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!