Liveaboard Diving in the Maldives is a log-book entry which many divers yearn for – and with good reason for the Maldives is acclaimed with being one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world.
The Republic of the Maldives are a stunning group of 26 coral atolls and over 1200 islets scattered southwest of India, in the Indian Ocean. They extend for more 539 miles from north to south and are 80 miles wide, thus covering an area of over 34,000 square miles.
These coconut fringed islands with their powder-white beaches, surrounded by shallow turquoise ocean, are visible as you fly into the (MLE) Male International airport on the Maldives largest atoll, Male.
These inactive submerged volcanoes are divided into regions:
All liveaboards in the Maldives follow strict Maldivian dive regulations, which limit dives to a maximum of 30m. This is without exception and applies to all divers regardless of their training level. The maximum depth for divers with a beginner’s license is 20m.
As most of the dives in the Maldives are deeper than 18 metres (60 ft.), in moderate to strong currents, less experienced divers may struggle. It is recommended that divers complete the Advanced Open Water Course prior to arrival or have equivalent diving experience.
Most of the scuba diving in the Maldives is conducted from a dive tender, locally known as a dhoni. You will leave all your dive gear set up on the dhoni for the duration of your trip dive gear throughout your trip. Tanks are filled at by onboard compressors and medical supplies and oxygen are also on board.
Maldives pose three distinctly different types of diving:
- Inside the atolls
- Outside the atolls
- Inside the channels
Inside most of the atolls are complex reef formations. The reefs inside the atolls are often reefs are circular in shape, and encase a shallow lagoon or irregularly shaped and lie just beneath the surface of the ocean. They offer effortless diving as well as excellent snorkelling opportunities.
The submerged reefs, called thilas, rise from the depths and offer some of the best diving inside the atolls. These coral pinnacles are havens for marine life, from fish fry to large sharks and rays.
Outside the atolls offer spectacular drift dives along coral encrusted walls, as the reefs drop down steeply into the blue.
Inside the channels (kandus) the currents are at their strongest. These underwater corridors, carved over time by oceanic currents, are where nutrient rich waters flow, encouraging enhanced coral growth and where the greatest congregation of fish can be found.
The big attraction, however, are the schools of fish that patrol the reefs in colorful packs: Humpback and Black and White Snappers, Trevally Jacks, Barracuda, Batfish, Unicornfish, Yellowback Fusiliers and Harlequin Sweetlips almost comical in design. The reef’s larger inhabitants, including sharks, rays and occasionally even Whale Sharks, are often seen cruising in the blue.
A dive inside the atoll’s inner reefs will provide a glimpse of the sheer variety and biodiversity within the reef community. Here, all varieties of soft and hard corals can be seen amidst myriad colours of swarming fish. Even the apparently bare coral sand at the bottom of shallow lagoons provides a habitat for crabs, garden eels and aggressive trigger fish. There are no empty niches and, if one is found, it is quickly occupied.
Best Time To Dive
Maldives is a year-round destination
- Winter (November/May)
- Summer (July/October)
- Peak season summer (July/August/September)
The water temperature remains warm and comfortable (27-30 deg C) throughout the year. We recommend a 3mm wetsuit for diving.
Visibility is also clear all year round, though plankton blooming around early May can reduce visibility on the outer reef from about 40 metres (130 feet) down to about 20 metres (65 feet). The richest concentrations of plankton are usually on the eastern side of an atoll, which is where you will find the most fish.
The northeast monsoon arrives in January, bringing clearer water to most parts of the atoll. In the clearest conditions you can see up to 70 metres (230 feet).
Tidal movements are also very important in determining visibility levels. Incoming tides bring clear water but outgoing ones carry sediment and can sometimes decrease visibility on the fringing reef and lagoon, and reef outlets nearby.
The southwest monsoon from May to October, can bring rougher weather and sometimes restricts dive sites the liveaboards can visit. However with so many dive sites and experienced cruise directors you will always get a good dive.
How To Get There
Fly into Male (MLE) International airport, which is on the island of Hulhule. Most major international airlines fly to Male, which takes approximately 13 hours from London.
If you are travelling from the USA we suggest a first-leg flight to Singapore (SIN) followed by a 4-hour flight to Male.
Most of the liveaboard itineraries to the central atolls will depart from Male. The transit time to the boat from the airport is around 30 minutes by water taxi. Most of our trips include free airport or hotel transfers.
It is sometimes the case the your liveaboard trip may depart the morning after embarkation. Effectively you spend the first night on board in the harbour and set sail the following morning. In such circumstances it may be possible to arrange a later arrival to the vessel. We will bring all this to you attention at the time of your enquiry as we help schedule your itinerary.
Free 30 days Visa upon arrival for all visitors. No prior visa is required to enter the Republic of Maldives. Entry permit will be granted to visitors on arrival at designated ports of entry, based on the immigration requirements.
Make sure your passport is valid at least for 6 months more. If not, you may face major difficultis upon arrival. On the flight you get an immigration card to be filled in.
A departure tax of US$25 is levied to all tourists leaving the Maldives. Children under 2 years old and passengers in transit for maximum 24 hours are exempt from this payment.
Flight tickets purchased after the 1st July, 2014 should have the tax included, however, our advice would be to check with your travel agent, airline or read the small print when purchasing online.