We sit down with Wolfgang Stadler, who has been Base Leader at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu’s Dive Centre for three years. At 48 years old, Wolfgang has racked up a grand
total of over 10,000 logged dives, so we figured he’d be the right person to check in with on all things marine in the Maldives.
So, how did you get into diving? Was it love at first dive?
My brother introduced me into diving in Egypt. It was love at first dive and I did both my Open Water course and my Advanced Open Water course at that time in 2003. It was a completely new world to me and I was totally hooked from the outset: the abundance of life, peacefulness, and escapism from the stresses of normal life.
Fast forward two years and I was leaving Germany, where I was born and grew up, to head to Thailand. I had just one target in mind: to become a Diving Instructor. There in Koh Tao I completed my Master Scuba Diver Trainer and Emergency First Response Instructor certifications. Eventually my career led me to the Maldives.
Do you still get the ‘I can’t believe this is my job’ feeling?
The novelty of being a professional scuba diver has never worn off for me. I doubt it ever will as there are always new things to explore and discover. There are always new challenges too, whether its visibility, aquatic life, or unpredictable guests.
Having said that, I don’t really need to pinch myself anymore. That’s more for newbies. I’ve now been doing this for 14 years and have thousands of logged dives and qualifications. I do love my job and I love to dive in the Maldives, but believe it or not, I consider this a regular line of work.
Do you need to dive to get the full experience of the Maldives marine world?
Compared to say snorkelling, scuba diving is a completely different ball game. With diving, you can explore deeper territories and take more time to observe and take photos. You can switch off when fully submerged and become more part of the marine life in amongst the fish and corals.
How has diving changed during your time at Coco Palm? And what kind of changes do you see on the horizon?
Unfortunately, climate change has had an effect on the underwater environment. Rising temperatures have had a knock-on effect, bleaching the corals. The good news is, I can see them slowly recovering over the years, which is a spark of hope for the future. For example, I didn’t properly dive the Fares site until last year. I would check time and time again for signs of regeneration, but now the soft corals have grown back so well that we are going there regularly again. Here on Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, we are doing coral nursery projects where we plant corals on artificial reefs (metal constructions) to foster their growth.
What’s the most common misconception about scuba diving in the Maldives?
Of course people come here with an idea of what diving in the Maldives will be like. We get a lot of people that aren’t expecting there to be currents in the Maldives, so even a mild current can be a little challenging for them. But generally speaking, it doesn’t take too long to adjust with help from the team. Though the most challenging trips are channel dives with currents, there are also big fish, like grey reef sharks, on those dives – so it’s definitely worth it.
Most amazing thing you’ve seen on a dive in the Maldives?
There are a lot of amazing things to see on a dive in the Maldives but it really depends on your unique expectations and passions. For most people it’s all about the manta rays and sharks. For me, it’s things I’ve never seen before. Just recently it was a dragon moray, which I’ve never personally encountered before and wasn’t expecting to find in the Maldives as it’s not a species listed in these waters. I’m also really into macro life – things like nudibranchs can be less than 1 millimetre tall and grow to a few centimetres. You can spot these with a naked eye if you know what to look for, but some are more camouflaged.
What makes the Baa Atoll in particular so special?
Something that makes the Baa Atoll special in particular, is that there aren’t many dive operators around – meaning far fewer people sharing dive sites. There are rarely two or more dive boats at one spot and most of the time it’s just our boat! Here you can see manta rays, several different shark species, turtles, eagle rays, Napoleon fish, and a diverse variety of other aquatic life.
If you could give one tip to someone considering taking up scuba diving, what would it be?
My tip would be to practise as much as possible and take every opportunity to dive as every single experience gives you a confidence boost, leading to more fun, awareness, and possibilities. Coco Palm Dhuni Kohlu is a great place to start. We have a range of dive sites and qualifications for novices, all the way up to professionals. We can technically take you from your first dive to a maximum of 12 metres, to qualifying as a Divemaster.
Book a Maldives holiday with Kenwood
If you feel like embarking on your own underwater adventure, the Indian Ocean experts at Kenwood Travel will be glad to help you make a booking. With resident scuba fanatics and excellent ties with staff on the ground at luxury hotels like Coco Palm Dhuni Kohlu, you could be diving in the Maldives in no time. Simply call 020 7749 9241 or visit www.kenwoodtravel.co.uk.