Archive for the ‘Liveaboards & Dive Centres’ Category
The attraction to the Maldives reefs, spread out over the atolls of the Indian Ocean, is something divers have in common. The views above ground are stunning and a peek below the water surface reveals a lively, colorful underworld. However, all dive spots and all divers are not the same.
Some dive spots have treasures at deep depths, some have marine life that just has to be captured on film and others are protected sites that deserve a bit more care and respect. Then there are divers that are more excited by these different spots – some seek out adventure, some are out to take photos, others are out to explore and others are eco-oriented. Which type or types do you fall into? Here are some great spots for your interests:
If you’re a diver who’s thrilled by the deepest depths and fastest currents, the Maldives has some locations that will provide the buzz of exhilaration you’re looking for.
Where to dive for adventure:
Known as one of the top dives for excitements, Kudarah Thila is situated in South Ari Atoll about 1km south of Kudarah. The depths start around 14 meters from the top of the reef and drops to 20-25 meters. Dive initiating techniques are used to best descend to the thila.
Also in South Ari Atoll the Broken rock canyon is in the Dhigurah Channel. Among other great sights there are great soft corals to see for divers who brave the depths and currents with a dive torch and surface balloon.
Finally, if it’s depth that drives you, head to Maalhos Thila where the temptations are coral heads located mostly below 25 meters.
Many divers like to snap photos of their dives and even holiday makers often have underwater cameras. When taking photos becomes more than a leisure activity and when the main goal becomes capturing sightings and having “trophies” of the dive, this is when it becomes something more. The Maldives is full of sites with great photos ops but here are a few great ones:
The site known as Fotteyo Kandu is considered a top world dive site as a result of its abundant marine life and also provides an opportunity for hammerhead sightings on early morning dives.
Capturing color that pops from the mono-color blue sea is a great effect in photos. HP Reef has multicolored soft coral and tons of flashy invertebrates to light up your camera, not to mention Eagle Rays and schooling Silver Jacks.
Photographers are often looking to capture the big subjects like whale sharks and mantas. The aptly named Madivaru (madi means ‘ray’ in Maldivian language) is known for mantas and especially the cleaning station during the north east monsoon.
Those who seek to find something new and really investigate their surroundings are those who like to explore. Backed with some knowledge of Maldives marine species before departure, these divers can get the most out of their dives by learning a bit of what they might see. These spots have nooks and crannies to be investigated:
The wall, overhangs and caves of North Male’s Banana Reef is open to discover though divers are warned about a washing machine phenomenon which has swirling down currents during the north east monsoon. Experienced divers who make the diver are just advised ride it out close to the reef.
For deep exploration, Filitheyo Thila has caves and dolphin corner but also has some deep caves below the 30-meter point.
One for taking time to explore is Kikki reef in Gulhifalhu (also known as Hans Hass Place) where there are tons of different features so explorers will be kept entertained.
For those who have an inclination to consider the environmental side of things, the Maldives is a great location to consider current issues and solutions at play. These sites have a protected status from the result of current and past activity:
Previously seen as a highly productive shark fishing area, Fish Head (Mushi Mas Mingili Thila) is now a top dive location and protected from shark fishing since 1995.
The 2km stretch of Makunudhoo Kandu, located in Kuda Faru is lined with dive sites. Protected status has been given to the northern side and it’s a real highlight in the region.
Eco-oriented divers will know how to be careful around the reefs and Orimas Thila is one place to make sure of this. A protected marine area, it’s a small reef where divers often spend time examining the marine life around it.
So no matter what tickles your fancy and gets you excited about diving, the Maldives has dive spots to satisfy all inclinations. Comment about what kind(s) of diver you are and take a look at the liveaboard packages available to go live the dream, diving in the Maldives.
What kind of Scuba Diver will you be in the Maldives? is a post from: Maldives Blog
Scuba diving in different places around the world you’ll get to know some familiar faces from the underwater community. While some fish types are specific to certain countries many are found in the Maldives as they are found around Indonesia, the Red Sea and beyond – with slight variations. Wrasse are a diverse group of fish with the Maldives home to a long list of these colorful carnivores.
Wrasse are diverse in type and appearance; they’re often colorful and named for the type of pattern they flaunt. They also have different functions which make it easy to locate and identify them as well. The wrasse population may often be ignored as plentiful and therefor common, rather than special. How unfortunate! Adding color and liveliness to the reef as well as carrying out special functions – they really should be celebrated.
My Name is Napoleon… But you can Call me Humphead
On one hand it’s easy to identify wrasse. While one type may have several names for it internationally, one of the names is usually connected to a discerning feature.
The popular Napoleon fish, also known as Maori Wrasse is a good example with its characteristic name being the Humphead wrasse. As you can imagine or may have seen, mature Napoleon Wrasse have humps on their foreheads that make them stand out from the rest. By another name they’re also known as Thicklip Wrasse because of – you guessed it – they’re big lips. The word “giant” is often added to the name as well, seeing as it’s the largest of the wrasse known to grow over 2m long. It’s the impressive size, apparent friendliness and interesting look that make it popular in the Maldives, as well as the fact that it’s now a protected species.
Other wrasse in the Maldives are more plentiful and much smaller so don’t get as much attention as the Napoleon; they’re a colorful bunch nonetheless. What diver wouldn’t want to see fish with such great names – Slingjaw, Dragon, Blue Star Leopard, Tubelip, Zigzag, Canarytop – not only are they intriguing names but some have interesting habits such as the Dragon or “Rockmover” Wrasse that feeds in teams with one moving the “rock” and the other going in for the kill.
Not only are they great names, but they have patterns to match; the Zigzag Wrasse or Zigzag Rainbow fish are mainly white with a pinkish stripe that zigzags from its head along the side of its body, at different lengths. The Blue Star Leopard, aka Peacock Wrasse, is complex in its spotted design, white spots on reddish and yellow background merging into black spots on a white background – all on the same small fish.
Wrasse that divers usually know well are cleaner wrasse as they hang around other larger fish and sea creatures like mantas, feeding on the dead skin and parasites that are unwanted by the host but considered dinner to the wrasse.
Where identification and recognizing your favorite wrasse becomes a bit challenging is their changing characteristics over their lifetime. With maturity wrasse seem to morph into new shapes and colors. The Humphead doesn’t have so much of a hump as a juvenile, for example. Not to worry, there are online resources (mentioned below) to help identify fish including juveniles and adults and see pictures of the intense designs, like that of the Blue Star Leopard mentioned above.
Scuba divers will see wrasse pretty much everywhere in the Maldives. With all the different types there is basically a wrasse around every corner. It’s possible when hanging out in a lagoon for a leisurely swim to feel them before you see them, as some types of wrasse like to nibble at skin of humans as well as their marine friends. This is not quite the controlled environment of those fish pedicure shops though.
Cleaning stations are the obvious place to find wrasse as they indulge in a meal and continue the reciprocal relationship that provides a “cleaning service” to the underwater community. In North Male Atoll at Manta Point is just one location where wrasse can be seen nibbling on happy mantas.
As for the big boys, Humpheads spend their time around the reefs and up to 100m deep on slopes of channels. Before reaching maturity the juveniles prefer keeping to areas laden with sea grass and coral branches. The numbers of humpheads are not like those of the abundant smaller wrasse though. In fact, this fish now has a protected status as previous overfishing has caused the populations to drop off. Just like mantas and sharks, the other large and elite species, Napoleon Humphead fish are wanted as a delicacy and are sold as a specialty in some circles.
For fish identification there is a comparison tool online that has a large database of information and photos. A search for “wrasse Maldives” turns up a fantastic list of colorful characters. Strive to make your photos and your dives more meaningful by putting names to the faces.
“How old are you (Crush)?” “Hundred and fifty, and still young, dude. Rock on.” The turtles of Finding Nemo were energetic with a “surfer-type” persona and they taught Nemo’s dad about how to relax and go with the flow. In the Maldives there’s a similar laid-back atmosphere and you will get to join turtles in the ocean, slowly paddling around, that seem to really know how to take it easy.
Turtles that call the Maldives home are the green sea turtles or the hawksbill turtles. Also known to lay eggs on Maldivian beaches are the Loggerhead and Olive Ridley sea turtles, with the Leatherback making appearances but not nesting in the island chain. Just like in the Kung Fu Panda movie (there seem to be turtles in many animated movies) the turtle usually takes the role of old, sage one, an image likely originating from their naturally long life span and calm demeanor. A fascination for scuba divers, tourists and conservationists alike, turtles have been on the endangered species list for some time with projects running in many countries of the sub-tropical regions.
Telling Apart Turtles in the Maldives
Being able to identify turtles during a dive sighting is a great advantage for scuba divers. The underwater world becomes much more intriguing and divers more knowledgeable when their stories and photos can be accompanied with specific details of their encounters. Fortunately, identifying turtles is a bit easier than distinguishing the many types of fish.
To start, the two most common Maldives sea turtles can be contrasted by their skin color and head shape. While the green sea turtle has a greenish tint to its skin, the head is small for its body and more rounded. The hawksbill turtle on the other hand is has more yellow and brownish-orange tones and its head narrows into almost a beak shape, like that of a bird (hence the name). Hawksbill sea turtle shells are also more elongated, and regularly eats non-plant material (sponges, crabs and jellyfish) while the green turtle adults are herbivores.
If the shell is more rounded and circle-shaped than the green turtle, with many plate sections bunched into the shell design, and claws on both front and back flippers, you may be looking at an olive ridley turtle.
For the rarest sighted turtles divers will want to know if they’ve spotted one. In the Maldives this would be either the Loggerhead or the Leatherback. Large heads and reddish or yellowy-brown skin characterizes the loggerheads, while the leatherbacks are much more easily distinguishable. The only sea turtle without a hard shell, the leatherback has instead a leathery-looking set of 5 ridgelines from head to toe where the shell would usually be.
For diagrams of each type this online identification tool is also useful.
Tracking Down Maldives Turtles
If it’s turtles you seek than the Maldives is just the place. Whether you stay at a resort, at a guesthouse or on a liveaboard you have the chance to see turtles – though some locations may present more opportunities than others.
For scuba divers, there’s the Kuredu Caves of Lhaviyani Atoll. The cavities of the drop off are home to many a green sea turtle. Though sightings elsewhere are usually of lone turtles, here a sort of “neighbourhood” brings together turtles who mainly use the caverns for napping.
Liveaboard divers are often favoured with sightings at various spots along their trip. The dive spots of Radhdhiggaa Thila, Nassimo Thila, Omadhoo Thila, and Reethi Thila frequented by MV Orion to name just a few.
Many resorts feature beach sites where turtles lay their eggs and are involved in turtle conservation efforts. The nesting sites of the Four Seasons and Vilamendhoo are two well-known locations. As for getting to see baby turtles tourist have recorded accounts from resorts, but there are also many NGOs and conservation projects around the Maldives where turtles are bred in nurseries. Tiny Island Volunteers is one organisation working to protect the fragile turtle population and as a result divers may continue to have more turtle sightings around the Maldives.
What prevents populations from flourishing and therefore makes it harder to come across turtles is the threat posed by poachers who remove un-hatched nests or kill adult turtles, all for the sale of the parts as delicacies.
The naturally slow reproduction rate (less than once per year) combined with the challenging start for hatchlings (making their way across dry sandy beaches to reach the water) are also natural challenges to the species regeneration. These are barriers which conservationists are trying to combat with nurseries to make up for depleted populations from unnatural turtle harvesting.
So while sea turtle sightings in the Maldives can teach divers about taking it easy and enjoying swimming in the ocean, they can also represent hope and diversity of marine species in the Indian Ocean and throughout the sub-tropical regions of the world. Book your Maldives dive trip and take a dip with the sea turtles.
Many divers are so comfortable in the water it’s like a second home. It’s not hard to imagine then how a bit of reef gardening could provide a source of nutrients to the inhabitants and just generally keeping the coral plots healthy, like our gardens at home feed us and various critters. Growing and tending to coral is one method being used to help the underwater gardens flourish in the Maldives, with some electrifying twists.
The focus of many coral preservation discussions seems to revolve around sea level and temperature rises, which are indeed issues in terms of coral growth. Fortunately, there are also more immediately effective and more controllable projects underway, which are already showing promising signs of progress. Throughout the year divers enjoy scuba diving via liveaboards and other means in the lagoon-filled, expansive island chain of the Maldives. To ensure this continues and that biodiversity continues to thrive, some reefs are receiving the “shock treatment” while others are getting the “silent treatment”. One day there might even be a swarm of robots taking on reef building.
Electric Eels No Longer Alone Under Water
Normally, we teach kids not to put the electric appliances near water. It’s a good thing the developers of Biorock didn’t listen to this advice or they may have missed out on a solution to accelerating coral growth. They’re using the benefits of low electric currents to attract calcium deposits to metal structures placed underwater which is used to attract and plant coral to the structure.
The build-up of deposits and coral underwater can be seen on submerged wrecks with coral growing to cover the edifice. With the addition of electric current this process has been found to speed up and accelerate coral growth so it’s been applied to purpose-built cages placed under the sea, with positive results.
Powered ideally by renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and tidal energy turbines, coral branches begin to naturally develop or are artificially grown then attached to the large cage-like structures called a Lotus. The artificial breeding not only adds to the speed of reef development, but when selective breeding is used, species more resilient to the elements are introduced. This means that an element of the susceptive nature of coral (to water temperature, for example) is reduced potentially creating a more stable reef ecosystem.
Projects in the Maldives are often headed up by volunteer and conservation organisations and sometimes supported by industry, such as resorts. The Plant a Fish program spearheaded by Fabien Cousteau, is one such project using resort support and the Biorock method to make a contribution to reef creation. If the name sounds familiar it’s because he’s the grandson of scuba diving pioneer and explorer, Jacques Cousteau. The international projects put in place by the Plant a Fish program aim to integrate communities with the success of the projects.
To take conservation to a new level some are even thinking artistically. In Indonesia, instead of domes or simple shaped cages, they’re using structures shaped like animals and other amusing items. They are “merging artwork with conservation” as they say, creating underwater coral sculptures once the metal base has been overgrown with coral.
Restrictions and Robots
If coral progression is priority, activities allowed around the atolls of the Maldives will need to be prioritized. The coral will never win against all their enemies without a little help (namely enemies like direct destruction from unsustainable fishing techniques, irresponsible divers, boat anchors and coral collection). Limiting activities like fishing in certain areas may help species thrive and may even attract even more positive attention, like Hanifaru which was made a UNESCO biosphere reserve to protect manta populations. In current BBC news a Coral Reef Alliance spokesperson, Rick MacPherson, endorses this type of regulation as one of the best devices there is to allow coral and the ecosystem to flourish.
In a less political and more technological way solutions are also coming in the form of robots. Tending to gardens is often seen as a hobby above ground, but at great depths it becomes more of a daunting task. This is why robotics are being used in the development of non-human “divers”, who will take care of the tricky and risky business of planting coral underwater. So far, Scotland is the training site and testing is underway but, if proven feasible and effective, schools of fish could meet swarms of robots in the Maldives.
At the moment Biorock seems to be making the most waves in the coral building efforts. Some advocate for waste disposal and other social issues to be dealt with as a higher priority while others could argue that what goes around comes around. Negative consequences of letting reefs decline is a decline in tourist attraction a hit to the tourism- and fishing-supported economy (especially in the holiday destination of the Maldives). More indirectly there are physical effects to the islands where small communities are located; reduced reef barriers leave them open to the elements.
The future success of the economy and quality of daily life for Maldivians will depend on vigilant management of coral reef issues and underwater ecosystems.
- Reef Check: saving paradise
- From underwater, Maldives sends warning on climate change
- How to Explore Coral Reefs like Jacques Cousteau in the Maldives
- Maldives to Hold Underwater Cabinet Meeting
- President and the Ministers to hold the world’s first underwater Cabinet meeting tomorrow
- Flash Your Skills with Underwater Photography in the Maldives
- Underwater Ironing
- Adapting to the underwater world.
When it comes to undersea exploration, Jacques Cousteau was a pioneer leading the way in scuba diving worldwide. Divers today can take a page from his book, on looking at the marine world with curiosity and a sense of discovery. The Maldives is a unique place; its location puts it in the centre of the Indian Ocean tropics, low-lying, teetering just at sea level, its surface area made up mostly of water with temperatures perfect for coral growth. Getting to know the hidden elements of the reef, like the unseen coral creatures, will deepen a diver’s understanding of the world that surrounds them when venturing below the surface. And enhance the view of what’s really going on, on the reef.
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”-Jacques Yves Cousteau
Unveiling the Obscure Underbelly of Coral Reefs
When you seep into the ‘silent world’, as Cousteau described it, not all that is living can be seen. Concealed within crooks and crannies are innumerable tiny creatures that make it challenging to get a full picture of reef life. This is where divers with a sense of adventure can really have some fun. Coral reefs are like a painting which, from a distance, gives one impression and close up reveals something much more complex – the more you look the more you see. In the Maldives it just so happens that the surface is also worthy of the strokes of a painter’s brush.
Oh how the reef animals like to fool onlookers with their camouflage and their disguises. While some fish just make themselves look like rocks, other creatures, like coral, actually create a rock-like shell. The small bodies inside coral, called polyps, actually secrete the solid outer cover in which they live, building bit by bit over time. Only at night do they venture out with their finger-like tentacles to catch zooplankton or other sources of nutrients.
The interconnected network below the hard coral shell is living and even “breathing” oxygen from their built-in algae partners. Using the intense Maldivian sunlight, the algae make oxygen and using their tentacles the polyps guide other nutrient into their mouths that they then share with the algae. Both parties contribute to coral coloring, which gets secreted into the deposits which become the outer coral layer and the focus of many lovely underwater scenes. Like the shell of a turtle when it has retreated inside, we see just the outer cover of the complex being that lies beneath.
This reciprocal relationship not only results in reefs that serve as shelter and protection for countless marine species, but also acts as a shoreline barrier, beach builder, and tourism attraction that contributes a major part to the economy of the Maldives – not bad for creatures only centimetres in length.
To come out with the shapes divers are familiar with, the staghorn coral, table coral and many others, different types of polyp colonies are required. Some form the longer branches and antler-like formations while others form thinner plates, giving the impression of a table. The water temperature determines whether the coral can grow their coral covers and the currents and water depths give way to different reef shapes, like those of the pinnacle reef, or “thila” as it’s referred to in the local Maldivian language, Dhivehi. It’s in intricate balance though as temperatures just a bit higher can cause coral bleaching, which can lead to coral death. Thanks to the Maldives climate, there are reefs to discover throughout the whole of the country, in all of the atolls.
Building Homes of Another Sort in the Atolls
The Maldives that many know now is not the Maldives of 15 years ago. Following the onset of El Nino in 1998, coral bleaching and death of the coral was widespread; the hot water conditions were not possible for the creatures to endure. Fortunately, thanks to regeneration efforts, divers can appreciate a diverse marine life and abundance of coral reefs around the region once again.
Environmental concerns have, in recent years, been at the forefront of Maldives international politics. Among the many conservation projects for turtles and mantas, there are also coral regeneration efforts still in place. Conservationists are now advocating for buffered conservation areas and bio-reserves to be designated so that activity is controlled, as mentioned in minivannews.com.
Reef regeneration projects attract supporters from many different types of organisations, from environmental and scientific to the tourism industry. It’s obvious that all have a part to play in understanding and ensuring reefs are not adversely affected by human activity and that the economy will suffer in tandem with the reefs, with such heavy dependence on fishing and tourism in the Maldives nation.
While you may not be able to sail the Calypso, like Cousteau, Maldives liveaboards will take you on modern diving adventures through the living, lively reefs. You’ll feel like you’re exploring the depths of discovery – just don’t forget to document your dives with some great photos and sharing with all your online friends. Find the liveaboard package that suits your dream diving vacation.
- Sunken steel cages could save coral reefs
- The coral gardens of Maldives.
- Artificial Coral Growth Speeds up Post-El Nino Recovery Process
- UK children to name Maldives coral reef
- Explore Untouched Parts of the Maldives on Galileo
Sharks have a commanding presence, that’s for sure. This presence strikes either fear or awe into those who meet them in their natural habitat, like in the Maldives where many types of shark make their home. Fortunately divers will overcome any inhibitions that the thought of sharks may cause, and they’ll discover for themselves just how magnificent and virtually harmless the sharks of the Maldives really are.
Like any large creature with such natural power, respect should be maintained. Despite the many divers who have shared the waters with sharks around these secluded islands, shark attacks are not just rare but practically non-existent. Searching online for shark attacks in the Maldives turns up only humorous videos that make light of the presence of sharks as a risky encounter and even use the Jaws theme song. However, thousands have swam safely with the sharks from liveaboards and on resort excursions.
The Usual Shark Suspects in the Maldives
Smaller sharks, young black tip reef sharks, are commonly seen twitching speedily around the shores of the islands. They are hard to photograph with their quick movements, but frequent the shallow lagoons so are probably the most spotted type for divers and non-divers alike. On the either side of the spectrum, whale sharks seem to dwarf these little guys, which you’ll probably even forget are sharks after seeing the likes of the island giants. In further contrast, whale sharks move much more slowly and are also hard to capture in a photo frame but it’s because they’re so immense.
Try not to use all the space on your camera too soon though, you just might see a tiger shark or hammerhead if you’re in the right place at the right time. Or perhaps the wrong place at the wrong time if you have a fear of sharks. They’re not as common as the other species but have been spotted in certain areas, tiger sharks in Foammula and Huvadhoo and hammerheads in Madivaru, Rasdhoo Atoll. For hammerheads it’ll be an early morning dive to try to catch a glimpse at them. They’re known as a more aggressive species’ but again, the Maldives has not experienced the issues that are perpetuated in the media. Nonetheless, divers should let these sharks have their space and drift slowly away (all the while capturing a photo if you can!). It’s said that the food sources keep the marine life well fed and therefore uninterested in foreign prey.
On the topic of stripes, young zebra sharks are also found in the Maldives. Until maturity they are characterized by their vertical stripe pattern when stripes turn to spots and they’re known more characteristically as leopard sharks. Some deep dive spots of the north and south of the island chain are known for leopard sharks, including Hanimaadhoo areas in the North and Huvadhoo in the south. As a bonus, Huvadhoo atoll’s coral and depths make it an overall great diving destination, and further backs last week’s article which endorses the distant atolls of the north and south for some exceptional diving.
If it’s white tip reef sharks and grey reef sharks that are on the list, a trip to Mayaa Thila should turn up some photo ops. Or head to Kandooma for white tips as well as other cool highlights like schools of Jacks. For nurse sharks you may need a keen eye to spot them sleeping on the sea floor. A liveaboard trip that goes through Meemu and Laamu will likely hit Kuredu which is known for nurse sharks as well as whale sharks.
It was time for many to rejoice in 2009 when the news circulated that regulations had been put in place to ban shark hunting in the Maldives. In 2010 extensions were made to these restrictions making it more difficult to fish for sharks anywhere near the Maldives and to export the now banned products. What tempts hunters to reel in sharks is the worth of shark fins and liver oils among other things like skins and teeth. Certainly one of the most heart-wrenching sights is finding de-finned sharks lying on the sea bed – fins removed while alive and then just left to perish. Fortunately for divers in the Maldives, thanks to these restrictions, the images they’ll see are lively and majestic living creatures.
To survey shark populations some innovative, unobtrusive methods are being used, such as baited camera “traps”. They’re not used to catch the sharks, just catch them on film to track and record the frequency and habits of the different species. Other nations that deal with shark fishing issues are South Korea, Brazil, New Zealand, and the USA.
Coming face to face with a shark can become a heart-racing but harmless experience, for those who dive in the Maldives. Let this vacation change your perspective on the big fish with the bad rep. Check out our packages and dive in with the sharks.
Swimming with Sharks is Sensational in the Maldives is a post from: Maldives Blog
- Whale Sharks in the Maldives
- Maldivian Government Moves to Protect its Whale Sharks and Allocates Protect Areas
- Adventurer 2 concluded last week diving after seeing more sharks and begins the new week today.
- Black Pearl divers catch sight of Silver Tip Reef Sharks at Bathala Maaga Kan Thila.
- Adventurer 2 seeks for more sharks at Guraidhoo Corner.
- Countless Mobula Rays replaced for whale sharks.
- Grey Reef Sharks and Eagle Rays at Guraidhoo Kandu
- Adventurer 2 Scores Two Whale Sharks Today While Snorkeling
- Last minute specials for Southern Sharks Cruise…
The idea of the Maldives as a must-see dive destination is not really a secret. Amazing dive spots among the unique lagoon-filled island chain are numerous and renowned. Each of the atolls of the Maldives boasts some great pinnacle reefs and channels for diving but some regions are more popular than others – not necessarily thanks to their superior quality but just because of their proximity to the central areas which are more easily accessible. Unbeknownst to many are hidden gems found throughout the outlying regions, in the northern and southern atolls of the Maldives.
In such a well-known destination one may wonder how parts of it can stay almost untouched; it basically comes down to geography. This expansive string of islands, lagoons and sandbanks separated by ocean depths keeps anyone from getting around anywhere too quickly. With air and water travel having a monopoly on island-to-island transportation in the country, the options are limited to domestic flights, sea planes, ferries and private boats and dhonis. While it’s quick to fly, the cost of sea planes and private transfers can be high and while local ferries are cheap the distance just to islands in atolls neighboring the airport is two or more hours. When neither the holidays nor the budget are endless, the distance holidaymakers can cover seems constrained.
Contrary to this perception of distance and expense, domestic flights are a great value way to see the white, swirling lagoons from above while being exported to a less-visited refuge of calm. Flights to the airports of Hanimadhoo, Gan and Kadhdhoo at the opposing regions of the country are reasonably priced and can be included in package prices to make for even greater value.
Scuba Diving in Secluded Maldives Atolls
At the peripheries of the vast island nation is where there’s a feeling of setting foot in places few others have been and discovering virtually rare beauty. We can say that the islands extend to over 800km (over 500 miles) but to get a sense of the distance, it takes just a quick look on Google maps to see just how far the islands extend. However, feeling the true seclusion, as a speck in the ocean, can only be felt by going there and being submersed in the ocean depths.
The distance to the farthest southern point is vast – about 500km (300 miles) from Male to the Addu or Seenu Atoll. From the regional Gan airport, connection to the region’s diving is accessible all year. One of the main diving attractions is a spot called Kuda Kandu which is comprised of a channel and thila spotted with nudibranchs as colouful as the rainbow and overhangs and caves that attract diverse life including barracudas. Wreck dive sites are a sight to see, even for beginner divers since the currents in the region are not too strong.
On the course north and still within the southern atolls of the island chain there are several atolls that are less mentioned and less photographed, since visitor numbers don’t reach that of the atolls to the north. Laamu, especially, has a lack of resorts so dive spots are open to exploration and may let you have seemingly private, VIP access to many areas. The local airports of Kaddhoo or Medhufushi get you into the heart of Laamu and the neighboring atolls of Meemu, Vaavu and Thaa atolls. For drift diving Leemu is said to be a treat and Medhufushi Thila, a pinnacle reef in Meemu atoll, is a manta- and whale-lover’s dream. Throughout Thaa and Vaavu Atolls there are many other impressive thila and kandu (pinnacle reefs and channels in Dhivehi, the local language) which liveaboards venture to depending on the trip itinerary.
Near the end of the ‘road’ north from Male, is Haa Alifu Atoll. Scenic flights into Hanimadhoo airport, on the island by the same name, are the route for the few tourists that make the journey there. It’s unfortunate for the many who don’t but fortunate for those who do, as crowds are almost unknown to the island. In fact the most crowded places are on the reefs, like Baarah Thila, where marine life is vibrant including a manta cleaning station. If you’re up for a deeper dive, Maadhoo Wreck may be a place to discover leopard sharks.
Lodging and lunging on the edge of the Maldives
Getting into these interesting regions is fairly easy. Domestic flights run from Male to the regional airports regularly. To get the most diving in your short vacation, liveaboards like MV Orion, Nautilus One & Two and Theia have selected routes, depending on the itinerary, through some of the southern atolls of Laamu, Thaa, Meemu and Vaavu. Heading north, there is less in the way of diving liveaboard tours in Haa Alifu but the Asseyri Tourist Inn is a charming, local island base for diving excursions. The guest house is close to Baarah and the experienced staff will ensure you see all the best dive sites in the atoll.
Venturing into the outer atolls is not only advantageous but also adventurous and accessible. Book your liveaboard or guesthouse to make sure you’re one of the few who get to visit these seemingly VIP areas of the Maldives.
- 14 days diving in 5 atolls.
- Black Pearl Dives North and South Male Atolls – Miyaru Faru, Kuda Giri & Kandooma Thila
- Maldives President to Address Nation on Planned Development Projects for the Atolls
Ever wonder what makes all these beautiful reefs thrive and what attracts the amazing marine life to certain dive spots? Well, they won’t end up the focus of your camera lens but there’s a lot more than you think to the ocean’s tiniest creatures – plankton! While we swoon over whale sharks, manta rays, turtles and their handsome friends, what about the little guys that make it all happen? The ocean food web is highly dependent on plankton and they can be nice to look at as well as you’ll soon see.
The most vibrant members of the plankton family are attracting the most attention, with some kinds that like to flaunt their luminescent colors. Like the glowing whales that amazed viewers of the movie Life of Pi, a real version of the radiant blue waters can be found in the Maldives. While the reality may not be seeing glowing whales jump next to your boat in the Maldives, on the shores of some islands like Vaadhoo in Raa Atoll, the plankton can be found displaying their bioluminescent effect. Best seen first-hand, photos of the effect just don’t seem to show the concentration of the millions of miniscule ‘glows’ that the plankton give off at night.
Not to encourage form over function, the ocean’s inhabitants depend on the role of phytoplankton. While it’s no small feat to create over 50% of the atmosphere’s oxygen (which we breathe – hello!) they also act as nutrients for, among other things, zooplankton. This provides the connection up to the small and not-so-small ocean celebrities, like whale sharks. Not to mention that great shows such as the Hanifaru Bay manta feeding frenzies come about with the zooplankton abundance brought by ocean currents.
Thank Plankton for your Diving Trip in the Maldives
The irresistible attraction to “yummy” plankton is just one of the effects that divers can thank plankton for. When clusters of plankton are pushed across reefs and into bays by water currents, zooplankton end up together in huge numbers that are tempting to ‘planktivorous’ mantas, hungry fish and swooping whale sharks which will be the stars of your Facebook and Flikr albums.
The collection of plankton with ocean current movement is a characteristic of pinnacle reefs, or Thila as they’re known in Dhivehi, the local language. Food sources like plankton collect at the reefs providing a feast for many reef natives, coral to fish alike. Since Thila’s are great attractions for marine life, so are they attractions for divers and marine enthusiasts. Hence, the reason for liveaboard tours to make pinnacle reefs a must-see on any tour. Known Thilas are found all over. In Ari Atoll there’s Kudarah, Maalhos and Maaya Thilas and in South Male some challenging dives are found at Kandooma and Cocoa Thila, to name a few.
It’s not just swimming creatures that consume plankton either. Coral and smaller sea dwellers are in need of plankton to fill their bellies. As a diver, the role of coral as the hub of the marine ecosystem will be obvious. Its full contributions may not be so apparent however. The health of the marine underworld may stem from the access to plankton thorough its nourishment to a range of sea life in all shapes and sizes. Reefs are also a shelter for its residents and human use for medicinal and recreational purposes cannot be ignored. Not to mention that outside the reef itself, coral reefs serve to provide shore barriers to erosion and that those beautiful sandy beaches are created from remnants of coral.
So it goes to show that maintaining coral is essential. It’s sustained by the consumption of live prey of various sizes, ranging from small fishes down to even smaller zooplankton. You heard right, some of that pretty coral is actually feasting on fish flesh! They feed at night though so you won’t see it during your day dives. All in all plankton is a facilitator in the maintenance of reefs and, indirectly, in the protection from erosion, in beach building and potentially to sustaining habitation for organisms that will be useful in medicine.
Plankton to Persevere
With all of the beneficial effects that plankton brings, it’s easy to see how interruptions in its productivity or movement could have knock on effects. For example, the drop in manta births in 2010 and 2011 is said to be a result of lack of plankton available to the manta ray population brought on by a reduction in the south-west monsoon winds. Small changes can have larger effects in the intersecting web of the natural world and while there will undeniably be natural ebbs and flows in the rhythm of population levels, researchers will surely be watching out for any significant changes through the seasons. The Manta Trust is one organisation looking over manta rays and making efforts to ensure their habitat, including feeding areas, are maintained.
The occurrence of phytoplankton bioluminescence is even being used as a marker for ocean health. The population numbers have been decreasing according to records and this is being linked to warming water temperatures. This, in turn, is setting off alarm bells for some who see this as a warning sign for larger climate issues. What we do know for sure, shifts and changes are realities of nature; endeavouring to ensure that our actions are not channels for its devastation can be our challenge.
Plan your next trip to see the beauty created by the tiny creatures of the ocean. Check out our packages!
- Maldives Fish: Where to discover Maldives Marine Life
- Marine life in the Maldives
- Manta rays secret life revealed
- Spotlight – Why Maldives Mantas are now International Superstars
- Marine Biology Tour Special Offer
- Marine Biology Diving Holiday with Mary Eichler-Bilek
- Marine Biologists to Lead Scuba Diving Cruise on Carina
Anytime we go on holiday or there’s a special occasion, out come the cameras. It’s no different with scuba diving in the Maldives. Whether it’s motivated by wanting to share these moments with friends or a bit of proof you were there, or just for the love of photography, the marine world can become a glamorous photo shoot set. This set is unique with a range of models, with large and small sizes and everything in between.
Not only are there a range of models but a range of types of photographers. For the holiday goers or those who dive only rarely, most consider disposable or compact cameras with waterproofing features (disposables don’t seem to be recommended though). Then there’s a whole range of cameras and accessories for the avid diver who wants to capture the most stunning shots, challenging themselves with each dive to get more and better scenes.
Suggestions for Success
No matter the situation, follow these considerations and suggestions to bring home some super shots of your time around the atoll reefs:
First of all, practice with the camera (in the housing if you’ve gone with this option) around home before taking it underwater and get your diving skills down separately before taking the camera with you. Also, go with a relatively small group if you can and ask about visibility conditions in the water as both will contribute to the likelihood of capturing a good shot.
The Maldives is known as an amazing destination for wide angle photography. Consider getting a camera with this type of lens to reel in some photos of big fish and reefs of colorful coral. Past dive photographers in the Maldives suggest destinations like “Fotteyo” at Felidhoo Atoll to take pictures of soft corals, Boduhiti Thila, North Male for manta cleaning station action and Rangali Manta Point, South Ari for the manta version of a night club – you are likely to capture massive dancing manta rays.
In addition to a wide angle lens, having a variety of lenses on hand is a bonus. Both the fish eye lens and the macro lens will open the doors to those really stunning, impressive shots on which Flikr, Facebook and Pintrest followers will jump on the opportunity to comment. Some compact cameras offer macro and fish eye settings so it may not even be necessary to invest in a professional camera to get those kinds of photos.
In the Maldivian atolls, use that macro lens for those mini-subjects, like scorpion fish and gobies – they may be small subjects but photos can be intense and capture amazing detail. For a slightly distorted view that may ironically portray the stunning reality, some of the best ‘wow’ shots of underwater creatures are taken with a fish eye lens. Just remember to get close enough for the maximum effect – and that’s easier said than done – sometimes fish seem to ‘know’ and stay just outside the ideal distance. But aren’t we all a bit camera shy at times?
What can make it difficult to get the right composition, color and lighting are the strong currents that are common in the Maldives, as well as the conditions of visibility and depth. Some suggest setting the flash fixed as on, so you don’t miss any opportunities and consider getting within at least 12 inches of your (smaller) targets since the water between you and your model obviously affects contrast, color and sharpness. For those with camera housings a powerful strobe is recommended. If you’re close enough to the surface, sun rays coming down into the water can also add an interesting aspect to your shot.
Where to Look for Photo Ops in the Maldives
Depending on the size and shape of the subjects and the reef, different sorts of photo opportunities will present themselves. Reports from divers are that Madivaru gets you in front of large schools of fish that the wide angle lens seems to complement – like thousands of bluestriped snappers and Redtooth triggerfishes. Also, you may spark the curiosity of bignose unicornfishes there when you create some bubbles.
On the other hand, Vilivaru Giri in South Male atoll has been noted for some good macros with the frogfish and ‘nudibranchs’ as well as blennies around the area. In almost any area you’ll find some great macro photo ops, like these so called ‘Christmas Tree Worms’, photo by Basement Vision.
Of course you may want to BE IN some of the photos yourself. It’s important though to be realistic of the type of photos you can get – it’s difficult to get a photo with you and a lone fish, whale or manta thanks to the speed of the fish, currents, and number of fish and onlookers. You’ll want a diver with some photo taking experience if you’re serious about getting a good picture. Consider free flowing hair, using eyes to show expression and creating controlled bubbles to add to the shot.
We’ve covered some of the who, what, where and how of Maldives underwater photography – the ‘why’ doesn’t really need any explanation. It’s obvious that the reefs of the turquoise-blue waters that surround the almost 1200 islands of this unique island nation are full of biodiversity that should be celebrated. Thanks to the photographers that share such great inspiration and underwater dreams.
It’s not difficult to see why ringing in the New Year on a tropical island would be nothing short of epic. Warm weather, sand between your toes, relaxed atmosphere and an unbeatable backdrop for fireworks or a beach party. Just vacationing in the Maldives is a special occasion in itself so it can only be amplified by the biggest party of the year.
There is a range of experiences depending on your budget and priorities. Prices do go up over the holiday period as it is the high season and, like anywhere, New Year’s celebrations are priced for their rarity. But it IS the annual festival of anticipation and optimism for the coming year. Typical gatherings outside the islands are busy, crowded and sometimes just don’t feel that special in the end. Just another year with the same party favors, same music, in a similar surrounding as years past. Those who go to the Maldives break the mould and go where very few have been before.
How Much to Splash Out
As the luxury option of the Maldives it’s no surprise that many resort put on a big show on December 31st. The Hilton is famous for their fireworks show and many hotels offer a gala dinner special event. Perhaps this could be seen as the more traditional celebration but transported to a not-so-typical location to the tropics of the Indian Ocean and super luxurious surroundings. Of course there are a range of resorts so depending on your budget there is a wide scale of extravagance to be found.
On a different level but no less exciting and special, liveaboards and guesthouses put on events for the new year too. There are even festivities and events in the capital of Male. Spending the day scuba diving must be the ideal way to celebrate for any avid diver. If you’re on a liveaboard, you’ll spend the day among friends in the underwater world snapping photos like at your average party, with not so average guests. After a dance with some mantas you can then re-surface for the festivities and dance the night away on board or on the shores of a private or local island, the specifics change from year to year.
Maldivians love music and dance as well so while the calendar new year isn’t the traditional time they would celebrate the new year. It’s likely the local islands, where guesthouses are located, will be vibrant with merriment too.
The Real Maldives in 2013
The events put on in December are widespread but are not actually a reflection of local customs or culture. The population of the Maldives is almost solely Muslim so their new year is according to the lunar Islamic calendar. As it’s based on lunar cycles the actual date changes from year to year and in 2012 it was in November, much before the New Year’s celebrations that are more widely known outside the Muslim communities. Nevertheless the festivities ensue each year for both New Year occasions.
In any case, the turn of the date to a new year on any calendar often begs the question- what will the new year bring? It’s common to make a resolution to make some sort of improvement in our lives, from quitting smoking to losing a few pounds, what better place to reflect on this than the tranquil islands of the Maldives. As for the Maldives islands in 2013, they’ve already started to make some plans for the country. Much of the planning revolves around the sea level and sustaining liveable conditions in the islands. This is a huge concern for a country surrounded by water, far from any significant landmass and hovering so close to sea level.
One project in the works is the creation of floating islands which could potentially be more resilient in the case of storm or water level issues. The first plan is so build a series of islands that would make up a golf course This ground-breaking development has been developed by Dutch Docklands International in cooperation with the Maldivian government to transform them ‘from climate refugees to climate innovators’. The damage to the seabed when securing the floating artificial plots is said to be minimized with their methods. More about this project here
Spending New Years in the atolls would be an unbeatable experience – no doubt. If it happens that it just doesn’t fit into your travel schedule, no need to wait a year until December 31st, the Maldives is open year round and you can make your own special occasion out of it! No matter where you are this New Years, enjoy spending time with friends and family. See you soon in the Maldives.
Where are you this New Years? Join us on the beach! is a post from: Maldives Blog