The great majority of divers that descend on the Maldives each year only explore one area, the Central Atolls. There are a number of reasons for this. First up these Atolls are close to the capital, Malé, so are easily accessible. Secondly, the Maldives Liveaboards in the Maldives Central Atolls are so numerous, there is a wide range of options. And finally, the diving in this area is superb, so you don’t really need to venture to distant atolls, many hundreds of kilometres away, to experience the best of the Maldives.
The Central Atolls includes North and South Malé, Vaavu, Meemu, Faafu, Dhaalu, North and South Ari and Rasdhoo Atoll. While these atolls vary dramatically in size, some being over 50km in length and others only a few kilometres in diameter, they are all dotted with islands and home to numerous resorts. Most resorts also have a dive centre to take you to the best local sites.
Staying at a resort may be perfect for some, especially the diver with a non-diving partner or children. But for the best diving in the Central Atolls you really need to join a Maldives Liveaboard, which will generally explore four or five atolls in a week-long cruise and give you the chance to do up to four dives a day at a wide variety of dive sites.
Diving is available in the Central Atolls year-round, another reason for its popularity, but this region experiences its best conditions between December and May, during the northeast monsoon season. This is a time of light winds, calm seas and little rain, with wonderful visibility on the eastern atolls, but often reduced visibility on the western atolls.
It really doesn’t matter how you dive, where you dive or when you dive the Central Atolls of the Maldives, as you’re bound to have an incredible time exploring walls, pinnacles, coral gardens and channels, plus seeing a wide variety of fish, invertebrates, turtles, sharks and manta rays.
The Central Atolls are located, as one might expect, in the centre of the Maldives archipelago. The nine atolls that make up the central region are all located within 150km of the capital, Malé.
Most resorts in the Maldives have a dive centre attached, ready to take you to their nearby dive sites; but to see more of the Maldives liveaboard diving is the way to go.
Divers exploring the Central Atolls of the Maldives will find no shortage of incredible dive sites, with this area containing some of the most famous dive sites of this island nation. All the atolls have a similar structure, a fringing outer reef and a sheltered lagoon, but they also have their own special features like pinnacles, coral gardens, caves, shipwrecks and artificial reefs.
Currents are very common on these Central Atolls, and the main reason these reefs are so rich with marine life. It is possible to avoid currents when diving sheltered sites in lagoons, but to experience the best sites you will have to contend with the currents. These currents are generally strongest on the outer reef, the channels between reefs and in the narrow channels feeding into the lagoon. All the dive guides are very knowledgeable about these currents and use them to do drift dives.
These current dives on walls and channels are the best way to see sharks, barracuda, trevally, mackerel, batfish, Maori wrasse, groupers, eagle rays and other ocean wanderers. But some of the best dives in this area are on the pinnacles and coral gardens. These are home to a wide variety of colourful reef fish, numerous invertebrates, rays, reef sharks, morays and turtles. Some are also visited by manta rays and don’t be surprised if you also see a whale shark or a pod of dolphins.
There are many wonderful dive adventures to be enjoyed on the Central Atolls of the Maldives.
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Where to Stay
Most visitors to the Maldives Central Atolls arrive at Malé International Airport and then transfer direct to their resort or their liveaboard boat, doing the reverse on departure. But if you would like to see the capital, and a little Maldivian culture, then book a night or two in Malé or nearby Hulhule Island where the airport is located. Numerous hotels are found in both places that cater for every budget.
Where to Eat
Your choice of places to eat are limited once on your liveaboard or at your resort. Most offer a smorgasbord buffetfor breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a great mix of western and Asian dishes. The only problem you may find is over-eating, as after diving most people have a very healthy appetite.
If you get a chance to visit or stay in Malé, you can try some of the local Maldivian cuisine. Heavily influenced by Indian food, the three main elements to most Maldivian food are fish, coconuts and rice. A good mix of western and Asian restaurants are also found in Malé.
How to Get Around
Once you arrive at your resort, generally by seaplane, or board your liveaboard boat, you will not have to get around anywhere. While some resorts are on larger islands, giving you a chance to explore a local village or market, most are completely self-contained on small islands.The most common way to get around on most of these islands is on foot.
If you are exploring this area on a liveaboard vessel your daily activities will be eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive and eat some more, with a few naps, sunbakes and afternoon drinks thrown in as well.
On the other hand if you are staying at a resort you will find plenty of other water sport activities to keep you busy when not diving. Most resorts offer snorkelling, kayaking, water skiing, jet skiing, kite surfing, wind surfing, sailing, parasailing and fishing. Or you could just spend your free time relaxing on a beach, reading a book and watching the waves gently lapping on the shore.
With the Central Atolls surrounding the capital, Malé, they are the easiest part of the Maldives for divers to explore. Numerous airlines operate daily flights to Malé International Airport, with flights from Australia and countries in the Pacific arriving via Singapore or a number of other major Asian airports. From Europe, there are numerous direct flights to Malé, or via Dubai or Doha.