The Maldives are well-known for their pristine white sandy beaches, but they also top the popularity list for snorkelers and scuba divers. The scenery below the water offers vistas with numerous caves and cliff sides, interesting choral arrangements, and a wide assortment of colorful marine life. Deepwater snorkeling is a must if you want to see a more varied underwater landscape that invites larger marine life, like manta rays and white-tip sharks. Find out why the Maldives is the most relaxing holiday destination on Earth.
Snorkeling off North Malé Atoll
With Maldive’s International Airport located on North Malé Atoll, diving here may be the first activity on the agenda. The dive sites are rich and varied, including great underwater scenery with overhangs, steep drops, caves, and a great variety of marine life from parrotfish to barracudas. Many shipwrecks have become artificial reefs.
Most of the sites here are only suitable for the strongest snorkelers, due to the dive depths and the fast-moving currents. It’s safest to snorkel off a boat within a group. Luckily for the snorkeler, the water in the Maldives allows for good visibility. Perfect for using full face snorkel masks, that allow a 180º view.
The Banana Reef is a banana-shaped inner dive site off the south-east side of North Malé Atoll. Treacherous currents can make snorkeling here difficult, but strong snorkelers will find an untouched reef wall that is as rich in sea life as it is in colorful corals. The reef depth is from 15′ to 120′ in some areas. The water is very clear with good visibility.
Sunlight Thila is a combination of two outer reefs located in the south-east waters of the atoll. The reefs draw giant manta rays that feed on the plankton that is carried north by the sea. This site has a sandy bottom with a variety of seagrasses. It’s possible to sit on the seafloor as the rays circle above. This is a popular site for snorkelers and scuba divers, primarily to view the manta rays. The site has a depth of approximately 15′ to 50′.
The Okabe is an inner reserve on the south-east side of the atoll within the Kalihi Channel. It is an extremely popular site due to the massive formations of coral rocks which bring barracudas, oriental sweetlips, jacks, batfish, sharks and many other species of marine life. It’s a popular dive site, but the depth in some areas is about 75′.
Huvadhoo Atoll is the second largest atoll in the archipelago. It is known for being untouched, and semi-deserted. With over 200 tiny islands in the atoll, it offers an abundance of rich reef life, interesting underwater scenery, and colorful coral. Snorkelers can expect to see a huge variety of marine life from angelfish to stingrays. There are many guided tours to this southern atoll. They offer drift snorkeling at Villingili Kandu to view the green turtles, and Kodedhu Kandu to see barracuda. The reefs include stunning corals and sea fans.
Lammu Atoll is dotted with uninhabited islands, each with barrier coral reefs and shallow lagoons. They are perfect dive sites for the snorkeler. Vadinolhu Kandu is a great spot to see a large collection of marine life in one place. At Kolhumadulu Atoll, you can view dolphins at Thuvaroo Island and Hawksbill turtles at Olhugiri.
The best atolls to snorkel in the Maldives have reefs with several channels and large lagoons, but for snorkeling in deep water, it’s advantageous to join a dive expedition. Many resorts offer day trips out to sea for the more adventurous snorkelers. You’ll be diving with well-trained snorkelers who knows what lies beneath the water and will ensure you are safe in the environment.