The Maldives is an iconic dive destination, thanks to its white sand beaches, coral reef diving in warm waters, and abundance of whale sharks and manta rays. Consisting of 26 atolls dotted across the Indian Ocean, it is picture-perfect and at the top of many divers wish lists.
The different Maldives atolls each have their own characteristic dive sites and offer a variety of dive types; from atoll walls and channels to caves, swim-throughs, drift dives and lagoon diving. They each have an impressive array of marine life from large pelagic species through to tiny critters perfect for underwater macro photography. This variety of marine life and dive sites make the Maldives an ideal destination for all diver experience levels and interests.
There are plenty of Maldives liveaboards to choose from that cater for all budgets. During the southwest season, they focus their itineraries around the western sides of the atolls in search of big marine life. It is a great time of year for fans of big pelagics and divers can enjoy encounters with hammerhead sharks, grey reef sharks, whale sharks and manta rays. All whilst diving in warm waters of 26 °C.
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Ari Atoll has 105 small islands and is known for its submerged pinnacles that attract plentiful marine life, including manta rays. This atoll has several cleaning stations where divers can get close to manta rays, such as Mayya Thila and Donkalo Thila. Some of the most dependable dive sites for manta ray sightings are located in southern Ari Atoll and there are a variety of dive sites to choose from there. Scuba diving Rangali Madivaru in the northeast monsoon season gives the best chance of seeing manta rays searching for cleaning stations. The currents are strong at Ari Atoll and most of the dives are drift dives, so the diving is best suited to experienced divers.
Baa Atoll, one of the Northern Atolls, hosts manta rays at Dhonfanu Thila and Dhigali Haa; two underwater pinnacles covered in bushy black corals, whip corals and sea fans. Hanifaru Bay is world-famous for its feeding manta ray congregations from August to November. This small enclosed bay hosts hundreds of feeding manta rays that barrel roll and swim to the surface to funnel plankton within the bay. This feeding pattern can be witnessed from liveaboard boats or whilst snorkelling with the rays. The diversity of dive sites at Baa Atoll make it a great location for all diver experience levels.
Rasdhoo Atoll consists of just 4 islands and 3 sandbanks, lying off Ari Atoll. It offers easy accessibility to some of the best Maldives dive sites and is known for diving with larger species and its two World War II shipwrecks. Madivaru reef hosts diverse marine life including grey reef sharks, eagle rays, mobula rays, stingrays, turtles and mantas. Dolphins, guitar sharks and scalloped hammerheads can also be seen there. It is an unmissable Maldives dive site. Manta Block is also great for manta ray sightings at cleaning stations, particularly during November to April.
Hammerhead Point is another Rasdhoo Atoll highlight and is not to be missed for hammerhead shark diving. Many of the dive sites at Rasdhoo Atoll are suitable for less experienced divers, though some of the dive sites are deep. An advanced certification is recommended to make the most of the dive sites there.
North Male Atoll is a well-known dive area that has plenty of manta rays, reef sharks, and dive sites offering pinnacles, wrecks, coral gardens and cleaning stations. It is one of the most visited atolls and the currents can be strong. There are however dive sites suitable for new divers.
Other top Maldives dive locations for manta rays include Addu, Haa Alif, and Haa Dhaalu.
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