Don’t let the name deceive you. Diving in the ‘MalDIVES’ is anything but mal! Teeming with marine life, the 1,190 tiny islands of the Maldives lie scattered across 800 kilometres of the Indian Ocean like jewels escaping from an overturned treasure chest. And they offer some of the best diving in the world.
As the Indian Monsoon Current sweeps across this equatorial island chain, it brings with it nutrients that feed the soft corals and sponges found clinging to rock walls. Caverns and overhangs dotted with mysterious, vibrantly coloured creatures line the ocean channels, while rock pinnacles extend to the water’s surface within crystalline lagoons.
These coralene islands are home to some 900 species of fish. While manta rays, whale sharks, turtles and eels co-exist below the waves, stunningly white beaches provide a dreamscape for visitors looking to get away from it all.
The blissful Baa Atoll is a prime pick for when it’s time to tick ‘Diving in the Maldives’ off your bucket list.
“The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.” – Jaques Cousteau
Diving Baa Atoll is an experience like no other. Designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in June 2011, it is the jewel on the necklace that is the Maldives. The atoll is situated on the west of the archipelago and experiences far fewer visitors in comparison to its southerly neighbours. From above, the 61 islands – half of which measure less than 10 hectares – resemble extra-terrestrial orbs spread out over a deep blue canvas. Close up, they offer heavenly visions overflowing with stunning natural beauty.
Our top pick in Baa Atoll is the less-than-one-kilometre-long Amilla Fushi, which translates to ‘your island home’. This quintessential paradise island boasts some of the best dive sites in the Maldives and can be reached in under a half an hour by seaplane from Malé International Airport. From Amilla Fushi, visitors have the opportunity to dive any of the 30 sites of the Baa Atoll, including the Blue Hole and world-renowned Hanifaru Bay.
To guide you in your underwater explorations is HUB (Home of the Underwater Biosphere) in partnership with luxury dive pioneers Dive Butler International. Their team includes an international group of highly qualified marine conservationists and dive professionals who can tailor excursions to meet your needs.
The Blue Hole offers a unique experience for divers and snorkelers alike. It is part of Amilla’s house reef and is within swimming distance of the shore. This spectacular underwater ‘chimney’ is lined with coral and is home to myriad marine life including Hawksbill turtles, triggerfish and guitar sharks.
Maldives diving is not complete without a trip to Hanifaru Bay: a site renowned for hosting one of the largest seasonal gatherings of manta rays in the world. Here, visitors can witness first-hand the breathtaking event known as cyclone feeding, where mantas and whale sharks form a vortex to feed on krill that funnel into this lagoon during the south-west monsoons (from May until November). During this free-for-all feeding frenzy, it is not uncommon to witness over 200 manta rays and a dozen whale sharks feasting in an area the size of a football field.
In the spring, the monsoon causes plankton to bloom, which lowers the visibility from an average of 40 metres to around 22 metres. However, this is also the time when the mantas rays and whale sharks arrive.
With its warm tropical waters, year-round dive season and easy access to top sites, Maldives diving is truly a remarkable experience. A wide range of sites makes it an optimal choice for divers of all levels. From drift dives to walls to 16th-century shipwrecks, diving in the Maldives has it all.
When planning your dive trip to the Maldives, there are a few things to bear in mind. During the dry season, between December and April, you can expect little or no rainfall, and travel during these months is the most expensive. Once in the Maldives, seaplanes, speed boats and/or ferries can be easily arranged to transport you to your desired location. And another thing: leave the bottle of Scotch at home! Being a Muslim country, alcoholic beverages are not allowed in, but don’t worry, they are available at almost all resorts.
Amilla Beach Villa Residences offer everything – and more – for comfort-loving divers, their partners, friends and families. On the secluded Amilla Fushi in Baa Atoll, these eight ultra-luxe villas – six 4-bedroom, one 6-bedroom and one 8-bedroom – front onto a coral-fringed private beach of powdery white sand. Each residence promises majestic living spaces, glamorous bedroom suites, a private beachfront pool and spectacular Indian Ocean vistas combined with a dedicated team of staff and fabulous no-expenses-spared facilities, which – as well as an excellent dive centre – include restaurants, a kids club, water sports, pro tennis and a spa.
Wake to the gentle sound of the ocean calling you for another magical underwater adventure. The Maldives, this is paradise found.