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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.

Diving in South Malé Atoll

Quick facts

Featuring wild drifts in deep channels, wrecks and caves, the South Male Atoll is home to large pelagics and interesting environs. On the eastern side, there are six channels that feed all sorts of marine life into the atoll’s dive sites. While reef life isn’t as complete here as in nearby Ari or North Male, divers still flock to the area for its challenging elements and sizeable fish.

Cocoa Thila, often cited as one of the best dive sites in the Maldives, is a large pinnacle on the eastern edge of the atoll. Here divers can shelter themselves in the overhangs and ravines in order to escape the strong currents. It is these currents that bring in all manner of marine life. Sightings in the area include schools of fusiliers, sweetlips, red snapper, trevally, eagle rays, white sharks and grey sharks.

Vadhoo Caves, on the northern side of the atoll, is home to a series of caves in which to escape the powerful current. When you explore this area, you will see the variety of life that call the caves home, including unicornfish, turtles and soldierfish. As you gaze out into the blue, you might glimpse reef sharks, eagle rays or tuna frollicking in the current. At the end of the dive, enjoy the colorful table reef before battling the current during your safety stop.

While these may be two of the best dive sites in the area, there are plenty more to explore. Expect to find something for everyone although most of the sites cater to intermediate and advanced divers.

When to go

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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What to see

Most of the marine life in the South Male Atoll is of the larger variety due to the strong currents that favor the area. It is here that divers spot eagle rays, turtles, grey sharks, reef sharks, mantas, whale sharks, schools of fusiliers, barracuda, trevally and even hammerhead sharks (from May to November).

Of course, smaller marine life also exists, especially in the interior of the atoll. To the delight of divers, anemones, shrimp, lionfish, squirrelfish, soldierfish, unicorn fish, morays and batfish are commonly spotted.

Wherever you dive, the wild ride known as the South Male Atoll is sure to give you at least one “wow” moment.

Calendar

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Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Area

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.

Other attractions

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.

Getting there

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).

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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