Maldives manta close 2 divers behind

globe th Copy The Maldives Islands are famous, in part, for their quintessential tropical appearance - tiny dots of palm-covered land surrounded by coral rings, white sands & turquoise waters.  The island chain consists of more than a thousand islands spread out over roughly 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 square miles) in the Indian Ocean. Located atop a vast submarine mountain range with an average ground level elevation of 1.5 metres (4 feet 11 inches) above sea level, it is the planet's lowest country & potentially at grave risk from rising sea levels.

Magical Maldives

Maldives Atoll Aerial Shot opt

Maldives diving  ...  the essentials

  • waters which are simply teeming with "the big guys" of the ocean - mantas & whale sharks amongst the most popular
  • a wide variety of sharks including the exotics such as threshers, oceanic whitetips and tigers in certain sites
  • abundant diversity of colorful fish species - triggerfish, sweetlips, angelfish, anthias, Moorish Idols
  • plenty of schools of snappers, jacks, barracudas, fusiliers
  • caves, caverns & overhangs with lovely soft corals & colorful sponges
  • lots of energizing drift dives through channels & passages which cut between the atolls

Maldives Destination Page Vertical Insert

Captivating topography

Now, for most divers, the Maldives conjures up images of swimming & flirting with swarms of great Manta Rays.  But diving in the Maldives is definitely more than that.

For starters, rising from the atoll floor, usually in the middle of channels, are 'thilas' or submerged reefs, which can be as shallow as 8-10 meters below the surface. Thilas make great dive sites as they are often small enough to swim around during one dive and have their own compact ecosystems, such as caves, overhangs, steep walls or cracks and crevices. Many are pinnacle formations.

You'll experience gentle dives & strong currents and even a couple of very good wreck dives. The Maldives has diving for everyone from the beginner to the advanced diver and is a destination ideal for divers and snorklers alike.  


Abundant life

Do note that Maldives diving is more about abundant life than about colorful corals, but in most of the channels you'll find caves, caverns & overhangs with lovely soft corals, colorful sponges, invertebrates & gorgonian fans.

These areas also host cleaning stations where you'll observe the fascinating process of the small-fries cleaning large ocean species. Groupers, snappers, surgeonfish, eels, parrotfish, even Giant Napoleon Wrasse will install themselves in a quiet corner, while armies of wrasse, shrimp & other assorted cleaners pick at debris in their open gills & gaping mouths.

The rock pinnacles also provide rich diving & diverse life forms, while further afield from the reefs, you'll marvel at the pelagic action. Here on the edge of the open water, you find the manta rays & eagle rays in plentiful supply, along with multiple varieties of sharks.


Choose your Maldives diving adventure ....

Maldives Blacktip sharkFar North - sharks, caves, wrecks & more sharks
Although there are only a few of the liveaboards which venture to the atolls of the Far North, this region offers tranquil surroundings and virtually guaranteed encounters with large numbers of sharks - white tip & black tip reef sharks, leopard sharks . . . and for the icing-on-the-cake . . . in the right season, hammerheads ... read more ...

And true to Maldives fashion, there are plenty of the mysterious, other-worldly & ever sought-after Manta Rays.

You'll love the drift-dive rides, the great visibility and the surprising abundance of hard & soft corals, along with swirling schools of fusiliers & other colorful fish, plus lurking morays, lobsters and nudibranchs. There are also opportunities for cave and wreck diving.

So the far north offers something for everyone, is particularly attractive to the more experienced divers and those who wish to stay away from the crowds.

The excellent liveaboards, MV Sunset Queen and MV Sea Spirit, explore these waters during the Maldivian summer months of March and April, particularly the atolls of Haa Alif and Haa Dhaal which are located roughly 240 miles north of the capital of Male.

Maldives snappers optNorthern Atolls - coral gardens, critters and mantas
As in the Far North, there are few boats here in the Northern Atolls and you are likely to be the only divers on a dive site. The draw here is the abundance and variety of marine life plus the equally interesting topography. Along with swim-throughs and overhangs and large schools of fish, you also get some very beautiful soft corals ... read more ...

While sharks are rare in the north, at Noonu Atoll you should have exciting encounters with large numbers of grey reef sharks.

Baa Atoll, a submerged pinnacle, is exceptional for its incredible overhangs covered with splendid coral gardens with scintillating colors. You will swim directly beneath this amazing ceiling of glowing coral life.

And, when you've had enough of corals, you can move on to Baa Atoll's other attraction, the Manta Rays, as this is one of the best sites in the Maldives for viewing these magnificent beauties.

Lhaviyani Atoll is a vertical wall dive which arrives at a sandy bottom. As with many of the wall dives in the Maldives, you have you tons of smaller species of marine life - shrimps, gobies, nudis and the like - inhabiting the holes & hiding places along the wall while schools of medium-sized fish swirl or graze along and out in the nearby open waters you'll probably catch a glimpse of Napoleon wrasse, sting rays, eagle rays, devil rays, barracuda and tuna.

Most of the dives in this region are known for the variety of life, so be prepared to fill your memory cells (or photos cards) with a long list of exciting species!

Maldives 2 Mantas at Cleaning StationCentral Atolls - channels, caves, drop-offs & superb pelagic action
Not far from the capitol, Male, is where most of the diving has traditionally been done,  North Male, South Male & Ari Atolls.  Without venturing far from your arrival point, you find channels & caves, massive coral tables & drop-offs, plus a great variety of marine life.  Manta rays & a variety of sharks,  including whale sharks & hammerheads in season, are regular visitors ... read more ...

Aggressor & Dancer Fleet both still concentrate heavily on these areas, so you can guess that there's some pretty good diving at hand. Most of the other best liveaboards also offer the Central Atolls for the majority of their cruises. The most popular areas include North Male (Kaafu), South Male (Dhaalu), and Ari (Alifu) & Felidhoo Atolls.

North Male Atoll has some great channels, beautiful 'thilas', (submerged reefs), massive coral tables, nice drop-offs, gentle waters and plenty of fish action. A Manta Ray cleaning station adds extra excitement.

South Male Atoll has long been considered one of the finest diving areas in the Maldives. Dive sites in this area are graced with channels & caves & drop-offs & reefs - plus a great variety of marine life.

There can be pretty strong currents here, which translates to nutrient rich waters attracting Mantas, Spotted Eagle Rays & Grey Nurse Sharks, plus masses of fish, including the pervasive snappers & jacks, batfish, fusiliers & sail-fin tangs for starters.

Well-known for giant anemones also, this area is popular with photographers who love those colorful shots of the anemones and their little guards, the anemone fish.

Ari Atoll is certainly one of the popular dives for serious divers. With multiple thilas both inside and outside the lagoons, this area lures loads of pelagics. Manta Rays, plus a variety of sharks, including whale sharks & hammerheads, are regular visitors here and there are several of the ever popular cleaning stations.

Maaya Thila, a favorite for many divers, is located at Ari Atoll. This pinnacle offers a marvelous assortment of life. Get your camera ready for brightly colored nudibranchs, giant frogfish, turtles & even the elusive guitar shark!

Felidhoo Atoll is home to a site known as a photographers' paradise, where soft and hard coral overhangs shelter schools of sweetlips and you'll also get a variety of sharks and Titan Triggerfish, too.

At Mulaku Kandu (channel), when the currents are strong, the diving is great. Giant Trevally, Great Barracuda, White-tip and Black-tip Reef Sharks plus turtles come here to munch.

Maldives wreck diver 2436digitalavenue Fotolia optFar South - sharks, rays, plentiful fish & a great wreck
With superb visibility, the deep south offers warm waters & healthy corals, including hard corals & scads of anemones.   The big draw, however, is the large quantity of ocean predators which are attracted into the channels to feast on the schools of smaller reef fish hanging out on the walls & submerged thilas: black tip, white tip, grey reef sharks, leopard & nurse sharks are common ... read more ...

Trips to the Far South, to the remote & unspoiled atolls of Huvadhoo, Gan and other smaller atolls straddling the equator, are a relatively recent phenomenon in the Maldives. It was the opening of the international airport at Gan, which made access to this alluring region so much easier.

Large pods of dolphins are not unusual at certain sites and you almost always have whale sharks at some as well as tiger sharks, hammer heads, giant hammerheads, eagle rays, sting rays and mobula rays.   Even sailfish appear for the really lucky divers.

Depending on the itinerary, which is very weather and current dependent, you should also encounter Manta cleaning stations with lots of activity.  Of course, you get countless turtles, plus tuna, jacks and snappers, colorful coral groupers, angelfish, puffer fish, bannerfish and trigger fish and plenty of anemones with resident damsel fishes and beautiful coral fish.

Much of the diving is in channels, so is very dependent on the current. When it's running well, you'll have exhilarating drift dives.

If you love wrecks, some of the cruises include the wreck of the coral encrusted British Loyalty, torpedoed by the Japanese in 1944, which lies inside the atoll in the Hithadhoo region and is an excellent wreck dive.  She brings plenty of pelagics in from the blue - hammerheads, mantas, grey reef sharks, eagle rays and loads of turtles.

All in all, it's highly recommended diving and you're virtually guaranteed to be the only liveaboard at each site.