The 1190 islands of the Maldives are spread out across the
Indian Ocean and form 26 natural atolls. They boast a rich
cultural tradition of beautiful beaches, an underwater paradise
and historic royalty and pageantry. Arguably one of the best
diving destinations in the world, the fascinating array of
sealife and clear visibility attracts the best divers from
around the world. The islands stretch from the Western tip
of India to the Equator covering a gigantic area 60,000 sq
Fishing is the main trade of locals and the graceful dhonis
sailboats take visitors on their dives. It's a tropical paradise
of crystal lakes, coconut palms and sunken lagoons. The lagoons
are normally a brilliant bright blue, with amazing coral
reefs and abundant marine life. Strict local regulation of
fishing (still done using a rod) and commercial exploitation
has kept its marine environment in a near-pristine state.
However, In 1998 a rise in sea temperature, lasting two weeks,
stripped the reefs of a symbiotic algae that caused 'bleaching'
of the coral. While bleaching can be devastating, most of
the Maldives coral reefs emerged unscathed, and it appears
the process has not harmed any other marine life.
When to go
The tropical water of 27 to 30C temperature are perfect for
dives and explorations. The January monsoon clears the waters
throughout the spring to give up to 250ft of visibility over
the reef edge. Early May is the plankton season which reduces
visibility in the eastern atoll to 20 metres and is best avoided
During the autumn months you can witness the gathering of
the Manta Rays, harmless giant disc-shaped sea creatures
up to 20ft in diameter which gather around the plankton. You
can witness their spectacular mating dances at this aqua festival
Although they have temporarily lost some of their technicolour
splendour, the reefs are still a scuba diving and snorkeling
wonder world and the most exciting wildlife is under the water.
Anyone with a mask and snorkel will see butterfly fish,
angel fish, parrot fish, rock cod, unicorn fish, trumpet fish,
bluestripe snapper, Moorish idols, oriental sweetlips
and more. Larger life forms, eagerly sought by scuba divers,
include sharks, stingrays, manta rays, turtles and
Wreck diving is also possible. The "Maldive Victory"
is the Maldives most famous sunken treasure ship, and cargo
is still trapped underwater. A wreck in the Halaveli Resort
is home to a population of Marble Stingrays, the pigeons of
the Maldives that swim around the wreck seeking attention
and food from passing divers.
Tips for divers
- In order to Scuba dive, you must bring your log book or
other evidence of qualification. Beware of the Maldivian strong
currents. Check the direction of the current and dive on an
incoming tide, and cary a surface balloon or signal.
- Beware of sharks! There are a number of sharks around the
Maldives, the nurse, whitetip, reef blacktip, grey reef and
silvertip all inhabit the reefs but are usually harmless to
humans unless provoked.