People often ask me what the best dive site in the Maldives is. Well….that depends. In the last decade I have seen good divesites turn bad and bad dive sites turn awesome.
Much depends on the circumstances, how does the current flow (effected by moon phase and moonposition), visibility, the season, the presence of other divers etc etc.
But here is my top 5 taken into account circumstances are great:
1 Rasdhoo Madivaru
Rasdhoo Madivaru is the channel west of Rasdhoo. On the outside of the channel there is a steep dropoff (someone diving with a rebreather told me once that the real dropoff starts at 100 meters). Hammerheads can be seen on the outside before the entrance of the channel. The idea is you just dive far enough of the reef you cannot see it anymore. Perpendicular to the dropoff is a ridge where the seawater flows over, into or out of the Atoll of Rasdhoo. With incoming current you will find grey and whitetip reefsharks (and sometimes silvertips) on this ridge and there is a big formation of eaglerays hanging around. On the inside of the ridge there is a big sandy area where you can spot stingrays. On the ridge itself you can find leaffish, scorpionfish and if you are very lucky frogfish. At the end of the ridge there is a big Napoleon hiding under some overhangs and on the outside a big school of silverjacks. In the west monsoon when the current flows mostly out of the Atoll the visibility will drop to 30 meters and there is a chance to see mantas and on one dive (of the hundreds that I made there) I have spotted a whaleshark passing by while the grey reefsharks were bumping against it to chase it away.
In short, you can find anything and everything in one dive. This is the reason I normally do three dives at this divesite to have three different circumstances hoping to hit the jackpot at one of the dives.
2 Fotteyo Kandu
Fotteyo Kandu lies in the Vaavu Atoll and is one of the most eastern divesites of the Maldives. It is a bit simular to Rasdhoo Kandu with a dropoff on the outside and a sandy area on the inside. On the outside there are some swimthroughs to the westside of the channel. This area is called cherryblossom caves because the caves are overgrown with long yellow softcorals, some as long as your arm. There are swimthroughs at 25 but also at 45 meters. On the outside, in the blue you have a chance to spot hammerheads while on the ridge grey reefsharks patrol and there is also a big formation of eaglerays around. Also here you can find leaffish if you have keen eyes.
3 Fish Head
Fish head (The Maldivian name is Mushimasmingili Thila) is a very old divesite. The reef got it’s name because if fisherman were fishing here the only caught the head, hence fish head. In the eighties this was THE place to see grey reefsharks but as demand for sharkfins became bigger the number of grey reefsharks declined. Since July 2010 it is prohibited by law to fish for sharks and now again the come back in big numbers, sometimes more than 50! in a single dive.
To have 50 sharks on a single dive you need a little bit of current, preferably on the north-west or west side of the thila. Then you can hook on with your reefhook and enjoy as they come closer and closer to inspect you. The more current, they closer they come to the edge. On the west side of the thila there is a ledge at about 12 meters that is used as a cleaning station. A comon error that is made by some groups is to swim towards that edge to have a better look at the sharks but this only works counter productive as the sharks will move away onto the sand. A good guide will brief correct and keep their group in check so they do not chase the sharks away. Unfortunately most guides only care about their tip and you see a lot of misbehaving. This is one of the reasons to choose a safari which sails out of sync with the other safaris (who go from weekend to weekend) so you have a lesser chance to meet other groups under water.
Also on fish head, 4 or 5 hawksbill turtles, moray eals and big schools of fish; blue strip snapper, fusilier, jacks and travellies. There is a guitar shark around but it is rarely spotted on top of the thila, the times I saw it, it was lying on the sandy bottom at 42 meters at the foot of the thila. Once it got disturbed it even moved away from the thila to deeper water, not a place you want to take your divers to.
4 Kandooma Thila
If you like current this is the place to be. I normally do this dive somewhere at the end of the safaris when my divers allready have 20 to 30 dives in the Maldives under their belt and are used to current.
Kandooma Thila or Ran Thila is located in the South Male Atoll in Kandooma channel. I hear you thinking, a thila in a channel….it must be ripping there. And indeed, the current can be extreme. I have been diving up to 4.5 knots there but that is not very comfortable. Best is 1.5 to 2.5 knots, anything more and it is a very short dive. 25mins including safety stop is not special on this dive, mainly because with outgoing current it becomes deeper towards the outside so you run short on bottom time.
The Thila has a teardrop shape with the point of the drop on the inside (east side). When current is running outside the Atoll the point of the drop receives full current. This point is called jack corner because there are thousands of jacks hanging around. To the east of jack corner there are two big blocks which is an ideal place to hook on and look to the front. There are grey reefsharks to the east of the blocks, eaglerays and on jack corner thousands of jacks. After a couple of minutes you let go and the dive becomes a spectacular driftdive when you fly along the thila. Best part to drift is the North side. Along the Norths side’s edge are grey reefsharks to be found and some big blocks to the North of the thila sometimes act as cleaning station where also tigersharks are spotted on rare occasions.
5 Blue Caves
In the Ari Atoll, close to the island of Maalhos lies Maalhos thila, also called Blue caves. This thila aslo lies in a channel and hence the currents can be extremely strong. On the south side there are several overhangs, sometimes 3 or 4 over eachother with a maximum depth of about 25 meters. These overhangs are completely overgrown with blue softcorals and in the overhangs there are also big schools of blue stripe snappers. This all creates a magical effect with the yellow fish and blue caves. As there is no sunlight in the caves it is a good idea to bring a torch.