The Maldives Central Atolls Dive Sites
The central area of the Maldives is ideal for all divers. Maldives liveaboard cruises cover the atolls close to the international airport, so there are no local flights required.
The Maldives Central Atolls dive sites are some of the most popular in this amazing country.
The liveaboard cruise area and dive sites on the itineraries are relatively close to the international airport on Male. The departure port is in Male, means there is no requirement for an additional local flight to another island. Guests can board the liveaboards directly from the arrival flight at the airport. The transfers back to the airport on disembarkation for the international flights are the morning of the final day.
The dive sites of the central atolls are still some of the best in the Maldives. Sightings of the large pelagic species such as manta rays and whale sharks are a regular occurrence in the correct season.
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The Maldives Central Atolls Dive Sites - 36 LIVEABOARDS
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The central atolls of the Maldives include North Male Atoll, South Male Atoll, Ari and Rasdhoo Atolls and Vaavu Atoll.
North Male Atoll Highlights
This is the main atoll centre for divers as it is close to the international arrival point of Male in the Maldives. There are colourful reefs, walls, drop offs wrecks, caves, channels and overhangs found in this diverse area. Open to all divers the healthy reefs are home to varied marine life from nudibranchs, frogfish, morays and reef fish to schools of fusiliers, jacks, and barracuda. The larger pelagic spotted here include whale sharks, manta rays, grey reef sharks, eagle rays, hammerhead sharks and turtles.
Close to the harbour and airport, the reef is a long and curved, hence its name. There is dense coral coverage on the reef where giant groupers, morays and bannerfish hide. There are caves and overhangs with soft corals and sea fans home to angelfish and snappers.
Miyaru mean shark in the local language and the site is aptly named. There is a wall with the usual marine life covering it, but the blue water is where the divers concentrate on for the larger pelagic life. Look for grey reef sharks in large numbers, kingfish, tuna and barracuda along with schools of eagle rays. Manta Rays are often found feeding here, and on occasions, there are hammerhead sightings.
Maldives Victory Wreck
The wreck is a 100m cargo ship that is in 35m of water with the shallowest point at 12m. Sank in 1981 she was not able to be salvaged and is now encrusted with corals and seasons forming a great artificial reef. Following the deck there are schools of batfish and groupers along with large puffer fish and fusiliers, look for a few turtles here too. The bow has good coral coverage and the hull is home to many nudibranchs and pipefish. The stern is where the wheelhouse is located and the ascent point.
Manta Point in the southeast of the atoll s the best area for diving with Manta rays, the site is 12 to 40m in depth. In the shallow water, there is a colourful reef, and marine life includes Napoleon wrasse, turtles, barracuda in large numbers, on the wall look for morays, octopus. At around 20m is a sandy plateau where white tip reef sharks can be found. The cleaning state is the primary focus for most divers on this site this is in the shallow area where the plankton-rich water is located.
Back Faru is very close to Male city and an easy drift dive with protection from the elements. This makes it an excellent spot for check dives, but marine life is still good. Turtles, eagle rays, tuna and white tip reef sharks are seen here. In the deeper area look for caves with nurse sharks, snappers, sweet lips and gobies.
Is also known as Rainbow Reef due to the abundant and colourful nature of the corals and marine life that is found here. The pinnacle is at 12m just off the main reef and has overhangs and crevices with boulder features, these are covered in soft corals, black coral, sea fans and tunicates. There is a chimney swim-through exit from a cave at 25m that exits at 10m. Look for snappers, boxfish, lionfish, morays and many moor reef fish, and larger sightings include barracuda, tuna and grey reef sharks.
Hans Haas Place
Hans Haas Place is generally free from currents as it is a broken wall section leaving a long reef inside a protected basin area with overhangs and caverns. Inside are sea fans hiding groupers and soldierfish, look close for filefish and hawkfish hiding. Anemones, octopus, turtles, butterflyfish and surgeonfish all inhabit the reef area.
Lion's Head is on the southern tip of the atoll that descends from 3m to 40m before going into the abyss. Here larger pelagic if can be encountered with Napoleon wrasse, eagle rays, tuna, grey reef sharks and turtles. The wall area is covered in sponges, sea fans with anemones and crinoids of all colours. Look for the macro life here along with leaf fish, octopus and false stone fish. Currents can be strong, but there are places to shelter and watch the batfish, surgeonfish and anthias passing by.
Okobe Thila is a reef with three coral blocks from 10m to 25m where there is a family of Napoleon wrasse that is curious about the divers that visit. The area has caverns and overhangs covered in sponges and soft corals with sweetlips, bannerfish and anthias are swarming around.
South Male Atoll Highlights
This atoll is known for the larger pelagic sightings rather than the coral formation. There are six channels which result in substantial currents and nutrients. The atoll is quieter than its sister atoll in the north but has caves, wrecks, channels and good drift dives. Maine life includes lionfish, morays, batfish, unicornfish, anemones, shrimps and squirrelfish. The larger life consists of eagle rays, turtles, grey sharks, reef sharks, mantas, whale sharks, schools of fusiliers, barracuda, trevally and even hammerhead sharks.
Cocoa Thila is a large pinnacle on the east edge of the atoll considered one of the best dives in the Maldives. To hide from the strong currents there are overhangs and ravines where divers can watch the fusiliers, snappers, trevallies, eagle rays and sharks.
Vadhoo Caves are in the northern part of the atoll where the caves offer shelter to view the marine life inside. Look for unicorn fish, turtles, soldierfish inside, through the opening to the blue water sharks, tuna, eagle rays can often be seen. The caves run along a wall covered with soft corals and divers can duck in and out of these along the wall. To end the dive there is a shallow cave with many crevices to explore for small critters.
Guraidhoo Kandu South
Guraidhoo Kandu South covers many sites and a large area with varying topography including walls, caves, plateaus and channels where sharks are in abundance.
There are two main channels with the southern one meeting an abyss at around 35m where jacks and Napoleon are found. The walls have honeycomb morays, squirrel fish sea fans, black coral and numerous soft corals.
Embudhoo Kandu in the South Male is a marine protected area with a very healthy population of white tip and grey reef sharks. The channel reaches an abyss at 30m ideal for viewing the sharks, napoleons and rays, the walls themselves have caverns and caves hiding groupers and soldierfish. One large cave goes back 25m and is covered in sponges.
Kandooma Thila is a channel and pinnacle where barracuda school in the currents. Grey reef sharks and white tips hunt here, and the many glass fish bring in trevallies hunting them. Groupers and snapper tend to be more at the pinnacle area of the site along with the turtles and Napoleon wrasse.
Kudos Giri Wreck
This wreck lies upright between 15 and 30m close to a pinnacle that forms an artificial reef now covered in corals. Schools of glassfish coat the inside with gobies on the structure and batfish overhead. Turtles and larger reef life can often be seen. The sandy bottom area has garden eels, gobs with their shrimps and leaf fish in the staghorn coral. Nudibranchs and flatworms are found along with octopus, morays and shrimps. The occasional guitar shark can sometimes be seen.
Ari and Rasdhoo Atoll Highlights
These atolls offer large pelagic encounters with manta rays, whale sharks, hammerheads and other sharks. Strong currents result from the exposed nature of the sites
Considered one of the best sites in the Maldives this site is open to all divers depending on the currents of the day. This pinnacle starts at 6m but descends to 30m, in the shallow, there is excellent macro life with nudibranchs and frogfish. The deeper area has caves, overhangs and a swim-through, here the marine life is eagle rays, white tips and grey reef sharks and even guitar sharks. The site has many soft corals and tubastraea with turtles and the varied reef fish such as clown triggerfish, angelfish, batfish and unicorn fish.
Fish Head is a protected area under the marine park and known for the shark life found there. It is a pinnacle from 10 to 35m with black coral formations on the structure which has caves and overhangs. There is a resident group of grey reef sharks here with a large school of snappers, Napoleon wrasse, schooling batfish and fusiliers along with eagle rays are also common. The currents can be very strong, so the site is not suitable for beginners.
Broken Rock is named from the massive split in the structure of the reef that runs from 12m to 25m of depth. The rock can be circumnavigated, but most divers will go through the canyon where soft corals, sponges and gorgonian sea fans are found. Napoleon wrasse, turtles and moray eels can be found here, crossing to the second rock formation there are barracuda and snappers and the possibility of a whale shark in May to November.
There are two wrecks here. The Fesdu Wreck is a fishing trawler lying on the sand at 30m scuttled to form an artificial reef that is now covered in corals. Look for the many nudibranchs, feather stars and tubastraea corals on the vessel inside will be full of glassfish and the many lionfish and moray eels.
The Halaveli Wreck sank in 1990 and is a 33m freighter now a very popular site. The deeper part is at 28m with the deck at 20m, batfish hang out here with the marries and lionfish on the vessel. Blotch fantail rays can be seen in high numbers and large sizes mostly in the afternoons.
Five rocks as the name suggests is five pinnacles or rocky outcrops with caverns and overhangs at 25 to 30m. The channels have a healthy sponge, sea fan and coral life, and the overhangs are home to mantis shrimps and moray eels. In the open water look for sharks napoleon wrasse, trevallies and grunts. There are a few swim-throughs and narrow passages where good buoyancy is required.
Hafusa Thila is a pinnacle descending to 35m usually dived early morning to view the many white tip sharks found here in the sand at the bottom. As divers come into the shallow water, there are grey reef sharks feeding, and it is not uncommon to see them in groups. Eagle rays are common along with schooling trevallies and batfish, on the reef look for groupers, morays and nudibranchs.
On Rasdhoo Atoll this site is another early morning dive to find its namesake. Scalloped hammerheads often are found schooling in the channel on the outside corner. Look for tuna, snappers, dolphinfish and even a sailfish here. Currents can be strong and changeable here.
Kudarah Thila despite its position in the lagoon does also have currents as it sits in the channel to the open ocean. As a marine protected area, there is a considerable variety and quantity of life on the small reef that descends to 40m. The four pinnacles have black coral, caves, walls and sea fans. Reef fish include sweetlips, batfish, gobies and groupers. Sharks, turtles, Maori wrasse are found away from the walls.
Maamigili Beru is a known area for whale sharks and included in all liveaboard trips.
Along with Ukulhas Thila, are the two sites that have manta cleaning stations where they are most prevalent December to March. Here the mantas come in for cleaning in numbers around the pinnacles and channels.
Vaavu Atoll Highlights
This atoll is more suitable for experienced divers due to strong currents on many of the sites. Many channels are present here that are both deeper and longer and a favourite night dive at Alimatha.
Vattaru Reef is an easy site to the south protected from currents where reef sharks, eagle rays and Napoleon wrasse are found amid the butterfly and sweetlips.
The inner reef has four submerged pinnacles or islands at 20m which are surrounded by schools of fusiliers. Reef sharks, turtles are common and manta rays in the right season.
Miyaru Kandu is on the north-east of the atoll and can be challenging. There are currents and divers need to be advanced certified to explore the caves at the corner of the channel where groupers reside. Hammerhead sharks that are occasionally seen at the channel edge are the attraction of the dive.
The liveaboard cruises in the Maldives offer snorkelling when the boat is moored and beach visits. Some cruises have a BBQ on the beach.
Marine Park and Conservation in The Maldives
The Maldives has three Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that were formed in June 2009 by the Maldivian government. The Baa Atoll area is part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. There are plans to increase the size of this area by making the whole of the Maldives a UNESCO marine reserve.