by Nick Lucey
When you fly over the Maldives, it only takes a single glance out the window to realize why this nation was practically made for scuba diving. Composed of 26 sandy atolls straddling the equator in the unforgettably blue Indian Ocean, it has long been frequented by the jet-setting crowd and those looking for a superior dive experience. More and more divers are clamoring for a glimpse at some of the planet’s most pristine reefs and the amazing cast of supporting aquatic characters, big and small. Throw in an intriguing, welcoming culture and some of the finest live-aboard dive boats and luxurious resorts on the globe, and you’ve got the recipe for an unforgettable dive vacation on a truly grand scale. Maldives Travel Specials
HOT DIVE SITES
FIND A DIVE CENTER IN THE MALDIVES
- Although you might find the Fotteyo Kandu dive site difficult to pronounce, be prepared to be positively tongue-tied by the variety of marine life. From May to July, this is the place for mantas. During the rest of the year, grey reef and whitetip reef sharks compete for space with barracuda, snapper and trevally.
- If you like your diving fast and furious, island hop over to Lhaviyani Atoll for Kuredu Express. Humans aren't the only ones that enjoy the rush of moving water and you'll be amazed at the diversity of species here. You can expect graceful spotted eagle rays easing into the current through crowds of sharks, snapper, bannerfish and even passing tuna. Mantas also frequently venture into scene and try to steal camera time from the eagle rays and sharks.
North Male Atoll
- If you want to take a break from the currents and big animals to get up close and personal with the small stuff, head to North Male Atoll. Here, the rare, strange and oddly wonderful take up residence on the atoll's southwest corner. Psychedelic flatworms, batfish, stealthy leaf scorpionfish and nudibranchs all chill out in slow motion under clouds of fairy basslets, anthia and other tiny reef fish.
Lankanfinolhu Faru - Another manta gathering space at this tongue-twistingly named atoll.
- Lankanfinolhu Faru — It's amazing how marine life simply know where to go to when they want to get rid of parasites and dead skin. But they do know and mantas obviously like the job done at these cleaning stations because they come in droves. The currents here run strong and force feed a healthy reef that seems to wriggle with several species of eel.
- The Ari Atoll has been a household name among savvy divers for a long time and its big marine life just keeps on coming. Ari Atoll’s headliners – schooling hammerheads, mantas and reef sharks – frequently manage to steal the show, but keep an eye out for the giant frogfish. Also, look out for humphead wrasse, schooling sweetlips and groupers.
Depth: From sun-soaked shallow reefs to deep walls, there are a variety of dive profiles to keep just about anyone happy.
Visibility: Ranges from 20 metres/65 feet to well beyond – most of the time it is very, very good. Keep in mind that if you do get soupy visibility, it's usually a good thing. There aren't any rivers to muddy the water, so it's usually plankton clouding the water, which can bring in the whale sharks.
Currents: Range from slow to ripping. They can be especially strong in the atoll passes, but this is what brings in the big stuff. Consider a surface signaling device as a mandatory part of your dive kit.
Water Temperature: Water temperatures range from 26-30° C/ 80-86° F range year-round.
Dive Season: The diving is good all year long, but bear in mind that the southwest monsoon brings significant rain between April and October, especially June to August.
Weather: Because they straddle the equator, the Maldives are obviously tropical, with loads of sunshine and temperatures around 24-33° C/75-91° F year-round.
Skill Level: There’s something for every diver here, from beginner to intermediate to seasoned veteran.
Scuba Gear: Most dive operators provide gear rentals. It’s always good to pack your own mask, fins and snorkel - as well as your regulator - so you can be ready to snorkel at any time.
Featured Creatures: You’ll find just about everything here, from the tiniest macro life to whale sharks, in season.
Length of stay: Seven nights will let you sample the diving nearest your resort and atoll but 10 days to two weeks is recommended. If you really want to sample the best that this nation has to offer, a live-aboard dive boat is the way to go.
Language: The official language is Dhivehi but English is also widely spoken, especially in tourist areas and at resorts.
Currency: The Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR).
Tipping: Tipping is not mandatory (a 10 percent service charge is added to every bill), but you'll definitely want tip your divemasters and live-aboard crews.
Access: International flights arrive and depart from Malé International Airport, which is on an island adjacent to the capital. Malé is served by flights from Europe, the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia
Transportation: In this island nation, getting around takes two primary forms -- sea and air.
Major Airports: Ibrahim Nasir International Airport – also known as Malé International Airport (MLE).
Airport Entry/Exit fees: Departure taxes are usually included in the cost of your ticket.
Documents: Providing you have a valid passport, return ticket (or ticket to exit the Maldives on a further journey) and proof of sufficient funds or a confirmed resort reservation), you’ll be issued a free 30-day visa upon arrival. You can read more about entry at the Republic of the Maldives Department of Immigration and Emigration page.
There are a number of items that you can't bring into the country – you can find a complete list at the Maldives Customs Service page.
Religion: Sunni Muslim.
Electricity: 220-240v at 50Hz. There are several different socket types in use throughout the nation (the Europlug Type C, British Type D and Type G are among the most common) so you'll want to check with your destination and see if you'll need an adapter or voltage converter.
FIND A DIVE CENTER IN THE MALDIVES
For more information, visit the Official Travel Guide of the Maldives.
Want to know more? Visit www.scubaearth.com for further information on thousands of dive sites, marine species, destination essentials and more.