The atolls of the Maldives stretch for 900 km, straddling the equator in the Indian Ocean, and deservedly rank among the world’s most popular dive destinations. Dive sites are packed with dense schools of fish, and most provide a good chance of seeing something bigger. Mantas, eagle rays, reef sharks, turtles and Napoleon wrasse are common. In South Ari Atoll there is always a good chance of seeing whale sharks.
The Maldives consist of 26 atolls lying off the tip of India in the Indian Ocean. Due to its mid ocean position, the Maldives has enormous variety of marine species that prosper in these ideal conditions. The Maldives has many world class dives scattered around its enormous reef systems, some of which require a live-aboard in order to reach them.
The most atolls famous for scuba diving can be divided in the following regions:
- Ari Atoll (also known as the Alif Alif Atoll, Alifu Alifu Atoll, Alif Dhaal Atoll or Ari Atholhu Uthuruburi)
- North Male
- South Male
- Northern Atolls
- Far North Atolls
- Southern Atolls
Where to Stay?
Divers can stay on island resorts, or the more dedicated can travel around the atolls on liveaboards. The different atolls all have slightly different characters, and a liveaboard journey is the optimal way of experiencing the best sites. Resort islands offer more luxury and a romantic atmosphere. Some photographers also prefer resorts because house reefs make ideal photo studios. Strong currents can occur in many places, so it’s best to check before booking.
Best Resorts for Diving and Snorkeling
Kuredu Island Resort & Spa (Kuredu island)
This 4 star resort is one of the top rated the dive resorts in the Maldives, featuring excellent diving and snorkeling activities. From big schools of colorful fishes and sea turtles to friendly reef sharks cruising pristine coral reefs, the Prodivers Dive Center (PADI) will help you discover the many nearby dive sites. For snorkelers, the turquoise blue lagoon is excellent.
Reethi Beach Resort (Baa Atoll)
This 4* Resort features numerous superb dive sites and an excellent house reef. The Hanifaru Lagoon is most famous for attracting large numbers of whalesharks and hundreds of manta rays from July to October.
Six Senses Laamu (Laamu Atoll)
This 5* Luxury Resort features a beautiful lagoon and 30 close-by dive sites offering an amazing array of coral and marine life divided into 30 dive sites. The Ocean Dimension dive center offers PADI courses for all levels.
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru (North Male Atoll)
This 5* idyllic Resort is one of the most beautiful resorts in the Maldives and features a superb shore, house reef and boat diving. Diving and snorkelling is excellent with turtles, schools of fish and reef sharks just a few meters off the beach at the fantastic house reef (excellent for night diving).
Angaga Island Resort and Spa (South Ari Atoll)
This 4* tranquil paradise resort features stunning beaches and excellent diving. The pristine house reef, rich corals and marine life, and is just a few steps from shore and dropping to 35 metres making it perfect for unlimited diving. The excellent dive center will bring you to the many fantasic dive sites around the atoll. Manta rays can easily be spotted between January and April at Madivaru point.
Angsana Ihuru Maldives (North Male Atoll)
This beautiful 5* luxury eco-resort features a great house reef is surrounded by a magical turquoise lagoon. Diving and Snorkelling is superb with reef sharks, turtles and big schools of fish accessible just a few meters off the shore at the pristine house reef (also accessible for night diving).
Bandos Island Resort & Spa (North Male Atoll)
This 4* lively Resort features a superb house reef and a very dive center. Neaby is the tiny island of Kuda Bandos which is perfect for swimming and snorkeling in the turquoise blue lagoon
Meeru Island Resort & Spa (Meerufenfushi)
This 4* resort is the only one on Meerufenfushi (easternmost island in North Male Atoll). The diving is year round and is particularly interesting from May to November for the manta rays. Snorkelers can enjoy the beautiful turquoise lagoon and the 1.5km long stunning white sand beach.
Kurumba Maldives (Vihamanafushi)
This 5* luxury resort island is one of the best diving, snorkelling and freediving resorts in the Maldives. In addition to the crystal clear house reef, there are 30 dive sites featuring superb marine life that the Euro Divers dive Center will help you discover (all located within 1 hour boat ride). The nearby ‘Maldivian Victory’ wreck offers very good wreck diving. The sheltered lagoon is excellent for snorkeling.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island (Rangali Island)
This 5* lusury resort island’s nearby dive sites features colorful soft and hard corals, rays, turtles and gentle reef sharks.
Kuramathi Island Resort (Kuramathi)
This 4* resort island features an fantastic Hammerhead Shark Point just a few minutes away by boat. For advanced divers, there are dive sites with numerous types of sharks, rays, manta rays, sea turtles, barracudas, napoleons and an abundant marine reef life. The Rasdhoo Divers team also offers PADI and SSI dive courses of all levels.
Anantara Veli Maldives Resort (Veligandu)
This 5* luxury Maldives resort is a true paradise island. The Aquafanatics dive center offers boat dives to the more than 20 nearby reefs teeming with superb marine life and also dive safaris (full and half-day) to further away reefs and bueatiful dive sites featuring giant sea fans, pristine coral, big schools of fish, sea turtles, etc.
Filitheyo Island Resort Maldives (Faafu Atoll)
This 4* resort is the only resort island in the remote Faafu Atoll (North Nilandhe Atoll). It’s seclusion is an advantage with many unexplored and pristine dive sites along with the spectacular house reef with a the North side dropping down to a depth of 90 meters. A lot of big fishes and pelagics can be spotted in the eastern side channels.
Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa (South Ari Atoll)
This new 4* resort is located on one of the best island for diving and snorkeling. This is an island for experienced divers featuring an fantastic house reef (home to juvenile rays and sharks) and some really good dive sites. The beautiful lagoon makes it a perfect destination for snorkelers and divers alike.
Paradise Island Resort & Spa (Lankanfinolhu Island)
This 5 stars resort features many water activities such as diving. The Dive Oceanus team will guide you to divers the world-famous Manta Point dive site. In addition, the Victory Wreck along with Banana Reef and Paradise Rock dive spots are just a short boat ride away. Fantastic channel dives, easy drift dives and colourful coral platforms are easily accessible. For non-divers, the resort offers various water activities such as , snorkeling, catamaran sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, jetskiing, waterskiing and parasailing.
Angsana Velavaru (Haa Dhaalu Atoll)
This secluded 5* resort features an amazing lagoon and a very nice house reef along with 30 dive sites to explorer in the South Nilandhe Atoll.
Mirihi Island Resort Maldives (South Ari Atoll)
This 5* resort features an amazing lagoon and a very nice house reef. The Ocean Pro dive center team will help you discover the 40 nearby dive sites. Activities include looking for whalesharks, snorkeling with manta rays, watching dolphins at sunset…
Bathala Island Resort (North Ari Atoll)
This 3* resort has a thrilling house reef attracting big fishes and offering pristine coral reef, walls and overhangs hosting a wide variety of marine life. The Werner Lau Dive Centre (estalished since more than 25 years) will help you discover some of the best dive sites in the Maldives including nearby Manta Point, Fishhead, Tila, Maaga Tila and Mayaa Tila.
Dusit Thani Maldives (Baa Atoll)
This 5* Luxury Resort is located on the Mudhdhoo island which waters features some superb dive sites. The fantastic house reef has underwater caves which is a big attraction to divers.
Kandolhu Island Maldives (North Ari Atoll)
This 5* resort features some of the best known dive sites in the Maldives the protected Fish Head and Maaya Thila along with Maalhos Thila, Bathalaa Thila, Hafsa Thila, Fesdu Wreck and Himendhoo Thila where whalesharks and hammerheads are often spotted. The house reef is also excellent with resident hawksbill turtles, black tip and white tipe sharks, jacks, eagle rays and an abundance of colorful reef fishes. The resort Dive Center offers PADI and SSI courses.
Lily Beach Resort & Spa Maldives (South Ari Atoll)
This 5* luxuru paradise resort is close to some of the best dive and snorkeling sites of the Maldives. The Prodivers team will be happy to show divers the more 50 surrouding dive sites featuring a huge variety of marine life, wrecks and during the right season whale sharks and manta rays (world’s top dive spots). The team also offers guided trips for snorkelers including discoverering small baby sharks and turtles patrolling the lagoon.
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa (Huvadhoo Atoll-Gaafu Alifu Atoll)
This 5* Luxury Resort located on remote Hadahaa island features some of the most untouched dive sites in the Maldives. The Blue Journeys team offers tailor made excursions will be happy to bring you to more than 30 dive sites. The house reef is amazing and perfect for unlimited diving.
W Retreat & Spa Maldives (North Ari Atoll Atoll)
This 5* ultra luxury dream resort is close-by to some of the world’s best dive sites including Fishhead, Maaya Thila, Malhoss Himendhoo Thila, Thila just to name just a few. Explore the amazing house reef and the Fesdu and Halaveli shipwrecks. Don’t forget to check-out the marine life at W Marine biology station.
Maayafushi Island Resort (Ari North Atoll)
This Italian-led 4 stars resort offers very good diving and snorkeling to some of the Maldives most famous dive sites featuring a wide variety of dive sites featuring a rich marine life diversity.
Helengeli Island Resort (North Male Atoll)
This 4 stars dive resort is surrounded by a beautiful turquoise lagoon and features an exotic house reef. The dive center team offers diving excursions to more than 35 dive sites including the Helengeli Thila.
Dream Luxury Resorts (6 Stars!)
The ultra luxury resorts listed below are perfect for a honeymoon in paradise.
Baros Maldives (North Male Atoll)
The PADI five-star Gold Palm Divers Baros Maldives was one of the first dive center (since 1979) to open in the archipelago. It offers diving trips to more than 30 spectacular dive sites including Nasimo Thila nad Okobe Thila. The dive center team also offers fantastic fluo night diving trips where the divers are using fluorescent lights and special dive filter masks to discover a new magical underwater colors.
Gili Lankanfushi Maldives (North Male Atoll)
The Ocean Paradise dive center organizes diving excursions to more than 30 dive sites, including some of the top dive spots in North Male Atoll such as Manta Point, HP Reef (Rainbow Reef), Banana Reef, Nassimo Thila, Okobe Thila, Maagiri.
Naladhu Maldives (South Male Atoll)
This beautiful 5* ultra luxury resort island offers activities such as scuba diving, dive courses, snorkeling, waterskiing, windsurfing, kayaking, kitsurfing and surfing.
W Retreat & Spa Maldives (North Ari Atoll Atoll)
This jet-set 5 stars ultra luxury resort is ideally situated within the North Ari Atoll, famous for some of best diving in the world. The resort also features a great house reef, perfect for both divers and snorkelers.
More Ultra Luxury Island Resorts (5 Stars)
- Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas (Huravalhi Island, Baa Atoll)
- PER AQUUM Huvafen Fushi (North Male Atoll)
- Cocoa Island by COMO (South Male Atoll)
- PER AQUUM Niyama (Dhaalu Atoll, North Male’ Atoll)
- Naladhu Maldives by Anantara (Veliganduhuraa Island, South Male’ Atoll)
- Gili Lankanfushi Maldives (Lankanfushi Island, North Male Atoll)
- Lily Beach Resort & Spa (Huvahendhoo Island, South Ari Atoll)
- Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort (Dhigufinolhu, Male, South Male Atoll)
- Taj Exotica Resort & Spa (South Male Atoll)
Official Administrative list of Atolls
Find below the list of administrative atolls from the southernmost atoll to the northernmost atoll.
Ari Atolls (North)
- Alifu Dhaalu Atoll (Ari Atholhu Dhekunuburi) – This is the Ari Atoll
- Alifu Alifu Atoll (Ari Atholhu Uthuruburi) – This is the North Ari Atoll
North Male and South Male Atolls
Together with Kaashidhoo Island and Gaafaru, the Malé Atoll are know as the administrative Kaafu Atoll.
- Baa Atoll (Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi)
- Lhaviyani Atoll (Faadhippolhu)
- Noonu Atoll (Miladhunmadulu Dhekunuburi)
- Raa Atolls Atoll (Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi)
- Kaafu Atoll (Male’ Atholhu)
- Vaavu Atoll (Felidhe Atholhu)
- Male City
Far North Atolls
- Ihavandippolhu (Haa Alifu)
- Thilandhunmathi Atoll (Haa Alifu)
- Haa Dhaalu Atoll (Nilandhe Atholhu Dhekunuburi)
- Shaviyani Atoll (Miladhunmadulu Uthuruburi)
Upper South Atolls
- Thaa Atoll (Kolhumadulu)
- Faafu Atoll (Nilandhe Atholhu Uthuruburi)
- Meemu Atoll (Mulaku Atholhu)
- Laamu Atoll (Hahdhunmathi)
- Gnaviyani Atoll (Fuvahmulah)
- Gaafu Alif Atoll (Huvadhu Atholhu Uthuruburi)
- Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll (Huvadhu Atholhu Dhekunuburi)
- Seenu Atoll (Addu Atholhu)
General Travel Info
Many major airlines fly to Male, the capital of the Maldives, including Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Sri Lankan Airlines, Indian Airlines and Emirates Airlines. There are also some charter flights, mainly from Europe.
Diving is year round, but a monsoonal climate means December to April is optimal for the west side of atolls and May to November for the east side. The water is generally warm and a 3mm suit is adequate.
Documents and Taxes
No prior visa is required to enter the Maldives. A free 30-day visa is issued to all tourists on arrival. Departure tax for all international flights is US$12 per passenger, and is generally included in the ticket price.
Domestic GSM network with international roaming is available on most tourist and local islands. Coverage is limited on the water. Most resorts have reliable communications, including email and fax.
Rufiyaa, but most tourist areas will accept US Dollars. (Exchange Rate)
Tipping, not officially encouraged, but appreciated.
Health And Safety
Generally recommended vaccinations include cholera and typhoid; a fresh tetanus shot is also advisable. Malaria is not much of a problem in the Maldives. Mosquito repellent is advisable.
GMT + 5 hrs
Scuba Diving in the Maldives?
Check out our Maldives dive guide and start planning your next dive trip!