The Maldives is one of the world's best dive destinations with its excellent coral reefs, atolls and an abundance of fish life and some wrecks throughout the country that sets it apart from other dive destinations.
Many islands have a house reef where you can very easily dive from the beach. Almost every island has its Manta or Shark Point! Most of the best diving in the Maldives can be enjoyed as drift dives. The dive boats (Dhonis) are not anchored, they follow the divers. For this reason, most dives are limited to 60 minutes. The maximum depth is regulated by Maldives law to 30 meters. All dive operators follow this law strictly.
In the channels, where soft coral proliferates with a profusion of colourful sponges, invertebrates and gorgonian fans are all profiting from the nutrient-rich water. There are also plenty of cleaning stations where cleaner wrasses and shrimps service the larger marine species.
Inside the atoll lagoons you'll often find small reefs with caves and overhangs and so called "Thilas" A thila is a huge coral structure projecting above sea level at low tide. At the thilas you find a wide range of marine-life. These formations bring water up from the ocean floor against their walls, feeding the sponges and soft corals that cling to its sides as well as creating an environment that supports an array of crustaceans and schools of resident fish.
Out from the reefs you are likely to spot the pelagic life that frequents the Maldives, including manta rays, eagle rays and a variety of sharks including the mighty whale shark. Wherever you explore there is likely to be something of interest going on, and for many it is in the shallows where the best of the action takes place. Here the clear water plays host to an abundance of fish providing an ideal environment both for photographers and divers alike.
Sweeping through a myriad of channels and passages between the atolls, the ever-present current ensures that nutrients are always on the move throughout the island chain. This accounts for the vast numbers of fish feeding on the passing feast and you can expect to see Napoleon wrasse, parrotfish, snappers, barracudas, jacks and sweetlips in every site where the water flows.
During the El Niño of 1998 some shallower areas of the coral reefs were adversely affected by bleaching. It will take some time until the reefs are back in the old glory. The general rule is that the North was more affected than the south. South Ari Atoll once again has beautiful hard coral and the soft corals are growing back nicely everywhere. The accepted view is that although some reefs are still returning to their former colourful glory, the fish life has never diminished. Even better news is that many believe it has increased in numbers over the past few decades.
The protection and conservation of the Maldives reef & atoll systems is a high priority. Sharks are fully protected, and turtles, napoleon-fish, dolphins, whale sharks, triton snails and clams can not be fished or collected.
In the Maldives today the trend is towards high-quality resort accommodation. With most of the tourist islands now developed as luxury resorts, the simple 'tropical island' with a sand-floored restaurant and bar is now almost a thing of the past. If diving in the Maldives is the main purpose of your visit we would almost certainly recommend taking a liveaboard dive cruise. Please refer to our information on dive cruises.
Diving Cruises in the Maldives are usually operated by bigger Dhonis which are converted to small floating hotels (liveaboards). The standard and comfort on board ranges from the basic to the luxury-end, but whatever the category, these vessels can reach many of the top dive spots in a short time. Most of the liveboards offering one to two week expeditions are almost always accompanied by a smaller Dhoni from where the diving is organised. Dive gear & tank storage along with air refills take place on this vessel.
Especially during the extended liveaboard trips, you reach dive-sites which are not visited by other vessels at the same time.
Liveaboards in the Maldives do require a degree of diving experience and those experienced enough can often enjoy a high degree of independence. Novice divers and those with limited experience may be better off on an island-based dive resort.
Important information about the standard of liveaboards in the Maldives
Liveaboard trips in the Maldives are much cheaper compared to a stay in one of the luxury island resorts. The vessels are almost all built in the Maldives and not always meet the standards achieved in other countries. Local labor laws regulate that all positions must be filled with Maldivian crew. Although there are some outstanding local staff, the best people usually work in the higher paying five star resorts. We are confident that our selection of operators do a terrific job in managing this situation. With this information in mind we hope that you'll be able to appreciate your experience better.