Atolls: South Male, North Ari, South Ari, Vaavu, Meemu, Thaa, Laamu
SOUTH MALE ATOLL: Kandooma Thila ***
Number one in the ranking of the best dive sites in South Male Atoll. Long Thila, located in the middle of the channel, offers spectacular conditions to observe grey reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks, eagle rays, big schools of jacks and snappers, both with the incoming and outgoing current. The Northside of the pinnacle is nicely covered with soft corals, with the top of the reef being home to many reef fish and green turtles. Currents can be pretty strong, so negative entry and fast descent is often required. Current hooks should be ready to use.
NORTH ARI ATOLL: Maaya Thila **
The Thila (a pinnacle) is about 80 meters wide in diameter and is considered one of the Maldives’ best night dives. The top reef at 5 meters makes it easy to access even with strong currents. The current side is always very active and busy with fusiliers and snappers. Big jackfish, whitetip reef sharks, stingrays, and moray eels can be spotted easily. Some overhangs around the Thila provide shelter for turtles. Even though it has a reputation for a night dive, it is also quite popular during the day. A few separated coral blocks south of the Thila create a tunnel full of beautiful coral bushes. With the right current, this is a place to spot grey reef sharks as well.
Fish Head **
One of the major attractions of the atoll cannot be missed. Due to its exposure to the currents, it offers a rich presence of fauna and flora. Big schools of jacks and fusiliers on the up-current side and difficult to count the amount of blue-striped snappers hiding from strong currents inside the overhangs all around the Thila are the highlights of the place. It is also popular with grey reef sharks, schools of barracudas and dogtooth tunas in the blue, and turtles and moray eels on the top reef. With strong currents, negative entry is recommended, and current hooks should be ready to use.
Bathalaamaagaa Kanthila ***
A long coral ridge in the middle of a channel extended from the outer reef and sloping gradually down to 25 meters and deeper, offering good conditions for observing grey reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks, eagle rays, and napoleons, as well as schools of jacks and fusiliers. The dive site is active during incoming and outgoing currents but might be more challenging during the northeast monsoon’s outgoing currents. Negative entry is required, and divers are recommended to hide below the top reef’s depth to protect from the current. Current hooks are strongly recommended.
SOUTH ARI ATOLL: Moofushi Kandu (Manta Point) **
Drift dive with a chance to spot manta rays hovering over the cleaning station at a depth of around 14 to 25 meters. If mantas are spotted, it is recommended to use current hooks and stay around the cleaning station for a longer time. The dive site is quite popular during the northeast monsoon and sometimes might be overcrowded with divers. Whitetip reef sharks are common visitors around the cleaning station’s deeper part, with blue striped snappers and fusiliers being permanent residents.
Kudarah Thila ***
The Thila is a part of the Marine Protected Area and is often considered the most beautiful site of the atoll with exceptional diving conditions. Overhangs rich in sea fans and the top reef nicely covered with healthy soft corals are the highlights. It is also known for big schools of blue striped and midnight snappers, fusiliers, and jacks. It is worth to have a torch and look inside small caves where often you will find big groupers hiding. The water entry might be challenging due to its exposure to strong currents, and with the top reef at 15 meters, negative entry is recommended. The use of current hooks might be required if the current is strong.
Kudhimaa Wreck **
50 Meters long cargo ship lying on a sandy bottom at around 30 meters depth, right next to a resort island called Machchafushi. It was sunk in 1998 and already offered good coral growth and many species living on it. Nurse sharks, batfish, stonefish, lionfish, and moray eels are permanent residents and can be spotted around the wreck. A few entrances are allowing to penetrate the cargo hall as well as the wheelhouse. The site is nicely protected from the current, so the only concern will be no-deco time as you will spend most of the time below 20 meters.
Maamigili Beyru (Whaleshark search) *
It is located on the southern tip of Ari atoll within the Marine Protected Area of South Ari atoll. A shallow and very easy dive might turn into a fascinating one as it is known as the best location in the Maldives for spotting the biggest fish in the world. Whale sharks can be seen cruising along the reef all year round. Most of the boats look for them from the surface. Once spotted, divers enter the water, go down and start swimming along with them. The code of conduct for whale shark encounters must be followed and is always discussed during the briefing.
VAAVU ATOLL: Miyaru Kandu ***
One of the channels dives that you don’t want to miss. With strong incoming current, the list of possible encounters is impressive. Mainly grey reef sharks and whitetip reef sharks, eagle rays, napoleons, and tunas are quite common, and with the visibility reaching 40 meters during the northeast monsoon, it can be the highlight of the trip. Outgoing current offers worse visibility, but the sharks are still there. The site is not recommended for beginners, negative entry is often required, and the current hook is a must to avoid causing unnecessary damage to the reef. Most of the time, you will spend at a depth of 26 to 30 meters, so checking air and no-deco time more often is strongly recommended.
Alimatha House Reef **
Located on the south side of Alimatha island resort and considered one of the best night dives in the Maldives, being often a victim of its success and resulting in overcrowding of divers. Every night, a show is performed by a large number of nurse sharks, stingrays, and massive jacks. Maximum depth will not exceed 15 meters, and most of the time, you will be kneeling on a sandy bottom, waiting for the sharks to come closer. Not to be missed.
MEEMU ATOLL: Muli Corner **
The reef is known as home to many sharks during incoming currents, but it also welcomes manta rays on a large cleaning station during the outgoing current. Entering the water with empty BCD and not wasting time on the surface is often recommended, especially with strong currents.
THAA ATOLL: Whaleshark point *
There is no specific place where diving would guarantee an encounter with a whale shark, but the common practice is to use a strong light in the evening at the boat’s back platform to attract the zooplankton, which will further attract the whale sharks. Scuba diving while having the shark at the back of the ship is somewhat discouraged as the bubbles may disperse the plankton’s mass. The best experience is to grab a mask, fins and gently enter the water on the side of the boat, not to scare the whale shark away, and then enjoy the view while snorkeling. Sometimes the whale shark will stay for hours; more than one visitor is also possible. The dive guides’ instructions have to be followed, and all snorkelers must respect a code of conduct to enjoy the moment to the fullest.
Dive Sites Description:
*easy **medium-difficult ***challenging
Marine life: Mostly pelagic fauna. Reef sharks, whale sharks, mantas, macro.
Advanced divers with minimum 50+ dives. Experience with drift dives required. Nitrox recommended!