The coconut palm and the yellow-fin tuna, symbols of the Maldives, say a great deal about this nation of more than a thousand islands. Grouped into 26 low atolls in the Indian Ocean, less than 300 of the islands are inhabited. The Maldives is flat with white sandy beaches and excellent reefs with an abundance of marine life. Scuba diving is done at a leisurely drift pace as the Indian Monsoon Current sweeps along the island chains, moving nutrients and divers along. This nutrient-rich water flows up along the walls, feeding the sponges and soft corals clinging to the rock sides.
Inside the atoll lagoons, rock pinnacles – thila – vault up from the bottom to scratch the water’s surface. In the channels, there are swim-throughs, caverns and overhangs festooned with colorful sponges, invertebrates and gorgonians to explore. At well-known cleaning stations, wrasse and shrimp service manta rays, and other large marine species. With a welcoming culture and some of the finest liveaboard dive boats and luxury resorts on the globe, a dive holiday in the Maldives makes for an unforgettable experience.
Fotteyo Kandu, Vaavu Atoll – This highly-rated dive site hosts abundant coral and fish, but also includes caves, overhangs and swim-throughs filled with yellow soft coral and a few black coral bushes at deeper depths. You may see reef sharks, jack and tuna, plus large schools of snapper. The Thila in the middle of the channel entrance is a good place to do the safety stop.
Kuredu Express, Lhaviyani Atoll – This site gets its name from the strong current that flows through the channel. Cruise along one of the terraces located at different depths and watch the reef sharks, eagle rays, tuna, stingrays and barracuda go by. Mantas also frequently venture into the scene.
Okobe Thila, North Male Atoll – This site consists of three main pinnacle sections ranging from 10 metres/30 feet to 50 metres/165 feet in length. Because there is always some current, you normally spiral up and around. Look for tuna, white-tip reef sharks and bannerfish in addition to the healthy coral.
Kandooma Thila, South Male Atoll – This large teardrop shaped pinnacle has dramatic scenery and prolific fish life. The walls are covered with soft corals and patrolled by schools of red bass and big-eye trevally. You can frequently meet up with grey sharks, white-tip sharks and eagle rays. Do your safety stop on top of the reef while mingling with green turtles and batfish.
Broken Rock, South Ari Atoll – This unique formation has a canyon that breaks the reef in two. Look for large fan corals in the canyon and Napoleon wrasse, turtles, scorpionfish, moray eels and good coral growth on the reef.
Kudarah Thila, South Ari Atoll – This marine protected area has a small reef full of soft corals and abundant fish life. Bring a dive light to explore the arch and a large overhang that make the dive unique.
Visibility – Ranges from 20 metres/70 feet to really, really good. If the visibility lowers, it usually means plankton is present, which can bring in the whale sharks.
Water Temperature – Water temperatures range from 26-30°C/80-86°F year-round.
Weather – Tropical, hot and humid with loads of sunshine and temperatures around 24-33°C/75-91°F year-round. The diving is good all year long, but the monsoon brings significant rain between April and October, especially June to August.
Featured Creatures – In the open ocean near the reefs, pelagic animals – including manta rays, eagle rays, tuna and a variety of sharks (including whale sharks) – frequent the Maldives. On shallow dives, the clear, bright water hosts a massive amount of sweet lips, parrotfish, groupers, snappers as well as frequent turtles and moray eels.
Recommended Training – The Maldives are a photographer’s dream, so take the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer course. The PADI Drift Diver course will prepare you for the drift dives through the channels. Enriched air nitrox is available, so the PADI Enriched Air Diver course is a good idea.
Useful local terms:
Falhu Lagoon encircled by a reef sometimes with one or more islands inside
Faru Large reef partially exposed at low tide Finolhu Island with few or no coconut trees
Fushi Big island usually on the outside reefs of the island
Futtaru Reef where waves break
Giri Small patch of coral a couple of metres below the surface
Halu Clearing in lagoon
Kandhu Sea inside atoll
Kandu Olhi Channel
Maa Kandu Sea outside atoll
Thila Coral reef a few metres below the surface
Vilu Deep area inside lagoon
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