Besides pristine beaches and clear waters, the Maldives is also known for its beautiful coral reefs and marine animals. In fact, its magical underwater world has made it one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. Scuba divers from across the globe have been coming here for years to marvel at the marine beauty and also to experience the unique geography of the seafloor. Keep on reading if you want to learn more about scuba diving in the Maldives.
The recommended time for diving in the Maldives is from December to May, during the northeast monsoon. In these months, when the winds blow from the northeast, the sky is clear and the seas are calm. As a result, there's very good visibility on the eastern side; about 20 to 30 metres. Visibility on the western side is about 15 to 20 metres. However, there isn't really a bad time to dive in the Maldives, and it's more dependent on daily variations like the tide.
From December to March, the currents flow through the underwater channels from east to west, causing planktons to flow out to the open ocean in the west, which attracts manta rays. At the eastern channel entrances, you can spot various shark species at this time.
The southwest monsoon lasts from June to November and moves the currents through the channels from west to east. During this time, visibility is great in the west. However, the seas can be choppy thanks to the strong winds, with swells going as high as two metres during the height of the rainy season in June and July. Hanifaru Bay is a great place to see whale sharks and mantas in this season.
The unique underwater geography of the Maldives is what makes is such a great place to scuba dive. There are three local words you should know when diving in the Maldives; thila, giri, and kandu. These three words are local terms for the local underwater formation, and can be useful.
Thila refers to an underwater mountain that typically lies at a depth of eight metres or deeper. It's often large enough to explore in a whole dive session and contains a lot of coral. A thila can be found in an atoll or in the channel (kandu).
A giri is similar to a thila but it's usually very close to the surface of the ocean, and can often be exposed during low tides. Compared to a thila, a giri usually has very few currents flowing around and through it, making it suitable for beginner divers.
Kandus are the channels between the atolls, islands, and reefs. They often have strong currents which attract big fishes and are popular for drift diving where you let yourself be carried by the current. Besides these terms, there are others that you can learn such as rha which is a normal sized island and finolhu which is a small island with sparse vegetation.
There's no shortage of locations to dive in the Maldives. Here are some of the popular diving areas you should check out:
North Malé Atoll
This is one of the earliest most famous scuba diving sites in the Maldives. The area has a gorgeous topography with impressive rock faces, drop-offs and overhangs, and a number of caves. One of the most well-known dive sites is Banana Reef, or Gaathugiri. This atoll has a rich variety of marine life with sharks, manta rays, and various smaller fishes. If you're staying at Club Med Kani or Finolhu Villas, the North Malé Atoll is just a short boat ride west of the resorts.
The Northern Atolls are a group of atolls which include the Raa, Noonu, Baa, and Lhaviyani. The famous Hanifaru Bay, where large numbers of whale sharks and manta rays come to is located in Baa Atoll. The Northern Atolls are quite far from the more popular central atolls, but they are definitely worth a visit.
South Malé Atoll
The South Malé Atoll has a lot of fish, sharks, and rays, thanks to the abundance of channels that promote plankton growth. Although the coral reefs here are not the best, it is home to the famous Kuda Giri wreck; a wrecked cargo ship at the base of the 30 metre tall Kuda Giri. This spot is suitable for divers of all levels, and the wreck is beautiful to behold especially at night.
If you're a seasoned diver or even a beginner, the Maldives is definitely a place you should visit. There are many scuba diving agencies in the Maldives that provide tours and classes to all divers. In fact, at Club Med Kani, we can arrange diving trips and lessons for you right on our island resort. Just let us know in advance as diving tours in the archipelago can get booked up fast during the high season. Happy diving!