Maldives

4.25
(4 REVIEWS)

 

Country: Maldives

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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 nations 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.

Maldives Webinar

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! 

 

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Diving Information 

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Marine Life & Photography Subjects

The 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.

Many dive sites have napoleon 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.

 

Maldives Underwater Video from North Ari Atoll


Maldives Dive Environments

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.
  • 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.
  • Channel: A channel or pass is where the atoll meets the ocean and is the gateway 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. 

 

Typical Maldives 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 are not affected by tricky currents.  

 

Diving Conditions

  • Water Temperatures: Range from 80 - 86 degrees year round.
  • Visibility: Around 35 feet on the low end, but often exceeds 100 feet.
  • Depth Range: 5 - 30 m ( 14 - 98 feet)
  • Currents: 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 Atolls & 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.

    • ATOLLS:
    • North Male atoll - This 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 necessarily have a lot of pretty corals though.

Felidhe Atoll:

    This atoll is known 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 favorable incoming current. The coral life in some of these channels including the famous Fotteyo Kandu and Rakeedhoo is lovely. 
  • DIVE SITES:
  • 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 amount of reef sharks. 

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Travel Information 

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How to Get There

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.  

 

How to Dive Maldives

There are several liveaboards that operate in the Maldives ranging from the budget-friendly to ultimate luxury. Contact us for more information on Maldives liveaboards.  

 

Best Time to Dive 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 in 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?

 

Topside & Non-Diving Activities

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.

 

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Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

  • Currency: Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR)
  • Language: The country's primary language is Dhivehi. Main foreign languages‎ are ‎Arabic & English
  • Main Airport Code: MLE
  • Time Zone: UTC+5
  • Electricity: 230 V 50 Hz

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Reviews (4)

4
4
4
3

The magic starts as soon as your plane reaches the outermost atolls to glimpse the almost alien planet like spots all around the ocean. Then once you step outside the airport you are immediately overwhelmed by the crystal clear turquoise waterfront and the boat waiting to take you to your liveaboard or to one of the thousands of islands of the Republic of the Maldives. I dived around South Male and the Southern Ari atolls area on a liveaboard in May. Marine life consists of everything from macro to the "big stuff" (many eagle rays, many manta rays, stingrays, many white-tips, grey reef sharks, whale sharks).

Dive Conditions: Visibility was good ranging from 30ft to 120ft while averaging around 80ft. Besides drift dives I would say roughly 20% of the sites we dove had moderate current (some kicking effort needed to stay on route), and a few sites with strong currents. Minimum level recommended is advanced open water certification.

Top Sites: Rasdhoo Madivaru (grey reef sharks, eagle rays, bumphead , Maaya Thila (white tip, gray reef sharks and eagle ray up close), Fish Head (guitar shark, stingrays, lots of gray reef sharks, swim throughs), Hafusha Thila, Maamigili Beru. Night diving and snorkeling with the mantas is one of the highlights.

How to get there: All international flights arrive in Male. Then you have the option to either take boats/liveaboard, or water aircraft to your next destination.

Where to stay and top-side activities: Maldives has a lot of upscale resorts. Generally the further you venture out from Male the more secluded the resorts will be. Each habitable atoll has it's own beaches and whatever water sport and/or activity you can think of.

Overall impression: The Maldives is simply paradise if you enjoy the beach life and especially diving. The highlights of diving are the frequent manta rays, eagle rays, gray reef sharks, and occasional whale sharks in some particular areas. There are wrecks around but nothing to write home about. White sand beaches everywhere. Only drawback is the lack of alcoholic beverages around the Republic.

Visited on 05/2014 - Submitted on 10/30/2014
4
4
5
2

This is an amazing dive location. The marine life is abundant and we were able to see mantas as well as Whale Sharks (multiple encounters). Other marine life encountered on the trip included black tip sharks, moray eels, eagle rays, green turtles and multiple fish species including clown and angel fish. Much of this marine life was a short snorkel away form one of the small islands that dot the area. Ocean conditions were good at the time with visibility extending beyond 60ft. Topside attractions are limited but you won't be doing anything but diving here. Liveaboard is the only way to go here due to the high cost of resorts and transportation. We had a great experience on MV Carpe Diem. The boat was clean and well maintained and the staff were very helpful. Food aboard the boat was excellent and our accommodations were well worth the price paid.

Visited on 04/2013 - Submitted on 03/24/2014
5
5
5
4

I visited the Maldives in May of 2012 and was on the sane trip as reviewer cdub. I will try not to be repetitive.
The water temps are in the 79-81 range and the air temp is in the 80-85 range but there is usually a nice breeze most of the day. Currents varied from spot to spot and there was generally a medium current, with some spots with very strong currents. We had divers with a variety of experience and nobody had any issues. Our locations were mostly in the North Ari Atoll which is one of the largest areas for diving. One of my favorite spots was Hukrueli Faru which has Manta cleaning stations. The depths there varied from 25-100 feet. Kudarah Thila made me feel like I was in an aquarium. The density and variety of life was amazing. Giant schools of Oriental Sweetlips with some Groupers mixed in. The biggest highlight for me was diving with manta's and seeing a napolean wrasse the size of a volkswagon beetle. We went chasing for whale sharks which we finally did see but there was such a crowd of tourists on the surface that it became claustrophobic so beware.
Topside there was not much opportunity since the biggest island is the capital which is 3 miles square. It was interesting to see the capital and and feel like you saw almost all of it in an hour. Seeing the planes landing on runway was surreal since it looks like the plane is going to land on the water. We did spend one night on the main island as we landed late the night before we got on the liveaboard, but I would have been happy staying on the very nice resort on the airport island that I was not aware of until the end of the trip. There was the comedy factor of seeing the rather absurdities(to us westerners at least) of the hotel set up and the insane amount of scooters roaming the "streets". I did skip a night dive and visited a very tiny island with some of the crew and a couple others from our group. The island was Rashdoo and we walk the perimeter in about 25 minutes. The people were very polite and hearing the mosques call to prayers was very beautiful.
Overall the Maldives will probably the greatest tropical location I will ever go to. I saw pretty much everything I hoped to see which made it worth the almost 20 hours of flying. This is definitively one of those once in a lifetime trip that you take if the opportunity comes.

Visited on 02/2014 - Submitted on 02/11/2014
  • Top Reviewer
4
5
5
5

I visited the Maldives on a liveaboard in May 2012, an though it is a pricier trip, it was well worth it to dive the Maldives. Air temps were in the 90s and sunny almost the entire time, and water temps ranged from 80-83.

Topside, it's gorgeous. We were greeted with the brightest blue sunny skies and aquamarine waters, that it was almost surreal. The islands all looked lush and dense with greenery, with beautiful sandy beaches. Since we were on a liveaboard, we only had a few opportunities to visit any of the islands, and on one occasion, the liveaboard had arranged to bring us to an island to see the sunset and they had setup a full BBQ cookout. It was a lovely way to spend the evening exploring the beaches and lagoons amidst all of our diving.

Since it was a 7 day trip, we covered South Ari and the North and South Male Atolls. We regularly had 100 ft viz, though it was as little less on a few of the manta ray snorkels as we ran into pockets of plankton.

I had my favorite night dive of all time here at Mayaa Thila. We saw so much life and behavior on this dive! Starting with a large sting ray, free swimming eels, eels hunting and going from crevice to crevice in the reef looking for sleeping fish, juvenile white tip reef sharks competing for food.

The Kuda Girl wreck was also a beautiful site. Home to amazing schools of fish, abundant invertebrate growth, and we also encountered a frog fish and two stonefish on this wreck.

Some of the the other marine life highlights included a large nurse shark, turtles, titan triggerfish, and schools of triggerfish, and snorkeling with mantas and a whale shark.

Though you could shoot macro on some of the dives, I probably spent about 80% of the time shooting wide angle as my preference based on the marine life.

Visited on 05/2012 - Submitted on 01/27/2014

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