The Northern Maldives Dive Sites
A liveaboard cruise to the northern atolls of the Maldives includes the famous Baa Atoll where hundreds of manta rays and up to twenty whale sharks can be found in the right season.
The Northern Maldives dive sites offer some of the best pelagic life sightings in the country.
The atolls are within a convenient distance from the international airport, so no additional local flight is required. The itineraries of the cruise just focus on the northern area rather than the whole of the central atolls.
One of the highlights of the trip will be the Baa Atoll with the Hanifaru Bay area. Baa Atoll is a UNESCO world heritage site and home to the larger filter feeding pelagic life. The annual plankton blooms occurring bring these magnificent creatures to the sheltered bay to feed. There can be in excess of 200 manta rays and 20 whale sharks here at any one time. Strict guidelines for the interactions which all liveaboard cruises must follow.
Take a look at the Liveaboard Cruise options below.
The Northern Maldives Dive Sites - 19 LIVEABOARDS
Emperor Leo Liveaboard in Maldives is for divers looking for a good value liveaboard in the Maldives. Divers will be delighted with Emperor Leo, part of the renowned Emperor fleet. Measuring 35 metres in length, she is comfortable and spacious. She easily accommodates 24 divers in 12 air-conditioned, en-suite cabins. Her modern layout is complemented by stylish contrasting wooden décor throughout. Paid Wi-Fi is available on board. As with all Emperor Maldives boats, Nitrox is free. She is also rebreather friendly, supporting several units.Book Now
Emperor Voyager Liveaboard in Maldives is a 30m vessel and part of the renowned Emperor fleet, is a welcoming, modern and spacious liveaboard built to a high standard. She accommodates 20 guests in 10 air-conditioned, en-suite cabins on three decks. Enjoy al fresco meals and drinks. Watch a film in the home theatre on a comfy sofa or relax on the sun deck when not diving. Paid Wi-Fi is available on board. As with all Emperor Maldives boats, Nitrox is free. She is also rebreather friendly.Book Now
Emperor Atoll Liveaboard in Maldives is the most intimate of all the boats in the Emperor Maldives fleet. She measures 26 metres in length and only takes 12 guests on board. Guests are comfortably accommodated in 6 twin/double air-conditioned, en-suite cabins. As she is a smaller boat, she can offer much more personalised service and attention. Paid Wi-Fi is available on board. As with all Emperor Maldives boats, Nitrox is free. She is also rebreather friendly.Book Now
The Northern Maldives atolls consist of Baa, Raa, Lhaviyani and Noonu and they offer regular sightings of the larger pelagic life.
Baa Atoll Highlights
Horubadhoo Thila is to the east and part of a marine protected area. The pinnacle is shallow at 12 to 16m and covered in soft corals surrounded by large boulders. The site is a manta cleaning station from May to November. Jackfish hunt glassfish here.
Nelivaru Haa is in the south-east of the atoll starting at 14m and descending to 30m forming a star shape with many canyons and overhangs. Covered in hard and soft corals in the overhangs look for stingrays and large groupers, batfish and sweetlips are on the reef which becomes a cleaning station during the manta season.
Dhonfanu Thila is one of the best sites in Baa Atoll with overhangs and swim-throughs over the pinnacle. High amounts of marine life surround the site with soldierfish, snappers and fusiliers along with the larger pelagic spotted often and one of the best places in the atoll for manta ray sightings.
Maavaru Kandu is a site that is carpeted with soft corals of green, yellow, orange and blue. They are found all over the area including the overhangs and seabed making it a unique dive here.
Dhigali Haa is not a manta site but offers a large number of marine life. Jacks around the pinnacle hunt glassfish and a large variety of reef fish hide among the black corals and sponges that covers it.
Raa Atoll Highlights
Fenfushi Thila is to the south and a pinnacle from 28m to 3m from the surface. There are overhands with tuna, turtles and Napoleon wrasse can be found in the deeper water.
The Wall is to the east of the atoll and a wall that starts at 10m descending to 60m. Many manta rays can be seen here is the season, other usual sightings are eagle rays, Napoleon wrasse, tuna and turtles. There are some caves in the deeper water with gorgonian sea fans with many bannerfish.
The Labyrinth is a popular site in Raa and is a pinnacle with canyons and tunnels covered in both hard and soft corals. Look for morays on the reed with juvenile emperor angelfish and groupers. Batfish are also seen here along with grey and white tip reef sharks.
Lhaviyani Atoll Highlights
Lhaviyani Atoll has pristine reefs with fewer visitors so offers uncrowded dives with excellent marine life. The atoll consists of wall dives where sharks congregate with triggerfish, tuna, barracuda and eagle rays.
Kuredhoo Express is a dive site for spotting eagle rays and a range of reef shark. Currents can be powerful here causing a fast drift dive.
The Aquarium is off Huravalhi Island and open to all level of divers, there is a steep drop off down to 25m where guitar sharks can be seen. Snappers cover the coral encrusted walls where turtles feed.
The Shipyard to the northeast is where the wrecks of the Skipjack 1 and 2 are located. Scuttled in the 1980s, they are both now encrusted with hard and soft corals.
Skipjack 1 is visible from the surface and sits upright in 15m of water. She has a winch arm making an excellent photograph subject,
Skipjack 2 is on her side at 28m and covered in glassfish, bennies, damsels and butterfly fish with stingrays found underneath the structure.
Madivaru Kandu is a dive site for the more experienced south of the weeks that have an abundant marine life. Look for white tip reef sharks, eagle rays, Napoleon wrasse, tuna, barracuda, snapper and much more.
Noonu Atoll Highlights
Noonu Atoll is accessed from Lhaviyani but is still pretty isolated leaving the dive sites uncrowded. Suitable for the intermediate level of divers the area has a shark population with many juveniles.
Raafushi is suitable for all certified divers with the reef top at 4m dropping down to 14m. Nudibranchs can be seen on the reef along with the usual reef fish. At the long crack, there are often nurse sharks found. Expect nudibranchs and red-toothed triggerfish with their distinctive red teeth that look like incisors. As you navigate the reef’s long crack, you might see a nocturnal nurse shark having a snooze.
Orimas Thila is for shark lovers as there is a channel where grey reef sharks are seen in higher numbers of around 20 plus. Usually divers wait down current so as not to disturb the sharks which are a mix of adult and juveniles. Stingrays, guitar and leopard sharks also reside here.
Christmas Tree Rock
Christmas Tree Rock is a series of large ‘shelves’ encrusted with corals and swim-throughs that house both large and small marine life. Reef sharks are found here along with tuna in the blue water.
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.