Throughout the season our liveaboards run dedicated trips to these areas taking into account the best time of year for both the diving and the weather patterns. In doing this, we are able to follow the migration of the manta rays and other pelagic species so consistently providing our customers with the best diving opportunities for whatever time of year they choose to visit.
Our itineraries are structured around the five major Atoll groups of the Maldives and we have given these areas the names of The Far North, Northern Atolls, Central Atolls, Southern Atolls and The Far South.
Please check the sailing schedules to see which routes are operating for your chosen holiday.
MALDIVES - CRUISING AREA
THE FAR SOUTH; North and South Huvadhoo, Foammulah and Addu Atolls “The Equatorial Zone”
Separating the southern atolls from the far south, is a 96km expanse of open ocean, sufficient separation for the far southern atolls to feel almost like a different country. The infrastructure of Huvadhoo Atoll has recently been improved and there is now a tarmac runway with daily flights linking it to the capital of Male. The atoll has only recently been open to tourism and there are a few resort islands planned, so this vast atoll remains one of the most remote places on the waters of our planet.
There are hundreds of uninhabited islands that fringe the atoll with literally thousands of beautiful coconut trees. The reefs are in pristine condition and the corals here are truly colourful, robust and magnificent. The reefs are packed with fish life of every species and the many narrow channels that break the outer rim of this atoll make for spectacular drift diving. The shark populations are very impressive and the diving is truly frontier and both beautiful and exhilarating. The Equator lies in open ocean only 13 miles off the southern tip.
Addu Atoll is the southernmost atoll of the Maldives, lying 64 km south of the Equator. This was home to a British airbase on the island of Gan and is today a thriving community. The infrastructure left behind by the British occupation has given Addu an economical advantage over the other atolls. The islands have been linked by causeways and one can drive a car for some 30 km ! The runway is fully operational with an International Airport capable of taking large jet aircraft.
Equator Village is an established tourist resort and the nearby islands of Viligili has been developed by the hotel chain Shangri La.There is the J Resort located at Heretere island and some smaller hotel and guest houses located throughout the atoll. The central lagoon of Addu has some good diving, the highlight being the 6,000 tonne wreck of the British Loyalty, a liberty ship that was left to flounder by the British after their evacuation. The vessel remains intact and upright at a depth of 35 metres. The northern reefs of Addu Atoll have a number of small channels and represent great dive spots. There is a superb manta point, grey reef sharks are commonly seen and fish life is abundant.
En route to Addu, one passes by the single island of Foammulah, the pinnacle of coral limestone ridge deposited on the extinct volcanic chain rising some 2,000 metres from the sea bed. This large island is home to a community of fishermen and is a really interesting place to visit. It is a difficult island to approach, due to the treacherous reefs and the limited anchorage but it is possible to visit when conditions are good and on the southern reef it is possible to spot oceanic white tips, thresher sharks, silvertips, hammerheads and giant mantas. Certainly the reefs abound with grey reef and white tip sharks and pelagic life.
For our far south trips we base one of our liveaboards in the southern atolls, flying passengers down from Male to Huvadhoo or Addu to join the vessel. The cruise is generally one-way, from either Huvadhoo to Addu or in reverse, exploring all the wonderful reefs and atolls in between. Please call our Sales Team for advice and help when planning your trip. This is an extremely remote part of the world – one of the last diving frontiers.
MALDIVES - CRUISING AREA
SOUTHERN ATOLLS; North and South Nilandhoo, Meemu, Thaa and Laamu Atolls
This cruising area starts on the northern fringes of Meemu Atoll, some 96km south of the capital Male. It extends to the southern tip of Laamu Atoll, 240km south of the airport with Thaa Atoll in between. To the west are the little known and rarely dived North and South Nilandhoo Atolls. This represents a huge area of the Maldives and on our twelve day safaris we are able to explore this outer part of the Maldives, making a circular route of many atolls while making our way back towards the capital.
This whole area is sparsely populated with only a handful of resorts with hundreds of uninhabited islands and sandbars. The diving is varied, from the shallow coral reefs to the exciting channel dives and spectacular thilas.
To take a safari in these areas is to visit a some known sites such as Mulaku Kandhoo, with its stunning soft corals and huge number of fish, the mantas of Muli Kandu and the sharks of Fushi Kandu as well as the vast area of reefs, thilas and channels still to be explored and dived. It’s a beautiful part of the world where few people venture.
MALDIVES - CRUISING AREA
THE CENTRAL ATOLLS; North and South Male, Ari, Rasdhoo and Felidhu Atolls
The capital of the Maldives, Male, and the airport on Hulhule Island lie in the centre of this area which enables us to go on a circular route safari and take in the top sites.
With good weather, a seven day trip will generally visit a few dive sites within North and South Male and then concentrate on sites in Ari Atoll, or head south to Felidhu Atoll and return through South and North Male. A twelve night trip can take in all the atolls.
Ironically, one of the best manta points between May and November, Lankanfinolhu, lies only a few miles north of the airport. Here one can see manta rays on a cleaning station in only a few metres of water – it’s a spectacular dive!
North Male Atoll has numerous dive points, from the grottos of Fairy Tale Reef to the sharks of Finger Point and the spectacular scenery around HP Reef. Its smaller cousin, South Male Atoll, also has some spectacular diving; Guraidhoo Kandu is famous for its adrenalin pumping drift dives and its famous shark encounters.
To the south is Felidhu Atoll, which has many wonderful channel dives. Here the eastern reefs plunge vertically into the abyss and the channels of Foteyo Kandhoo and Miaru Kandhoo are just two examples of the exciting diving to be experienced in this region.
Crossing some 48km to the west is Ari Atoll. There are numerous spectacular dives in this atoll, the highlights being regular encounters with whalesharks, which seem to have made their home in the southern reefs of Maamigili Kandu. During the north east season of November to April, manta rays are frequently seen on the western side on the favourite manta point of Hukuruali Kandu. Ari Atoll has many thila dives (small submerged reefs inside the atoll) and these make for rewarding diving, as each thila is packed with life, from grey sharks cruising the edges to turtles grazing the algae rich shallows. The famous dives of Fish Head with the napoleons and patrolling grey reef sharks and Maaya Thila with the hunting white-tips are musts for your log book.
En route back towards Male, we may pass through the small Rasdhoo Atoll, famous for its Hammerhead Point. Early risers will benefit as at sunrise on this eastern facing reef the hammerheads come to feed and clean.
MALDIVES - CRUISING AREA
NORTHERN ATOLLS; Baa, Raa, Noonu and Lhaviyani Atolls
The Kaashidhoo channel, some 80km of open ocean, separates the central atolls from the beautiful northern atolls of Baa, Raa, Noonu and Lhaviyani. Similar to its southern cousins, only a handful of resorts exist in the huge cruising area and divers have explored only a tiny percentage of the reefs and channels.
We have been visiting this area for many years on safari and have dived some spectacular sites – a few of our favourites are the manta cleaning stations of Baa Atoll which are really buzzing from May to November when the currents are perfect, the exciting dives of Noonu Atoll and the spectacular Christmas Rock, an amazing dive site we found on Christmas Day many years ago.
The thilas of Raa Atoll and the channels and wrecks of Lhaviyani make for a fantastic two week safari and during the season we always look forward to making a number of trips to this beautiful area.
MALDIVES - CRUISING AREA
THE FAR NORTH; Shaviyani, Haa Alifu and Haa Dhaalu Atolls
Few people have dived in the far north of the Maldives. This year we will continue with our programme of safaris to this area and undertake a number of exploratory safaris, based on the knowledge and huge success of our safaris last year in which we encountered hundreds of mantas and found fantastic shark points and beautiful soft coral sites. We even found a new wreck, the Captain Pentalis.
This area is vast and mainly uninhabited. The islands of the north seem slightly different in their topography from the ones of the south – they are generally bigger and higher out of the water, with dense vegetation. The surrounding house reefs are more vertical and have common caves and overhangs. The reefs are covered with a beautiful white and yellow lattice soft coral.
There are few channel dives, as this area of the Maldives is much older than the south and the outer rim of the extinct volcano lies much deeper so the majority of diving takes place on fringing reefs or large submerged thilas which are typically between 15-18m deep. This area is best visited during the doldrums periods from late February through to late April, when weather patterns are calm and the currents are small.
Depending on the itinerary, guests can arrive in the capital, Male, and we make passage as quickly as possible up through North Male, Lhaviyani and into Noonu Atoll, picking out the best dives en route. Leaving Noonu Atoll behind, we venture into the Far North Atolls of Shaviyani, Haa Alifu and Haa Dhaalu. Approximately seven to eight nights are spent in the far northern atolls on our thirteen night expeditions. Our route makes passage either up through the eastern atoll chain of the Maldives, returning through the western chain or vice versa. Alternatively, for some itineraries, guests will take a flight to or from the Far North.
This is a trip that takes you through 800km of beautiful coral reefs, pristine diving and stunning coral islands. It is superb both above and below the water and we look forward to welcoming you aboard.