The Maldives are beautiful sandy atolls in an azure sea, but that pale and perfect sand came from somewhere: the coral that decorates the stunning underwater terrain. Underneath the Maldives there's a whole volcanic mountain range coated in coral, flattening out to reefs surrounding the isles. Add to that picture warm seas and a range of marine life more colourful than that in any aquarium and you have yourself a diver's wonderland.
Most dives in this region are drift dives, along the many channels and passages between the atolls and coral heads where all the nutrients flow, and they're best done from live aboard diving boats. The topography is far from dull, there are many caves and overhangs to explore and walls to float by, but staying on a live aboard means divers can be more flexible and go where the largest numbers, and most interesting, marine life is – which includes many types of big pelagics, including sharks, rays and even turtles.
Less experienced divers and snorkellers will be more comfortable in the sheltered, reef ringed lagoons that many of the atolls have, exploring the rock pinnacles, locally known as thilas, that peek out of the beds of sponges and soft corals.
Malé is the Maldives' capital, and has the airport, so most visitors pass though this most urban of Maldive islands. It's also the cultural hub if you fancy visiting a museum, a palace and the lively local fish market, fruit bazaars, and firewood market, and maybe going dancing, as well as diving.
As far as diving is concerned the best local spots are Kani Corner, a series of caves and drop off slopes just off Kanifinolhu Island, where sharks, tuna, eagle rays, manta rays and sailfish hang out, and the wreck of the Maldive Victory on the western side of the Airport Island of Hulhule, under 35 metres of water and these days inhabited by batfish, barracuda and fusiliers.
Cocoa Island has the huts on stilts over water that typify the tropical island holiday ideal: stilts over paradise. It's also got world class diving and snorkelling and a world class spa.
On shore tiny Bandos Island has the same palm trees, beaches and bungalows over water, but it's also one of the closest island resorts to some classic dives, including Banana Reef, a 300 metre banana shaped reef with coral that protrudes off it in dinner plate sized growths, attracting some of the region's prettiest fish, and Manta Point, one of the best places in the world to see flocks of manta rays. The Aquarium drift dive, famous for the impressive, aquarium-esque array of marine life, is about 60 minutes by boat north east off Bandos, along the sloping outside corner of Lohifushi Island, and Rainbow Thila, a good place to spot a Hawksbill turtle about 50 minutes by boat north-east.
Ari Atoll is where the really big fish tend to hang out, and dives like Kudarah Thila are the best places to see the larger shark varieties like whale sharks, hammerheads, grey reef and white tip sharks, huge graceful eagle rays, Napoleon wrasse and schools of barracuda. There's also soft corals in pinks and oranges, large gorgonians and thousands of snapper.
Rasdhoo, is capital of the Alif Alif Atoll region, which means it's a centre for people living in the region, and the best place for local shopping and trading, and a good choice if you're interested in seeing the local way of life. It doesn't scrimp on the diving off idyllic shores, or the snorkelling in beautiful calm lagoon opportunities either: Rasdhoo Madivaru is one of the best Maldivian dive sites for people wanting to run into sharks – this is the kind of site where you can be minding your own business hovering over the reef when the sun over your shoulder can be suddenly blocked out by a school of circling hammerheads. The drift dive site called Rasfari, on the outer reef, is known for colourful myriads of fish, and sprouting gardens of soft corals, and Girifushi Thila to the south east on the Thilasfushi Reef has some spectacular reef overhangs and many caves and crevices to explore. The whole reef here is a garden of yellow, blue and orange soft corals, which the sea fans protrude out of. Old Shark Point is along the same stretch of reef, but is calmer, attracting big blue fin jacks, big tuna, big marlin and shoals of smaller fish, and Lions Head just inland of Shark Point is marked by tthe bit of coral that looks like a lion's head.
Velidhu Island is another good place to base yourself for a diving holiday. Above the waterline it's more of the water bungalow scene, and there are a coupe of good spots along the shore.
Vaadhoo Resort Island is near the Vaadhoo Caves dive, which is a series of caves and caverns passing along the Vaadhoo Channel. They're not deep caves, and as you swim though them they get shallower and shallower, but because you're enclosed the water has a different colour to it, even as you get close to the top of the reef. Soldier fish and banner fish swim upside down close to the ceiling, while fusiliers, groupers, surgeons and moray eels prefer the coral coated walls, mostly coloured blue and yellow. You may even spot a turtle or an eagle ray.
Fushifaru Isle has Fushifaru Thila a calm channel of warm, clear water between two ribbons of reef along the edge of the atoll – this is a good spot for beginners and less experienced divers – it's only about 10 metres deep.
Veligandu Island has a tropical jungle as well as an 80 metre long beach and a small resort. Off shore it has a few nice diving opportunities.
Nalaguraidhoo, or Sun Island has just the one resort and some of the best beaches on any of the Maldives' inhabited islands, as well as a reef that in some places you can see from the shore - so good for snorkellers.
There are no posts. Why not be the first to have your say?