The Maldives is just perfect for diving. Although the “dives” in the name “Mal-dives” has nothing to do with scuba diving in the Maldives, this archipelago is considered to have the best dive spots in the world. (“Maldiv” in the local language means “garland islands”, because the archipelago’s chain of islands looks like a giant garland in the middle of the Indian Ocean).
Among the 1,192 islands, scuba divers have about 100 islands to choose from, each offering magnificent underwater views, life forms and landscapes. The Maldives has 26 atolls and all of them are perfect for scuba diving. Below are just a few of the best.
Raa Atoll, also known as North Maalhosmadulu, has 16 inhabited islands, a number of dive sites, soft coral gardens, channels, and tons of colorful fishes. On board live-aboard vessels, divers can reach the Milaidhoo House Reef, which has an average visibility of 25 meters, and Hirundhoo House Reef, which is known for its caves, yellow and orange corals, and black coral bushes. This atoll is where most of the boats used all over the islands are constructed.
Dhaalu Atoll, 38 km from the capital city of Male, has two beautiful resorts, 8 inhabited isles, a number of deserted islets, and tons of sea turtles. A highlight for divers are the underground wrecks – the Liffey, which sank in 1879, and Utheemu 1, which sank in the 1960′s. Some of the fishes in this atoll are napoleon wrasses, manta rays, gray reef sharks and tunas.
Another wreck site is the Maldives Victory wreck in Hulhule Island near the Male International Airport. The 110-m long vessel was a cargo ship that sank in 1981.
Vaavu Atoll features the famed Fotteyo dive spot where there are regular sightings of barracudas, manta rays, gray reef sharks, snappers, turtles, tunas, and hammerheads, with a flourishing underwater flora and fauna.
North Male Atoll is home of the HP Reef, a diver’s favorite for its spectacular caves. Inside the caves are amazing rock and coral formations, and a ton of fishes, which include rainbow runners, dog-toothed tunas, barracudas, blue-fin jacks, gray reef sharks and eagle rays. On the shallower waters are emperors, banner fishes and angelfishes.
Mayaa Thila, located in North Ari Atoll, is one of the most popular dive sites and included in the list of protected marine areas. This reef has everything – caves, crevices, overhangs, coral formations, and of course fish – white tip sharks, gray reef sharks, frogfish, stonefish, zebra morays, and batfish, just to name a few. One of the highlights is a huge overhand with bright orange colored corals.
These are just a few of the many more amazing dive spots in the Maldives. Meanwhile, since thousands of tourists, divers, and water enthusiasts visit the archipelago every month, the Maldivian Government had put up strict protection laws against excessive fishing, garbage disposal and coral mining. Also, the government sternly prohibits any kinds of trade involving turtle shells, pearl oyster shells, black corals, shells and red corals. Since 1995, authorities have placed a total of 35 marine areas under special protection in order to regulate scuba diving in the Maldives.