July - october
7 and 10 day trips
Please note: We recommend that you are a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver or equivalent to get the most out of this trip but you do not need a minimum number of dives to join. You should be comfortable with drift dives. Currents can be strong. All your diving is made from dhonis or zodiacs to give precise entry and exits points. Experienced divers can dive in a buddy pair unguided. Please note: the maximum depth for diving in the Maldives is 30m.
This itinerary runs at the time of a New Moon when the manta are most prolific between July and October, sailing from Male to the northern atolls of Lhaviyani and Baa (Hanifaru Bay) and back again. As well as manta, you can get close to whale sharks, hammerheads and reef sharks. One of the big attractions is the promise of manta encounters and diving at this time of the year will hopefully fulfil that promise.
Thanks to the currents that sweep plankton into the shallow lagoons, manta and whale sharks follow in vast numbers to feed. Here you'll see manta swim and loop at dive sites that have been chosen to hopefully give you sightings all week long. Although diving is not permitted in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hanifaru Bay, divers are permitted to snorkel with these gentle giants in the lagoon. You will also visit the renowned manta cleaning stations in North Male, Lhaviyani and Baa Atoll.
Of course, sightings can't be guaranteed, but diving at this time means your chances are very high!
Please note: The following itinerary highligts are a sample only and any itinerary is subject to change without notice. Manta Madness will visit either the cleaning stations of Male or Baa Atoll, which includes Hanifaru Bay. This is at the Cruise Director's discretion based on the weather and current conditions to ensure you get the most possible interactions with manta and whale sharks.
North Male Atoll: There are dive sites here to suite all tastes and abilities. Manta Point may be the most famous, get ready to see more mantas than you can keep track of, as well as sharks and other reef residents. Another top location is Girifushi Thila, the current here is full-on, so expect a drift dive alongside scenery of colorful soft corals and water full of fish, including rays, sharks, and tuna. One of the best-loved and first-discovered is Banana Reef, which still showcases healthy thickets of branching corals. Along the curve of this banana-shaped reef, giant grouper and morays can be found. A huge school of bannerfish hangs in the current at the edge, and a few incredible caverns call for investigation. In another area, the impressive 100 meter Maldives Victory Wreck, has enjoyed over thirty years of colonization by creatures of the sea. The current can be strong but once you find in sheltered areas you can enjoy the big and small fish and invertebrates that have made this wreck their home. More sharks are available at Miyaru Faru, where divers watch the blue-water show from the safety of an overhang on the wall. The incoming current brings crystal-clear water and pelagics, including manta rays, eagle rays, tuna, and more. Two stunning sites for less experienced divers are Hans Haas Place with plenty of overhangs and small caves, and Back Faru, which offers good reef and pelagic life in incredibly low-stress conditions.
Baa Atoll: Known for having loads and loads of fish, great variety of species, fun topography (especially overhangs), awesome manta-viewing, and fewer liveaboards crowding the scene. At Maavaru Kandu, you'll witness enormous carpets of swaying soft corals covering every square inch of the rocky surface with a glow of blue, yellow, orange and green. View these from within enormous overhangs whose ceilings are just as decorated as their floors, the site is unlike anywhere else in the Maldives. Fish life, black corals, hard corals, and whip corals complete the scene. Dhonfanu Thila lacks Maavaru Kanduís soft corals, but is brimming with fish: mantas, soldierfish and snappers lurk in overhangs, fusiliers shimmer in the blue water, and tons of other reef species abound. Dhigali Haa is not famous for mantas, but it also hosts great fish biomass. While schools of tiny silvery fish and jacks dance out their predator-prey drama along the sides of the pinnacle, slower-moving reef fish stand sentinel in the sheltered areas, and colorful reef-flat inhabitants play in the pinnacleís shallows. Whip corals, bushy black corals, and other photogenic benthic life give additional diversity to the site. Baa Atoll is most famous for Hanifaru Bay where you'll find huge aggregations of both manta rays and whale sharks going wild in a plankton-eating frenzy. As a World Biosphere Reserve, Hanifaru Bay is an unparalleled draw for marine life enthusiasts, professional photographers, and researchers. Only sixty people are allowed in the bay at one time to see the rollicking, rolling behavior that the bayís abundance of food brings out in these normally sedate giants of the sea. Generally there are fewer sharks in the northern atolls, except at Noonu Atoll. At a dive site called Orimas Thila, there is a channel where grey reef sharks swarm in numbers of twenty or higher. Expect your dive guide to bring you to a resting point just down-current, where you can kneel in comfort without disturbing the inhabitants. This dive site is ideal for checking out a whole community of sharks doing their thing, from small juveniles to adults over three meters long. Christmas Tree Rock is also worth a visit. The topography here consists of large shelves of life-encrusted rock that divers can peer under and swim through to search for big and small reef inhabitants. Small dancing fish of vibrant pink, yellow, and blue ornament the different levels of the with their bright colors. Reef sharks and rays rest in the dark, and large pelagics like tuna stream through the blue water off the sides. With a hard coral garden at the top, Christmas Tree Rock is often cited by divers as one of their favorite northern atolls dive sites.
Lhaviyani Atoll: The dive site Madivaru hosts abundant fish life in the crevices and overhangs of its vertical wall, from butterflyfish to Napoleon wrasse. In the adjacent blue water, triggers, tuna and barracuda add to the action. The channels of Lhaviyani Atoll are another great place to see tons of sharks in the northern atolls. Raa Atoll, with its dive sites Fenfushi Giri and Reethi Thila, also hold immense fish variety and volume, from Napoleon wrasse to tuna, and Reethi Thila is good for a bit of macro as well. Remote Haa Alifu and Haa Dhalu Atolls represent the northernmost point of the entire country.