Judith de la Rosa is one of those brave people who are brave enough to follow their hearts to simply be happy. Like those who leave everything for love, she left Barcelona for a world which is unapproachable and incomprehensible for most people but which magically captures the minority who has ever used a regulator. Few people can understand how anyone can find happiness lost in the middle of the Indian Ocean among coral gardens, sharks and manta ray cleaning stations, but according to her permanent smile, the passion with which she speaks of her Maldives and her customers’ sadness when they go back home leaving Judith’s company, that long and often misunderstood path has been worth it.
Every diver has someone to whom they will be forever thankful who convinced them to start diving. For Judith, who started diving when she was 20 years old, that person was her father. “He was an expert diver and since I was a child he bred his great passion into me. His love for the sea is without a doubt the best inheritance he left me”. In the waters of Ibiza she found for the first time the magic of the quiet world, which ultimately trapped her in the Red Sea. “In 1998 I travelled to the Red Sea and the fascination grew, then I started thinking that being a diving instructor was a wonderful job”.
The best decision of my life
One year after the incredible Read Sea experience, Judith decided to pack her things and travel to Maldives. “I was on a cruise with a German instructor and I saw lots of sharks and manta rays” she remembers “when I surfaced I was weeping, and I kept on crying all the way back home… Actually I didn’t know it yet but that trip to Maldives changed my life for good”. Almost 12 years later she is sure that was the best decision she has ever made as her dream has come true in one of the few places in the world where diving means everything “diving in Maldives is the most complete, varied, exuberant, respectful and developed experience in the whole world”. It is the only place in Asia where the high quality of diving is maintained throughout the whole year. There is no other destination in the world which can offer big and small life virtually guaranteed during the whole year, with waters at constant 28 to 30 degrees Celsius. Its magic is being a heaven on Earth”.
“Do what your heart tells you to do”
Only a step is often needed (a big jump in this case) to become that person you really are. In Judith’s case, that person was locked into her business in Barcelona. “When I came back home after the trip to Maldives I felt I was in the wrong place I tried to go on with my life, with my exclusive fashion store in Sabadell, near Barcelona, but I remember asking myself, while I was opening the door of the store, “What am I doing here? My place is in Maldives”. After a year thinking about the possibility of leaving she decided to pay attention to the person who made her love the sea and showed her that world beyond the looking glass: her father. “Everyone around me thought I was crazy. Everyone but my father who told me “do what your heart tells you to do”.
So one day she closed up her shop and bought a ticket to Maldives. “I asked the German guide I had met in the cruise during my first trip to give me a chance even though back then I was not an instructor and didn’t speak much English. He said I could join him but he could not pay me he could only teach me and I could try for a month” …and she stayed for three months which became very hard work and a real strain. “It was not easy: it was hard work, I was very insecure, I could not communicate, I was bossed around all day long… But every time I jumped into the water it was clearer to me that that was my world”.
After those three months, due to an expired visa, she came back home to work in a pleasure yacht a friend of hers had in Ibiza, but always seeing Maldives on the horizon… until her father died and, perhaps as a tribute, she decided to make both their dreams come true. “I think it was that moment when it was perfectly clear to me” Judith remembers “that my father would have wanted me to do what he could not have done. I did the course to become a diving instructor, I worked on my English and 3 years later I started my adventure with Spanish divers”.
One of the best diving companies in Maldives
Maldives is always considered as one of the main underwater paradises. It is a country where people live in total harmony with the sea, where services for diving tourism are greatly developed and the government takes them into account and allows many foreigners to settle there. “When I arrived in Maldives I found a country made up of islands, over 1200, of which only about 250 are inhabited. The creation of Submaldives was very organic: I started working with the German guide, and then a very important Spanish tour operator knew I was there and hired me”.
Hundreds of dives and daily contact with the diving industry in Maldives gave her the chance to meet the best guide in the country; “Hassan Shareef and I became close friends and through time we realized our future was setting up our own company. This is how Submaldives was born”. Hassan, her great master, has been teaching and guiding divers in Maldives since 1994. His 12,000+ local dives plus Judith’s 6,000, together with their friendly contact with customers and great knowledge of Maldives’ depths have made Submaldives one of the most renowned diving companies in Maldives.
Both Judith and Hassan, who always dive with their customers, take them during their liveaboard cruises to the hundreds of diving points in Maldives which are divided into 4 kinds of dives: dives in canals with big pelagic fish (especially sharks), dives in cleaning points with manta birostris (giant manta rays), dives in coral reefs with small life and dives in open waters with whale sharks. Submaldive covers them all: “We offer 4 basic routes (5 Atoll Route, 4 Atoll Route, Baa Atoll and South Route) and they are all extraordinary as we offer them during periods of the year which are most suitable to enjoy them at their best. We constantly investigate the depths of Maldives and every year we discover points of interest for different reasons and for every moment of the year”. So the same route can change from one week to another, including different diving points. “We always want the best for our customers so we change depending on the sea conditions, animal sightings or migrations we have detected, etc. As the dives in the same route can change, our divers come back year after year” Judith explains.
Submaldives has today 4 boats in its fleet (Southern Cross, Princess Lara, Mosaique and Handy Cruise) and a fifth one under construction. They all include the best equipment for diving cruises (support ship, Nitrox, etc.) and each of them is adapted to different economies and comfort levels. “We are five partners from different nationalities and we can offer a good service to our customers, in their mother tongue and knowing their cultural identities. Each one of us has worked and established links with diving agencies in our countries”. They currently have over 2000 customers every year. “Some of our customers have been coming for almost 10 years and they repeat the experience every year. The diving points here are endless!”.
Apart from liveaboard cruises they also offer diving courses which are carried out during the cruises, Nitrox courses (especially adequate for Maldives dives as it makes them safer and more enjoyable) and they even advise their customers on hotels in Malé (the capital of Maldives) in case they want to spend some days there, or on transportation between islands. It is no wonder that they have loyal customers who travel with them time and again.
Access the manta ray and whale shark sanctuary
One of the most spectacular and unique diving areas, not only in Maldives but in the whole world, is Hanifaru Bay, a mysterious place which attracts manta rays due to the great amount of plankton that are carried there by currents through the canals connecting the Baa Atoll with the ocean, and Judith can take you there. “For reasons/ still unknown despite the research carried out, it is a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of giant manta bistrosis and whale sharks. The authorities in Maldives have rightly restricted the access but we have a great relationship and work together with Guy Steven, founder and chief researcher of the Maldivian Manta Ray Project in Hanifaru. I have dived with him in several research dives and I have learnt a lot about manta rays: their life, their behaviour, how to get close to them, etc. In Submaldives we guarantee the presence of manta rays in our cruises in the bay and we also hold conferences about the life of manta rays. We take our divers there in the weeks with most possibilities according to Guy’s statistics, but always with the maximum respect and following behaviour patterns which are absolutely respectful and minimally intrusive”.
There is no doubt that Maldives is pure life, energy in its purest state and communion with virgin nature. Judith has the feeling that what happens in the rest of the world is in a different space from Maldives, “it is like going back to our origins and finding ourselves”, she says. If you take a look at her Facebook profile you will see the affection that customers and friends feel for this Maldivian woman from Barcelona who has become an expert instructor in love with the ocean, who was brave enough to search for happiness and who does not hesitate to share it with anyone who wants to sail with her. If you want to meet her in person you can visit her stand, number 75, in the next Dive Travel Show from the 1st to the 3rd of March.