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Maldives resort reviews

Introduction to diving in the Maldives

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Eleanor Johnstone
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Fish and coral-gazers worldwide consider the Maldives to be a holy grail of diving and snorkeling. With a broad and colorful spectrum of marine life and some of the clearest waters in the world, the Maldive islands make for spectacular marine tourism.

With 26 atolls, there are endless options. Below are a few recommended areas and dive-friendly resorts. You can also hand-pick your geography by searching for an atoll on the home page. Many of the most popular sites are well documented and there are plenty of resources available online.

Baa Atoll

Recently designation a UNESCO Biosphere reserve, Baa Atoll has some of the most developed marine tourism in the country, but is now faced with the challenge of balancing this rising interest with the environmental impact of large numbers of visitors.

Shark diving is a must for many - and worry-free. The Maldives contains a variety of sharks, none of which are deemed harmful to humans; such is the abundance of fish a shark merely has to open its mouth for a snack. If that’s your dish, then a resort in Baa Atoll may be a good base:

  • Shallow waters and strong currents are said to create memorable dives
  • Hanifaru Bay is a protected area, and features manta rays and whale sharks in late summer, although tourism in the small site is now subject to stringent government controls.
  • Reethi Beach resort is recognised for its rich house reef and range of dive sites within 20 minutes' boat ride
  • Four Seasons at Landaa Giravaru is excellent snorkeling and uncrowded dive sites

South and Southeast Ari Atoll boast some of the most accessible reefs in the Maldives for snorkelers and divers:

  • At Vilamendhoo resort, snorkelers access the notable house reef from the beach
  • Divers can choose from 40 sites within a 60 minute boat ride.
  • Angaga resort is recommended for divers, snorkelers and swimmers.
  • Diving is good year round, although access to manta ray hot-spot Madivaru point is easiest during the North East monsoon.
  • Diva Island resort is said to have one of the country's best-equipped dive centres; whale sharks are resident

Kaafu (Male') Atoll

  • Inclues South Male atoll, and is full of dive sites
  • Tranquility may not be a feature, but options are
  • Bandos resort and spa is known for good snorkeling and excellent diving instruction, as well as an expert clinician who can advise on diving eligibility
  • Bandos also has one of the country's only decompression chambers, along with Kuramathi.

North Ari Atoll

  • Few resorts mean low dive competition
  • Hammerhead dive site
  • Access to popular dive site Maya Thila
  • Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo is known for excellent snorkeling island-round, and a busy dive center
  • Whale sharks, manta rays, an array of fish, good corals and a wreck are featured
  • Veligandu Maldives offers custom dive trips, and the reef is beautiful with easy access

North Male Atoll: Going remote is often a good call. This atoll has fewer resorts than others, so diving tends toward tranquil. Look for:

  • Dramatic drop offs
  • A central current provides great visibility
  • A variety of marine life
  • Helengili is on the atoll’s edge, and offers great dive site access. Diving off the east side may be restricted during the North East monsoon, but the west side is sure to satisfy.
  • Eriyadu Island has a variety of coral reef formations, home to batfish and turtles
  • Best to hit Eriyadu during the South West monsoon for better visibility and shark sighting

Diving License

Getting your diving license is well-worth the time and expense. Most resorts feature a dive shop with a range of options. If you are spending time on Male or Hulhumale, you have several options. It's always good to ask for a recommendation from a local diver or resort dive center; calling schools to weigh the customer service and packages offered can’t hurt either. Resort schools are a safe bet. Always err on the side of caution and buy your travel insurance before leaving home. Given the hundreds of dives across the country each and every day, diving accidents in the Maldives are exceptionally rare.

Shops

Resort shops know they have a captive market and the prices are often extortionate - even for essentials such as sunscreen.

In Male', most of the dive shops are located along the tourist strip of Chandhanee Magu off Republic Square (the big flag) and if you have time (such as a few hours transit) it can pay off to investigate your options here.

If you can fend off the touts in the area - they are nowhere near as persistent or numerous as other countries in the region - many of the dive shops are surprisingly willing to discount or throw in extras.

If you plan to do a lot of snorkelling or diving, a good-fitting mask is the best accessory to acquire and worth your time even if your resort offers gear for hire. It should stick to your face when you inhale through your nostrils, even without being fastened.

Snorkels are more difficult to buy as finding the right one to suit your lung capacity can be a matter of trial and error, but most will do the trick in a pinch. Don't go too big, as a larger snorkel can make it harder for novice snorkelers to clear as there is more pipe. 

Having your own fins is a luxury, particularly if you prefer to wear booties or like to show off, but most resorts hand out rubber slip ons that work fine unless you are planning to set speed records.

Laws

Recreational diving in the Maldives is legally limited to 30 metres - even if an advanced PADI licenses you to go to 40 metres. Going deeper may also void your travel insurance in the event of an emergency, so be careful.

Moonsoons

For the exact diver, keeping track of the monsoon season can be important.

The North East Monsoon

  • December to April
  • Fewer rains
  • More whale sharks and manta rays to the western sides of atolls
  • Visibility not optimal.

The South West Monsoon

  • May to December
  • Optimal visibility on western side
  • Cooler waters attract more sharks to the surface
  • Sighting of whale sharks and manta rays best on eastern side
  • Rains more frequent
  • Challenging sea conditions

 

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