The Maldives, officially the Republic of Maldives, is a small archipelagic state in South Asia. It lies in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka and India, about 700 kilometres (430 mi) from the Asian continent's mainland. The chain of 26 atolls stretches across the Equator from Ihavandhippolhu Atoll in the north to Addu Atoll in the south. The land area is roughly 298 square kilometres (115 sq mi). Malé is the capital.
The Maldives has white sand beaches, coral reefs, clear warm waters, numerous scuba diving sites and rich marine life. Most holiday resorts in the Maldives have a scuba diving facility and there are a number of liveaboard operators offering scuba diving cruise holidays.
The Maldives has been growing in popularity as a scuba diving destination since the 1970s when the number of resorts began to increase.
Tourist arrivals to the Maldives have been growing steadily for the past ten years, with the exception of 2005 (the year after the tsunami), when the numbers dropped. Around 700,000 tourists visit the Maldives each year (2008).
Climate change has severely impacted coral reefs around the world as has been widely reported such as the effects of the El Niño in late 1990s, according to some[who?] around 60%-80% of the corals have been bleached in several areas in the world including the Maldives reefs.
Reports have described the socio-economic impact on the environment as a result of mass tourism expansion in the Maldives.[clarification needed]
The Maldives comprises mainly open water, with only 1% of the country being land-based. The land is spread over 1,192 islets, each of which forms part of an atoll. In total, there are 26 atolls in the Maldives. The following atolls are home to some of the dive sites.
The Maldives offers different types of dives, but most are characterized by medium to strong currents.
Located in the western part of the Maldives, Ari Atoll is one of the largest atolls and has a wide selection of dive sites, including:
A dive site near Ellaidhoo Island.
Named for a large broken rock at the center of this dive site, Broken Rock is home to soft and hard coral formations that attract a wide variety of reef fish.
Recommended only for advanced scuba divers, the Gangehi Kandu dive site is in the northern part of the Ari Atoll. Currents here can be an issue, and the site should only be dived when the currents are flowing into the site.
Also known as Rangali Madivaru or just Madivaru, Hukrueli Faru has a colorful coral reef.
Declared a “Protected Marine Area” by the Maldivian government, Kudarah Thila is a dive site with incoming currents.
Maalhos Thila is only suitable for advanced scuba divers because the main part of the dive site lies deeper than 25 metres. Because of the strong currents, a safety float must be deployed to monitor divers’ location.
Maaya Thila is a spot for daytime and night-time scuba diving. However, when currents are strong it is recommended for only advanced divers and they will need to deploy a safety float.
Mushi Mas Mingili Thila
Fish Head or Mushi Mas Mingili is a popular dive sites in the Maldives.
Kalhahandi Kandu is recommended mainly for advanced scuba divers.
Recommended only for advanced scuba divers and good snorkelers, the Gudrun Faru reef is in the northern part of the Ari Atoll.
The Blue Hole A 22-meter underwater cave/chimney. Swim through, stingrays, blacktip reef sharks, moray eels, lionfish. The reef starts at around 1m with the top of the Blue Hole at around 6m, with a small exit at 12m and the bottom exit at around 22m.
The top of the reef is at around 3m, sloping down to a sandy bottom at up to 40m with many small caves and overhangs along the reef wall.
The top of this thila is at 13m and there is a canyon at 24m. This advanced level dive site slopes down to 30m with interesting rock formations.
This long, narrow thila is at 9m to 30m, and along the edge there are many caves and overhangs.
This Thila extends from 9m down to 35m, with some caves to explore and the swim-through starts at 25m.
The shallowest part of this thila is 6m, going down to 30m. There are caves at different depths and an abundance of marine life.
Starting at 5m, this thila is a hotspot for manta rays during the season,[when?] but throughout the year there is a vast assortment of marine life to see. Rock formations, fan corals, nurse sharks, stingrays, and schooling fishes
The top of this thila is at 10m, and it extends down to 30m, with canyons and caves to explore.
The shallow top reef at 3-5m slopes down to more than 40m. This corner dive on Aidhoo island has soft coral, groups of snappers and overhangs.
The Male Atoll is divided into 2 sections, the North Male Atoll and the South Male Atoll.
Cocoa Corner (Cocoa Thila)
Cocoa Corner is a dive site that can be explored in several different ways. With the right current and conditions, it is the best shark show around Male Atoll. A safety float is required, and divers should be prepared to make a midwater safety stop.
Guraidhoo Kandu South
Currents here are strong, making this a dive site appropriate only for advanced, experienced scuba divers. Divers should be very cautious at this dive site, as the currents can pull them away from the reef and there is often underwater turbulence.
The North Male Atoll is one of the most developed atolls in terms of hotel and resort development.
Currents can be strong at times around this reef, with occasional turbulence occurring around the overhangs. The use of a safety float is recommended.
Kuda Haa is a pinnacle, or thila, dive.
Addu Atoll is the only area in the Maldives that was not affected by the 1998 global coral bleaching.
The wreck is 134 metres long and lies at a depth of 33 metres, on its port side.
Kottey Outside is a series of plateaus, with a steep drop off.
A possibility of waves, surge and currents. A lot of coral damage on most of the reef due to the wave action.
Wall diving site near to a man-made channel which is used by local fishing boats so divers should look and listen for boat traffic when ascending.
Maa Kandu Outside
Easy reef wall dive.
Maahala is on the end of Kuda Kan’du Channel, behind Fihali Fara. There may be surge and surf at the top of the reef, particularly in the shallower areas.
The Maldives have a range of different habitats including deep sea, shallow coast, and reef ecosystems, fringing mangroves, wetlands and dry land. There are 187 species of coral forming the coral reefs. This area of the Indian Ocean, alone, houses 1,100 species of fish, 5 species of sea turtle, 21 species of whale and dolphin, 400 species of mollusc, and 83 species of echinoderms. The area is also populated by a number of crustacean species: 120 copepods, 15 amphipods, more than 145 crab and 48 shrimp species.
Among the many marine families represented are pufferfish, fusiliers, jackfish, lionfish, oriental sweetlips, reef sharks, groupers, eels, snappers, bannerfish, batfish, humphead wrasse, spotted eagle rays, scorpionfish, lobsters, nudibranches, angelfish, butterflyfish, squirrelfish, soldierfish, glassfish, surgeonfish, unicornfish, triggerfish, Napoleon wrasse, and barracuda.