The Maldives (North region)
The Maldives archipelago consists of four distinct diving zones. This page will describe diving in the North region. The other regions of the archipelago are the Central, South and Far South. You will also find a more general description of diving in the Maldives.
Apart Raa Atoll, which lies detached to the west of the archipelago, the other 4 administrative atolls (Haa Alifu, Haa Dhaalu, Shaviyani, Noonu) of the North region make up a large geographic atoll which stretches for more than 170km north – south.
Lying between 5 and 7 degrees north of the equator, tourism has arrived in these parts more recently than its neighboring Central region. This fact explains the much lower key touristic presence especially in terms of hotels, and you can easily discover local islands where a very traditional way of life still exists.
Only a few liveaboards offer this itinerary. It is advised to find an operator who is well versed with this region or you risk sailing past the most beautiful dive sites of the northern Maldives, the true hidden gems of the northern diving experience. Hotels often have the best local knowledge but they are unable to facilitate dive trips very far from their immediate vicinity.
Although more recently airports have been built on several islands, for many decades the only way to reach these parts was by ferry (and this remains to this day the locals preferred mode of transport mainly due to its low cost). The inhabitants of the northern parts of the archipelago will only travel to the capital if it is absolutely necessary, this journey is long and hardly what you would describe as comfortable! The islands here are generally much smaller than you will find in the regions to the south.
This area is relatively untouched and you can sense the authenticity and calm. The North region is a true getaway.
In terms of safety, transfers to the capital can be long and costly. It is vital that all divers have sufficient diving insurance and that these policies cover medical evacuation to the nearest suitable medical facility. Many insurance policies will not automatically cover this type of medical evacuation so it is important that you ensure you are appropriately covered in the event that the worst should happen .
The rainy season (southwest monsoon) runs from June to November. The dry season (northeast monsoon) is December through to April.
The northern Maldives offers magnificent diving 365 days a year and the variety of marine life is omnipresent. That said conditions are most favorable during the dry season when freedom of navigation and access to sites is good throughout.
Due to the more remote nature of this region, ease of access really depends on your final destination. Some atolls are reachable easily by hydroplane from the airport whereas other destinations require an internal flight followed by a speed boat transfer.
Tourism in this region continues to grow but the number of hotels and other accommodation is still very much below that offered in the Central region.
Apart from the few guesthouses found on some local islands, the large majority of hotels carry a price tag that suits only the more wealthy clients, those who have an almost limitless budget for hotels and diving.
This region contains some of the most beautiful dive sites in the archipelago. However with few possibilities to dive the channels and infrequent Whale Sharks sightings means that the complete dive package is somewhat limited in this area.
The North region offers numerous sites that are suitable for novices and master divers alike. Some pinnacles are however strictly reserved for the more experienced divers as the currents can present some problems for those who are not familiar with this type of diving.
This region is characterised by its magnificent and colourful colonies of soft coral. Whilst encounters with Manta Ray are practically guaranteed in the right season, it’s very much the smaller marine life and diversity of fauna that awaits you. The region is a real patchwork of marine life and to experience the best of everything on offer you will need to move around the different atolls. It is worth remembering that sharks gather in spectacular conditions in the Noonu Atoll (for example in Orimas Thila).
You can sample some of what is on offer by checking out the beautiful underwater images from the northern Maldives.
Dive activity at the sites in this region is much lower than in other parts of the Maldives. You will rarely find several boats vying for position on the same site. It’s a diving luxury that is no longer guaranteed in the Central region.
This vast region is a patchwork of different atmospheres with an unrivalled variety of dive sites. There is of course always the possibility to meet certain species of marine life. The liveaboard is clearly the best option for those wanting to discover the full extent of the beautiful northern Maldives.
As is the case all over the archipelago, hotels and resorts in the North region offer numerous activities such as sailing, fishing etc. The North region is home to some fascinating historical aspects of the Maldives but access to this region is difficult and limited. However, you will have an often more authentic experience when visiting the local northern islands than you will find in the centre of the archipelago. It is still possible to find islands untouched by tourism, provided your guide knows where to find these hidden gems.