When one thinks of the Maldives, the image of a tiny paradise island surrounded by a beautifully flat lagoon with clear turquoise waters lapping at the ivory white beaches comes in mind. In fact the amount of land that lies above sea level in the Maldives represents only a tiny fraction of the country’s overall land mass, most of which lies below sea level and thus presents divers and snorkelers with their very own Garden of Eden.
The islands of the Maldives are the visible coral tips of an oceanic volcanic mountain range whose outer edge at some points plunge to depths of over 3000m. Deep channels separate 26 atolls that run from Haa Alifu in the North over 800 nautical km to Addu atoll in the South.
Seasons and Diving
There are two distinct seasons in the Maldives.
The North East monsoon from December through to April represents the Maldivian summer and is generally characterised by drier conditions and a current flow that runs from the North East through the atolls, exiting out to the South West.
Visibility on the eastern sides of the atolls is excellent through the North East monsoon.
The current is typically faster at the start of the monsoon and decreases in power as the season progresses. Water temperatures remain fairly consistent at around 28° centigrade. Although the visibility drops on the western sides of the atolls during the North East season, divers are more likely to encounter Manta Rays and Whale Sharks.
The South West Monsoon from May to December shifts the focus on diving to the western sides of the atolls. The current flows from the South West through the atolls exiting out to the North East. Dive sites in the west experience wonderful clear visibility and slightly cooler water temperatures, attracting many of the shark species closer to the surface. During the South West season Manta Rays and Whale Sharks will typically only be found of the Eastern edge of the atolls.
Sea conditions can be rougher and there is a slight increase in rainfall over the South West season. The diving remains superb. The two equinox months of May and November mark the transition of the Monsoons. Currents can be changeable and there is a slightly higher chance of stormy conditions.
The Maldives boasts an incredible number of dive and snorkel sites. With the development of previously inaccessible areas, new dive sites are being established in Atolls ranging from Huvadhoo in the south to Haa Alifu in the North. The diverse nature of dive sites in the Maldives makes it suitable for divers of all experience levels, if your choose the right island.
Within each atoll there are sheltered reefs located away from fast flowing currents that are suitable for less experienced divers. By contrast, experienced divers will enjoy some of the best drift dives in the world.
Channels in to the atolls generate fast tidal flows, which in turn attract many of the shark, ray and fish species for which the Maldives are renowned.