Vaavu Ship Wreck and Fulidhoo Local Island (Maldives 2023)

The drone photos of the Vaavu shipwreck and those iconic underwater shots with nurse sharks had us hooked. We just had to experience it ourselves. While the wreck was the big attraction, Fulidhoo, a nearby island, seemed like the ideal place to stay. Affordable and promising, it was our gateway to this Maldives adventure.

Table of Contents

Arriving at Fulidhoo

The boat ride from Hulhumale’s airport was quite an experience for those with a sensitive stomach. It shook and swayed, but thinking about what awaited us on the island kept the excitement alive. 

As we approached Fulidhoo, the first face we saw was Fazlan’s. He was right there at the pier, ready to show us around and lend a helping hand whenever we needed it. His easy-going and friendly nature made him instantly likable. With him as our guide, we walked around, getting to know this small island where just about 150 people live.

Then came the cats. They’re everywhere! And if you’re a cat person like us, you’ll love it. They would just stroll around, some plump and others on the leaner side, searching for their next snack. One cat, Tina, was extra special. Every time we sat down to write down our experiences, he’d hop onto our laps, making himself comfortable.

Cat sleeping on the lap of a man stretching the paws out
Tina just made himself comfortable right when we were sitting down.

A little heads up for those visiting during the rainy season: mosquitoes. They’re tiny, they’re sneaky, and they love to bite. But don’t worry too much – the itch doesn’t last long.

We had big plans for our first day, including a boat trip to a sandbank we heard was great for photos. But sometimes, nature has its own plans. With the weather acting up, we stuck to the island. And it wasn’t a letdown. Apart from the cats, we saw birds we recognized from back home in Berlin, like pigeons, crows and herons. But we also spotted little stints running up and down the beach, sand crabs digging away, and even some flying foxes making dramatic exits from the breadfruit trees.

Maldives local island with the beautiful little mosque by a sandy road between the trees
We discovered this beautiful little mosque lurking through the breadfruit and palm trees growing everywhere on the island

So, even without the boat trip, Fulidhoo was showing us that every day here could be a little adventure if you are able to cherish the small things in life. That evening, we enjoyed some delicious seafood. The sauce it came with had a teriyaki vibe, likely a mix of soy and sweet chili.

The Next Morning (let-down)

But the next day? A total washout. Rain poured, and our tours got canceled again. We’d been looking forward to the sandbank, snorkeling with nurse sharks, checking out the Vaavu shipwreck, and maybe even spotting some dolphins. But with this weather, none of that was happening. We kept a close eye on the forecast, hoping for a break.

By afternoon, things started looking up. Our hotel host had been in touch with the boat captain, Ahmad, and it seemed we might get our tour after all. Before heading out, we took a quick detour to the pier. This was one of Fulidhoo’s highlights. The locals fish here and feed the marine life their leftovers. 

Fulidhoo's pier with people sitting on it fishing in clouds of little fish with a turtle hunting
The clouds of fish looked even crazier from above with the turtle trying to get a catch

Jumping into the water was like entering another world. So many fish, and then out of nowhere, rays and turtles would appear. A few tour groups came by to check out the spot, but once they left, we got to hang out with the locals for a moment. They were friendly and had a great sense of humor, making the whole experience even better.

Stingray wimming next to the ground looking for food with a school of small fich in the background
The rough weather blew up some dust, but the underwater experience was exceptional

Fulidhoo Shark Point

After the exhilarating experience with the rays, things picked up pace. Captain Ahmad signaled for us to be quick, and with the island’s compact size, that wasn’t hard. We could cross Fulidhoo in a brisk five-minute walk. We grabbed our gear and set off. Though the sea was choppy, we were in the safe confines of the atoll, shielded by the outer sandbanks. Venturing into the open sea would’ve been a bad idea.

First stop: the nurse shark point. We were told there was a “100% guarantee” of seeing these majestic creatures. The reason? They’re lured by old fish heads. Diving in, the sheer size of the sharks was a revelation. They looked even bigger underwater. And when they would brush past us, its rough skin a reminder of its wild nature.

A woman diving in front of group of nurse sharks swiming wildly to get one of the feeded fish heads
Even though, the nurse sharks seem majestic and calm underwater, things can get wild when it is about the best bites

While nurse sharks are generally non-aggressive, swimming with them as they feed isn’t without risks. It’s easy to forget you’re swimming with wild animals, especially when they seem so calm. A stray hand could easily be mistaken for food, and no one wants a shark bite (Yes, nurse sharks do have teeth!), even if it’s unintentional. 

However, the skies were turning. Dark clouds loomed, hinting at another downpour. Sensing urgency, Captain Ahmad gestured for us to return to the boat. The Vaavu shipwreck was waiting, and we were eager to see it.

Vaavu Ship Wreck

Navigating towards the wreck, the vibrant coral reefs and mesmerizing blue holes that passed beneath us were sights to behold. The spectrum of colors in the water was like a kitchy postcard come to life. Soon, the silhouette of the wreck emerged, a haunting yet fascinating sight.

Vaavu ship wreck from above shot with the DJI Mini 3 Pro Drone
Vaavu shipwreck looks impressing in a gruesome way

Diving down, the wreck’s beauty was undeniable. Yet there was an underlying somberness. This once majestic vessel now lay dormant underwater, but nature had found a way to reclaim it. Coral and anemones clung to its structure, and it teemed with lively, colorful fish darting in and out.

Underwater photo of Vaavu shipwreck from a distance showcasing corals and fish
The visibility was again not perfect, but that was just enhancing the spooky atmosphere

Maxi and I attempted the quintessential Instagram photo with the bike on the ship’s wheelhouse. But, free diving isn’t my forte, and I struggled to get the perfect shot. 

However, the real magic happened above the water. Launching our drone, we captured breathtaking aerial views of the blue holes, the reefs, and the shipwreck. The vessel, we learned, was supposedly the “Aslu Break,” an Indonesian ship that had run aground years ago without anyone on board.

Drone photo with the DJI Mini 3 Pro of the iconic Vaavu ship wreck from above
We were stunned by the beauty of the reefs and underwater structure creating these beautiful blue tones

Dolphin Encounter

That’s the Maldives! On our way to the Sandbank, which was our next destination, our captain told us that he saw dolphins. We immediately rushed to the front of the boat, and there they were, jumping and playing right in front of us. It was truly amazing to see them in the open ocean. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get in the water because the ocean was quite rough, and it wasn’t safe due to the strong currents. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful experience! Since we were moving slowly, we managed to submerge the GoPro briefly and capture a few shots of them underwater.

Cruising along with Dolphins was a beautiful encounter on our way to the Sandbank!

Sand Bank Stop

As the horizon grew dark and foreboding, and with the wind giving the sea a rough stir, we thought it would be best to head back to Fulidhoo. But a detour to the sandbank, now deserted, was too tempting to resist. We wanted to capture its desolate beauty against the dramatic backdrop of stormy clouds.

Long sandbank reaching into coral reef in Maldivian Vaavu Atoll
The contrast of the white sand bank in front of the sea was just beautiful.

We promised Ahmad we would spend just 10 minutes, but the place held us captive for double that time. With dark clouds speeding towards us, we hastily made our way back to the boat.

Sandbank in Vaavu Atoll, Maldives with dark clouds in the background during rainy reason
It was no good feeling seeing the dark clouds rolling towards us knowing that we would have 30 minutes to go

The journey back was tense. As Fulidhoo came into view, the sea grew temperamental. Rain began to pour, and soon we were caught in a full-blown thunderstorm. With every wave that hit, we were drenched further. Ahmad’s expertise as a captain was evident, skillfully navigating through the tumultuous waters.

When we finally reached safety, Fazlan shared a piece of news that left us in awe: Ahmad had braved the stormy sea, swimming back to land after anchoring the boat in deeper waters near the pier. We were beyond grateful for his dedication and skill.

Insider Tip

If you’re visiting the Maldives during the rainy season (May to November), consider adding a few extra days to your trip. Boat excursions can be unpredictable with the weather, and safety always comes first. Having those additional days can ensure you don’t miss out on any planned adventures.

Two kittens walking towards the viewer geeting with their tails up.
And just two more kittens for the cat lovers among us. The crossroads in the background mark the center of the island, by the way


  • olaf
    21. September 2023 at 01:21

    sehr schoen geschrieben und auch ganz tolle photos. Man fuehlt sich richtig mitgenommen von euch.

    • Gerrit
      21. September 2023 at 14:10

      Danke Dir ganz herzlich, das freut uns sehr! 😘

Add a comment