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 a low-lying nation with dreamy white sand 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 soft corals clinging to the rock sides.
Inside the atoll lagoons, rock pinnacles – thila – rise up from the depths 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, with giant turtle and whale shark sightings common. With a welcoming culture and some of the finest liveaboard and luxury resorts on the globe, a dive holiday in the Maldives makes for an unforgettable experience.
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Addu Atoll is the most southern atoll in the Maldives and offers unique, gorgeous surroundings and wonderful diving as well as endemic wildlife and an abundance of coconut palms due to the unique top…
Home to some of the Maldives’ best dive sites, the Ari Atoll’s clear blue waters are packed with pelagic species. This accessible atoll is the perfect choice for divers visiting the island nation.
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.
Dhaalu Atoll’s wide channels are suitable for beginners. Advanced divers can explore the deeper caves. Expect drop-offs, stunning anemone corals, moray eels, mobula rays and colorful gobies.
Faafu’s diving is suited to all levels, and two wrecks are on a resort’s house reef. The unspoiled reefs, stimulating channel dives, and frequent manta sightings make this a perfect atoll.
Fuvahmulah Atoll, located in the Maldives’ far south, is a unique and uncharted adventure that promises pristine reefs, oceanic mantas and rare sharks – tiger sharks, thresher sharks, scalloped hamme…
Haa Alif’s wide and shallower channels are ideal for beginners, but have greater depths for advanced divers. Expect vibrant corals, diverse marine life, mantas at the cleaning stations and a wreck.
Huvadhoo Atoll has scuba for beginners and advanced divers in the Maldives’ far south. The corals are pristine, and sharks patrol the exhilarating channels. Tiger and whale sharks can also be seen.
Ihavandhippolhu Atoll offers unchartered diving in its wide channels, and advanced divers can explore new sites. Expect vibrant coral, diverse marine life and mantas at the cleaning stations.
Laamu Atoll’s scuba is suited to beginners as well as advanced divers. Mantas are common in its channels, and Buddhist ruins can be found on Gan - which also has 4 miles (7km) of beach.
The Lhaviyani Atoll has wall, channel, reef and wreck diving for beginners and advanced divers. You'll see diverse marine life, colorful coral, guitar sharks and mantas.
Meemu Atoll’s sheltered inner reefs are ideal for beginners. Advanced divers can enjoy the deeper reefs and exhilarating drift dives in the channels. You'll see pretty corals, mantas and reef sharks.
Noonu Atoll’s scuba is suited to intermediate and advanced divers, but beginners can progress too. Drift dive the channels, meet grey reef sharks, and explore a Christmas tree shaped pinnacle.
With easy access from Male and the country’s best coral reefs, there is good reason why the North Male Atoll is the most visited region in the Maldives. Diving doesn’t get much better.
Raa Atoll’s scuba is popular for its unspoiled thilas (submerged islands) and is suitable for beginners and advanced divers. Expect pink soft corals, turtles, Napoleon wrasses, reef sharks and mantas.
Quieter than its sister to the north, the South Male Atoll is dotted with lush emerald isles in crystal clear oceans. It features a plethora of dive sites with caves, wrecks and wicked drifts.
Thaa Atoll’s diving caters to both beginners and advanced levels. Some dives have strong currents but this brings in the pelagic. Expect large reefs, coral gardens, steep walls and overhangs.
The Vaavu atoll has superb channel diving for beginners and advanced levels. The corals are vibrant, and you might see mantas, hammerheads and whale sharks.
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.
The Maldives is one of the best places in the world to spot manta rays and whale sharks; this should be more than enough to convince anyone to travel there, but there is more. Reef sharks including whitetip and grey reef are quite common, together with big tunas, Napoleon fish, eagle and stingrays. Big schools of jackfish patrol the reefs, with morays and turtles also very common. The reef enjoys both soft and hard colorful corals, plus tons of little fishes, nudibranchs and worms.
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Velana International Airport is located on Hulhule Island in North Male Atoll, near the capital island Male. International travellers will need to fly into Velana International Airport as it's the only airport in the Maldives that receives international flights from multiple destinations. Many carriers offer direct flights to Velana International Airport, although bear in mind that schedules may change during peak season. Hanimaadhoo International Airport on Haa Dhaalu Atoll has direct flights to Thiruvananthapuram in India, while Gan International Airport on the island of Gan in Addu Atoll has a direct flight to Colombo in Sri Lanka.