The Maldives is now one of - if not - THE world's top scuba diving destinations. Why? The climate and weather is superb, it one of the last ecologically pristine marine environments left in the world offering the most amazing diving with its amazing marine life and coral, it has beautiful natural beaches, the people of the Maldives are warm and friendly and speak excellent English, it's SAFE, the accommodation and facilities of the resorts and liveaboard dive boats are superb, it's relaxed and natural without any of the excessive high rise commercialisation of other tourism destinations, and it is GREAT value for money.
Although many of the wonderful coral reefs were severely damaged in the 2004 tsunami coupled with global warming, the reefs have made - and are making an excellent recovery and are in most cases back to the pre-tsunami pristine conditions. (For more information visit our ecology section.)
Diving and Wetsuits
Water temperature in the Maldives is warm year long and you can dive without a wetsuit if you wish in the warmer months, however we recommend a 3mm 'shorty' or a Lycra diveskin for diving year round to maintain core body temperature if diving 3 times a day or so.
Best Time to Dive
You can dive year round in the Maldives however in the Southwest monsoon season (June-August) you can experience high winds, rain and consequent high waves. We recommend the best time for diving in the Maldives is the period from January to April/early May when the water is calm with unlimited sunshine and most importantly maximum underwater visibility ('vis') which is on average up to 30m.
Sea currents vary considerably with usually little current inside the atolls however some quite powerful streams can be experienced on the open sea side of the reefs.
Diving, Dive Schools, standard of Dive equipment, Dive safety
Most holiday resorts in the Maldives have full scuba diving facilities and many have dive schools offering full PADI DIVE certification courses. Diving equipment in the Maldives is generally very modern and in excellent condition with equipment well-maintained. Diving safety and dive regulations are strictly adhered to with total compliance with diving protocol (counting divers out and in, buddy system, check dives, dive computer use, maximum depth, times, etc.) If you are an experienced diver and prefer to use your own fins and mask (or buoyancy vest) you can bring also these with you if preferred.
There are currently 5 decompression chambers in the Maldives, with the largest and longest operating decompression chamber on Bandos Island (15 minutes by speedboat from Male). The others are located on Cinnamon Alidhoo Resort, Villingili Resort in Addu, Kuramathi Resort, and Kandholhudhoo Islands.
Specialist Dive Resorts: Nationality centric?
Some resorts particularly smaller dive-oriented resorts cater mainly to specific nationalities: and in particular the main nationalities catered for are Italian, German, French and Dutch. Of course the resorts staff speak good English as well as many of the guests at the resorts, however in some cases it can be quite intimidating if you are in the minority as one of the only English speaking guests especially in a social gathering. Check with us for full details.
Prices: Resort Diving
Diving in the Maldives is not the cheapest diving in the world - however its not by any means the dearest - and given the very high standard of diving safety and equipment coupled with the incredible pristine diving conditions it is in our opinion the BEST VALUE for money in the world. Frankly no other destination beats it - and even the Great Barrier Reef in Australia (which we know VERY well having lived there for many years!) - whilst an amazing 'must go' experience - does not offer the same variety of fish, choices of dive sites or species of big pelagics as the Maldives.
Prices for diving in the Maldives generally vary between resorts with specialist dive resorts offering more tightly packaged dive-deals and prices. As an average however the general price for a single boat dive is around $55USD using your own dive gear (except tanks) and around $80USD if using the dive operators gear. You also can in some cases (specifically by what appears to be the cheaper operators) be hit for surcharges such as boat cost, guided dives, larger tanks, etc.
For more extensive information on all resorts dive packages and suitability for your requirements please contact one of our trained advisors.
Diving from Liveaboards
Diving in the Maldives (even in the immediate vicinity of Male) is excellent off any of the resorts islands who take divers out to nearby reefs for most diving. However, visibility and the chance of THAT encounter with Manta Rays or Whales Sharks etc. increases exponentially as you head further out to the outer atolls. Many divers are now opting to take a "liveaboard", which in many cases - if not all - is much cheaper than diving off a resort as you are not up for the resort accommodation cost.
There are a wide variety of "liveaboard" dive boat operators that provide specialist scuba diving cruises for guests covering a number of dive sites all over the Maldives. This is ideal for divers that want to cover the maximum amount of dive locations in different areas and enjoy a wonderful 4 or 5 days onboard a cruise boat with like-minded dive enthusiasts. This also allows divers maximum opportunity to see the BIG underwater stars of the Maldives; Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, eagle rays, reef sharks, hammerhead sharks and moray eels, as well as many rare species of smaller fish and coral formations.
Liveaboard diving in the Maldives in the early days was originally done from small custom built "Dhonis" (or "Doni" (Dhivehi: - pronounced as Dōni) which are a multipurpose hand-built sailing vessel resembling a traditional Arab 'dhow' with an inboard motor and 'lateen' sails. Diving is still done from these wonderful vessels however today the choice is quite incredible ranging from non-modernised small Dhonis to specifically built and highly specced out dive safari boats of over 100 ft, and even more upmarket high-tech luxury cruisers and motor-yachts with fully air-conditioned cabins, soundproofed power generators, high tech water desalination systems, double bedroom cabins with flat screen TV and DVD sound systems, full en-suite bathrooms with hot and cold water and a comprehensive choice of meals and drinks.
In most cases traditional Dhonis now are used as support and resupply boats for the larger liveaboard boats, with the smaller more manoeuvrable Dhonis carrying the divers to the various dive sites while the larger liveaboard is safely anchored inside the atoll. The also are used for surfers carrying the guests to the surfing areas
For the non-diver or partner liveaboards also offer a great way to cruise the Maldives and visit secluded deserted atolls and other areas, as well as fantastic snorkelling, wave surfing, game fishing and pure relaxation.
Dive Safaris are sold as many different durations from 14 day full dive itineraries to 3/4 day "mini itineraries". There is a dive itinerary to suit all budgets and durations. A 1-14 day itinerary usually has an itinerary including visits to 5 or 6 quite different areas of the Maldives with a daily three-dive program. Enough time is also factored into the itinerary to provide plenty of relaxation and "down" time as well as time for other sports such as wave surfing, snorkelling and just lazing around!
For full details on Diving liveaboards in the Maldives please contact one of our trained advisors to discuss the best option for your requirements.
Whale Sharks and Manta Rays
Hanifaru Bay - a protected marine sanctuary the size of an average football pitch on an uninhabited island located in the Baa Atoll is now the world's largest Manta Ray feeding destination and also a favourite haunt of the amazing Whale shark, the largest fish in the world.
Major Dive Areas (source: Wikipedia)
Located in the western part of the Maldives Islands, Ari Atoll is one of the largest atolls in the Maldives, and as such is home to a wide selection of dive sites, including:
Named for a large broken rock at the center of this dive site, Broken Rock is home to a beautiful array of soft and hard coral formations that attract a wide variety of reef. Where the rock is broken, there is a channel that divers can swim through, giving the dive an interesting dimension. Broken Rock varies in depth from 40 to 100 feet. Sometimes, there can be very strong currents at Broken Rock, so divers should be cautious to avoid being thrown against the coral. Among the marine life often seen at Broken Rock, common sightings include the puffer fish, trigger fish, moray eels and napoleon wrasse.
Recommended only for advanced scuba divers, the Gangehi Kandu dive site is located in the northern part of the Ari Atoll. Currents here can also be an issue, and the site should only be dived when the currents are flowing into the site. Gangehi Kandu is known as one of the best dive sites in the Maldives for spotting sharks, including gray reef sharks, white tip reef sharks and the occasional leopard shark. Coral formations at this dive site are particularly colourful, and divers here can expect to see moray eels, nudibranch, mantis shrimp and trigger fish. Large pelagic species are also frequent visitors to the site.
Hukrueli Faru (Rangali Madivaru)
Commonly known as Rangali Madivaru or just Madivaru, Hukrueli Faru is home to a very colourful coral reef. The site is named for the abundance of manta rays seen here (Madi means manta ray in the Maldivian language Dhivehi) during the northeast monsoon season. Depths at Hukrueli Faru range from 25 feet to almost 100 feet, making the dive particularly interesting and varied. Manta rays are attracted to Hukrueli Faru because of the strong currents that form a whirlpool effect in the deeper parts of the site, where the manta rays can hover over the currents. The mantas are also attracted to the several cleaning stations located around Hukrueli Faru.
Declared a "Protected Marine Area" by the Maldivian government, Kudarah Thila is a popular dive site which enjoys many incoming currents. Coral reef formations at Kudarah Thila are bright and colourful, including a variety of soft and hard corals. Thila means "Pinnacle" in Dhivehi, and at Kudarah Thila there are actually four pinnacles, which can be all visited in one dive. A swim-through at the south-east corner of the dive site makes this a particularly popular dive, as does the rich variety of marine life, which typically includes trumpet fish, snapper, gobies, dartfish, oriental sweetlips and groupers. A little further away from the reef, divers are likely to see gray reef sharks, napoleon fish and sea turtles.
Maalhos Thila is only suitable for experienced scuba divers because the best part of the dive site lies deeper than 25 metres. Maalhos Thila is an attractive dive spot, featuring several coral heads about 28 metres below the surface, all of which are covered with beautiful corals. Common visitors to the reef here include oriental sweetlips, white tip reef sharks and blue-lined snappers. Because of the strong currents at Maalhos Thila, a safety balloon must be deployed here to ensure the divers' safety.
Maaya Thila is one of the most famous dive sites in the Maldives and is known as a great spot for both daytime and night-time scuba diving. The marine life seen at Maaya Thila depends largely on the currents, which vary greatly; when the currents are not strong, Maaya Thila is an easy dive site, suitable for less experienced divers, but when currents are strong Maaya Thila is recommended for only advanced divers and they will need to use a surface balloon. Maaya Thila is most famous for the white tip reef sharks that can nearly always be seen here, both during the day and night. A night dive here also allows divers to encounter moray eels, turtles, octopus and stonefish.
Mushi Mas Mingili Thila (Fish Head)
Fish Head, or Mushi Mas Mingili is one of the most popular dive sites in Maldives. Prior to the site being declared an official Protected Marine Area by the Maldivian Government it was a common shark feeding spot among scuba divers. Marine life typically seen at Mushi Mas Mingili Thila includes gray reef sharks, white tips, napoleon wrasse, jacks and tuna.
Pannettone (Kalhahandi Kandu)
Kalhahandi Kandu has earned the nickname Pannettone from the many Italian divers who believe it resembles the traditional Italian fruitcake. It is an attractive dive site, recommended mainly for advanced scuba divers, except for when the currents are not strong. There are some spectacular coral formations here, featuring a variety of soft and hard coral species, which attract a wide selection of fish including angelfish, basslets, butterfly fish, scorpion fish, trigger fish, puffer fish and . The corals here are in good condition and weather conditions at Pannettone mean the dive site can be explored year-round.
Male Atoll is divided into 2 sections, the North Male Atoll and the South Male Atoll. They are both located on the eastern side of the Maldives. The South Male Atoll is home to a number of tourist resorts and some of the finest scuba diving in the Maldives.
South Male Atoll
Cocoa Corner (Cocoa Thila)
Cocoa Corner is a dive site that can be explored in several different ways and with the right current and conditions, it's is the best shark show around Male Atoll. Many dive guides consider crossing from Cocoa Corner to Kandooma Thila. With the right current, divers begin the dive from Cocoa Corner and while maintaining a depth of 25 to 29 metres, they swim across the current while parallel to the edge at 40 metres. This gives a natural reference that divers are maintaining the correct position while crossing to the Thila and divers are not taken too far inside the channel.
The Thila lies in the middle of the channel about 15 metres from the channel edge. Here, divers will see heaps of Grey Reef Sharks from big mother sharks to newborn babies patrolling the edge of the channel together. Eagle Rays and schooling Jack Fish are also common at the beginning of the Thila. By the time divers reach the Thila, their bottom time should be running out and the best thing to do is to swim to the top of the Thila and continue diving in shallower waters. A safety balloon is a must at Cocoa Corner and divers should be prepared to make an open water safety stop.
Guraidhoo Kandu South
Guraidhoo Kandu South is sometimes also known as Guraidhoo Corner. Currents at Guraidhoo Kandu are strong, making this a dive site appropriate only for advanced, experienced scuba divers. Gray reef sharks are common visitors at Guriadhoo Kandu when the currents are incoming, along with several pelagic species and eagle rays. Divers should be very cautious at this dive site, as the currents can pull you away from the reef and there is often underwater turbulence.
North Male Atoll
The North Male Atoll is one of the most developed atolls in terms of hotel and resort development with over 20 resort islands, however it offers some of the best diving spots in the Maldives.
Banana Reef was the first dive site to be discovered in the Maldives continues to be one of the most popular. The dive, which ranges in depth from 5 to 30 meters, has several interesting characteristics including a pinnacle and some overhangs. Coral formations here are prolific and colourful, attracting an extensive variety of fish, including squirrel fish, banner fish and oriental sweetlips. Currents can be strong at times around the reef, with occasional turbulence occurring around the overhangs. As such, the use of a surface balloon is recommended.
Kuda Haa is a dramatic pinnacle, or thila, dive, which is widely considered one of the highlights of diving in the Maldives. Diving at Kuda Haa is at its best when the currents are not strong, when it is easy to navigate between the two parts of the pinnacle. Marine life to be expected at Kuda Haa is diverse and plentiful, including many macro species, including nudibranchs, flatworms, leaf fish and frogfish.