The Maldives (Central region)
The Maldives archipelago is considered as having 4 distinct diving areas. This page will cover the characteristics of the archipelago’s Central region. The other regions are known as the North, South and Far South. You will also find here information about diving in the Maldives as a whole.
The Central region of the Maldives archipelago extends north and south from the capital city of Malé. Its six administrative atolls (Baa, Lhaviyani, Kaafu, Alifu Alifu, Alifu Dhaalu et Vaavu) encompass more than ten geographic atolls of various sizes.
This is clearly the most popular area of the Maldives for tourists. Historically, Malé was the first tourist attraction and hence you can find many hotels and liveaboards in this part of the archipelago.
Tourists arriving at the International Airport practically walk straight onto their dive boat or are transferred quickly to their island resort by hydroplane or speedboat.
Although some tourists opt for a hotel in the capital itself, it isn’t really a holiday destination. Being only 2 km² with a high density of population can make the city at times feel quite oppressive. The activities on offer are also very limited. However, most liveaboards and island resorts offer frequent trips to the capital so tourist can explore this aspect of the Maldives. If you choose to visit the capital it would be prudent to check any travel advice or warnings in place through your respective Embassy as the Capital has recently seen many protests that can rapidly escalate.
Surrounding islands can be visited free from this nature of threat and guesthouses are in abundance. The impact of tourism in this area has led to this large number of guesthouses that have sprung up in all manner of shapes and sizes.
The seasons have a significant influence over life in this part of the world and you could often find yourself anchored with other liveaboards. The same goes for the most popular dive sites where it is becoming more and more difficult to dive without bumping into other dive groups.
This region does however offer a vast choice of dive sites, from cleaning stations which feature Manta Ray to channels where sharks will often put on a show. And we must not forget the eternal quest for the legendary Whale Shark.
The region has something to offer all year round. Each atoll offers its own seasonal particularity which is worth making the trip for. For example, Baa Atoll (which is classified as a UNESCO biosphere reserve) offers a unique opportunity to swim with tens, if not hundreds, of Manta Rays in the Hanifaru Lagoon. To be certain to not miss this extraordinary opportunity, you should plan to visit during August which is right in the middle of the rainy season.
If you want to come face to face with a Whale Shark then the southern part of the geographic atoll of Ari (Alifu Dhaalu Atoll) is the best place. Here during the dry season, navigation conditions significantly raise the chances of beating your flippers alongside the world’s largest fish. Such is the popularity of this shark, once one is sighted, it is common that it will be joined by 100 to 200 people swimming frantically in pursuit.
Safety is always paramount and the hospitals in the capital are easily reached by the many hydroplanes and boats in the region. These transfers are however costly but operational decompression chambers can be found in the Lhaviyani, Kaafu and Alifu Alifu Atolls.
The rainy season (southwest monsoon) runs from June to November. The dry season (northeast monsoon) is December through to April.
The large majority of liveaboards do not operate during the rainy season.
As explained in the introduction to this region, some atolls offer the possibility to encounter certain marine life according to the season. The most important thing is to choose your holiday location based on these seasonal variations.
The vast majority of hotels and resorts are serviced by hydroplanes and speedboats. Although these are costly, the transfers are quick and generally very well organised.
The central region of the Maldives is the most developed in terms of tourism; so much so that in some atolls there are more hotels than inhabitants. The majority of liveaboards remain in this area of the archipelago. Over the last few years many guesthouses have sprung up but the price and quality of this type of accommodation varies greatly.
Although it is fair to say that it is difficult to find reasonably priced accommodation in this region, the Maldives does offer almost every standard of hotel available from basic island living to luxury hotels offering underwater restaurants, and of course private yachts etc.
The central region is home to some of the most amazing dive sites in the Maldives archipelago. Although the choice of site is varied, the most popular sites are often overcrowded and the sheer number of divers can lead to damage which nature can hardly find the time to repair.
In this region there are many sites which are accessible to all levels of diver, although some pinnacles and channels are reserved strictly for the experienced diver who is familiar with diving in currents.
This region offers something for everybody, from the tiny Halimeda Ghost Pipefish to Manta Rays and of course Whale Sharks. The variety of species alone makes this region one of the richest dive areas you will experience; although to discover the rarest of these species such as the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray (Manta birostris) or even the rare Nudibranch (which is generally found in other parts of the world) you need to explore the northern and southern extremities of the area. You can see the variety of species on offer in the Maldives underwater photo gallery.
Although some sites are an exception to the rule, the central region is the victim of its own success. The density of divers is high and especially in the most popular sites which are frequented by liveaboards.
The dive centers based on the Maldives Islands generally have the best understanding of the sites close to their location. As always the liveaboards offer a unique freedom to visit the atolls and can adapt to the most suitable dive times. Guest houses offer a range of experiences.
As is the case all over the archipelago, hotels and resorts in the Central region offer numerous activities such as sailing, fishing, visits to the Capital etc.