We have probably narrowed down the choices to the Maldives, Fiji, Vanuatu and possibly the Phillipines.
I've started this thread to ask for some more specific Maldives advice.
Serge, who is fortunate enough to live in the Maldives, has suggested that manta encournters in January/February are most likely on the western side of islands, particularly off Ari Atoll.
He wisely nominated the following atolls as good locations: madoogali, meerofenfushi, athuruga, Moofushi, Thundufushi, Mirihi, Hilton, Angaga, Nika. Only trouble is, I can't find resorts on some of these islands, and others are just beyond budget.
I realise accomodation in the Maldives isn't cheap, particularly if you are after water villas like we are. But I've searched for resorts with a westerly aspect and I think I've narrowed it down to some islands we might be able to afford - at least for a week. They also seem to be at least close to those Serge nominated as good for mantas and diving at that time of year.
I would appreciate comments from folks who have visited any of the following locations, especially if you went in Jan/Feb. I've broken them into two groups. First group could be good, but I can't find enough reports from divers who have been there. Group 2, I'm pretty sure are in a good location, but either we can't afford them or they don't look nearly as nice as the others in Group 1 for the same amount of money.
Group 1: could be good?
- Filitheyo - on North Nilandhoo. Can't find a website, but it looks pretty nice.
- Komandoo - water villas look superb. But perhaps too far east for mantas?
- Kuramathi Cottage - water villas look nice, but again - may not be in the best location?
- Velidhu - near Nika which Serge nominated but on the east of the atoll.
Group 2: Good location, but either don't look that nice or too $$$.
- Angaga - water villas don't really look like they are worth the money, but it appears to be ain a good manta location.
- Kuredu - water villas look a bit drab on the website.
- Kandholudoo - looks like it has a superb house reef, but I can't find anywhere to book it for less than $900 per night.
- Hilton - could only really afford 3-4 nights here and not in a water villa. Might not be worth it flying all the way from Aus
- Mirihi - bit like the Hilton - probably can't afford this.
I've attached some basic maps I found in case people need a reminder of locations. The north_ari.gif shows Velidhu and Kuramathi. The komandoo.gif shows Komandoo and Kuredu on Lhaviyani atoll which is north east of Ari.
If I had to pick without any assistance - I'd probably go for Kuramathi Cottage and Spa Resort. It also sounds like it fits one of our other peculiarities - good vegetarian food!
OK - let it rip folks!
I should also say to those of you who replied to the honeymoon thread that the list has certainly been voraciously devoured by Michaela who is busy making plans for future years based on all the wonderful suggestions we received.
Thanks to all of you we won't be without ideas for great romantic getaways for some time to come!!