The Maldives is known the world over as the best paradise vacation destination. The islands have plenty of white sandy beaches, lush forests, and spectacular dive sites that are known by all dive organizations and enthusiasts worldwide. What started the fame was Banana Reef, since it was the first ever discovered dive site that catapulted the Maldives to international recognition.
The Republic of Maldives is made up of tiny 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean. These low-lying islands with 26 atolls are home to vast colorful coral reefs. The beaches and lagoons are so crystal clear that, in most cases, people would not need to plunge in with goggles to see the spectacular corals.
Only 200 islands are inhabited, while about a hundred are visited by tourists for their resorts. Foreign tourists are not allowed to visit non-resort islands, while the Maldivian people are kept away from the resorts. Foreigners are only allowed to observe the local Maldivian way of life at the country’s only cultural center located in the Dhangethi Island.
Most travelers are Europeans, since the Maldives is a popular tourist destination in many parts of Europe. The islands used to be occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. It earned its independence from the United Kingdom only in 1965. It began to gain momentum as a tourist destination in the 1980′s under the dictatorial leadership of President Gayoom, who was unseated in 2008.
The first divers who visited Banana Reef were astounded at what they saw, and soon much of the world was coming to see the underwater beauty of the Indian Ocean. The first functioning dive site in the Maldives was Club Med Farukolhufushi in the Banana Reef, and it is still working fine today.
Located at the North Male Atoll, Banana Reef begins at 10 feet, all the way down to 60-ft deep. As a diver descends into deep waters, he will definitely be mesmerized at the sight of caves, cliffs, crevices, overhangs, coral beds, and coral heads. In many other dive sites around the world, no one can guarantee a sighting all the time since fish, of course, freely come and go. But in the Banana Reef, divers are sure to see the following fish any time of the year: Oriental sweetlips, giant squirrelfish, bannerfish jackfish, morays, manta rays, blue striped snapper, barracudas, grouper; jackfish, moray eels, and sharks. The more experienced diver prefers plunging into the deeper west side of the reef. Meanwhile, the shallower waters are perfect for snorkeling for the less adventurous,
As one enjoys diving and snorkeling in this banana-shaped reef, a diver is warned of two things: (1) underwater turbulence is normally experienced when the currents are strong and when this happens it is advised that the diver stays near the wall to avoid being pushed away; and (2) there could be heavy traffic in this popular dive site, which is why a surface balloon is necessary.
While Banana Reef is the oldest dive site in the Maldives, it is still one of the best and most sought after sites in the archipelago. Anyone visiting the Maldives should check it out.