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Two yachts from the same owner, called The Sultans Way 007 and 001, are attempting to become the first locally based, international-quality motoryachts available for crewed charter in the Maldives

 

By Kim Kavin


It took me about an hour and a half’s ride by plane to reach the Maldives from Sri Lanka. The hundreds of atolls comprise a 540-mile-long Indian Ocean stretch that, on a map, is about a quarter-inch north of the equator.  By 10 o’clock in the morning on my first day, the thermometer had already surpassed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The water was pancake flat. The people moved and spoke with slowness and ease. Even the rain showers, when they blissfully came, drizzled from the clouds instead of pounding down.

It’s just the sort of place I had always seen in my mind when I thought about ultimate charter destinations—which makes it ironic that crewed charter is only a fledgling industry here. There are precious few marinas where megayachts can dock in the Maldives, and there is far more demand for charters in the Mediterranean and Caribbean (which is why so many owners and captains choose to base there instead of in this part of the Indian Ocean).  
Maldives 2009

I was in the region to check out several motoryachts called The Sultans Way fleet that a local travel entrepreneur is marketing, with help from management company Camper and Nicholsons International, as the first-ever locally based, fully crewed charter yachts. I met one of the boats literally steps outside the airport doorway—boats can dock closer to the exits than cars can park at long-term lots—and after just a half-hour of cruising, I was in one of the most memorable environments I’ve encountered in a decade of covering the international charter industry.

The Maldives atolls are shockingly flat. Some 80 percent of the entire nation stands less than 3 feet above mean high tide. Communications towers look like lighthouses. From our boat’s cockpit, my sea-level views rarely changed unless clouds passed over the ocean’s surface to create different shadows. It’s pretty cruising, yes, full of uninhabited islets and tropical trees, but outside of the resort restaurants, spas, and swimming pools, the real action of the Maldives is underwater.

Beate Schmidt, a German master scuba trainer from the yacht owner’s resort, met me aboard an 86-foot Azimut motorayacht called The Sultans Way 006 and helped me prep for a giant stride entry right from the swim platform above the wreck of the Hembadhoo, a small cargo boat that was sunk 20 years ago to create an artificial reef. I paused before I descended and removed my mask to wipe my eyes, shocked that I could see fish so clearly before the excursion had begun. Our visibility, even after we had dived some 75 feet, remained about 100 feet into the deep blue.
Maldives 2009

Massive schools of batfish encircled me. The wreck was a dense kaleidoscope of coral, grouper, and clownfish. Sea anemone grew up like rosy-haired Chia Pets. The water was so clear that I not only saw fish pooping, but I could tell you whether they were getting enough fiber in their diets.

“It’s one of my favorite dive sites,” Schmidt told me after we made the easy climb up the Azimut’s swim ladder. “There are a lot of things coming together, many, many things. Other sites are more about big game, like whale sharks. The thing about these boats that I like is that we can drive quickly from here to there, so you can sample all the best dive sites. We are very lucky with these boats.”

My favorite part of my journey to the Maldives was seeing the sheer potential the place has for crewed charter. Itineraries can blend world-class resorts with high-speed boats, scuba diving with spa treatments, and onboard delicacies with serious relaxation. The Sultans Way boats are positioned to set a standard for locally based luxury charters that has never before been achieved.

 

It will be interesting to see whether the boats meet this potential. Check with any reputable charter broker to ask about the details from recent bookings.