Southern Atolls Diving
Unexplored and pristine, the Southern Atolls offer unmapped dive sites and some of the most striking dive landscapes in the Maldives. The pelagic action is unbeatable thanks to the Southern Atolls’ deep waters, with mantas, stingrays, numerous reef sharks, whale sharks and even occasional tiger sharks passing by.
Remote Dhaalu Atoll has something for every diver with its gorgeous soft coral gardens, numerous exciting cave dives, plunging walls and drift dives. Exposed dive sites host large pelagics, including hammerheads and tiger sharks, whilst the reefs are full of macro treasures and sea turtles.
Washed by strong currents and surrounded by very deep waters, Gnaviyani Atoll’s diving is thrilling, offering pelagic encounters that include oceanic mantas, thresher sharks, Mola mola, whale sharks, hammerheads and more. This challenging dive destination is ideal for advanced divers looking for a unique Maldives experience.
Tucked away at the southernmost tip of the Maldives, Seenu Atoll boasts unique dive highlights including the largest wreck in the Maldives plus pristine hard coral gardens. Whales and dolphins are commonly seen, manta rays are present year-round and you might even see a passing hammerhead or tiger shark.
Diving in the Southern Atolls
The Southern Atolls are a unique experience in the Maldives. Truly unexplored in most places, being the only dive boat in site is the norm and you may well dive in sites that are completely unmapped. They are exposed to the deep ocean and as such have large seasonal swells, popular with surfers.
It has several, rather unevenly distributed, dive resorts, with more planned and steadily increasing tourism. It only has a couple of dive centres currently and, as the conditions can be challenging, it is not the most popular area for dive courses. Several liveaboards operate in the area and most require a minimum number of dives and certification level, or you may be asked to sit out on some dives.
Though diving in the Southern Atolls is possible year-round, it is affected by monsoons. The South-West monsoon from May to September has increased winds and therefore rougher seas. The North-East monsoon from October to December is quieter for tourists but does have increased rain showers and thunderstorms. The best time for diving is from December to April as it has the most reliable weather and the calmest, and clearest, oceans.
Best places to dive
The Southern Atolls consist of four separate areas: Gaafu Alifu Atoll (AKA North Huvadhoo), Gaadu Dhaalu Atoll (AKA South Huvadhoo), Addu Atoll (AKA Seenu) and Gnaviyavi Atoll (AKA Fuvamulah).
Huvadhoo Atoll has some of the most stunning underwater topography in the Maldives as well as the deepest diving. It has dramatic drop-offs and caves carved into the walls filled with colourful coral formations. The pelagic life here is unparalleled due to its deep waters. Nilandhoo Kandu is a challenging dive site but with big rewards. Facing strong currents at the entrance of the channel you will be treated with sightings of manta rays, silky, grey reef and leopard sharks, eagle rays, schools of barracuda and jacks as well as ever-present turtles. Other incredible opportunities for those who make the journey include diving with whale sharks at night and even occasional sightings of bull sharks, giant hammerheads and mola mola.
Addu Atoll is the southernmost atoll in the Maldives. It is a small and untouched atoll with lots to offer below the waves. There is a manta cleaning station at around 18m which can offer views of dozens of manta rays, as well as frequent visits from white tip reef sharks and eagle rays. It also has a WWII wreck - the HMS British Loyalty, the biggest wreck in the Maldives at 140m long. Lying between 16 and 31m, this a perfect spot to explore for an advanced diver.
Fuvamulah is one of the least explored atolls as it has not been open to tourists for very long. The adventurous might be rewarded with sightings of incredibly rare pelagic life like thresher and tiger sharks. Thresher shark cleaning stations offer some of the best opportunities to see these creatures in the world. Huge oceanic manta rays sometimes swoop in to be cleaned, as do mola mola and oceanic white tips. This single island atoll is some of the most unique and incredible diving in the Maldives.