Scuba Diving around the Maldives has recently become hugely popular among the diving community. The hundreds of isolated and deserted Islands offer an enormous playground for divers to explore.
Between the Islands, there are channels connecting the Indian Ocean to the Lagoons. This water coming from the ocean is full of plankton and nutrients which, in turn, attracts an incredible marine life. The coral is beautiful in Maldives but what makes it so special is the high density of marine life!
You are likely to be able to spot Eagle Rays, Napoleon Wrasses, lots of pelagic fishes such as the Giant Trevally or the Barracuda, the magnificent Manta Rays and the very rare Whale Shark!
You will also encounter the Whitetip and the Grey Reef Shark, and if you are very lucky the rare Hammerhead Shark! The best location for big pelagic fishes is called the Ari Atoll and most of the liveaboards visit it.
Inside the lagoon, the shallow water has a teeming fish life with myriads of reef fishes and bright, colourful coral gardens.
The water is very clear around Maldives and you can expect a visibility ranging from 20 to 40 meters. That combined with the amazing marine life, makes Maldives an excellent destination for Underwater Photography.
Discover more HD Videos on Scuba Diving on YouDive.TV .
Most of the dives are drift dives, making it more suitable for experienced divers. However there are also very good dive sites in the lagoon for beginner divers too.
In this page you will find more detailed information about scuba diving in Maldives.
Best Dive Review
The Maldives is not really a destination for critters lovers and macro photography. However you can still encounter Frog fishes and colourful Nudibranchs.
If you are looking for amazing Macro Diving Destinations, try Lembeh Strait or Wakatobi in Indonesia and Mabul Island in Malaysia.
Maldives offers very few wrecks and not very spectacular so it is not really the right destination if you are a wreck fan! Better try the Yongala Wreck in Australia or the Liberty Ship in Bali, Indonesia!
How to dive Maldives?
There are two ways to dive the Maldives:
I usually use this website to book in advance my liveaboards in the Maldives as they usually have the lowest rates I find. I like it because they have an easy booking system.
If you come to Maldives especially for diving, a liveaboard cruise is the best choice. It will allow you to dive all of the best sites and discover the best of what the Islands have to offer. If you want to spot Manta Rays and Whale Sharks, this is your best chance of doing so.
A Liveaboard trip can also be cheaper than an expensive resort as the diving packages are all inclusive. A typical liveaboard trip starts in the capital, Male. From there you will head to various locations around the 1,190 surrounding islands!
As an example, you could explore South Male, North Male or Ari Atoll which is the best place for big fishes, Manta Rays and Whale Sharks!
- Book your trip well in advance as the Liveaboards are often full!
If you come to Maldives to relax and just to have a few fun dives in your own, the best choice is to book into a resort. You will dive at local dive sites where you can explore the lagoon and shallow coral gardens. You will have the choice between 100 different resorts, from very basic to very luxurious accommodation. Some of the resorts are even dedicated purely to diving.
Where to stay?
I usually use this website to book in advance my hotels in Maldives as they usually have the lowest rates I find. I like it because it's free to cancel and change the dates.
Best time to dive in Maldives
It is possible to dive in the Maldives all year round:
- The Wet Season with rain, winds and waves runs from May to August reducing the visibility, but diving is still good. It is usually heavy short rains followed by sunshine
- The Best visibility and dry weather is from December to March
- The Hottest season is from April to June
- The High Plankton density in May reduces visibility but does attract Manta Rays and Whale Sharks!
The best season for scuba diving is from January to April with very good visibility and excellent sea conditions.
Most of the Liveaboards operate from November to May.
Top liveaboards in Maldives according to divers reviews
Scuba Diving conditions
The conditions are generally good all the year around Maldives.
Air temperature: 26°C to 32°C year round.
Average Water temperature: Ranges from 27°C to 30°C year round
Average Visibility: You can expect from 15m to 40m depending on the season and location. The visibility is not as good during the rainy season (May to August).
Current: Depends a lot on tide and location, ranges from none in the lagoon to very strong in the channels.
Depth: From 5m to 40m. The coral reef is shallow and most of the dive sites are between 10 and 20 meters deep.
Snorkelling in Maldives
The Maldives is great for Snorkelling! There is a shallow coral garden wherever you stay to snorkel in front of your resort. They can also arrange for you snorkelling tours to take you to the best spots around the Island. You even have the chance to spot baby harmless Blacktip Reef Sharks while snorkelling!
If you are planning an upcoming dive trip or travelling to Maldives, it is a really good idea to invest in travel insurance for scuba diving, because you never know what could happen and when you might need it (because accidents do happen!). I recommend this diving insurance as they offer worldwide coverage and focus on providing scuba divers a quality insurance and medical assistance service.
Review by Julien, creator ofBlog de Plongee
Whitetip Moving Fast
Photo by Jihye Lee
School Southern Sennets
Photo by Matthieu Billaud
Divers Entering Arch
Photo by Matthieu Billaud
Triggerfish Ready To Defend Its Family
Photo by Matthieu Billaud
Black Spotted White Eel
Photo by Jihye Lee
Manta Ray Closeby
Photo by Matthieu Billaud
Angel Fish Maldives French Polynesia
Photo by Matthieu Billaud
Photo by Matthieu Billaud
Photo by Matthieu Billaud
Diving Boat Liveaboard
Photo by Matthieu Billaud
Now that you know all about the underwater world, you might want to start planning your scuba holiday! Check out our Maldives Travel Review for information about how to get there, activities and excursions, where to stay, and more.
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Diving centers in Maldives
Diving Ari Atoll, Maldives: Best Dives Maldives - Book online
We are happy to introduce us to all the guests. We are the specialists that are running PADI Scuba Dive Centers and VDWS Water Sports Centers; organize Traditional Maldivian Fishing excursions, Big Game Fishing, Private Boat Charters and much more in the Republic of Maldives.
Our business originated from Bolifushi Island Resort of the South Male Atoll in 2003. We changed the name to Best Dives Maldives in 2009 and now are pleased to announce to you that we operate at this moment Dive & Water Sports Centers at five luxury resorts in Maldives.
All our Best Dives Maldives Dive Centers are a PADI Dive Center based in the Republic of Maldives. We offer a full range of PADI courses including the PADI Open Water Diver Course. This is the world’s most popular scuba diving course, and has introduced millions of people to the adventurous diving lifestyle.
The Best Dives Maldives Water Sports Centers are member from VDWS and offers a wide variety on Wind –and Power sports. Our VDWS certified instructors can train you in all kind of wind sports and you can even get an international acknowledged license.
Best Dives Maldives also organizes very exciting excursions such as Snorkeling, Local Island visits, Sunset Cruise, Traditional Maldivian Sunset Fishing and Big Game Fishing.
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COVID-19 may impact your dive travel plans. Wherever you want to go, we’re here to help. You’ll find our latest advice here.
With over a thousand islands surrounded by cobalt-blue water and dazzling fringing reefs, it’s no surprise that scuba diving is one of the Maldives’ top attractions. And with so many exceptional dive resorts - all offering that blend of adventure and sublime five-star relaxation that the Maldives is so famous for - you’re spoilt for choice.
To help you decide where to stay, we’ve tested thilas and dived from dhonis across the atolls - and come up with a handful of our all-time favourites.
Read on to discover the best dive resorts in the Maldives.
Kuredu Island Resort and Spa, Lhaviyani Atoll
This exclusive and wonderfully luxurious adult-orientated resort blends effortlessly with its stunning natural surroundings. Adaaran Prestige’s dive centre, run by Dive Point, specialise in delivering concierge dive services and unique underwater memories exploring the best sites in Raa Atoll. Guests will enjoy first-class diving facilities, top of the line equipment and sensational extras such as free nitrox and private photography sessions.
Located alongside partner resort Adaaran Select Meedhupparu, guests have access to several different house reefs for truly unlimited exploration. Or, they can make the most of scheduled boat trips to the atoll’s best sites, known for rip-roaring channels and vibrant pinnacles – what more could you ask for?
- Great for: Expansive colourful house reef, superb concierge-style dive service.
- Best time to visit: The northeast monsoon, between January and April, offers the best weather.
Amilla Fushi, Baa Atoll
Boasting swathes of untouched jungle and plenty of space to spread out and explore, Amilla Fushi is the ultimate tropical island getaway. In fact, you might just go a whole day without seeing another guest! Lying in the middle of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve this stunning resort offers direct access to some of the world’s most unbeatable marine experiences.
Baa Atoll is justifiably famous for huge seasonal congregations of manta rays and whale sharks at Hanifaru Bay. Conveniently, Amilla Fushi is situated just minutes away from this exceptional destination - not to mention other renowned dive sites such as The Blue Hole – making it one of the best scuba diving resorts in the Maldives.
- Great for: Direct access to world-famous Hanifaru Bay within the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
- Best time to visit: The northeast monsoon, between January and April, offers fantastic weather. But, for the best chances of encountering manta congregations, visit between July and October, particularly around the full or new moon.
Finolhu, Baa Atoll
We simply couldn’t talk about Baa Atoll without giving an honorary mention to Finolhu. Stretching across four islands with vast sprawling beaches, this spectacular resort pampers divers with five-star service and unparalleled experiences. An opportunity not to be missed!
- Great for: Direct access to a pristine UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, first-class luxury service.
- Best time to visit: The northeast monsoon, between January and April offers fantastic weather. But, for the best chances of encountering manta congregations, visit between July and October, particularly around the full or new moon.
Angsana Ihuru, North Male Atoll
Set on an idyllic private island, surrounded by white sand beaches and a peaceful blue lagoon, this eco-friendly resort offers truly exceptional luxury getaways. And, with the famous Rannamaari Wreck on the house reef, just steps from the beachfront villas, Angsana Ihuru is a haven for keen divers. But that’s not all, the house reef is also a great spot to encounter nurse and reef sharks, stingrays and turtles!
As well as the exceptional diving, guests at Angsana Ihuru can also take part in conservation activities at the resort’s unique marine centre. Join in research projects with the resident marine biologists and help care for turtles, seabirds and coral reefs!
- Great for: Excellent wreck dive on the house reef, unique conservation activities with the in-house marine centre.
- Best time to visit: The northeast monsoon, between January and April, offers the best weather. But, if you’re looking for manta rays, visit between June and September.
OBLU Helengeli, North Male Atoll
Another honorary mention goes out to OBLU Helengeli, a genuine island paradise offering luxury getaways with a twist. This wonderful resort boasts loads of modern diving facilities and highly-tailored experiences on North Male’s best dive sites.
- Great for: Customisable diving services and modern professional facilities.
- Best time to visit: Between January to April offers the best weather, but, for manta rays, visit between June and September.
Sun Siyam Olhuveli, South Male Atoll
Sun Siyam Olhuveli and Spa offers the ultimate blend of luxury and adventure in a family-friendly setting. The on-site SSI Diamond Instructor Training Centre - Sun Siyam Diving - is fully-equipped to serve even the most experienced of divers with tech-friendly facilities including sidemount and rebreathers, as well as free nitrox, DPV rental and more.
Those after a spot of laid-back exploration will find plenty of opportunities to investigate Olhuveli’s two stunning house reefs. And, for the more adventurous, Sun Siyam Diving offers scheduled adventures to South Male’s thrilling channels and manta sites, including Cocoa Thila, Banana Reef, and Guraidhoo.
- Great for: Two incredible house reefs, current-swept channels and adventurous tech diving.
- Best time to visit: For the best weather, visit during the northeast monsoon. But, if you’re looking for manta rays, plan your trip during the southwest monsoon between May and October.
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Kuramathi, Rasdhoo Atoll
Perfectly located on tiny Rasdhoo Atoll, Kuramathi Resort is a beautiful boutique retreat offering luxurious eco-conscious getaways. Packed with industry-leading diving facilities, including the Maldives’ largest hyperbaric chamber, guests at Kuramathi can be confident they’re diving with the best. The dive centre offers a range of trips including regular visits to the renowned Hammerhead Point, where divers can often witness dozens of hammerheads patrolling out in the blue.
And, if that’s not enough to tempt you, Kuramathi also boasts an in-house marine biologist and Eco Centre, where guests can learn everything they want to know about the underwater world.
Great for: Expert diving facilities, year-round hammerhead encounters.
Best time to visit: Visit during the northeast monsoon, between January and April, for the best weather and greatest chance of hammerheads.
Gangehi Island Resort and Spa, North Ari Atoll
The cosy Gangehi Island Resort and Spa complements its stunning natural surroundings with a smattering of understated luxury. Whether you're up for an adrenaline-fuelled adventure or taking it easy in the tranquil lagoon, this superb dive resort will find the perfect site for you. And, with an abundance of thilas, walls, reefs and channels, you won’t have to travel too far for the experience of a lifetime.
Big-fish fanatics will be in their element during the northeast monsoon, as reef manta rays and whale sharks move in, attracted by the blooms of plankton.
- Great for: Huge variety of dive sites, impressive pelagic action.
- Best time to visit: Visit between January and April for the best weather and the chance to see mantas and whale sharks.
Mirihi, South Ari Atoll
Mirihi is easily one of the most intimate and exclusive resorts in South Ari Atoll, an area renowned for unparalleled underwater encounters. In fact, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, divers need look no further than the resort’s own house reef, considered by many to be one of the Maldives’ finest. And, with Ocean Pro’s specialist concierge-style service, you can visit South Ari’s top dive sites in total comfort.
Home to the South Ari Marine Protected Area, and the renowned Maamigili, this atoll is the place to be for whale shark encounters – delivering near-guaranteed sightings. And thanks to Mirihi’s fantastic location, guests will never be far from the ocean’s biggest fish.
- Great for: Some of the world’s most reliable whale shark encounters, one of the best house reefs in the Maldives.
- Best time to visit: Visit during the northeast monsoon, between January and April, for the best weather and conditions.
Cinnamon Velifushi, Vaavu Atoll
Set within the Maldives’ least populated atoll, yet just an hour’s speedboat ride from the airport, Cinnamon Velifushi is a small private island resort offering sublime isolation. Vaavu’s seclusion has helped maintain its pristine underwater scenery and the atoll has become renowned for current-carved channels and thrilling big-fish action.
Cinnamon Velifushi’s fantastic location provides quick and easy access to all the atoll’s best dive sites including Fotteyo Kandu, Miyaru Kandu and Alimatha Jetty. Remote adventure has never been so convenient!
Great for: Intrepid adventure in five-star luxury.
Best time to visit: Visit between January and April, during the northeast monsoon, for the best weather and conditions.
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Scuba Diving the Maldives Islands
29 September 2021
The 26 atolls (ring-shaped reefs) in the Maldives are home to 1192 islands. Tourism is strictly controlled: visitors must stay on registered tourist islands or on a liveaboad boat. There are 85 resorts in the Maldives, but not all of them cater for divers. On those that don't you should be able to dive from a neighbouring resort. Some of the best islands in the Maldives for diving include Baa Atoll, Kuramathi and Baros. It's better to go full board as everything is very expensive, including equipment hire. July and August are cheaper, but the visibility is not as good. There is one international airport in the Maldives, on Male.
Sharks on Orimas Thila (Noonu Atoll). Photo credit: Tim Nicholson.
Best time to dive the Maldives
When is the best time to dive the Maldives? You can dive all year. The rainy season is between May and November. The visibility is not as good at this time and there may be strong south-westerly winds. However, during this time fevers of manta rays congregate at Manta Point on Baros and Hanifaru Bay on Baa Atoll. The best vis is from December to April: this is high season and prices tend to be higher. During this time the wind blows from the north-east. The water temperature remains fairly constant throughout the year at an average of around 28 °C.
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During the drier season (Iruvai - December to April) the current normally runs east to west, driven by the winds. However, on spring tides at full or new moon you also get a tidal current. This runs from the west when the tide is rising and from the east when the tide is falling. So be aware that on these occasions the current can switch direction. In May, when the winds change, the weather can be rough and the currents completely unpredictable.
Diving regulations in the Maldives are strict - the maximum depth for diving is 30 meters. Make sure that you have suitable travel insurance for diving.
Maldives Sea Life
If you are lucky enough to see manta rays you can send your sightings data and images to the Manta Trust's Maldivian Manta Ray Project. The Maldives hosts the world's largest known population of reef manta rays and a large population of oceanic mantas, with over 4500 individuals and 50,000 sightings in the national database.
The Maldives contains around 3% of the world's coral reefs and the islands are considered particularly at risk of climate change because they are low-lying and threatened by sea level rises.
COVID-19 in the Maldives
The Maldives borders are open. Unvaccinated tourists need a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours of the departure of the flight. Visitors who have proof of being fully vacinated at least two weeks before travel do not need to take a PCR test. You need to fill in a Traveller Health Declaration 24 hours before you begin your journey
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into the Maldives.
Rate the Diving in the Maldives:
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The shy Longnose Hawkfish. Photo credit: Suzanne Challoner.
Dive Sites of the MaldivesMaldives Diving Operators and LiveaboardsMaldives AccommodationFurther ReadingYour Comments and ReviewsUnderwater photos of the Maldives
Diving atolls of the Maldives
"Over 60% of visitors to the Maldives participate in diving of one form or another, and 80% in snorkelling. To the best of my knowledge there is only a small handful of resorts that do not have a diving base actually on the Island and on these few your are still able to SCUBA dive in connection with neighboring resorts. During my two years there at three different resorts we had at least 30% of the guests who were certified divers and another 10 to 20% who at least tried it during their stay. Snorkellers were a bit more difficult to judge as far as percentages but I would guess at least half of the islands guests participated in such activities.
As far as cost it is comparable to diving in UK waters with Open Water course running between 150 and 350 Pounds depending of course on the grade of the Island. The cheapest being the larger resorts such as Sun Island, Male itself and Kuredu and the most expensive being the Hilton Rangali and comparable five plus star resorts. ".
Dive Sites of the Maldives
The South AtollsThe North and Central Atolls
Diving Central and North Maldives Atolls
Central Maldives incudes Male, Ari and Rasdhoo atolls whilst the north atolls drop from Haa Alifu to Baa and Lhaviyani atolls. (See the map above.)
Baa Atoll, which comprises 75 islands, has been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Biosphere reserves are sites that promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science. Baa Atoll covers an area of around 1200 km2.
Of the seven species of marine turtles in the world, five species have been recorded in the Maldives, the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and leatherback turtle (Dermachelys coriacea). Baa Atoll is the best place to see them, with most frequent sightings being of hawksbill turtles. 1
Between June and November at Hanifaru Bay on Baa Atoll you can sometimes see feeding aggregations of upwards of 150 manta rays. The reef is like a funnel and from June plankton gets trapped attracting the manta rays and whale sharks and creating the largest known feeding station. To protect the wildlife, diving is no longer allowed at Hanifaru Bay. By booking a liveaboard though, you can include fantastic snorkelling with these great beasts as well as taking advantage of the diving elsewhere.
"Kuramathi is a lovely island in Rasdhoo Atoll, just to the north of Ari Atoll in the Maldives. There is an early morning "blue water dive" which the local dive centre is careful to say will give you the CHANCE to see hammerhead sharks. Sadly, they're actually very rare, but I was lucky enough to see one. As for the blue water, well at 30 m at 6 a.m. it's more like a night dive, but apparently they're never seen later in the day. The dive centre has brilliant guides, and they really know how to handle this dive."
Lhaviyani AtollMadivanu Corner
"Strong current, large Napolean Wrasse, reef sharks, shoals of big fish, Stingrays and Eagle Rays. And the chance of an occasional manta or maybe even a hammerhead. "
"Dive in a channel, in the right period schools of Manta rays and whale sharks. "
Lhaviyani AtollKuredu Express
"Amazing dive site from the island of Kuredu in the Maldives. Lots of trigger fish soft corals, saw on two occasions large nurse shark, fast current, an exhilarating dive full of colour and beautiful selection of bright fish at 8 m - fantastic! "
Snappers on the Kuredu Express. Photo credit: Tim Nicholson
Lhaviyani AtollBiyadhoo House Reef
"White tip shark, black tip shark, sting ray, eagle ray, turtles, moray eels and fishes in big proportions."
Jen Gaskin, 2011
Lhaviyani AtollFish Head
"Big soup of fish :)"
Rasmus, Denmark, 2011
North Male AtollManta Point, Baros
Manta point is off the tiny island of Baros. Its dive centre is Dutch run. The best time of year to see the mantas is between June and November.
"We lucked out. 6 huge mantas were doing somersaults not 30 feet away from us."
Bret, USA, December 2017
"Unbelievable! Dive to about 18 m to a ledge. Then just sit there. The Manta's "fly" all around you, about 5 at any one time, some 3 m across. They are disturbed when you exhale, so you find yourself trying to hold your breath as they approach. But you have to exhale before passing out and they move away again. There is also a resident shoal of yellow fish (sorry, forgot the name) which must number tens of thousands. Once in the middle you are completely disorientated as you can see nothing but these fish! In all, an amazing experience. Have spent a month on the barrier reef, several dives in Thailand, but nothing gets close to Manta Point. "
"I dived Manta Point in November 2004. We stayed on Paradise Island which is five minutes from the dive site. I've dived all over the world but this site was amazing. The second time I dived it we had a total of 12 giant mantas circling us, swooping down to the cleaning station then shooting up to the surface. At times as they swoop down you can reach up and stroke their undersides. The currents are quite strong so you have to hold on tight but the photos I got of the Mantas were superb. If you are in the Maldives make a beeline for this site. "
"I went in June 2005 and had the most phenomenal experience when we were surrounded by over 10 mantas, of an average tsize of 2 m, for almost 30 minutes. They seem to come right at you, turn just before they hit your face. We were told they like to play with divers' bubbles. The experience made up for the poor water visibility during this time of the year. "
"I went to Lohifushi in north male atoll now known as Hudhuranfushi in 2005 and 2006 and dived Manta point 3 times each holiday. The first year we only ever had 2 mantas at any one time but the following year we had 12 mantas on dive 1, 15 on dive 2 and on the third dive had 17 mantas swimming nose to tail to the one in front. MAGIC, the best dive of my life and just glad I had my camera to catch the moment.
Going to Chaaya Lagoon in november 2009 so hope its as good. "
Paul Harris, 2009
South Male AtollKandhooma Thila
"Deep dive, 25-30m current with fantastic fish life, white tip and grey reef sharks, jackfish, barracuda, trevalies, sweetlips, stingrays and eagle rays.at its best it will take your breath away."
Stephen White, Norway, April 2018
South Male AtollGuraidhoo Corner
South Male AtollEmbudhoo Thila
"Deep dive 25-30m can be strong current, amazing fish life. Sharks, rays, jacks, batfish, baracuda, morays and clouds of banner fish, magical"
Stephen White, Norway, April 2018
" One of my most memorable dives is swimming with a whale shark Ari Atol"
Ivan Maddocks, 14 January 2017>
"A one km long rock with plenty of soft coral and all kinds of reef fishes. In the winter you can often see a lot of big manta rays. A difficult dive with strong currents and visibility not always good. You need to reach the bottom very quickly...a small group of divers is suggested. "
Kuda rah thila is the first protected marine area in the Maldives. A small underwater pinnacle covered with snappers, fusiliers, white tip reef sharks, trevally, bannerfish. Huge overhangs cover both sides of the thila and a small swim through can be found at the east side. Encouters with pelactics are always possible."
Dennis Kaandorp, 2008
North Ari AtollFesdhoo Lagoon
This is the place to see manta rays. At night the boats moor up and shine lights into the water to attract first the plankton and then the manta rays.
South Ari AtollMaaya Thila
South Ari Atoll7th Heaven
"Deep thila in the South Ari Atoll in the Digurah channel. The most perfect site covered in soft corals. Blue, yellow, pink, orange.. all can be found here. A true advanced dive site due to strong current. Fish all around and mantas swim over your head. "
Dennis Kaandorp, 2008
South Ari AtollVilamendhoo
"The diving on this island is operated by Werner Lau, and they have good, safe staff. They make all divers do 2 basic skills before they are allowed to dive - namely retrieving their regulator and removing and clearing their mask. You'd be surprised how many qualified divers did not want to do this! You can do shore dives around the island, in and out at well marked exit points. Alternatively you can do boat dives, for which there is a US$ 10 charge per boat trip. Two boats go out each day - one for novices, and a second boat for anyone who has more than 40 logged dives and choses to visit a site that is a little more advanced. All dives are guided and good briefings are given. The dive boats can get a little crowded, but still not to the point ot being cattle trucks. The majority of guests on Vilamendhoo are British, German or Japanese. We were lucky, we saw whale sharks and snorkelled with them, plus we did some pretty decent boat dives: some in strong currents which did bring out the larger fish. However, the shore diving was a little disappointing - a large amount of the coral is dead/bleached, which was initially quite shocking to see, although this does not seem to have affected the population of reef fish - as there are plenty, which brings life to the place and colour. The resort itself is ok, not really a party place, there were a few families etc. I'd recommend it. "
South Ari AtollManta Point
"Just the best night dive I've ever done. "
Cesc, August 2018
"up to 20 mantas dancing round you for an hour ..."
Toby Farnell, 2010
Squid and Mantas - Night Diving in the Maldives
"Dived the Maldive Victory in November 2005 and it was one of the most challenging dives that me and the wife have ever done. There was a 4 knot current and the boat crew had to make a noose for us to hold as we jumped in and then they dragged us to the guide line otherwise we would have been swept away. On descending if we turned to face the way the current was running it tried to pull our mask and regs off.
It's one dive I would love to do again but in calmer seas."
Diving the Maldives Deep South
Most Maldives liveaboards visit the Central Atolls of the Maldives. What if you want to be different and explore the diving deeper in the south? The true southern pearls are the Huvadhoo, Fuvahmulah and Addu atolls. So, what makes the deep South special? The further south the fewer people. There are more unspoiled healthy corals and the environment is a little wilder.
When to dive the Deep South Maldives?
The best time to go is from February to April, because there is little wind during these months. As the south atolls are so lost in an open ocean, the channels are wider and calm weather is crucial when it comes to diving.
International flights go to Male. You may have to take a local flight if the port of departure is elsewhere. Another option is an extended trip – departing from Male.
Choosing a Deep South Liveaboard
There are not many liveaboards operating in the deep south, and the season is short, so it is well to book well in advance. These boats all visit the south Maldives: Scubaspa Yang, Blue Force I, Emperor Leo, Emperor Virgo, Manta Cruise, Duke of York and Carpe Novo.
Huvadhoo AtollNilandhoo Kandu
Huvadhoo - the largest atoll in the south - is known for beautiful channels full of life. You might see hammerheads and silky sharks during the morning dives, and welcome huge whale sharks under your liveaboard at night.
"A Channel dive with strong currents. Lots of Pelagics. 20-25 grey reef sharks, lots of white tip sharks and 6-7 eagle rays, Napoleons, Trevallys etc. "
Kristian, (Denmark), 2011
Addu Atoll is the southern spot of the Maldives. The atoll itself is sufficiently developed, but not crowded by divers. Besides the channels, thilas (underwater islands) and coral walls, Addu is the most famous for diving with mantas.
Fuvahhmulah is a tiny atoll in the heart of the ocean. There are not many dive sites, but you have an extremely high chance of seeing large, pelagic fish. Divers often report thresher sharks, mola mola and tiger sharks. It is also known as Foahmulah or Formullah. See above for liveaboards that visit Fuvahmula
This ledge in the southern hemisphere is Grand Central Station for oceanic sharks. Though quite deep - it feels like diving in the blue - diving can be interesting even if you stay shallow. In 3 dives we saw a whale shark, 3-4 great hammerheads, 50-70 silver tips sharks, 4-7 tiger sharks and 1 thresher shark. The penetration at this site is like nothing else in the world."
Amisha Gupta, May 2017
Maldives Diving Operators and Liveaboards
LiveaboardCarpe Novo Maldives
Carpe Novo is the most recently launched Carpe Diem Fleet boat. Built in 2016 this is the third boat of the fleet which was awarded "Leading liveaboard brand of the year" in both 2016 and 2015. The Carpe Novo is bigger than the Carpe Diem and even slightly bigger than the Carpe Vita, catering for a maximum of 21 people in 11 cabins divided over 3 decks.More…
Carpe Novo Maldives Pvt. Ltd.
H. Coal Field 1st floor/B
Kalhuhuraa Magu, 20085
E-mail: [email protected]
"We went on the Carpe Novo. This is the newest boat and it was awesome. Great food, great crew. Loved the boat. There is no diving off the boat itself. A smaller dive boat follows the larger and all diving is done from this. It was nice knowing there was a good sized lifeboat at the ready."
Bret, USA, December 2017
Read more about Carpe Novo
LiveaboardCarpe Diem Maldives
Carpe Diem has 10 cabins spread out over three decks and can accommodate up to 20 guests. Offers year round dive diving at some of the best dive sites in the Maldives. The experienced dive staff show divers everything from pelagics like mantas, sharks and whale sharks to tiny shrimps, nudibranchs and ghost pipe fishes. Most dive itineraries include stops at Kudarah Thila, Manta Point, Maaya Thila, Fish Head and the Machafushi wreck. More…
Carpe Diem Maldives Pvt. Ltd.
H. Coal Field 1st floor/B
Kalhuhuraa Magu, 20085
E-mail: [email protected]
"I was on a fantastic liveaboard with Carpe Diem"
Mary Grice, September 2015
Read more about Carpe Diem
Diving in the central and southern Maldives including North & South Ari, South Male, Vaavu, North Male and the "wild south". Internet and free nitrox. Can accommodate 24 divers in 12 cabins. Read More…
Lets Go Maldives Pvt. Ltd.
1st Floor / Lets Go Tower
"MY Anastasia - the best and cheapest way to dive in Maldives. The Anastasia is a magnificent cruise yacht designed for the ultimate liveaboard safari experience in the Maldives. Its remarkable design and amenities combined with an excellent crew promises a unique Maldivian experience basked in comfort, breezing with luxury and professional diving experience, in the trusted hands of professionalism and reliability. "
Lets Go Maldives Pvt. Ltd., 22 August 2012
LiveaboardIsland Safari 1
"The crew was great and I would definitely dive with them again. "
Jannie C, Washington DC
LiveaboardSubmaldives Pvt. Ltd.
Republic of Maldives
Tel: +960 791 7953
E-mail: [email protected]
Operate Dive Safaris in the Maldives with 4 boats, including one luxury Cruise of 47 meters.
Book Maldives Liveaboards - Best price guarantee.
Diving PackagesDive Club Maldives Pvt. Ltd
H. Sunaaru (Ground Floor)
Dive Club Maldives offers affordable dive packages for Male' region, Ari Atoll and Laamu Atoll.
Dive Club Maldives Pvt. Ltd. is a registered local company in the Maldives. The company's main focus is on diver training, recreational scuba diving and water sports related activities for an affordable price in the Maldives. The company holds Dive Center Operating License issued by the Ministry of tourism and a PADI International Resort & Retailers Association (IRRA) membership. This membership entitles the company to a PADI 5 Star Dive Resort status. The company operates out of a fully functional diving facility based in Hulhumale, Ukulhas island and Laamu Atoll with an operational capacity to support up to 30 divers.
Northern Maldives > Haa Alifu AtollManafaru
"The resort is 5*+ and so is the dive school and it's staff. Been there July 2009."
South-East Ari Atoll > VilamendhooWerner Lau Vilamendhoo
Male Atoll > VillingiliDivers Lodge Maldives
Divers Lodge Maldives
Island of Villingili
Republic of Maldives
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel or sms (+960)7784264 and (+960) 7782232
" Located in the small Island of Villingili, an 8 minute ferry ride from the Capital Male. This dive school is in easy access for the tourists and expatriates who stay on the Capital Island. We offer dive courses and boat dives to the most famous dive spots around, including the Manta point and wrecks."
Divers Lodge Maldives, 2012
South Male Atoll > GulhiAdventure Diving
South Male Atoll
Tel: +961 9 714 970
"The resort is 5*+ and so is the dive school and it's staff. Been there July 2009.Enthusiastic, energetic, knowledgeable, helpful, a great guy. The dive center can arrange accommodation on the island for 45US pr night, he can also arrange transfer from Male airport. Boat can be arranged according to group size. Normally only small groups. A package price can be agreed according to how many dives you wish to make. Operates from a small local island called Gulhi. Very few tourists and a lovely beach."
Stephen White, Norway, 2018
South Male AtollManta Divers
South Male Atoll
Tel: +960 784 3706
Manta Divers offer all PADI courses and individual fun dives. The dive centre is located in the South Male Atoll, Guraidhoo. We combine experience, passion and fun surrounded by a fantastic underwater scenery bursting with an amazing marine life, while not compromising on any safety standards.
South Male AtollManta Divers
South Male Atoll
Tel: +960 784 3706
Manta Divers offer all PADI courses and individual fun dives. The dive centre is located in the South Male Atoll, Guraidhoo. We combine experience, passion and fun surrounded by a fantastic underwater scenery bursting with an amazing marine life, while not compromising on any safety standards.
Addu Atoll, Deep SouthAquaventure Dive Center
Aquaventure Dive Center � PADI 5STAR
Addu City / Addu Atoll
Tel: +960 777 4310
Fuvahmulah, Deep SouthFuvahmulah Scuba Club
- Maldives (Lonely Planet Country Guides)
- by Tom Masters. In a range of formats - paperback, e-book, bundle or individual chapters.
- The Maldive Mystery
- by Thor Heyerdahl, 320 pages, 1988
Thor Heyerdahl's account of the culture of ancient Maldives.
- Coral Reef Fishes, Indo-Pacific and Caribbean
- by Ewald Lieske and Robert Myers, Harper Collins, 400 Pages, Paperback
An excellent, comprehensive guide to reef fishes, which is small and light enough to pack regardless of amount of diving equipment. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to identify the fish they see whilst diving the tropics.
Read the full review...
Your Comments and Reviews
Please send us your comments on the Maldives. Do you want to recommend a diving centre or dive site? Let us know. If you own a dive centre get yourself added.1Review of the Status of Marine Turtles in the Maldives - 2016, Marine Research Centre
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SCUBA DIVING IN THE Maldives
Check here for the latest travel advisory to the Maldives in the light of the current coronavirus outbreak.
Maldives Diving Highlights
With clear blue water, white sand beaches, and great visibility, the Maldives is an idyllic scuba diving paradise. During a diving trip to the Maldives, you may see manta rays, whale sharks, reef sharks, soft & hard corals and much more. The Maldives is also known for its great assortment of dive resorts and liveaboards for all kinds of budgets, from budget to high-end.
Interested in diving Maldives? View the live availability of some of the best liveaboards in the Maldives and book online at the best price or check out our sidebar for land-based options!
Where is the Maldives?
Lying 400 miles southwest of India, the Maldives is an island nation of 26 natural coral atolls (over 1,000 islands) spread over nearly 35,000 square miles.
Even though it is 26 natural coral atolls, for the purpose of administration the Maldives is divided into 19 atolls (areas) and they are marked as being 19 atolls. So someone looking through a map would find 19 zones.
Topside, the Maldives offer some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see in your life. More than 95 % of Maldives consists of the sea. It is also one of the lowest nations in the world, and is in danger of being submerged one day due to rising sea levels
View Location on Google Map
Marine Life in the Maldives
The Maldives offers some great reefs and marine life and is known for currents, wide-angle photography and plentiful pelagics such as mantas, reef sharks and whale sharks. Visibility early in the year can be outstanding, well over 100ft.
Hanifaru Bay, in the Baa Atoll, has manta rays and whale sharks during the middle and the end of the South West Monsoon which runs from April to November. And during this period, it is only during few times that mass feeding events occur in the Bay Area when plankton has accumulated to a certain extent. Many people think it is there all the time, but it is not.
Check out diving the Similan Islands for another great liveaboard destination featuring manta rays.
Watch this 40-minute webinar to learn more about the Maldives, it's marine life, and one of the great liveaboard options, the MV Carpe Vita, to see if this destination is right for you!
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MALDIVES Marine Life & Photography Subjects
The Maldives offers blue water early in the year - perfect for wide-angle photography. While is there is some macro life here, I would think of Maldives as mainly a "wide-angle" place to see coral, whale sharks, mantas, eagle rays, and schools of fish. There has been some coral bleaching in the shallow reefs.
While the reefs and channels provide a great diversity of marine life, Hanifaru Bay, while allows snorkeling only, is the go-to place for mantas and whale sharks. We're talking dozens and dozens of huge manta rays feeding - up to 200 mantas at a time. You’re also likely to encounter whale sharks, opening their huge mouths and gulping in food. Still, underwater photography cannot properly capture the beauty of the marine life here; you need to use underwater video.
Many dive sites have napoleon wrasse, barracuda, reef sharks including gray reef, whitetip and blacktip, spotted eagle rays, large marbled rays, trevally and tuna. The current will help bring out more of these larger animals.
Some atolls can also produce hammerhead sharks, although this is only at very specific dive sites.
For sites like Hanifaru Bay, shoot wide. Use a fisheye lens like the Tokina 10-17mm, or a rectilinear lens in the 10-20mm range. Take video. Even better, take wide video with a fisheye lens. Leave your macro lenses at home.
If you are at a Manta cleaning station, never chase or charge the manta rays - it won't work. Wait for them to come to you. Don't rise up to their level.
Interested in sharks? You might want to check out shark cage diving. Read more about the best places to do that here.
Maldives Underwater Video from North Ari Atoll
Maldives Dive Environments
The Maldives offer several different dive environments, some of which include:
- Faru: A faru is one of the Maldivian names for a reef. This could be the outer reef of the atolls and the reefs of islands.
- Giri: A giri is a circular reef in which the top reaches the surface, particularly in low tide. Giris can be found inside the atoll and inside large lagoons as well. These places offer a variety of marine life and often is good for novice divers.
- Thila: is also much like a Giri, but it’s further below the surface - basically a seamount. Here’s you’ll find a variety of marine life such as soft coral, gorgonians, and an abundance of fish life including reef sharks. A Thila can be big but most north-worthy thilas are small peaks and can be affected by strong currents at times.
- Wrecks: There are a few interesting wrecks in the Maldives, but they’re typically visited for the fish at the site as opposed
- to the wreck itself.
- Channel: A channel or pass is where the atoll meets the ocean and is the gateway to the atoll. It is commonly done as a drift dive. The strong currents bring big pelagic fish such as sharks, mantas, and tunas. For most life, it is best to dive at channels when there is incoming current but some spots do offer good dives during outgoing current as well. Underwater photographers will appreciate the geography that some channel reefs have that includes caverns, swim-throughs, undercuts, and overhangs full of colorful sponges and invertebrates.
- Lagoons: While not very exciting from a marine life standpoint, most islands and big reefs has it’s own sandy bottom lagoon protected from the current which is ideal for beginners learning to scuba.
Typical Maldives Dive
Due to the medium to strong currents, drift dives are common. Often you have to do a negative entry, which means the moment you enter the water, you must descend to the bottom. We recommend the Maldives for the intermediate level or experienced diver. Because of the depths and currents, dives in the Maldives are usually 45 - 50 minutes for many divers. There are many dives sites which are suitable for novice divers as well which are protected from the currents. Also, they can do drift dives on the long reefs which are not affected by tricky currents.
- Water Temperatures: Range from 80 - 86 degrees year round.
- Visibility: Around 35 feet on the low end, but often exceeds 100 feet.
- Depth Range: 5 - 30 m ( 14 - 98 feet)
- Currents: Divers who may not want to experience strong currents should try to time their trips away from the full and new moons, when the currents will be less strong.
Maldives Atolls & Dive Areas
There are several areas in the Maldives that liveaboards visit and a good cruise director is key for a successful Maldives trip. Check with your travel advisor to see which Maldives itinerary is right for you.
Some of the best dive sites are in the Deep South, however, they cover such a large area that not all of them can be visited on a single trip. Ari Atoll and Male Atoll in the central islands are some of the more popular itineraries and the key pelagic spots.
From north to south, here are the main dive atolls in the Maldives.
- Ihavandhippolhu Atoll
- The northernmost atoll of Ihavandhippolhu is typically visited by liveaboards. The diving here comprises wide, shallow channels with mild currents and a vibrant selection of hard and soft corals. The reefs’ overhangs and walls are covered in table corals, while caves, pinnacles, and swim-throughs hide a good variety of macro. Expect to spot reef sharks, turtles, Napoleon wrasse, and mantas, as well as reef species such as grouper, moray eels, lionfish, and a variety of crustaceans.
- The waters here are relatively unexplored, with new sites ideal for experienced divers while the better-known shallow areas offer the perfect safe-haven for novices.
- Haa Alif Atoll
- Another atoll ideal for beginners, Haa Alif also boasts wide channels and shallow sites facilitating gentle drift dives through reefs and pinnacles of colorful soft and hard corals. The Filadhoo wreck is a great introduction to wreck diving, and at a depth of 46ft is an exciting artificial reef surrounded by snappers, fusiliers, and the occasional eagle ray.
- There are more advanced sites too, such as the submerged pinnacles of Heaven and Hell that sport fantastic coral formations, and Ihavandhoo Channel with cleaning stations frequented by mantas and turtles.
- Noonu Atoll
- Noonu offers a variety of diving suitable for different levels of experience, including some exciting drift dives and unique shark encounters. Christmas Rock, a submerged island with the top at 46ft, is home to whitetip reef sharks and stingrays, while the occasional nurse shark can be spotted snoozing in cracks in the reef.
- The more advanced Orimas Thila drops to 98ft (30m) and offers divers the chance to witness large groups of grey reef sharks, as well as leopard and guitar sharks, and rays. Other unique sightings include the redtoothed triggerfish and some distinctive nudibranch species.
- For other great shark diving destinations, check out our article on the Best Shark Diving in the World.
- Raa Atoll
- A large number of unspoiled reefs and pinnacles inside Raa’s lagoon boast an impressive array of tubastrea corals and some fantastic marine life. In the south of the atoll, Fenfushi Thila boasts overhangs and crevices teeming with bannerfish and huge schools of orange basslets. On the western side of the atoll, tuna, grouper, and Napoleon wrasse can be found circling deep drop-offs and overhangs, while eagle rays and turtles frequent the eastern reefs and walls.
- One of the most popular sites is The Labyrinth, a pinnacle sporting large gorgonians and vibrant soft corals smothering canyons, tunnels, and swim-throughs. The site is characterized by batfish, and grey and white-tipped reef sharks, with moray eels and groupers a common sight.
- Lhaviyani Atoll
- This popular atoll is well explored and offers over 50 dive sites suitable for all levels. The sheltered Aquarium site is great for novices and boasts electric schools of blue snappers amongst the abundant corals. Hawksbill turtles and guitar sharks can also be spotted using the coral as a cleaning station.
- The Shipyard site is home to the wrecks of Skipjack 1 and Skipjack 2, offering fascinating dives down to 92ft (28m). Both wrecks are smothered in a multitude of colorful corals and swarming in butterflyfish, damselfish, glassfish, and small blennies. South of the wrecks, the Madivaru Kandu channel drift dive provides some deeper overhangs to explore, as well as encounters with eagle rays and whitetip reef sharks.
- Baa Atoll
- Designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2011, the Baa Atoll supports some of the Maldives’ most diverse and unique marine life. Horubadhoo Thila, on the eastern side, is home to plentiful macro as well as attracting large pelagic species, such as mantas, to numerous cleaning stations.
- The fascinating topography of Nelivaru Haa features overhangs and strangely shaped canyons covered in hard and soft corals. Glassfish and fusiliers abound, as well as inquisitive batfish, grouper, stingrays, and oriental sweetlips. During the south-west monsoon (May to November) mantas use the entire reef as a cleaning station, offering some great photo opportunities.
- Baa Atoll is also a popular whale shark area, and although it can become busy with snorkelers, there are plenty of more remote sites to explore.
- North Male Atoll
- One of the most visited regions in the Maldives, North Male Atoll is within easy reach of the countries’ capital and main airport, Male. The well-known Manta Point is located in the southeast of the atoll, and as the name suggests this is a prime spot for encounters with manta rays, as well as schools of barracuda, turtles, and Napoleon wrasse.
- Another famous site, the Maldives Victory is a 328ft cargo shipwreck that sits between 39 and 115ft. The superstructure is encrusted with gorgonians and hard corals, while batfish, grouper, and schools of fusilier make themselves at home.
- Most liveaboard divers will join their boat in North Male and explore these reefs at the beginning of their trip.
- South Male Atoll
- South Male Atoll is the quieter sister of North Male, and while it doesn’t boast the same marine diversity as the northern atoll, dramatic topography and strong currents bring large pelagics close to shore. Diving here can be exciting and sometimes challenging, with deep channels and rapidly changing conditions facilitating exciting drifts through ravines and past overhangs. Cocoa Thila, one of the best dive sites in the Maldives, is a pinnacle that attracts fusiliers, sweetlips, red snapper, trevally, eagle rays, white, and gray sharks.
- To the north, Vadhoo Caves provide shelter from the strong currents and a chance to explore the more unusual species found in the semi-dark. Unicornfish, soldierfish, and the occasional turtle linger in the calm waters, while reef sharks and tuna can be spotted out in the blue.
- Ari Atoll
- The best pelagic destination in the region, Ari Atoll’s exposed pinnacles and deep channels don’t support as much reef life as some of the other atolls, but instead attract mantas, whale sharks and schooling hammerheads. Strong currents mean diving here is not best suited to novices, however, experienced divers will thrill in deeper drift dives sporting loads of shark action, schools of eagle rays, and abundant vibrant fish.
- Maaya Thila pinnacle drops from 20 to 100ft and supports a good variety of critters such as nudibranchs and frogfish. And the marine-protected Fish Head site is covered in black coral and dotted with overhangs, crevices, and caves full of blueline snappers. There are hundreds of exciting sites around Ari Atoll, and this accessible atoll is a popular choice amongst divers.
- Vaavu Atoll
- Centrally located, Vaavu Atoll is a great beginner destination with shallow channels and protected sites offering gentle drift diving over vibrant coral reefs. Vattaru Reef offers a relaxed dive full of butterflyfish and oriental sweetlips, while whitetip reef sharks can often be seen patrolling nearby.
- A more challenging site, Miyaru Kandu to the northeast experiences stronger currents that sweep divers through a channel past caves covered in wire coral, with the chance of spotting a hammerhead shark in the distance. Napoleon wrasse and eagle rays are very common, and lucky divers may encounter a manta ray or whale shark if the season is right.
- Faafu Atoll
- Boasting a variety of diving and some untouched reefs, Faafu Atoll offers something for all tastes and abilities. Deep channels with brisk currents attract manta rays and the occasional whale shark year-round, and sites such as Jumping Jack are characterized by numerous submerged pinnacles overgrown with bright corals.
- Repeater’s Paradise is a shallow sheltered site of coral gardens leading to a drop-off that features plenty of macro, and Manta Point is home to numerous cleaning stations that draw manta rays, turtles and whale sharks into the gently sloping reef.
- Meemu Atoll
- Similar to nearby Faafu Atoll, Meemu Atoll offers divers deep inner reefs with bright currents supporting healthy coral and abundant fish life. Cleaning stations along the reefs attract several manta rays at one time, and tuna, barracuda, and Napoleon wrasse can be seen loitering off the reef.
- Shark’s Tongue is a challenging site boasting large coral heads between 26 and 49ft before the reef drops off to 98ft. Schools of surgeon, oriental sweetlips, and snapper can be spotted amongst the coral formations, as well as gray and silvertip reef sharks if the conditions are favorable.
- Dhaalu Atoll
- The marine life around Dhaalu Atoll is diverse and unique, with several unusual species living around the region’s wide channels and shallow drop-offs. Inside the lagoon, Lohi Island cave is a drift dive that features sea fans and sponges encrusting overhangs around the cave entrance. Mobula rays and frogfish may be seen here, as well as several types of anemonefish.
- In the northwest, large colonies of anemone coral cover one bank of the inner reef while the opposite wall is home to many species of moray eel including giant morays and white-mouth morays. Longnose hawkfish hide in dramatic black coral formations and keen eyes may pick out a leaf fish against the bright coral.
- Thaa Atoll
- Characterized by dramatic topography, impressive coral gardens, and some great pelagic encounters, Thaa Atoll’s varied diving holds something for everyone. The best sites feature strong currents but offer bountiful reefs with steep drop-offs smothered in gorgonians and soft coral. Gorgonian Garden’s deep wall plunges to 131ft, and mantas, turtles, inquisitive batfish, and schools of fusiliers can be found playing in the fast-moving water. At Dutch Divide, divers can trill in exciting features such as overhangs and swim-throughs, although in often challenging currents and eddies.
- More suited to beginners, Caribbean Garden in a sheltered site with very little current and some fascinating diving as shallow as 20 ft. Plentiful macro can be found along the plateau of the pinnacle, and white-tipped reef sharks are often found in slightly deeper areas of the surrounding sand.
- Laamu Atoll
- Gentle currents and shallow channels make Laamu Atoll ideally suited to new divers, or those looking to relax on gentle drifts through exotic coral gardens. Mini underwater islands are a focal point for reef sharks and mobula rays, while mantas are often sighted in the clear visibility of the channels.
- A popular site is Fushi Kandi, a 50ft drift along 820ft of bustling reef featuring schooling barracuda and numerous Napoleon wrasse. Similarly, Hithadhoo Corner follows a gently sloping channel from 26 to 72ft, where potato groupers, whiprays, and mantas gather at cleaning stations on the atoll’s southern tip.
- Huvadhu Atoll
- The first of the Deep South atolls, Huvadhu boasts healthy reefs in excellent condition and a good number of shark species patrolling the region’s diverse topography. There is diving here for beginners and experienced divers alike, where a substantial outer reef protects an inner lagoon sheltered from ocean currents and swells. Fascinating underwater features including caves, drop-offs, and deep walls are prime for exploration.
- Dozens of dive sites along pristine reefs showcase a myriad of tropical fish. Expect to spot swirling schools of bigeye trevally and the occasional hammerhead, leopard, or tiger shark. Whale Sharks can also be found in May and June when changing ocean currents bring increased plankton blooms.
- Fuvahmulah Atoll
- Far less explored than many of the other atolls, Fuvahmulah is a pelagic haven that attracts numerous shark species, manta and mobula rays, and mola mola year-round. Uncharted reefs are a backdrop to regular appearances from thresher, tiger, silvertip, whitetip, and grey reef sharks, as well as open ocean giants such as scalloped hammerheads and whale sharks.
- Addu Atoll
- The most southerly of the atolls, Addu is as picturesque above the waterline as it is below. Sharks, turtles, and mantas are regularly sighted on deeper dives, and the sheltered site of Gan Inside offers you close encounters with stingrays along the white sandy bottom.
- Advanced divers can explore the wreck of the British Loyalty oil tanker. As the largest wreck in the Maldives, she lies in 100ft of water and is a huge artificial reef supporting all manner of marine life.
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How to Get There
Departing from the US, there are several airlines that fly 1-stop to Male, the capital city of the Maldives. Most people stay overnight in Male and board their dive boat the following day. Visitors get a 30 day on arrival visa for free.
How to Dive Maldives
There are several liveaboards that operate in the Maldives ranging from the budget-friendly to ultimate luxury. Contact us for more information on Maldives liveaboards.
For another fantastic liveaboard destination, check out our guide to diving the Similan Islands, Tubbataha Reef diving, or Fiji liveaboards.
The Maldives is a great destination to combine with some time in Sri Lanka. Check out the Trip Report from our 2019 group trip to both destinations.
New to diving liveaboards? Let's help you get started with our Guide to Liveaboard Diving. You may also want to check out our list of the Best Liveaboard Destinations for Beginner Scuba Divers.
Best Time to Dive Maldives
Jan - April (northeast monsoon) are the ideal months to visit the Maldives for the best scuba diving, with it getting less windy as you approach April. Visibility is very good, and it is the driest and warmest period. You may experience sudden rain showers, but they don't last for a long time.
May - July is considered the rainy season and can bring unstable weather, especially June / July. Conditions are usually good from August - November (southwest monsoon season), but the abundance of plankton in the water can reduce visibility (but bring plankton feeders like the Manta Rays and Whale Sharks).
Aug - Nov is the time to go for the best chance to see the "big animals". December can bring a fair amount of wind and rain. "Feeding season" at Hanifaru Bay (and everywhere else) for the whale sharks and manta rays is considered to be from May to November, peaking from late July to early October. So what do you want - clearer water, or whale sharks/ mantas?
Topside & Non-Diving Activities
It’s no secret that divers and honeymooners make up the majority of visitors to the Maldives - though those two groups are not mutually exclusive. If you’re land-based and need a break from the water, considering taking an excursion to a nearby uninhabited island or board a fishing boat and try your luck at catching your dinner.
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The rates shown below are per person in USD. Some of the operators quote in EUR. The pricing at the time of booking may vary depending on the latest EUR/USD exchange rate.
Please contact us for the latest availability of the following boats: Manthiri Maldives, Maldives Legend, Maldives Explorer, Marselia Star and Fun Azul.
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Other Useful Information
- Currency: Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR)
- Language: The country's primary language is Dhivehi. Main foreign languages are Arabic & English
- Main Airport Code: MLE
- Time Zone: UTC+5
- Electricity: 230 V 50 Hz
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Got Questions? Ready to Book?
Call us today at +1-310-915-6677 or email us [email protected]
And let us book your dream vacation!
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Everything you need to know about scuba diving in the Maldives
The Maldives is an archipelago comprising some 1,200 islands, only about 200 of which are inhabited. With 26 atolls, coral reefs and coral islands in the archipelago, it’s no wonder this remote destination in the Arabian Sea is famous for its world-class scuba diving.
Ready to plan that bucket-list trip to the Maldives? Visit TPG’s Maldives destination hub for more stories about traveling to the region on points and miles, where to stay and what to do while you’re there.
Diving is an incredible way to see an entirely different world, and it’s one of those skills I think every traveler should have in their back pocket — if they’re comfortable diving deep below the surface of the sea, that is. There’s an incredible sense of calm that washes over you once you’re floating at least 10 feet down, seeing environments and wildlife that your land-loving friends will never know. Plus, diving is a great activity for travelers who enjoy more active vacations, rather than relaxing in a lounge chair by the pool all day.
Here’s what you need to know about diving in the Maldives, including when and where to go, what you’ll see and where you should stay for the experience.
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When to dive in the Maldives
The Maldives have a tropical climate, and water temperatures range from 80 to 86 degrees year-round, making the diving good nearly any time of year. That said, the absolute best time to visit the Maldives for a scuba trip are between the months of January and April, when the weather is dry and warm and visibility is best.
May through July are often considered the months when the weather is most unsettled and divers could encounter reduced visibility. The period between August and November is the best time of year to see “big” sea creatures such as manta rays and whale sharks, because of an increase in plankton in the water due to currents caused by the southwest monsoon.
In December, divers can expect a fair amount of wind and rain, possibly affecting visibility.
Related: Best times to visit the Maldives
The Maldives is host to a variety of diverse dive environments, including reef dives, drift dives and wrecks that provide opportunities for divers at any skill level.
Diving in and around the atolls, you’ll find rock pinnacles, called thila, as well as underwater structures such as caverns, overhangs and swim-throughs. Wreck diving in the Maldives is usually less about the wreck itself and more about the artificial reefs that have formed around the sunken structures.
There are a number of channels in the Maldives, too, where the atolls meet the ocean. Because of the currents that run through these areas, they are the perfect spot for drift dives where the strong currents bring in larger marine life like sharks, tuna and mantas.
Lastly, you’ll find lagoon environments on the interior of the atolls. They’re mostly protected from the current and are usually fairly shallow, making them good locations for practice dives and diving classes.
Related: Where to stay in the Maldives using points and miles
Where to dive in the Maldives
There are dozens and dozens of dive sites in the Maldives, these are a few of our favorites:
Known for its clear blue waters and accessibility, the Ari Atoll is home to many of the best dive sites in the Maldives. Maaya Thila, for example, located on the southern end of the atoll, consistently ranks as one of the best sites in the area. The pinnacle starts about 20 feet deep and stretches down to 100 feet, and the area is home to marine life such as barracuda, stingrays and more. Those diving after sundown will likely get to experience a reef shark feeding frenzy.
The Baa Atoll is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with dive sites for both beginners and advanced divers. Divers should have the opportunity to see the ever-popular manta rays and whale sharks, as well as marvel in the atoll’s overhangs and swim-throughs.
The Dhonfanu Thila site is one popular swim-through. Around 82 feet deep, divers can enter the narrow swim-through and ascend to its exit just under 60 feet below the ocean’s surface. Hanifaru Bay is one of the few places in the world where whale sharks congregate to mate and where divers can dive with masses of manta rays.
This particular atoll is known for the rare shark species that frequent the area. Lucky divers may have a chance to encounter tiger sharks, thresher sharks, whale sharks and even hammerheads.
Being one of the Maldives’ most southerly atolls, many of the dive sites here are still being explored and are better suited for more advanced divers.
The Male Atoll is divided into two sections: the North Male Atoll and the South Male Atoll. The North Male Atoll is one of the most visited dive areas in the country, while the South Male Atoll tends to be slightly less trafficked.
On the South Male Atoll you’ll find Cocoa Thila, a pinnacle that stretches over 1,000 feet long and nearly 100 feet deep. Due to the area’s strong currents, this site is better suited for experienced divers but offers a wide variety of marine life.
The Vaavu Atoll offers excellent channel diving for divers of all levels. One of the most notable sites in the atoll is Fotteyo Kandu, a channel with a number of large overhangs and caves (often referred to as one of the best dive sites in the world).
For a more in-depth look at dive sites in the Maldives, check out the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) travel site.
What you’ll see
Due to the consistent water temperatures, larger marine animals such as turtles, reef sharks, mantas and whale sharks can be found throughout the year. In fact, spotting many of these (somewhat) elusive creatures is usually more dependent on factors like the tide, sunrise and sunset.
Here’s a calendar from PADI that indicates the best viewing times for many of the popular marine life:
Basically, you’re likely to see common dolphins; turtles (hawksbill and loggerheads); manta and eagle rays; and whitetip reef sharks every month of the year.
Hammerhead sharks are most likely to be seen between December and April, with some sightings possible between May and November. Leopard sharks can be seen every month except June and July.
Your best chance of seeing whale sharks is between February and November, and stonefish sightings are possible between December and April.
The best Maldives resorts for diving
With over 130 resorts to chose from, there’s no shortage of places to stay in the Maldives. But not all of the hotels cater to divers, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.
Popular resorts with dive packages include properties like Oblu by Atmosphere at Helengeli, the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa and Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru. The good news is there are accommodations to fit nearly any budget, as these dive resorts from the super basic (from $150 per night) to the extremely extravagant (costing upwards of $5,000 per night).
Even if the resort you chose doesn’t provide diving opportunities, you should be able to arrange dive excursions through nearby resorts and dive shops.
Liveaboard dive vessels
You may also choose to stay on a liveaboard dive vessel during your trip. Liveaboards offer divers the ability to maximize their time below the surface and to experience more remote locations that aren’t accessible as day trips.
Well-rated liveaboards include the Ocean Divine, Nautilus One and Maldives Grandezza. Depending on the boat, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 per day to over $1,200 per day.
Related: Guide to hotel transfer fees in the Maldives
While this might sound expensive, consider that traveling around the different islands in the Maldives can get quite expensive given the distances and modes of travel, including seaplane and speedboat. If you’d like to visit a variety of dive sites and travel to more remote areas, a liveaboard is the way to go.
Where to stay with points
There’s no question that visiting the Maldives is an expensive endeavor — whether you’re paying cash, using travel rewards or doing a combination. Luckily, there are plenty of chain hotels to choose from where you can use points to help offset the cost of your trip, including hotels from Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton and IHG.
There are, of course, plenty of nonchain hotels, too.
If you’d rather book with an independent hotel, consider using a card with a purchase eraser like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Or, take advantage of a pay-with-points redemption option like those you’ll find on the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Related: Where to stay in the Maldives using miles and points
Snorkeling, fishing and surfing in the maldives
Much like the dive sites in the area, some snorkeling excursions can be done right from the shore, while others require a boat ride.
If you’re visiting the Maldives and want to do a lot of snorkeling, be sure to choose your accommodation accordingly because not all of the islands in the Maldives have easy access to snorkeling. The W Maldives is one good choice, as it’s known for its house reef and you can snorkel right from your villa.
Surfers will also find a lot of fantastic opportunities to catch a wave (or 10). The Huvadhoo Atoll is known as the spot with the best surf conditions. Although conditions will vary throughout the archipelago depending on the time of year, in general, surf conditions are best April through October.
Lastly, the Maldives is known as one of the best big game fishing destinations in the world. Thankfully, the country enforces strict fishing regulations in order to maintain the fish populations that support the livelihood of the locals, but there’s still an abundance of fishing charters and tour operators to take tourists out to try their hand at an impressive tuna, wahoo, barracuda or swordfish catch.
Regardless of what your favorite activity might be, if you do decide to plan a trip to the Maldives, there’s no doubt you’ll fall in love with this incredible island nation.
Featured image by Lotus_studio/Shutterstock.
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Your Guide to Scuba Diving in the Maldives
Liveaboard Holidays at the Indian Ocean Atolls
...Highlights: whales sharks, tigers, hammerheads, shark action, manta rays, turtles, schooling fish & big pelagics...
...Maldives' diving environment: drift diving, beginner and advanced divers, popular & off-the-beaten-track...
Although the Maldives are known the world over for the stunning beaches and azure waters that typify the tropical holiday idyll, its life beneath the water's surface is becoming ever more respected by scuba divers in the know. The Maldive Islands have some good coral reefs, but it's the abundance of marine life throughout the country that sets it apart from other dive destinations around the world.
Most dives in the Maldives are drifts from liveaboards where you allow the current to move you along. Due to the myriad channels and passages between the atolls, the currents sweep and play throughout the island chain so that nutrients are always on the move. This accounts for the vast numbers of fish enjoying the passing feast and you can expect to see Napoleon wrasse, parrotfish, snappers, fusiliers, jacks and sweetlips at every site where the water flows.
2 main features you are likely to encounter at the dive sites of the Maldives are the current swept channels and the pinnacles that act like magnets for marine life. In the channels, you can explore the caves, caverns and overhangs where soft corals proliferate, and there is a riot of colourful sponges, invertebrates and gorgonian fans all profiting from the nutrient-rich water. There are also plenty of cleaning stations where cleaning wrasses and shrimps service the larger marine species.
Inside the atoll lagoons you often find pinnacles of rock vaulting up almost to the surface. They are known locally as 'Thilas' and are often bejewelled with sessile life forms. These formations bring water up from the ocean floor against their walls, feeding the sponges and soft corals that cling to its sides as well as creating an environment that supports a plethora of crustaceans and schools of resident fish.
Slightly removed from the reefs, divers spot the pelagics that frequent the Maldives, including manta rays and eagle rays and a variety of sharks including awesome tigers and the mighty whale shark. Wherever you look there is likely to be something of interest going on and for many it is in the shallows where the best of the action takes place. Here the clear water, brightly illuminated by the sun's rays and playing host to great numbers of fish, provides an ideal environment both for photographers and fun divers alike.
During the El Niño of 1998 some shallower areas of the coral reefs were adversely affected by bleaching. However the accepted view is that while the reefs are returning to their former colourful glory, the larger marine life of the Maldives Islands has never dwindled and indeed many believe it has increased in numbers over the past few decades, at least partly as a result of the nation's recognition of the need for conservation.
More detailed information on the Maldives dive sites:
• Ari Atoll
Although there are many Maldivian atolls where you can encounter pelagics and big schools of fish, Ari Atoll may be the place with the greatest reliability. Passing big fish such as whale sharks, mantas, hammerheads and eagle rays are frequently seen, as well as large residents like the Napoleon wrasse, grey reef and white tip sharks, and large schools of blacktail barracuda and batfish.
• North Male Atoll
This area was one of the first to be discovered for its scuba diving delights and comprises some of the oldest and most popular dive sites in the Maldive Islands including Gaathugiri, also known as Banana Reef. You can expect breathtaking topography with magnificent rock faces, numerous caves, steep drop offs and precipitous overhangs. The marine life is just as awesome with sharks, manta rays, trevally, black snappers, grouper, schooling bannerfish, large morays, squirrelfish, soldierfish and Maldivian grubfish.
• South Male
This atoll features 6 main channels where marine life thrives. Although the coral is better elsewhere, there are plenty of schools of fish and big pelagics like grey reef sharks, whitetips, eagle rays and manta rays in South Male. There is also an interesting and colourful wreck, Kuda Giri wreck which has been completely colonised by orange, yellow and red sponges and with myriad fish life inside and outside the structure.
• Northern Atolls
These atolls that lie to the north of the central atolls region and both regions can be dived together on central and northern atoll itineraries. They include Baa, Lhaviyani, Noonu and Raa Atoll. Baa Atoll is home to the famous Hanifaru Bay where mantas and whale sharks feast on plankton blooms from March to December. This area has a lot fewer liveaboards than the central atolls where some of the most populated sites in Maldives diving are. Coral coverage is great in some places, not so great in others, but everywhere seems to boast an impressive variety of fish and plenty of large schools.
• Far North Atolls
These outer atolls to the far north are very sparingly visited by liveaboards, so you can really feel like you are getting away from it all. This area is so far from Male that a domestic seaplane is required to visit. There are some fantastic colourful reefs here boasting pristine hard and soft corals. Shark species include leopard sharks, whitetips and blacktips, plus manta rays, giant trevallies and more. The main atolls visited here are Haa Alifu atoll and Haa Dhaalu atoll. The seas in the far north of the Maldives are normally calm and warm, making it great for diving holidays throughout the year except for the months of June and July.
• The Deep South
The region, comprised of Addu, Huvadhoo (Gaafu), and Fuvahmulah, has become synonymous as The Go-To place for diving with pelagics in Asia. There is some fantastic shark action including more rarely seen species like thresher sharks, tiger sharks and oceanic whitetips, as well as big fish and oceanic mantas. The hit list of potential encounters has made it a favourite with advanced divers in the know.
• The Southern Atolls
These atolls lying just south of the central region include Laamu, Meemu, Thaa and Felidhoo (Vaavu) atolls. They are sometimes included on liveabard routes together with central atolls sites, and sometimes as a distinct region. Typically here you can expect to see a good number of sharks, rays, jacks and tuna on channel drift dives, swimthroughs, caves and caverns. Large schools of fish are guaranteed and sightings of whale sharks and hammerheads are also quite common.
The best channels for scuba diving in the Maldives with reef sharks are at - Lhaviyani, North and South Male, Felidhoo, Meemu, Laamu and Huvadhoo (probably the best). Elsewhere the channels are too deep to dive. The best areas for whale shark encounters are Ari Atoll, Huvadhoo , Fuvahmulah and Thaa atolls in the south. For reef mantas, the best locations are Ari, Addu, North Male, Haa Alifu and Haa Dhaalu, and Baa Atoll; for giant mantas - Fuvahmulah Island. For hammerheads, plan a visit to Rasdhoo Atoll in North Ari, Fotteyo Kandu at Felidhoo Atoll, or Fuvahmulah. Thresher sharks, silvertips and tiger sharks can be found at Fuvahmulah Island all year round.
How to Dive the Maldive Islands
Some resorts have good dive sites nearby but if you want the greatest marine diversity and a variety of sites then liveaboard diving is king. For more information on the charter routes and all the other travel information you might need to visit Maldives, read: Central Atolls, Outer Atolls.
These cruise vacations are very popular and you need to plan ahead to make sure you get the trip you want. We recommend that you book your dive holiday at least 6 months in advance during the Maldives high season as many trips become fully booked prior to the departure date and last minute availability is almost unheard of.
As a general rule of thumb, the northern areas tend to have healthier reefs and better macro life, whilst the southern areas have more sharks. Since the islands are scattered over a large area, and the best diving is found inside and outside the atolls' lagoons and in the channels in between, the best way to see the region is by liveaboard.
If you prefer to stay on land, we offer a selection of resort diving packages in the most popular atolls of the Maldives.
The Maldivian Diving Season
The recommended months for confirmed liveaboard departures are from November to May but the Maldives scuba diving holiday season runs all year round. If you wish to come outside of November to May it may be more difficult to find a departure date that suits you.
The northeast monsoon (winds from the northeast) runs from the end of December to May. At this time of year the skies are blue and the lack of wind means the seas are calm. The visibility on the eastern side of the atolls is good at 20-30+m, and 15-20m on the western sides. The eastern atolls generally have the best visibility during this time too, and December to March normally enjoys the best overall visibility. This is because the currents flow through the atoll channels from east to west. Reef sharks gather in large numbers at the channel entrances on the eastern side of the atolls; whereas mantas are drawn to the western sides because plankton flows out of the channels into open sea on west at this time. The current is strongest at this time of year too.
June to November is the southwest monsoon and the above process is reversed: currents from through the channels in an easterly direction; mantas to the east, reef sharks and better visibility to the west. It is at this time when the skies are cloudier, the winds are stronger and seas a little rougher, although the season does still get nice, sunny spells. Surface swells can reach 1-2m, particularly during the rainy season in June/July, when rain falls on average 3-4 hours per day, and during the monsoon transitions in late May and early December.
Water temperature are fairly constant throughout the year at 26-29°C, except in the far south where the water temperature can drop to 24°C during the northeast monsoon. For more on the climate and sea temperatures in the Maldives, visit Climates To Travel. Having said all that, like most places in the world, the seasons in the Maldives have become less predictable in recent years.
Mantas, whale sharks, turtles, reef sharks and hammerhead sharks are found in the Maldives all year round; if anything, manta rays are found in even greater numbers in the southwest monsoon. As for the other big creatures, diver encounters are dependent on non-seasonal factors: whale sharks are more frequently sighted at high tide, and hammerhead sharks ascend to shallower water at sunrise.
One exception to this is at Hanifaru Bay, usually between May and December, when hundreds of manta rays and some whale sharks gather on the eastern side of Baa, where vast plankton fields accumulate. The area has been declared a marine reserve and current regulations permit snorkeling only for a maximum of 60 persons at a time.
Being a remote, isolated island, Fuvahmulah also has some unique seasonal factors. Threshers are common is shallow water from April to November, schools of scalloped hammerheads can be seen from January to March, solitary great hammerheads any time of year but in deep water. Silvertips are present between January and March, whale sharks between December and April. Oceanic manta ray mating season is March to May. Tiger sharks and reef sharks are present all year round.
Where are the Maldives and How Do I Get There?
Review our map below of the atolls and their location in the world. Here, you will find information on how to get to Maldives.
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 15 - 40m
Currents: Can be very strong
Surface conditions: Generally calm but can be choppy in southwest monsoon
Water temperature: 26 - 29°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: >200
Recommended length of stay: 1 - 3 weeks
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