QUALIFICATION NEEDED: PADI Open water or equivalent - PADI Advanced Open Water advised due to more challenging dive sites.
This classic route, allows you to explore some of the top dive sites in the Maldives. North Malé Atoll features some of the Maldives most quintessential and enduringly popular dive sites, while Ari Atoll is considered by many to have some of the Maldives most consistent big fish sightings, including manta rays and whale sharks. The smaller Rasdhoo Atoll is well known for some of the Maldives’ finest hammerhead shark encounters and heading north, Baa Atoll’s incredible marine diversity saw it awarded UNESCO Reserve status in 2011. Nevertheless it sees fewer divers than its more southerly neighbours, ensuring diving away from the crowds, with regular sightings of manta rays and whale sharks during the summer months.
Please note: The following itinerary highligts are a sample only and any itinerary is subject to change without notice. The itinerary and dive sites visited will depend on several factors including, but not limited to, weather, diving ability of guests & the number of other boats already present at the various dive site
South Male Atoll: The six big channels, or kandus, here are not known for coral, but they have amazing pelagic life, big schools of fish, and tons of sharks. Cocoa Thila is one of the most famous South Male dive sites. If you've got the perfect amount of current, you can see rays and all the rest; luckily, there are some dips and caverns in the topography in which divers can rest as they watch the goings-on. Cocoa Thila is a big pinnacle rooted in deep, deep water, and it's located on the perimeter of South Male Atoll, this means you may well be doing a drift dive in the same current that brings in the big ocean life. Guraidhoo Kandu South is a large area hosting varied topography warranting several dives. Here, divers can submerge on a vertical or horizontal plane, from walls, to flats, to channels, to caves. Sharks glide along the waterways while tons of different reef denizens enjoy their holes and hiding places. However, for bucket loads of sharks, Embudhoo Kandu comes top of the list with it's healthy population of white tip and grey reef sharks. Kandooma Thila is another prime site, located in the thin channel alongside this thila an intense current brings a crazy amount of activity, including schools of barracuda and other big predators. Other sites include Vadhoo Caves and Kuda Giri Wreck. At Vadhoo , one cave after another offers the chance to chill with reef inhabitants among a garden of colorful soft corals, while watching sharks glide by in the adjacent open water. At Kuda Giri Wreck, inexperienced divers have a great chance to jump in the water to explore the artificial reef and its inhabitants with little or no current.
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.
Ari Atoll: Within Ari Atoll's 40 km length and 105 small islands, site after site vies for divers' attention. it is the most reliable Maldives location for whale sharks and manta rays, as well as for tons of reef sharks and turtles. The area's general topography is dominated by kandus and thilas. Ari's main draw is the large wildlife in the water column and various marine protected areas ensure the conservation of its incredible underwater creatures. Maaya Thila is considered one of the top Maldives dive sites for both day and night dives. This pinnacle is famous for the wild abundance and diversity of its reef life, from nudibranchs and octopus to schools of pelagic fish. Maaya's neighbor Donkalo Thila holds its own crown as a premier cleaning station for mantas and sharks in the western section of the atoll. Kudarah Thila and Rangali Madivaru, both in the southern section host high-volume manta cleaning stations as well, while Ukulhas Thila is the premier manta cleaning station in the north. Hammerhead Point in Rasdhoo Atoll, northeast of Ari, tops it all off. The deep water drop-off near this site gives divers a special opportunity to see hammerheads, the highlight for many divers. Fish Head pinnacle is the best place for an adrenalin pumping dive- here, throngs of bustling grey and white tip reef sharks scour the reef for their dinner under huge schools of dancing fusilier. Maamgili, where plankton-rich waters nourish whale sharks gliding over wrecks that also host large marble rays and nurse sharks. For wrecks Fesdu Wreck in the north is popular with macro critter lovers for it's resident ghost pipefish and plethora of nudibranchs and flatworms. The fishing trawler was sunk to become an artificial reef more than ten years ago, Halaveli is a 33 meter long freighter where huge blotched fantail rays provide an impressive counterpoint to the macro-life tucked into the wreck's holes and corners, and can be dived day or night. Rahdhigga Thila is crowned in its shallows with healthy branching corals and festooned on its sides with soft corals in every shade of the rainbow, not to mention other benthic organisms like sponges of many shapes and sizes. Pelagics lovers won't even feel left out here because Rahdhigga hosts shark action from silver tips, white tips and grey reef sharks. At Omadhoo Thila the dive sites lies in the Omadhoo channel where two thilas meet, to give it the nickname of the “Big Valley”. The thilas large coral blocks form an interesting landscape. with numerous overhangs along the reef where there are many colourful hard and soft corals, as well as the infamous long-nose hawkfish hiding in the black corals. Looking out into the blue, divers can often see napoleon wrasse, barracuda, eagle rays and white tip reef sharks. Large schools of bannerfish, snappers and fusiliers are found swarming above the reef top. Omadhoo is widely regarded as one of the true highlights of South Ari Atoll. Kuda Giri is a small reef that starts at just 3 metres which has overhangs running around the coral block between 12 and 22 metres, before levelling out at 30 metres into a sandy plateau. The reef is covered in disc anemones and black coral trees, overhangs are home to lobsters, moray eels and lion fish. In the blue water, keep an eye out for schooling fusiliers and bannerfish.
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.
Raa Atoll: High density of thilas (submerged islands) located inside its lagoon. The marine life amongst the caves, overhangs and drop-offs is diverse.
Rasdhoo Atoll: This tiny atoll has found fame as one of the best location in the Maldives for encounters with hammerhead sharks and for some spectacular dive experiences with manta rays and schooling fish.
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.
Please note: Due to weather and diving conditions, it's not always possible to visit each Atoll. Your Cruise Director will decide the best ones to visit at the time of diving.