Top dive locations – The Maldives
As one of the top dive locations in the world, The Maldives is on pretty much every diver’s bucket list, and for many good reasons.
Situated approximately 1,000km south-east of the Asian continent, the Maldives is made up of 26 large atolls. Atolls are ancient coral reef structures that once surrounded some form of land mass. Whatever was in the middle, however, has long since disappeared.
As a result, all that is left behind are long stretches of magnificent coral reef, and around tiny islands. Most of the islands are uninhabited. Since tourism began to take off in the late 1970s, a number of the islands are home to exclusive resorts. White sand beaches and small pieces of tropical rainforest are all surrounded by a turquoise sea. The Maldives is the very definition of ‘Paradise’!
The Maldives is also home to some of the best scuba diving on the planet. It is also one of the best places to encounter some of the largest marine critters. Whale sharks are frequently spotted at some of the reefs, and the world’s largest aggregations of manta rays visit at certain points of the year. Plus, of course, there is a spectacular array of smaller creatures.
The best way to explore the Maldives is undoubtedly by liveaboard. Each island will have a number of different dive sites available, but daily boats can only go so far. Trips are split into northern and southern itineraries, all departing from the capital city of Malé.
The northern routes are most popular and are generally most suitable for divers of all experience levels. These trips will visit places such as North and South Malé Atoll, North and South Ari, Baa, Raa, and Rasdhoo atolls. The diving is mostly very easy, but currents can be very strong, so you need to be comfortable drift diving.
The deep south is the place to find the biggest of the big stuff. Currents here can be extremely powerful, especially out in the channels, and so these are for experienced divers only.
Many liveaboards have a dive platform and small RIBs are used to ferry divers from the boat to the dive site. In the Maldives, diving is by Dhoni – a smaller, but full-sized dive boat that follows the mothership wherever she goes. It’s so much easier than bouncing up and down in a small boat!
TOP DIVE SITES
The reefs at Rasdhoo Madivaru form one of the top dives in the Maldives. The channel between them is home to some strong currents, where hundreds of sharks circulate at certain times of day.
You dive along a sheltered ridge of coral before coming to a ledge where you can see whitetip reef sharks and grey reef sharks passing by for a close inspection. Even whale sharks pass through the channel from time to time.
Located on North Ari Atoll, Maaya Thila is one of the most famous dive sites in the Maldives. Currents can be varied making it an easy dive when they are small, but more advanced when they are strong.
Maaya Thila is a good place to spot whitetip reef sharks, look out for juveniles as well as the adults. It’s a great place to night dive, as long as you don’t mind big fish passing in front of your torch beam!
Fish Head, (or Mushi Mas Mingili Thila in the local language), and it’s called Fish Head for a very good reason! Grey reef sharks are often seen here, but also schools of jacks and tuna. Huge clouds of bluestripe snapper circulate around the small mount. Although the water is usually clear, visibility can be limited just by the number of fish! Also, look out for Napoleon wrasse and a number of hawksbill turtles chomping on the coral.
Shark city! Located on the southerly Huvadhoo Atoll, Nilandhoo Kandu is a channel dive with extremely powerful currents. But currents mean sharks, and on the list of creatures frequently spotted here are silky sharks, grey reef sharks, blacktips, whitetip reef sharks, and leopard sharks.
Whale sharks are often spotted here, especially at night when they are attracted to the lights of the liveaboards. Tiger sharks, great hammerheads and bull sharks also sometimes put in an appearance. Oh, and then there’s the giant mantas, eagle rays, turtles, and huge schools of barracuda. There’s lots of other fish there also – but – sharks!
Rangali Madivaru is known for its manta cleaning station, especially in the early part of the year between December and April. The cleaning station is long and shallow, at around 10m deep.
When the mantas come to have their parasites picked off, divers can just hover and watch as these magnificent animals circulate. It’s a great place to make great photographs, and there’s plenty of other stuff to see in and around the coral heads.
Need to Know
There are plenty of different routes to Malé, although most are indirect. Transport to your liveaboard couldn’t be easier. You walk out of the airport into a small harbor where your dhoni will collect you and take you to the liveaboard!
Currents vary from nothing to extremely powerful in some locations. Some sites can be dived with very little experience and the dive guides will check the currents beforehand. To make the best of the Maldives liveaboards, it’s recommended you have a bit of experience before visiting.
Water temperature is around 28°-30°C degrees all year round, so you’re unlikely to need anything more than a 3mm shorty. Seas can be rough though, so bring plenty of seasickness pills if you need them. Air temperatures are similarly stable with between 25°-30°C year-round, up to 32°C in July. It rains a lot, but less in February and March.
Most important advice: Don’t forget your Paralenz! Sharks! Mantas! More sharks!
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