Top encounters to witness in Maldives
Updated: Feb 28
What do divers have in common?
I believe it’s safe to say that divers have one thing in common: they love being underwater. Whether is in a river, an ocean, a lake, the feeling of being away from reality, far from the daily hassles, the ability of breathing underwater and being into a new world, is a special bond we create with mother nature. Once stated the obvious, there are many more aspects that diversify one to another diver: some love to dive wrecks and discover the story behind them, some love to push their limits and go deeper with technical training, some others just simply love the fish and the colors of the reefs.
What I have just done is a highly simplified classification with the only purpose of focusing on those who belong in the last group: fish lovers! And I happily admit that I am one of those.
What is your favorite fish?
When my students or fellow divers ask me THE question “what is your favorite fish?”, I feel like in one of those quiz shows where, if someone wins, the banner with the prize displayed starts flashing colors, making noises and everybody is cheering and the winner is completely baffled by what is happening around. My brain feels exactly like this and starts its own trip down memory lane, checking out all the fish I have ever seen: I find really hard to give an answer! If I finally come up with one fish name, after that I always say “but I also like..” and the list never ends. Having the chance of being underwater pretty much everyday changes my way of looking around me on a daily basis: sometimes I would focus on the small creature, sometimes I would only look for big predators, sometimes I would just love the whole picture of lively reefs with plenty of schools of different fish. You might have noticed, I haven’t given an answer because it feels like no answer is the correct one! At the same time there are some incredible fish, some iconic species that everyone once in their life should be lucky enough to encounter while scuba diving. Maldives can be a great destination for this!
The biggest fish in the world, a skin pattern like no other shark; this incredible beast is probably on every diver’s bucket list, mine included! Often called gentle giants, whale sharks have home in Maldives: hooray! They are year-round residents here however they are easier to be spotted in the South Ari atoll, preferring the west side of the archipelago between May and December to then move on the east side for the remaining months. If your dream includes diving or swimming with them, then now you are a step closer to making it come true. I believe luck plays a major factor as well and this must be the reason why I haven’t met one yet while diving…
Majestic creatures, mysterious and yet playful, manta rays can be found around pretty much the whole Maldivian archipelago and that’s why every dive center has at least one dive site called “manta point”. Recent studies on field have collected data to identify a population of around five thousand individuals, travelling through the atolls according to monsoon seasons. A very famous area called Hanifaru bay, in Baa atoll, can allow you to witness up to 200 manta rays feeding at the same time in a spectacular show; although here you can only snorkel as part of a conservation plan being set up for the area. And guess what? Where there’s plankton for 200 mantas, there is surely some for whale sharks too!
Sharks lover? Excellent location for this encounters too! Maldives has banned shark fishing therefore the population of these respectable predators slowly increased during the past years. The most common are white tip and black tip reef sharks (easily encountered already on house reef dives), nurse sharks (especially on night dives) and grey reef sharks, mostly encountered in groups on drift dives. But Maldives offers more: in specific areas and specific times of the day, you can be lucky enough to dive with hammerheads. Some dive sites give you the chance to encounter silver tip, very curious and well sized sharks. Last but not least, becoming more and more popular, Fuvahmulah in the deep south of Maldives offers the thrilling experience of diving with tiger sharks (for experienced divers only). I haven’t been (yet) but I read news about it, and it appears that tiger sharks get attracted by bait dumped in the water; therefore I would suggest a deep research on this to see the ethical aspect behind it. In this corner of the ocean, even thresher sharks, previously only known from Malapascua island in the Philippines, can be often spotted joining the cleaning station.
I’d like to add a personal touch to this, by mentioning the chance of diving with leopard sharks. Resembling a nurse shark, this precious creature takes its name from the pattern of its skin; as a juvenile is covered in stripes that eventually will evolve into dots giving an incredibly unique look to this specie. Usually found resting on sandy bottoms, they don’t mind closer approaches. A personal dream came true three times in the past 8 months that gave me emotions like nothing before.
Hold on, maybe I do have a favorite fish after all..