With 20 atolls and around 1,200 islands the Maldives are, without doubt, one of the finest dive sites that our Blue Planet has to offer. Almost every diver dreams about visiting this stunning archipelago at least once in their lifetime.
The azure blue lagoons surrounding the islands of the Maldives draw in visitors from across the world, each seeking to explore the underwater world while snorkelling or scuba diving.
The variety of intact reefs and colourful marine life is spectacular to witness, but the attraction of the Maldives goes beyond the underwater world. The sight of the dreamy white sand beaches, palm trees and dense green vegetation is equally beautiful and unique.
So, with this widespread appeal, it’s not surprising that every hotel island in the Maldives has its own dive center, offering trips to the most beautiful places of the atolls. The range of dive sites that span the endless labyrinths of the atolls is almost limitless, and divers of all different experience levels and interests will find their perfect match here.
House Reef Diving in the Maldives
Almost every island owns a house reef that can be accessed from entry points across the beach, inviting every level of diver for easy diving in the Maldives, or even snorkelling, at any time.
Even a quick dip on a shallow house reef will encapsulate just how rich the underwater world of the Maldives is; graceful moray eels hiding in small caves, colourful boxfishes roaming over the coral and schools of fish passing in front of the deep blue of the ocean.
In some locations it’s considered almost a daily experience to encounter napoleons, turtles, stingrays and whitetip reef sharks. Even the majestic manta ray or whale shark can be met here by lucky divers.
Inside the Atolls: Thila, Giri and Faru
In addition to the house reefs, every dive school in the Maldives offers boat trips to the beautiful dive sites of the atolls that can’t be reached on shore dives. Using a Dhoni – the typical boat found in the Maldives, you’ll often visit one or several sites across the surrounding coral reefs.
Thila, Giri and Faru are three different examples of reef structures, and divers can usually find sites that offer gentle, calm conditions suitable for beginners, as well as more advanced areas which are more exposed to currents.
- Thila – this is an underwater pinnacle which is completely submerged, these can often be small enough to circumnavigate the entire area during a single dive. Thilas are often exposed to stronger currents and so are covered with wonderful soft corals and sea fans; usually, the most fish can be found at the point where the current hits the reef.
- Giri – similar to a Thila but the main difference is that the top of these coral patches often extend near to the surface, or may even be exposed during low tides. Most of the time, a Giri has very little current, making them a great location for beginner divers and night diving.
- Faru – a small atoll with reefs extending above the surface, often in a horseshoe shape. Although these are usually only of interest for divers in areas where the current is stronger, the shallow depths of Farus make them popular for snorkelling trips.
Diving the Outer Reefs and Kandus of the Maldives
In addition to exploring the inner atoll sites, most divers will often plan a trip to visit the outer reefs and Kandus of the Maldives.
The outer walls of the atolls often descend to great depths and are unprotected against the stronger currents. Only the hardiest coral species survive here, so divers won’t usually find many reef fish. However, these exposed dive sites are the perfect location to encounter big pelagic visitors such as sharks, manta rays, eagle rays and whale sharks.
A treat for experienced divers are Kandus: channels that connect the outside ocean to the inner atoll, creating a natural passageway for the water to flow through and ideal conditions for drift dives. The entrance points to Kandus have strong currents and nutrient-rich waters, attracting the big hunters. Grey sharks and eagle rays congregate alongside barracuda and jack fishes, whilst the hunting tuna is a unique spectacle to witness.
It is this rich variety of dive sites that makes the Maldives a truly unique destination for scuba divers.
This article is a translation of this article written by guest blogger, Christian Hubo. A PADI diving instructor, Christian has enjoyed over 4,000 dives whilst travelling around the world. Above the surface, he’s hiked thousands of kilometers across the natural world. Christian is a freelance web and media designer, underwater photographer, social media and marketing consultant and freelance author. His magazine articles and blog, Feel4Nature, inspire people to follow an independent, individual and eco-conscious lifestyle.