Central Atolls Diving
Containing the most established dive areas in the Maldives, the Central Atolls offer an array of dive experiences and underwater landscapes for every preference. Famed for large pelagic encounters, Ari Atoll is a must-do for experiencing one of the world’s best destinations for mantas and whale sharks.
You’ll be spoilt for choice with over 20 island diving resorts to choose from within world-famous Ari Atoll. Offering dramatic pinnacles and channels, plus year-round mantas, hammerheads and abundant whale sharks, it is one of the best atolls for thrilling pelagic action.
As one of the most well established Maldivian atolls, Kaafu Atoll has a variety of dive resorts, centres and liveaboards to choose from. The dive sites on offer are equally as diverse, with manta cleaning stations, caves, drift dives, barrier reefs and wrecks – all surrounded by abundant Maldives marine life.
Easily accessible yet one of the quietest atolls, Vaavu Atoll offers exciting channel drift dives and the longest unbroken barrier reef in the Maldives. Mantas, whale sharks and hammerheads are just a few of the numerous marine life highlights found at this small but impressive atoll.
Diving in the Central Atolls
The Central Atolls have some of the original and best-established dive sites in the Maldives. As the nation’s capital Malé is based here (and its international airport), getting to the atolls is a breeze. This is why diving in the Central Atolls is some of the most established in the whole country.
Made up of Vaavu, Ari, Faafu, Kaafu, Laamu, Dhaalu, Meemu, Male, Rasdhoo and Thaa atolls, there will be a perfect fit for everyone. Each different atoll offers dive centres and dive resorts, all with different characters. One of the best ways to dive the Maldives is with a liveaboard. As most leave from Malé, the Central Atolls are an excellent place to start your journey and offer a lot of choices.
Central Atolls diving is famous for its large pelagic animal encounters. It is also known for its strong currents and excellent kandu (channel) diving - they are connected to the deep ocean so have strong drifts but an abundance of life as a result.
Best places to dive
One of the most famous atolls is the Ari atoll, famed for its encounters with oceans giants - manta rays and whale sharks. The coral isn’t as abundant as in other atolls but Maaya Thila will more than satisfy all reef connoisseurs. It has such diversity that you will almost certainly see something new! There are lots of cleaning stations on other thilas, where manta rays queue up to be cleaned. For whale sharks, the best site is Maamgili dive site. The atoll also has several wrecks which have formed beautiful artificial reefs.
Rasdhoo has a unique opportunity when diving in the Maldives - the opportunity to see scalloped hammerheads rising from the deep water off Madivaru Island. Though it may seem like an anticlimax after a hammerhead encounter, the atoll has many other excellent sights - manta and eagle rays, whitetip and grey reef sharks, napoleon wrasse and some stunning topography!
North Male has some of the most stunning coral gardens in all of the Maldives. Unparalleled colours and variety of coral will leave even seasoned divers speechless, a good example of this is Banana Reef. It also has Manta Point, one of the most famous cleaning stations for manta rays - they come en mass to be cleaned by tiny wrasse. From August to November, you can see dozens at once. Victory Wreck is on hand to satisfy wreck divers!
South Male has some of the oldest established dive sites and is known for lots of big fish and fast currents. Its kandus connect to the deep ocean so the drift dives here can be fierce. The upside of this is the abundance of fish - both in species and numbers. Drifting through clouds of jacks, snappers and huge napoleon wrasse and groupers will make you forget the current!
The highlight of Vaavu Atoll is the 50km long Fotteyo Barrier reef, essentially offering 50km of beautiful diving! The kandus have lots of sharks and rays playing in the currents and feasting on the fish life. A night dive at Alimataa Jetty will yield rare nurse sharks and eagle rays. The fascinating topography of caves and overhangs and occasional offerings of manta rays are the icing on the cake!