The final itinerary is, of course, always dependent upon weather, sea conditions and where the best animal sightings are at any particular time of year
Central Atolls - The atolls included vary from week to week. Depending on the route you are likely to visit anywhere from 2 to 5 of the following:
North Ari Atoll: find caves & overhangs here are home to home to a variety of fish … from dog-toothed tuna, napoleons, trevallies and barracuda to parrotfish, butterflyfish, blue face angelfish, batfish and lionfish. You’ll encounter grey reef sharks and white-tip sharks … while on the top of the reef, countless fusiliers dart around and those lovely, ever-present-in-the-Maldives blue-stripped snappers move in waves. Lovely soft corals and gorgonian fans add color … and there’s a nice little wreck …. a fishing trawler with coral growth and loads of fish and critters to add interest.
South Ari Atoll: popular for its population of whale sharks. In season you’re likely to have the opportunity to snorkel with one or more. But, whale sharks aren’t all there is. You’ll find caves and overhangs, more sharks … plus fusiliers, angelfish, tuna & jacks, large seafans, soft corals and an abundance of other marine life.
North Male Atoll: one of the finest sites in the Maldives for sighting those majestic mantas. A cleaning station here can be very busy between May and December, with cleaner wrasse anxious to get to work on their oversized friends as they sail in. It’s a bit like a busy barber shop!
South Male Atoll: a challenging thila dive here offers some lovely corals and schools of pelagic fish … plus eagle rays and sharks. Another small wreck features some good macro options.
North Central Atolls (includes Baa and Hanifaru Bay)
Lhaviyani Atoll: A favorite dive for many divers looking for an adrenaline rush, the Kuredu Express at his atoll is almost always like downhill racing … and sometimes too wild to dive at all. The currents bring in nutrients and smaller fish for the big guys, who also seem to like the ride. Large groups of grey reef sharks are common … as are giant napoleon wrasses, a giant grouper, big stingrays, turtles, eels, trevally, eagle rays and sometimes a group of mobulas.
Raa Atoll: some good diving for advanced divers in fast currents … with the usual Maldives cast of characters: stingrays, eagle rays, groupers, snappers, jacks and sharks. Hard and soft corals make a splash here and there, attracting colorful reef fish and offering the macro photographer nice opportunities to snap some critters. The icing on the cake is a manta cleaning station.
Baa Atoll: known even to non-divers, Hanifaru Bay is a UNESCO reserve designed to protect the exceptional marine life that congregates within its remarkable shores. The funnel-like bay and reef have a tidal, current action that traps plankton and other nutrients at certain times. Mantas, whale sharks and other animals arrive for a feeding frenzy unlike any other we know of. At times there can be more than 100 mantas taking part in this huge feast. In the neighborhood are other dives where you’ll find hard & soft corals and a sampling of the other Maldives characters: the turtles, the snappers, the sting rays, the sharks … and even a critter or two.
South Central Atolls
Vaavu (Felidhe): there’s a popular channel dive here with nurse sharks as well as black tip and white tip reef sharks. A possible night dive at a jetty offers up loads of nurse sharks & sting rays. Another dive, loved by photographers in particular, is alive with soft corals in lovely hues and includes a nice variety of reef fish.
Rasdhoo Atoll: a popular reef dive which is usually also very sharky if you’re there early in the day … although the hammerheads tend to be around most of the time. Big schools of pelagic fish are commons as well as the ever-present snappers, fusiliers & batfish.
Meemu: channels with currents bring excitement with good drift diving amongst lots of fish with some lovely, lush coral backdrop. A shallow manta cleaning station is one of the most popular dives here. In addition to mantas, you can expect all the Maldives characters, the jacks, Napoleons, groupers, snappers eagle rays, morays and reef sharks.
Thaa Atoll: known for both mantas and eagle rays and plenty of pelagic fish, there’s also a nice channel dive which often includes a few sharks, including occasionally some silvertips.
Southern Atolls (if your cruise starts at Male and ends at Gan - or vice versa - it will include some of the south central atolls)
Foammulah: if you’re looking for sharky dives, you need look no further. Tiger sharks, thresher sharks, hammerheads and silky sharks can be found in this region … plus oceanic mantas. The currents can be wild, so, it’s strictly for advanced divers. If you’re in that category, this is thrilling stuff! There’s also a beautiful wall dive with more of the same characters and schools of pelagic fish.
Huvadhoo: (Gaaf Alif and Gaaf Dhaal) in this region, you’ll find multiple superb shark dive sites, again for advanced divers, where you’ll almost certainly spot grey reef sharks, white tips, silvertips, leopard sharks, hammerheads and the occasional silky shark. Never a dull moment !
Addu Atoll: this atoll offers a wonderful shark dive. Grey reef sharks and white tip reef sharks hang out on a sandy plateau and other species are often spotted in the blue. In addition to the sharks, you’ve got a manta cleaning station and a very popular wreck dive, the British Loyalty, an oil tanker was torpedoed in 1944 by a German U-boat. The body of the ship is covered with table coral, soft corals, gorgonians and black corals.