If you are reading this on the Yacht Maldives website you are probably looking for confirmation that a cruise on either Dhoni Stella 1 or Stella 2 is for you and that it will be as described on the website. You might even be concerned that Yacht Maldives isn’t genuine, but some sort of internet scam. Well, after spending 10 days on Stella 2, I can assure you that you could be about to make one of the best holiday decisions you have ever made.

White beach and Dhoni Stella Dhoni Stella's tender has just dropped us on a wonderful sand strip

Every morning a new view, a new island, a new adventure

Myself and Kate have been to the Maldives before. It’s a wonderful place full of stunning resorts, but you probably already know that. However there is so much more to enjoy in the Maldives than just a luxury room with a powder soft white beach directly outside your door. The problem I have always had with the Maldives is that after a few days I get bored, although I will admit there are worse places to be in the world! Basically once you are on an island resort you are trapped. Same room, same beach, same house reef, same view, same restaurants, same dive sites, I’m sure you get the picture. And worse than this, if you want to take a trip it costs a fortune compared to what you get in return. Dolphin cruise 50 dollars, sunset cruise 50 dollars, deserted island trip 100 dollars, beach BBQ 150 dollars, snorkelling trip 50 dollars, night fishing 50 dollars. On Dhoni Stella this is all part of the package (on reflection our holiday didn’t cost much more than staying in a medium rated 5 start resort). Image opening your bedroom door every morning to a new view, a new island, a new adventure. For all who think Maldives Water Villas are the pinnacle of indulgence, let me tell you they are nothing compared to mooring off a deserted island, with a pristine reef only metres from your boat.

Not convinced? Let me tell you about our holiday

Firstly, after a few emails between Max (the owner) and myself, the date was confirmed and payment made. I then received a questionnaire about our preferences for food, drink, activities, in fact just about everything that I might want to give my opinion on. This was a nice touch.

Dhoni Stella Sundeck Our private 'verandah' on the sea
The rustic nature of Stella, made from local wood in a traditional style

A 10 minute water taxi ride later and we were boarding Stella 2 in the Male lagoon. Imagine the scene. Luxury yachts everywhere, huge bright white livaboards suitable for 20 people or more, Sunseeker yachts suitable for millionaires and Stella 2! The rustic nature of Stella, made from local wood in a traditional style was a reassuring and unique contrast. Our very own pirate boat! Max introduced us to the 3 man crew (captain, steward and chef), plus the divemaster who was on board for the whole trip (included in the dive costs which are actually cheaper than a resort). A quick look around the boat confirmed that it is exactly as described and in fact bigger than the photos suggest. Leaving the lagoon we headed straight for our first dive. We had been in the Maldives less than one hour and the holiday was already starting, some passengers on the same inbound plane were still waiting for their onward transport. No waiting for us, no long boat transfer or expensive sea plane flight, we were off faster than Usain Bolt!

Seen more dolphins than you could count and dived with Mantas

On the way to Lankan Point (a Manta cleaning station) about a 40 minute ride away we were greeted by a pod of dolphins, there where hundreds of them surrounding the boat. The last time we were in the Maldives we visited Lankan Point in the hope of diving with Mantas but unfortunately they weren’t there, this time it was a different matter. After only a few minutes underwater a Manta glided into view. It was surreal, our first afternoon on the boat and we had seen more dolphins than you could count and dived with Mantas - what a start. Back on board we had afternoon tea (after all we are British!), and talked through the next day plans. After traveling across the Atoll we moored up for the night in a sheltered lagoon, had a superb dinner and then went onto the sun roof to view the night sky. Stunning, simply mind blowing, especially from a boat.

Dhoni Stella Maldives
Dhoni Stella Maldives
Dhoni Stella Maldives
Dhoni Stella Maldives
Dhoni Stella Maldives
Memories of our dhoni cruise in the Maldives

Birthday with the whale shark

The following morning we travelled to the Baa Atoll, home of the famous manta hotspot Hanifaru Bay. After arriving, our second dive was on an outer reef. Guess what... Mantas! Could it get any better? Well yes it did, but I won’t bore you with all of the details. Here are a few of the highlights. For the first few days we saw Mantas everywhere. Whilst we were traveling, whilst we were moored, we snorkelled with them, dived with them, filmed them, they were everywhere apart from in Hanifaru Bay where they were supposed to be! Every day we came across dolphins, sometimes in large pods and at other times in small numbers, they swan at the front of the boat, jumped, played and entertained us immensely. We saw traditional Maldivian tuna fishing up close, with the boats catching large Yellow Fin tuna and a smaller type on pole and line. We had sailfish (marlin) swim by on two occasions. We travelled around the Baa Atoll, over to the Lhaviyani Atoll and back again. During the day we visited uninhabited islands or sand spits, dived, snorkelled, fished and made use of the sun deck on the roof which is also perfect for dolphin spotting. Being at sea meant there was always a cooling breeze, even in the heat of the day. The highlight of the trip was my birthday. A dive with Mantas was exciting, but that wasn’t anything compared to what happened when we surfaced. The boat crew had spotted a Whale Shark and for the next hour and a half travelled around trying to find it. Imagine the scene. The steward, Kate and myself in the small dingy with snorkelling gear motoring alongside Stella 2 travelling the atoll in search of the 8 metre monster. The Divemaster on the roof of the boat acting as lookout, the captain using his local knowledge, even the chef was involved. And then a Maldivian shout (which I assumed translated means ‘shark’) and the Divemaster is pointing into the distance like Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. We raced towards it, jumped in and for a few minutes were swimming with the worlds largest fish. And there wasn’t anyone around but us, no organised trip, no jostling for position to get the best picture, just us, the crew, the boat, the shark and the ocean. That night the boat was decorated with balloons and a birthday cake, baked on board, was produced along with a chilled bottle of Chardonnay. Happy Birthday to me!

From seasonal fruits to your own catch-of-the-day

The food was fantastic and varied - Maldivian, Italian, English - a lot of fresh fish, fresh fruit, beautiful curries. It is quite remarkable what can be produced from such a small kitchen in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

The service from the steward was exemplary, he really did make a difference. His attention to detail was faultless. Simon & Kate

The boat itself has a charm not found on modern super yachts

Solid and homely, it’s deceptively large compared to the photos. The bedrooms (there are two) are 5 metres x 3 metres with a small en-suite shower room that is perfectly sufficient. The dining area, which is at the front of the boat, is open, cool and features a large solid table that can seat six. At the back of the boat there is a platform that is used for diving and fishing. There is also a small dingy that is used for visiting islands and fishing in the evening. In the evening the crew tend to stay at the back of the boat giving guests complete privacy, just in case you were wondering! So is Dhoni Stella for you? If you want freedom, excitement, adventure and a small amount of indulgence, then yes, it probably is. I’ll put it like this. After spending 10 fantastic days on Stella 2, I really don’t think I would want to be trapped on an island for a full holiday again. Would I go back? Yes, tomorrow if I could and almost certainly next year to sample the delights of what the Ari Atoll has to offer.

Other Reviews

Related Reviews (5)

  1. Daryl & Steve

    Hello Max, we have finally settled in back home in California and have a minute or two to let you know we are still sharing our amazing Stella Yacht adventure with all our friends. Your yacht and crew, were exceptional. The food could not have been better. All three meals each day were different and delicious. The attitude and positive energy from each crew member aboard your boat made every day wonderful. The beautiful islands and unbelievable water speak for themselves. We argue there may not be better islands to vacation to. I must tell you, our dive master Maullim was the best and most exceptional person we met in over 60 days of travel. He is incredibly special and we hope to see him again. We wish you all very good luck this next season and forever.

    May, 2019
  2. Deborah

    OMG Max we have had the most incredible time on the Dhoni Stella. Your crew is amazing. They have attended to our every want and need. Aju is the consummate professional. I just think it is his nature. He represents your company with the highest standard. You are very lucky to have him. He was dealing with 4 old women in their 60-70 and it didn’t even phase him. Mallah has such a great personality and it was a blast getting to know him. He seemed to be everywhere on the boat. If he wasn’t serving us a meal, or cleaning our rooms, or taking us in the small boat to accommodate our wishes, he was cleaning the boat. Amazing deck hand. Suranga was so accommodating for our meals. He cooked things that were local and he cooked things that we were familiar with from our country. He also helped with getting 4 older ladies in and out of the small boat. Some days that was challenging for us. Hameed, the captain, at the direction of Aju, took us wherever Aju thought we could have the best experience. He also was available to help get us in and out of the boat. Your crew was amazing. They helped make our experience a once in a lifetime adventure. All in all Max, this vacation was a 10 out of 10. Thank you so much to you and your crew. We experienced things we will never see again.

    January, 2019
    1. Marco

      We have been sailing for 1 week on the Dhoni Stella 1 and we found ourselves extremely well:the crew of 4 people was very cordial and always ready to meet our needs.Boat and rooms were spotless, the food was great (even the pasta cooked "al dente"), the route proposed by Max was perfect because we had the chance to spot: dolphins, mantas and the whale shark. The days passed quickly and peacefully. A standard day consisted of: breakfast, 1 hour navigation, snorkeling stop that lasted as long as we wanted, lunch, siesta, another hour's sailing and snorkeling.In the evening we went fishing and then we had dinner and eventually in bed when we were tired!A heartfelt thanks to all the crew: Dhottey (Captain), Kuday (Waiter), Nasru (Guide) and Kumar (Chef) for their kindness and professionalism, however without the perfect organization of Max we would not have gone anywhere.

      April, 2018
  3. Angelika

    Maldivian paradise = to be able to swim around 4 different reefs a day! Our cruise on Dhoni Stella 2 was a great success. The cabins are spacious well organised with a good bed and pillows. The shower room modern and well designed. The food was varied, delicious Maldivian fair. I particularly appreciated the spotlessly clean kitchen and hygiene practices of the chef. The crew were all perfect, happy, helpful and discreet. I can't wait to return next year.

    January, 2018
  4. Jesper

    Hi Max, we are now back in the cold Sweden and think of Stella all the time, with the very best memories. I would like to thank you and the wonderful crew you have and we talked about what we could think that we would like to change but none of us could think of anything, all was just perfect. I am working on our pictures and I will mail some of them to you, some very nice shots of Stella 1 and the crew.

    January, 2018

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