The Maldives, a chain of 26 atolls supporting 1,200 islands, is formed atop the long, submerged mountain range that extends from the Laccadives in the north to the Chagos in the south. The mountain range is believed to be prehistoric volcanoes that went extinct; and as the volcanoes subsided, so did the ocean floor. Coral larvae drifting with the ocean currents settled on the submerged ridges, a single coral polyp (see photo from Rasfannu below) dividing to form an interconnected network of several living corals, or coral reef. Overtime, the coral reefs fringing around the submerged ridges became atoll barrier reefs, enclosing lagoons inside. Eroding materials got collected on the shallower parts of the reefs and became sandbanks, and, in time, turned into tiny islands with an average of 2 square kilometers of land each.
Map of Male’ Atoll above shows a total of four geographical atolls. Kaashidhoo Atoll is the tiniest of the four but has the island with the largest landmass and is surrounded by deep waters with a lagoon (vilu) on the northwest side. The second Gaafaru Atoll also has one island; neither of these atolls have coral patches or shoals in its lagoons. In contrast the North Male’ Atoll and South Male’ Atoll which we explore during our boat excursions, have lagoons with several isolated micro-reefs (faru) some of which have developed into islands inside the atoll (house-reef dive), some with top reef shallower than 2m with coral spots exposed during low tide (giri), some with top reef reaching between 5-15m (thila). Also within the lagoons are several submerged shoals (haa) and sandbanks (finolhu).
Broad channels of deep ocean (kandu) separate the 26 naturally occurring atolls - the channel that separates North Male’ Atoll from South Male’ Atoll is called Vaadhoo Kandu; and sometimes deep channels connect the lagoon inside the atoll to the open ocean outside the atoll.
Currents are strongest in Kandu and diving to the outer walls of atolls exposed to the full force of currents makes for challenging drift dives for advanced divers to observe big pelagic species like sharks and rays. Where currents are strong yet receive some shelter, like house-reefs of outer-lying islands, inner atoll islands exposed to channel current and pinnacles of Thila, amazing soft corals, sea fans and gorgonians tend to make spectacular shows, hosting a diverse ecosystem of marine invertebrates living in symbiosis with the corals, attracting a myriad of reef fish sometimes cohabiting within the caves and crevices of the reefs and others schooling in numbers that cannot be counted, gliding along the reefs making thrilling dynamic dances; the reefs closely patrolled by the bigger pelagic fish looking for a meal. Currents at Giri are very few and therefore is ideal for new divers and night dives.
The variety of dive sites and the immense diversity of life hosted by the tropical reef ecosystems is what makes Maldives a truly unique place for diving, with each and every dive a unique experience, even on repetitive dives to the same location because you can never tell what you will encounter in the blue wild. In the dive sites listed below, the accompanying photos are taken by different dive professionals we trained, showcasing the sheer variety and beauty of our coral reefs.
If you are a certified scuba diver, join us on our regular Friday morning boat dives to explore nearby reefs of Male' atoll. It's a great way to meet like-minded ocean enthusiasts and expand your social circle. Alternatively, you can book a private boat dive with your friends, or if you want to save on the travel time, just go for a house-reef dive!
Rasfannu Male' House-reef
Male’ is geographically located on the southern edge of North Male’ Atoll. An outer-lying island, the southwest part of the house-reef outside Rasfannu has spectacular growth of soft corals and abundant fish life with the channel often bringing in surprise pelagic visitors. This is the location where we conduct most of our scuba course open-water dives. Easy entry/exit from shore and no boat travel involved.
Adam Ashraf, single coral polyp.
Maldive Victory Wreck
Resting upright and slightly titled on the ocean floor, southwest of airport island Hulhule’ in North Male’ Atoll, is the 83m long freighter Maldive Victory that hit the reef at full speed carrying full load of cargo and sunk within the hour on 13 February 1981. The nutrient rich channel currents have since transformed the shipwreck’s metal framework into a thriving coral reef, making for a challenging yet rewarding dive for advanced divers.
Sarah Ismail, jellyfish & juvenile trevally.
Located on the southeast fringes of North Male’ Atoll, Kandu’oi-giri island is used to house a fish processing facility. Diving to the island’s house-reef is always an exciting experience. Several moray eels poking their heads out of the same hole is a common sight here. So are the hundreds of sting rays that never seem to leave the area, giving its name Stingray City; and the many species of tropical fish that school together, giving it the name Fish Tank.
Hussein Soba, moray eels of all sorts.
This protected marine area is one of the most spectacular dive sites in all of North Male' atoll. From the coral covered boulders to the north, overhangs and crevices on the main reef, to the swim-throughs to the south, all around the site are amazing soft corals, sea fans and gorgonians, attracting a wide variety of reef fish and patrolling pelagics.
Mohamed Aruzan, pretty, sexy shrimp.
Lankan Manta Point
Favored by manta rays as a cleaning station during the southwest monsoon season, mostly from mid-August to November. When mantas are present, divers must remain below them, away from the cleaning station, remain neutrally buoyant and observe them with least interruption. The reef offers interesting dives even without mantas.
Ali Zayan, manta rays mirror.
Located in the middle of the northern reef of South Male’ Atoll, Emboodhoo Canyon refers to the area of the reef inlet formed by a section of the reef breaking off the main reef of Emboodhoo Faru. Marine life inside the canyon is varied from the outside, and it is an exquisite dive site offering beautiful overhangs, colorful corals and abundant fish life.
Abdulla Salaam Ahmed, a curious blenny.
Emboodhoo Express is the southern channel of Emboodhoo Finolhu. A marine protected area, this channel is well known for its strong currents that attract large pelagics like sharks and rays. Ideal for a drift dive, the most commonly seen are white tip reef sharks, grey reef sharks and eagle rays.
Mohamed Sujuan, guitarfish: ray or shark?
Located on south east North Male’ Atoll, HP Reef or Girifushi Thila is one of the most beautiful dive sites in Maldives. Sandwiched between two outer atoll islands, strong current carrying nutrient rich waters are a permanent feature resulting in spectacular soft corals, overhangs, caves and abundant fish life.
Sushant Joshi, turtle practicing yoga.
The north side of Maagiri Reef feature large overhangs where nurse sharks and sting rays are often found, taking shelter inside the caves. Large schools of fish congregate close to the eastern side of the Giri, especially when the current is incoming in the channel. A lively, colorful reef suitable for beginners.
Mohamed Visham, ghost shrimp hides well.
Located on the eastern house-reef of Bandos Island, a big coral called Bandos Rock stands a few meters away from the reef, rising from 20m to 12m, creating a nice canyon for divers to swim through. The main reef has large table corals, several overhangs and abundant tropical fish and sharks, especially black tip reef sharks seen at 25m.
Markin Ishaq, ornate ghost pipefish.
Vaadhoo Island is located on the northern edge of South Male’ Atoll. On the north side of the house-reef, facing the ocean currents from Vaadhoo Kandu, is part of reef with multiple overhangs, caves and a swim-through, called Vaadhoo Caves. A beautiful, impressive drift dive but can be challenging if the current is strong.
Ibrahim Nashiu, iconic pair of symbiosis.
Kuda Haa Thila
Kuda Haa is a marine protected area on the south western side of North Male’ Atoll, shaped like two humps of a camel, referring to two steep thilas, one rising up to 8m and the other peaking at 15m, both connected by a ridge. This site is recognized for the prolific fish life and the sheer diversity of fish that are seen here. Subject to strong currents.
Ali Riffath, dolphins at the safety stop.
A marine reserve located inside the Bodu Kalhi Kandu east of Bandos, Okkobe Thila consists of three large rock formations. Suitable for advance divers as strong currents tend to sweep the site. Spectacular site with colorful soft corals, sea fans, large schools of reef fish and prolific fish life.
Hussain Rafaal, round ribbon-tail stingray.
Located inside the North Male’ Atoll, the house-reef of Kurumba Island starts from 1-2m and slopes down to 10-30m to the sandy bottom below. The wall dive is sheltered from currents and is suitable for students and beginners.Tropical fish such as schooling batfish, moray eels, lionfish and groupers are observed here.
Farish Mohamed, turtle glides gracefully.
The first dive site to be discovered in Maldives, Banana Reef is a protected marine site located inside the atoll. Suitable for beginners and advanced divers alike, the overhangs, soft corals, canyons and big schools of fusiliers, oriental sweet lips and snappers make it a fabulous dive site.
Hussain Haleem, always friendly batfish.
Feydhoo Finolhu is an island inside the North Male’ Atoll. The house-reef is a straight wall down to about 35m, covered with soft corals, sponges and dotted with lots of crevices and holes. It is an easy wall dive suitable for students and beginners. Many different species can be observed, from invertebrates to schooling reef fish to larger fish & turtles.
Ahmed Shifzan, graceful eagle ray.
Located on the southwest edge of North Male’ Atoll facing the Vaadhoo Kandu, Kiki Reef is set back into a large cavity in the reef. The sheltered reef offers a spectacular wall dive suitable for students and beginners. Overhangs, a long swim-through, caves and ledges thriving with diverse invertebrates and prolific fish life.
Shahfaan Waseem, pretend-moray comet.
Located in northeast side of Farukolhufushi house-reef, an island lying on southeast edge of North Male’ Atoll, Back Faru offers an easy drift dive as it is well protected from strong winds during the southwest monsoon season, and also because it’s not greatly affected by the currents. Many surprise encounters from the deep ocean.
Hammad Abbas, biggest fish whaleshark.