Hundreds of tiny remote islets and pinnacles make the Maldives the perfect place to see mantas, whale sharks and hammerhead sharks.
The string of tropical islands that make up the Maldives sit in the Indian Ocean, perched on coral atolls. The atolls of the Maldives are home to hundreds of small islands, often isolated and with tiny resorts on them. It is possible to island hop by sea plane but many areas are only accessible by diving cruise. Most diving liveaboard itineraries in the Maldives are around 7-10 days.
There are various options depending on your budget and taste. The MV Ari Queen and MV Stingray are perfect if you are on a budget but still want the home comforts like an ensuite shower. For those who have a non-diving partner, the Scubaspa Ying and Scubaspa Yang offer a day at the on-board spa for them while you are diving. If a peaceful sailboat liveaboard is more to your taste, then the Nautilus II is a great choice for heading out to Ari Atoll. The MV Orion is another option for sailing, this boat has an excellent reputation for on-board service. For those in search of complete luxury there is the Blue Force One which offers spacious cabins with a Jacuzzi in the master suite.
The Maldives is well known amongst divers for its amazing waters and the sheer amount of big marine life that can be found here. Most more experienced divers head for the thilas or underwater pinnacles and channels near the atolls. These areas are caked in coral and home to huge shoals of fish like barracuda and snapper and black and white tipped reef sharks. Nurse sharks and marbled stingrays are also common sights on the reefs, the nurse sharks here can grow to be surprisingly large.
The atolls also act as cleaning stations for the bigger fish with mantas frequently seen over the reef waiting for cleaner wrasse to come. Hammerheads and whale sharks are also found in the Maldives but these are more likely to be spotted just out from the atoll in deeper waters. There are smaller pelagics around as well, tuna and eagle rays can be seen on many of the reefs looking for food. Those who go even further afield can head out to the Kandus, passages between the open sea and the insides of the atolls. These are normally drift dives where deeper water and heavy currents bring even more big life for divers to see.
BEST TIME TO GO
January to May
The best time to go to the Maldives is January to May during the North East monsoon, when the sea conditions are good and plankton rich current brings mantas and whale sharks to the atolls. In June to November the winds change and bring slightly rougher sea conditions and rain to the Maldives. The monsoon direction does affect the weather during this time but there is still a lot of big life around. Fortunately, the water temperature barely changes with the seasons and sits at a balmy 80-86° F (27-30° C) most of the year.
Most diving liveaboards in the Maldives depart from the port of Hulhule Island which is on the same island as Male International Airport. This means that there is no need to take the ferry from Hulhule to Male city, unless you are needing an onwards flight to a more remote departure point for the outer atolls. Most dive cruises in the Maldives offer free transfer from the airport to the departure port, although some make an additional charge for this service.