Maldives in a Nutshell
With clear blue water, white sand beaches, and great visibility, the Maldives is an idyllic paradise. Take a trip to the Maldives and you may see manta rays, whale sharks, reef sharks, and much more.
Intro To The Maldives
Lying 400 miles southwest of India, the Maldives is an island nation of 26 natural coral atolls (over 1,000 islands) spread over nearly 35,000 square miles. Topside, the Maldives offer some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see in your life. More than 95 % of Maldives consists of the sea. It is also one of the lowest nation in the world, and is in danger of being submerged one day due to rising sea levels.
The Maldives offers some great reefs and marine life and is known for currents, wide angle photography and plentiful pelagics such as mantas, reef sharks and whale sharks. Visibility early in the year can be outstanding, well over 100ft.
Even though it is 26 natural coral atolls, for the purpose of administration the Maldives is divided into 19 atolls (areas) and they are marked as being 19 atolls. So someone looking through a map would find 19 zones.
Hanifaru Bay, in the Baa atoll, has Manta Rays and Whale Sharks during the middle and the end of the South West Monsoon which runs from April to November. And during this period, it is only during few times that mass feeding events occur in the Bay Area when plankton has accumulated to a certain extent. Many People think it is there all the time, but it is not.
Watch this 40 minute webinar to learn more about the Maldives, it's marine life, and one of the great liveaboard options, the MV Carpe Vita, to see if this destination is right for you!
Maldives Typical Dive
Due to the medium to strong currents, drift dives are common. Often you have to do a negative entry, which means the moment you enter the water, you must descend to the bottom. We recommend the Maldives for the intermediate level or experienced diver. Because of the depths and currents, dives in the Maldives are usually 45 - 50 minutes for many divers.
There are many dives sites which are suitable for novice divers as well which are protected from the currents. Also they can do drift dives on the long reefs which is not affected by tricky currents.
The Maldives offer several different dive environments, some of which include:
Faru: A faru is one of the Maldivian names for a reef. This could be the outer reef of the atolls and the reefs of islands.
Giri: A giri is a circular reef in which the top reaches the surface, particularly in low tide. Giris can be found inside the atoll and inside large lagoons as well. These places offer a variety of marine life and often is good for novice divers.
Thila: is also much like a Giri, but it’s further below the surface - basically a seamount. Here’s you’ll find a variety of marine life such as soft coral, gorgonians, and an abundance of fish life including reef sharks. A Thila can be big but most north-worthy thilas are small peaks and can be affected by strong currents at times.
Channel: A channel or pass is where the atoll meets the ocean and is the gate way to the atoll. It is commonly done as a drift dive. The strong currents bring big pelagic fish such as sharks, mantas, and tunas. For most life it is best to dive at channels when there is incoming current but some spots do offer good dives during outgoing current as well. Underwater photographers will appreciate the geography that some channel reefs have that includes caverns, swim-throughs, undercuts, and overhangs full of colorful sponges and invertebrates.
Lagoons: While not very exciting from a marine life standpoint, most islands and big reefs has it’s own sandy bottom lagoon protected from the current which is ideal for beginners learning to scuba.
Wrecks: There are a few interesting wrecks in the Maldives, but they’re typically visited for the fish at the site as opposed to the wreck itself.
Maldives atolls and dive sites
Check with Bluewater Travel to see which Maldives itinerary is right for you. There are several areas that a liveaboard can visit, such as the Male atolls, Baa atolls, and the Ari atolls (known for sharks). These atolls cover a large area and no trip will visit all of the possible dive sites. A good cruise director is key for a successful Maldives trip. The north Male atoll is where you will usually start your diving.
Ari Atoll has many of the Maldives best dive sites, and is where boats usually go to look for mantas and whale sharks. It has many submerged pinnacles (Thilas). It does not necessary have a lot of pretty corals though.
Felidhe Atoll: This atoll is know for its channel dives. There are many good channels on the eastern side, where it is possible to see varieties of sharks in numbers, rays and other pelagic when dived with a favourable incoming current. The coral life in some of these channels including the famous Fotteyo Kandu and Rakeedhoo is lovely.
LanKan is a popular manta ray cleaning station in the north Male atoll. The appearance of the manta rays is very seasonal however.
Maya Thila is known as a site in the Ari atoll that can have a good amont of reef sharks.
Maldives Marine Life & Photography Subjects
Maldives offers blue water early in the year - perfect for wide-angle photography. While is there is some macro life here, I would think of Maldives as mainly a "wide-angle" place to see coral, whale sharks, mantas, eagle rays, and schools of fish. There has been some coral bleaching in the shallow reefs.
While the reefs and channels provide a great diversity of marine life, Hanifaru Bay, while allows snorkeling only, is the go-to place for mantas and whale sharks . We're talking dozens and dozens of huge manta rays feeding - up to 200 mantas at a time. You’re also likely to encounter whale sharks, opening their huge mouths and gulping in food. Still, underwater photography cannot properly capture the beauty of the marine life here; you need to use underwater video.
Maldives underwater video from North Ari Atoll
MALDIVES UNDERWATER VIDEO From Addu Atoll
Many dive sites have napolean wrasse, barracuda, reef sharks including gray reef, whitetip and blacktip, spotted eagle rays, large marbled rays, trevally and tuna. The current will help bring out more of these larger animals. Some atolls can also produce hammerhead sharks, although this is only at very specific dive sites.
For sites like Hanifaru Bay, shoot wide. Use a fisheye lens like the Tokina 10-17mm, or a rectilinear lens in the 10-20mm range. Take video. Even better, take wide video with a fisheye lens. Leave your macro lenses at home.
If you are at a Manta cleaning station, never chase or charge the manta rays - it won't work. Wait for them to come to you. Don't rise up to their level.
Best Time To Dive The Maldives
Jan - April (northeast monsoon) are the ideal months to visit the Maldives, with it getting less windy as you approach April. Visibility is very good, and it is the driest and warmest period. You may experience sudden rain showers, but they don't last for a long time.
May - July is considered the rainy season and can bring unstable weather, especially June / July. Conditions are usually good from August - November (southwest monsoon season), but the abundance of plankton is the water can reduce visibility (but bring plankton feeders like the Manta Rays and Whale Sharks). Aug - Nov is the time to go for the best chance to see the "big animals".
December can bring a fair amount of wind and rain.
"Feeding season" at Hanifaru Bay (and everywhere else) for the whale sharks and manta rays is considered to be from May to November, peaking from late July to early October. So what do you want - clearer water, or whale sharks/ mantas?
Currents in the Maldives
Divers who may not want to experience strong currents should try to time their trips away from the full and new moons, when the currents will be less strong.
Maldives Water Temperatures
Water temperatures range from 80 - 86 degrees year round.
Maldives Underwater Visibility
Visibility is around 35 feet on the low end, but often exceeds 100 feet.
Departing from the US, there are several airlines that fly 1-stop to Male, the capital city of the Maldives. Most people stay overnight in Male and board their dive boat the following day. Visitors get a 30 day on arrival visa for free.
It’s no secret that divers and honeymooners make up the majority of visitors to the Maldives - though those two groups are not mutually exclusive. If you’re land-based and need a break from the water, considering taking an excursion to a nearby uninhabited island or board a fishing boat and try your luck at catching your dinner.
Maldives Liveaboard Options
There are several liveaboards that operate in the Maldives ranging from the budget-friendly to ultimate luxury. For more information on Maldives liveaboards, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.