Dinner awaited us in the dining room after class, as did some dolphin sightings under the full moon. It’s hard not to overuse the term when writing these recaps, but… what a truly magical day.
Dreams do come true. Grateful to everyone that helped make this one do so. And I can’t wait to continue reliving it right now, with all of you! Stay tuned for more.
Do you dream of a retreat at sea someday, with us?
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!