The Maldives is a renowned diving destination known for its abundant coral reefs, clear waters, white sand beaches, and diverse marine life. Liveaboard tours are a trendy way to explore the Maldives’ underwater wonders. These tours involve staying on safari ships and traveling to various locations to experience the highlights of each region.
The Maldives is composed of 26 atolls, which are small chains of islands, and a total of 1,192 coral islands in the Indian Ocean. Each island has its unique characteristics and is protected by a barrier reef. The underwater landscape includes underwater islands called thilas, which are found both inside and outside the island channels, as well as barrier reefs and wrecks. Thilas inside the channels are often the diving spots with the strongest currents but also the most interesting sea life. The Maldives offers diverse diving experiences, ranging from current-rich channels and thilas to calm lagoons without any current.
Diving in the Maldives supplies opportunities to meet a variety of marine life. The warm waters of the Indian Ocean attract large populations of pelagic fish, such as sharks, tuna, wrasse, rays, and turtles. The Maldives is known for its encounters with whale sharks and giant mantas. Strong currents in certain areas attract even more shark species. The reefs surrounding the atolls are thriving ecosystems with a wide array of marine creatures, including unique crustaceans and critters.
The best diving destinations in the Maldives include channel diving, where divers can spot eagle rays and reef sharks. Thilas, submerged pinnacles, attract a wealth of fish and predators, offering excellent opportunities for creature spotting. Faru, which are long reefs reaching the surface, provide easier reef diving experiences with colorful reefs inhabited by fan corals, glassfish, and anemones. Noteworthy dive sites in the Maldives include Alimatha for night diving, Maachafushi Wreck for wreck diving, and Lankan Manta Point for experiencing a manta cleaning station. Shark cleaning stations at Maareehaa and Hafusha Thila offer sightings of hammerhead, silky, and grey reef sharks.
The Maldives has two distinct diving seasons: the Southwest Season from May to October and the Northeast Season from November to April. During the Southwest Season, diving on the west side of the atolls is highly active, attracting large schools of pelagic creatures. The east side of the atolls, although with reduced visibility due to increased plankton, is the best place and time to see manta rays and whale sharks. The Northeast Season is drier, with good visibility and colorful reef life. The currents during this season can bring a lot of shark action to the east side of the atolls, while manta rays and whale sharks are often found on the west side.
To reach the Maldives, it is best to opt for a liveaboard experience as the diving locations are spread out over a large area. Many liveaboards depart from areas near Male’ Airport, while others may require an internal flight to remote atolls such as Baa, Vaavu, Laamu, or Huvadhoo. Learning to dive in the Maldives is straightforward, and diving centers offer beginner courses such as the PADI or SSI Open Water Diver certification. Diving accident insurance is recommended, although the Maldives has well-equipped decompression chambers and excellent medical care in case of diving accidents.
The best time to visit the Maldives for diving is between November and May, although diving is possible year-round. Hanifaru Bay is full of Manta from August to November when plankton attracts manta rays to the marine reserve. It is advisable to pre-book diving packages or courses to secure the best deals and ensure availability.