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Five of the best underwater experiences in the Maldives

An archipelago of around 1,200 islands, the Maldives offers jaw-dropping underwater experiences. We round up five of the best.

By Pól Ó Conghaile
Published 14 May 2019, 12:06 BST
Diving with rays in the Maldives

Diving with manta rays in the Maldives.

Photograph by Getty Images

1. Join a research team

Channel your inner Jacques Cousteau by joining hosts Dr Guy Stevens and his team of marine biologists on one of Four Seasons’ Manta Trust Expeditions. On board luxury catamaran Four Seasons Explorer  — essentially a floating PADI dive centre that also offers spa treatments and gourmet dining — you’ll get to sail between atolls tracking manta rays. If you spot one the crew hasn’t already logged, you’ll get the chance to name it. Expeditions cater to up to 22 people and take place in September.  

2. Go diving around Fotteyo Kandu

There are around 1,200 islands in the Maldives — enough dive sites for a lifetime (or three), but Fotteyo Kandu should near the top of your list. A narrow channel in Vavuu Atoll, it surprises with swim-throughs, overhangs and sea caves at depths of up to 130ft, (strong currents are possible, so this one is best for advanced divers only). You’ve got it all here, from soft, kaleidoscopic corals to groupers, reef sharks, eagle rays, triggerfish, and even the possibility of hammerheads. 

3. Swim with whale sharks

Maamigili Island, at the bottom of South Ari Atoll, offers the opportunity to see the world’s largest fish year-round. Lots of resorts in the area offer snorkelling and diving trips to feeding sites, while experienced (and deep-pocketed) divers may prefer to join a liveaboard or head out on a private charter. Sightings peak between August and November.

Getting up close to a soft coral at Vaavu Atoll.

Photograph by Getty Images

4. Eat, sleep and spa with the fishes

It’s possible to head beneath the waves without getting wet. Book a treatment at Huvafen Fushi, the world’s first underwater spa, and look out onto a colourful reef; or sleep with the fishes at The Muraka, a two-level villa at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island with its own undersea bedroom. Elsewhere, SEA at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas offers an underwater dining experience amid a coral garden.    

5. Catch some rays at Hanifaru Bay

Between May and November, during the southwest monsoon, the reef at Hanifaru Bay Marine Protected Area acts like a funnel, filling up with plankton. This attracts hundreds of manta rays and whale sharks, which gather here to feed. Approved guides must accompany visitors and diving isn’t allowed, just snorkelling. 

Published in the June 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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