The South Male Atoll (also known as the Kaafu Atoll) is much quieter than its northern sister, the North Male Atoll. With 22 islands, of which 3 are inhabited and 16 are resort islands, this atoll is easily accessible from the international airport. Strings of lush emerald isles give way to popular dive sites featuring deep channels with wild drifts, caves and interesting wrecks.
The atoll’s tropical climate has average temperatures between 86°F (30° C) and 90°F (32° C). The water temperature ranges from 79 - 84°F (26 - 29°C). Diving can vary quite drastically from season to season. From December until late May, dry weather and calm seas arrive during the northeast monsoon. Late May until July bring the southwest monsoon and the worst diving of the year. From August until October, the southwest monsoon continues but weakens. There is still a higher chance of rain and choppy seas, but visibility improves. November is a transitional month that brings heavy currents. Liveaboards depart from November to May and all dive shops operate during this season. If you wish to dive outside of the northeast monsoon, confirm with your resort or guesthouse that dive shops on the island are open.
The South Male Atoll is the capital of the Maldives’ independent travel scene. The area’s 3 inhabited islands and 16 resort islands host a variety of accommodation options, but Maafushi steals the show. It is here that most independent travelers find themselves and deals are available that are unheard of in other parts of the island nation. The South Male Atoll is sought after by a variety of tourists for its affordability and accessibility from the international airport. It is also a popular destination for liveaboards that travel between the Kaafu and Ari Atoll.
In high season (November to May), the dive sites in the South Male Atoll may be crowded with divers due to the fact that most are located in a small area on the east side of the atoll. During low season (June to November), some of the best prices in the Maldives are offered by both hotels and dive shops. If you are visiting from May until July, make sure the dive shop on your island will be operating. Many liveaboards will migrate to another atoll during these months.
The South Male Atoll may be the only place in the Maldives where diving is not the main attraction. There are plenty of resorts and inhabited islands to keep you busy during your stay. Diving shouldn’t be the only thing you enjoy here.
If you are staying on a resort island, take some time to relax on white sand beaches, enjoy a spa day or snorkel your resort’s house reef.
Maafushi and Guraidhoo provide most of the independent accommodation on the island and excursions are plentiful. Take a tour to a deserted sand bank where you can sunbathe in your bikini or snorkel around the surrounding reef. In the evenings, enjoy the sunset while dining on fresh seafood. Alternatively, explore the sandbanks around the islands. You might even be able to walk to another nearby island during low tide.
But if you spend all day reviewing your amazing logs and dreaming of your next dive, that’s a good plan, too.
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.
To transfer from Male to the South Male Atoll, you can take the local ferry (about 1 hour 45 minutes), a speed boat (45 minutes) or a seaplane (20 minutes).