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Baa Atoll’s marine diversity was awarded UNESCO Reserve status in 2011. Its scuba is suited to beginners and advanced divers; expect overhangs, colorful reefs, manta rays and whale sharks.

Diving in Baa Atoll

Quick facts

With the diverse marine life around its reefs, thilas (submerged islands), overhangs and swim throughs, Baa Atoll deserves its UNESCO status.

Located to the east, and part of the atoll’s protected reef, is the Horubadhoo Thila at a depth of 39-52 feet (12-16 meters). The thila is covered in different hard and soft corals, lots of macro life and large pelagic. On either side of the thila are large rocks where schooling black jacks hunt fusiliers. The south-west monsoon (May to November) sees manta rays using the thila as a cleaning station. Shoals of glassy fish also swim around the coral. Depending on the light and density of the shoal, it can be a spectacular sight. The coral appears through them, distorted, as though you’re wearing glasses with the wrong prescription.

To the south-east of the atoll is Nelivaru Haa. The topography around this site is unique. The top of the reef is found at 46 feet (14 meters) and drops off to 98 feet (30 meters). Star shaped canyons are found in the middle and overhangs, which are covered in hard and soft corals, are found on the reef’s walls. Amongst the caves and overhangs, you’ll also find stingrays, big groupers, friendly batfish or a school of oriental sweet lips. This entire reef becomes a cleaning station during manta season, and while they hover to be cleaned, you’ll be able to observe them closely.

Advanced divers can explore Dhonfanu Thila and its swim through. The thila starts at 26 feet (8 meters), and as you descend you may see manta rays. Located at 82 feet (25 meters) is the base of a narrow swim through lined with black coral. You'll ascend to its exit at 59 feet (18 meters). Amongst the reef’s overhangs are yellow-lined snapper, soldierfish and cleaning wrasses. Expect to see lots of other fish: redtoothed triggers, black pyramid butterflyfish, parrotfish, angelfish and starry rabbitfish.

The popular whale shark spots may be full of ravenous snorkelers, but Baa Atoll’s dive sites are well chartered and offer lots of diverse diving and marine life.

When to go

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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What to see

The Baa Atoll has been awarded UNESCO status for a reason. You won’t be disappointed by the diversity of fish and coral that you’ll see.

If you’re visiting the atoll during manta season, you can expect their orderly feeding behavior to be disbanded while they feed. They bump into each other like bumper cars at a fairground.

Amongst the coral, you’ll find whip coral, dark red sponges, black coral bushes and zoanthids growing like wild mushrooms. The soft corals found in the overhangs are blue, yellow and green; pairs of porcelain crabs rest in anemone coral. You’ll also see large table corals on the reefs.

The small Maldivian sponge snail sits on sandy banks while midnight snapper, small-toothed emperor, moon fusiliers and moon wrasse swim by. Coral rock cod are covered in florescent speckles.

In the channels, you’ll find eagle rays, Napoleon wrasses, turtles and sharks.

Calendar

For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Area

The Baa Atoll is located in the Maldives’ northern region. It was awarded UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve status in 2011 due to the diversity of its marine life, particularly around Hanifaru Huraa. This is a common spot for manta and whale shark sightings.

The atoll’s tropical climate has daytime temperatures averaging 84° F (29° C), and its water temperatures are 75° F (24° C) and above. From December to March, drier weather arrives during the north-east monsoon, and from May to November, the weather is wetter during the south-west monsoon.

Whilst only thirteen of its seventy-five islands are inhabited, due to the lure of its marine life, the atoll is well developed for tourism, and it's a popular destination for good value liveaboards. They also offer snorkeling trips around Hanifaru Huraa to try and spot whale sharks – diving is restricted in this area. The number of snorkelers is also restricted, which shows how popular the area is. During the low season discounts can be negotiated in the luxury resorts.

The atoll is well known for its wooden, lacquered handicrafts and woven feyli – a cotton sarong. You can visit the islands where they’re produced, which will provide a break after the intensity of snorkeling with half of the atoll’s tourists. The dive sites won’t be as crowded.

Other attractions

Snorkeling with whale sharks is one of the atoll’s popular activities, but it may feel like a piranha frenzy. Ask your resort/divemaster about the best place to see them. A more relaxing way to spend your time is to take a traditional dhoni to the islands and watch how the lacquered handicrafts are produced. On the way back, you can stop at an uninhabited island and reflect upon the feeling of solitude. In the evening, explore the corals during a night dive. Or you can relax on the beach before learning how to surf in the afternoon. Feeling tired but exhilarated, watch the sunset as the sand between your toes starts to cool.

Getting there

Male Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is well served by direct charter flights from Western Europe, but direct scheduled flights are rarer – it may require a lay-over in the Middle East first.

The transfer to Baa Atoll will take 40 minutes by seaplane.

UTC+05:00

Time zone

MVR

Currency

+960

Calling code

230 V

Electric volt

C, 

D, 

G, 

J, 

K, 

L

Plug type

MLE

Main airport
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