The image of the Maldives fixed in most visitors' memories is an aerial view of an open ocean interspersed by tiny islands surrounded by beautifully patterned lagoons, beaches and reefs.
The amount of land that lies above sea level in the Maldives represents only a tiny fraction of the country’s overall land mass, most of which lies below sea level. The islands of the Maldives are the visible coral tips of an oceanic volcanic mountain range whose outer edge at some points plunge to depths of over 3000m. Deep channels separate 26 atolls that run from Haa Alifu in the North over 800 nautical km to Addu atoll in the South.
The relative isolation of the Maldives, far from any landmass, has led to a fabulous variety of marine species. Seasonal oceanic currents flowing through the country have forged channels from the open ocean into all the atolls. These channels, or Kandu in Dhivehi, concentrate plankton rich waters into and out of the atolls, which in turn support an incredibly rich marine ecosystem. Once inside the atoll, reefs, sandbars, islands and lagoons have evolved over millennia forming the habitat and nurseries for many of the reefs inhabitants.
Seasons and Diving
There are two distinct seasons in the Maldives:-
1. December to April
The North East monsoon from December through to April represents the Maldivian summer and is generally characterised by drier conditions and a current flow that runs from the North East through the atolls, exiting out to the South West.
Visibility on the eastern sides of the atolls is excellent through the North East monsoon. The current is typically faster at the start of the monsoon and decreases in power as the season progresses. Water temperatures remain fairly consistent at around 28° centigrade. Although the visibility drops on the western sides of the atolls during the North East season, divers are more likely to encounter Manta Rays and Whale Sharks on this side of the atolls during this period.
2. May to December
The South West Monsoon from May to December shifts the focus on diving to the western sides of the atolls. The current flows from the South West through the atolls exiting out to the North East.
Dive sites in the west experience wonderfully clear visibility and slightly cooler water temperatures, attracting many of the shark species closer to the surface. During the South West season Manta Rays and Whale Sharks will typically only be found off the Eastern edge of the atolls. Sea conditions can be rougher and there is a slight increase in rainfall over the South West season. The diving remains superb.
Equinox Months - May and November
The two equinox months of May and November mark the transition of the Monsoon. Currents can be changeable and there is a higher chance of less predictable surface and in water conditions, with confused currents and changing visibility.
It must be noted, however, that recent years have shown less predictability in the timing of the change of seasons. It is therefore always worth the gamble to travel during these less expensive months if high season in the Maldives is out of your reach.
Atolls, Reefs, Kandus and Thilas
The Maldives boasts an incredible number of dive and snorkel sites. With the development of previously inaccessible areas, new dive sites are being established in Atolls ranging from Huvadhoo in the south to Haa Alifu in the North.
The diverse nature of dive sites in the Maldives makes it suitable for divers of all experience levels, if you choose the right island. Within each atoll there are sheltered reefs located away from fast flowing currents that are suitable for less experienced divers. By contrast, experienced divers will enjoy some of the best drift dives in the world. Channels in to the atolls generate fast tidal flows, which in turn attract many of the shark, ray and fish species for which the Maldives are renowned.
House Reef diving: Most pre-paid unlimited daily dive packs in the Maldives are sold on the basis of diving from the island's house reef. This relies on you diving with a buddy, unguided. Due to the nature of the depth and sometimes challenging dive sites, most dive centres insist on a minimum of around 40 logged dives to make the most of this dive pack, or you may pay for a guide locally. Entering and exiting at designated points on the reef in the areas safe for diving, the dive centre will give daily advice on which dive points are safe, what the currents are doing and the team assists with the kit.
Boat diving: Every island in the Regaldive programme provides an excellent and varied range of boat dives. The dive centres are great at managing divers of different abilities and running boat trips to suit each level of experience, which are guided. You pay a 'boat ride' supplement locally on top of any pre-paid dives for as many times as you choose to dive from the boat.
Tailormade Holidays, group trips and Twin Centres
We offer tailormade holidays to the Maldives. This means that we can organise your holiday based on your requirements.
Our new Whale Shark Extravaganza group trip combines the best of both a resort and a liveaboard diving holiday, staying at the wonderful Boutique Beach Resort on Dhigurah Island. Prefer a liveaboard experience? You can also join marine conservationist Danny Copeland on our Manta Ray Extravaganza and snorkel with hundreds of reef manta rays at the peak of their aggregation at Hanifaru Bay a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
We can also offer a twin centre option of a liveaboard and island based holiday in the Maldives. Alternatively, many guests choose to combine the incredible sights in Sri Lanka with either an island or liveaboard in the Maldives.
For Sri Lanka options, click here
Looking for a Liveaboard? Click here for Maldives Liveaboards