Raajje's Best Dive Sites for Beginners and Experts Alike
As possessors of one of the most incredible underwater topographies in the world, it comes as no surprise that we as Maldivians are all so deeply connected to the ocean. And while you can find finite beauty in shallow lagoons and house reefs, in order to experience all that Raajje’ has to offer, you’re going to have to delve a little deeper. This is why diving is more than just a career or hobby for me; it’s a gateway to an entirely different dimension, magical and weightless, filled with flashy marine life and curious biodiversity, just waiting to be explored.
Whether you’re only starting out your dive journey, or you’ve been at it for years, the atolls mentioned below host a few of my personal favourite sites, for all levels of expertise. Please note that the notion of ‘beginners’ in this article is directed towards divers who have completed a basic Open Water dive course, and are already equipped with the proper know-how to navigate their dive safely.
1. VAAVU ATOLL
For seasoned divers, Fohtheyo is a dive spot that is definitely out of this world; it boasts one of the longest and healthiest unbroken reefs in the country, embedded with bright, colourful soft corals. Narrow with shallow edges leading to a small thila in the center, the formation of Fohtheyo Kandu is nothing short of mind-blowing. But what’s really interesting about this channel is what lurks beneath the surface. Here, you can immerse yourself in complete darkness, swimming through small caves and large overhangs, until you find an opening of light bursting through the thick of the mighty rocks. The outer channel area is perfect for a dawn dive before sunrise, as you’re likely to get greeted by huge great hammerheads, each nearly four or five meters long.
For less experienced divers, I would suggest checking out a channel known as the Golden Wall in Vaavu. With huge openings and a beautiful reef to hook into, this is a fairly easy spot, where you could even do a drift dive. Clouds of cod and snapper mill around the boulders here on the channel floor, complemented by a garden of lovely corals in red, orange and yellow tones. This site is also where I saw a bow mouth guitar shark for the very first time, which is very rarely seen.
2. SOUTH MALE’ ATOLL
Undoubtedly one of the best dive spots in the Maldives is the Kandooma Thila, located at the bottom of the Kandooma channel. Both the incoming and outgoing currents are stunning here, and you’ll find an array of sharks roaming around their cleaning stations, along with eagle rays, turtles and various schools of fish. My first dive here lasted only 28 minutes, after which I got out of the water and sat on the boat for a further 15 minutes, contemplating the wonder of what I had just witnessed. Keep in mind that the conditions for this dive can be very difficult, so you need to have good experience in handling strong currents. For your first time, I would suggest going with a diver that’s already familiar with the area.
If you’re looking for something a lot less intense, Villivaru Giri is another great site in South Male’ atoll. While the dives are amazing during the day, it’s something else entirely at night. The macro-life here makes for great underwater photography, with the likes of Spanish dancers, flat worms and nudibranchs hiding amongst the coral. I’ve encountered a couple of lemon sharks and guitar sharks on my dives in this area as well.
3. ARI ATOLL
Ari Atoll is home to a number of noteworthy expert dive sites, sites like Maalhos Thila and Maaya Thila to name a couple. But my top pick for Ari Atoll would be the underrated but oh so beautiful Omadhoo Thila, which I think deserves a lot more appreciation. On dive routes along Ari Atoll, this is definitely the site I look forward to the most. Consisting of three levels with three thilas, it feels almost like a spiraling staircase of hollow rock formations, swim-throughs and overhangs. With gorgeous soft corals at nearly every depth as you go, you can enjoy the reef at all times, even during safety stops. Meet and greet some eagle rays, and massive dogtooth tuna, oversized to a point that you might think they’re actual sharks. The currents in the middle of the channel can get quite hectic here too, especially on stronger days.
As for beginners, Moofushi is a wonderful site where the top reef starts at 11 meters, descending as far as 40 meters. It’s quite deep, mainly because it’s a barrier reef. Moofushi is home to a large manta cleaning station, where mantas come to get rid of plankton and grime that’s been accumulating; they dance and do some flips until the cleaner wrasses have done their jobs. This is a spectacle to watch, but please do not disturb the mantas or sit on any corals during your time there. Remember, the ocean is their home, and you are merely but a guest, so always respect marine life.
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