The Ari Atoll (also known as the Alifu Atoll) is located west of Male. It is known among divers as pelagic heaven. While corals and smaller marine life exist, divers flock to the area for the common manta, whale shark and hammerhead shark sightings.
The atoll’s tropical climate has average temperatures between 80°F (27° C) and 88°F (31° C). The water temperature is consistently 77 - 86°F (25 - 30°C). While diving is accessible year-round on the atoll, some seasons are better than others for above the water activities. From December to March, dry weather and calm seas arrive during the north-east monsoon. From May to November, the weather is generally wetter with rough seas during the south-west monsoon. The worst and most volatile weather comes during the change between monsoons in December/January and April/May.
Due to the government’s relaxation of tourism laws, the Ari Atoll has recently benefited from a tourism boom. 20 of the atoll’s 105 islands are reserved for resorts. Many of the other 85 islands now have homestays and B&Bs although it’s imperative to check that these local islands have a dive shop before booking in. The Ari Atoll is also a popular destination for economical liveaboards as many of the best dive sites are spread out around the atoll.
In high season (December to April), the famous dive sites may be crowded with divers although there are plenty of sites to go around. Go to a lesser known site and you are likely to have it to yourself. During low season (May to November), discounts on packages including activities and accommodation can be negotiated with both luxury resorts and local hotels.
Diving may be the reason you come to Ari Atoll, but there is so much more to do.
Spend your days snorkeling with manta rays and whale sharks. Alternatively, take a tour to a deserted sand bank for an afternoon picnic. On the way back, stop for a little octopus spear-fishing and cook up your catch on the BBQ.
You can also learn how to windsurf or spend some time kayaking. Of course, the beaches are perfect for relaxing the afternoon away before watching the sun dip down into the water.
Male Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is well served by flights originating in Europe, although a stop-over in the Middle East may be required. If coming from Asia, expect to stop in Sri Lanka before continuing on to Male.
If you’re staying on the Ari Atoll, you will need to transfer by seaplane (30 minutes), speedboat (1 hour) or by local ferry (4-6 hours).