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Made up of more than 1100 coral islands spread over 90,000 square kilometers, the Maldives has countless epic dive spots to choose from. Whether you go diving at the north, central or southern atolls, there are excellent options for all experience levels. But with so much on offer, which destination do you choose? Get inspired and find the right dive spots for you in our round-up of the best dive sites in the Maldives.
Best Dive Sites in the Maldives - #1 Fish Head.
Our best dive site in the Maldives deserves a special mention, so let’s dive into the detail of what makes it so fantastic and how best to dive there:
Where is it?Bathala Island, North Ari Atoll, Maldives.
Fish Head is well-known as one of the best dive sites in the Maldives, located in North Ari Atoll. Sitting around 10 kilometers off Bathala Island, it can easily be reached with a short boat ride.
What makes this dive site so special?
This underwater mountain, or ‘thila’, is famous for being a Marine Protected Area that hosts dozens of grey reef sharks and a dazzling array of other marine species. It often features on lists of the best dive sites in the Maldives.
It is an ideal thila dive for advanced and experienced divers alike, sitting at 10 meters (32 feet) at the top, with the bottom part lying at over 40 meters (131 feet) deep in the sand.
The descent onto the reef is spectacular, as you swim through walls of fish to reach the dive site.
Fusiliers and snappers, bannerfish and glassfish, are all over the place in great numbers and make it difficult to see beyond a few meters at times.
Grey reef sharks pay a visit, tunas and trevallies abound, and barracudas can be seen lurking in the distance. Check that your position and orientation is correct and enjoy the marine life all around you. It is a feast for the eyes!
Make sure you look in the numerous overhangs during your dive at Fish Head to spot stingrays, nurse sharks, large potato groupers and beautiful fan corals.
There are also numerous other species around the reef, including octopi, moray eels, sweetlips, angelfish, trumpetfish and rabbitfish, to name but a few.
What is the best way to dive Fish Head?
The dive should be done mostly up current, as that is where all the fish will be. That is not an easy task, as the currents can be quite strong at times, given there is a wide open channel just east of the atoll.
Divers often try to zig zag close to the reef, starting from the deepest part upwards. In case of a mild current, a full swim around the thila is manageable.
DISCOVER MORE TOP PLACES TO GO DIVING IN THE CENTAL ATOLLS.
Need more inspo? Check out these 10 best dive sites in the Maldives.
1. Maaya Thila, South Ari Atoll.
Maaya Thila was once one of the most popular dive sites in the world and is still one of the best in the Central atolls, thanks to its vast array of marine life large and small.
Whilst there is some damage on the top of the thila, the deeper areas are stunning. By day, the pinnacle is busy with reef fish and critters, and is visited by manta rays and sea turtles.
By night, it is transformed with the fast-paced action of hunting whitetip reef sharks and giant trevally. It is a great spot to go night diving.
At 6 to 30 meters (20 to 98 feet) deep, Maaya Thila is an excellent pinnacle dive for all experience levels.
2. Kandooma Thila, South Malé Atoll.
South Malé Atoll is famous for its channels and ripping currents, which bring plenty of pelagic action to this popular destination in the Central atolls.
Kandooma Thila is one of the most eye-catching dive sites in the area and consists of a coral-covered pinnacle at the bottom of a channel.
The currents can be strong but there are many species to discover, including large schools of eagle rays, whitetip reef sharks, grey reef sharks and occasional tiger sharks.
You need more than one dive to fully explore this special site and it is a good idea to become a Nitrox Diver before you visit.
3. Alimatha Jetty, Vaavu Atoll.
Alimatha Jetty in the south of the Central atolls is famous for its night dive with nurse sharks and huge marble rays, which gather to feed on scraps from fish cleaned at the jetty.As well as having a famous shark dive, Vaavu Atoll has plenty of other dive sites to enjoy. There are abundant reef fish, mantas, pelagic fish and vibrant reef life at many of Vaavu’s dive spots.
With deep channels and fast currents, this atoll is great for experienced divers.
READ MORE: INSPIRING SCUBA DIVERS – PORTUGAL’S 81-YEAR-OLD INSTRUCTOR.
4. Manta Point, North Malé Atoll.
North Malé is one of the quieter destinations in the central atolls, yet it hosts a bucket list Maldives dive - Manta Point. This famous cleaning station has numerous mantas and also hosts plenty of reef life among the reef’s caves, crevices and channels.
With most of the manta action around 20 meters (66 feet), it is an easy dive for most experience levels and a must for manta fans.
5. Banana Reef, North Malé Atoll.
Banana Reef is another well-known manta cleaning station and was one of the first Maldives dive sites that gained international fame. As well as mantas, this thriving reef hosts stingrays, zebra sharks, whale sharks (during August), Napoleon wrasse and diverse reef fish.
At 5 to 35 meters deep, it is an excellent site for divers and snorkelers to enjoy.
6. Cocoa Thila, South Malé Atoll.
Sitting in the middle of the Cocoa Channel within South Malé Atoll, Cocoa Thila is washed by nutrient-rich waters and strong currents that attract a vast array of life - including huge schools of pelagic fish.
This enormous pinnacle stretches for over 400 meters (1312 feet) and slopes down to a drop-off at 30 meters (98 feet) deep. As well as countless pelagic fish, the reef hosts plenty of colorful reef fish and numerous green sea turtles.
Cocoa Thila is truly a sight to behold, so make sure you take your camera with you.
READ MORE: UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY – 7 BEGINNER TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED.
7. Hammerhead Point, Rasdhoo Atoll.
Sitting just northeast of Ari Atoll, tiny Rasdhoo Atoll is made up of just four islands, but it has a big reputation thanks to its Hammerhead Point dive site.
This dive site on the edge of an atoll has a deep drop-off that plummets to the depths and attracts scalloped hammerhead sharks in the early morning.
You will need some luck to spot these sharks, there is no special season involved, but experiencing this dive site at sunrise is absolutely worth getting up for.
Sparkling blue plankton lights the way down to the dive site and there are many large predators hunting on the reef. It is a perfect way to start your Maldives diving day.
8. Hanifaru Bay, Baa Atoll.
Hanifaru Bay in the Central atolls is one of the most famous manta feeding spots in the world. This sheltered bay is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and hosts hundreds of manta rays from May to November each year.
The mantas come to feast on seasonal plankton blooms and form large lines, barrel-rolling as they feed.
You can go snorkeling with the mantas and it is possible to be in the water with up to two hundred mantas at any one time. If you are lucky, you might even spot a whale shark as well.
LOVE MANTAS? GET CERTIFIED AS AN SSI MANTA & RAY ECOLOGY DIVER.
9. Kuda Giri Wreck, South Malé Atoll.
The Maldives is not known for its wreck diving, but the Kuda Giri wreck is a nice shallow wreck to dive. It is an easy wreck dive, the wreck is well-preserved, and it has great coral and sponge cover.
Sitting next to a pinnacle, this dive site is busy with reef life and makes a welcome change from current diving.
You could easily spend your entire dive simply searching for critters, including the wreck’s numerous frog fish.
10. Rainbow Reef, North Malé Atoll.
Also known as HP Reef and Girifushi Thila, Rainbow Reef is a famous drift dive known for its rainbow-hued soft corals. It is one of the most colorful dives in all of North Malé Atoll.
There is abundant life at this dive site, including schools of pelagics, eagle rays and grey reef sharks, but the star of the show is the coral cover. There are numerous blue soft corals and a diverse landscape of coral-covered overhangs, swim-throughs and caves.
When is the best time to go diving in the Maldives?
Feeling inspired to visit the Maldives? You can find out more about diving at the different atolls and choose the best dive sites in the Maldives for you in our Maldives diving guide:
BROWSE FEATURED PLACES TO GO DIVING IN THE MALDIVES.