The Best of Maldives Islands Diving?
After North Male Atoll, Ari is considered the next atoll most open to tourism and this is thanks in no small part to the high quality of the diving. Many divers consider the dive sites of Ari Atoll to be the best in the Maldives and it features prominently on the itineraries of many Maldivian liveaboards.
Topographically, Ari Atoll diving differs from many others in the Maldives since it does not feature many long stretches of barrier reef. Instead, there are a lot of thilas here where submerged pinnacles both inside and outside the atoll lagoons act as sites of marine aggregation, making for wonderful diving both in and around the pinnacles and in the kandus (channels).
Sharks, manta rays and other pelagic fish are more commonly encountered around Ari Atoll and even the mighty whale shark regularly puts in appearances, especially in its marine protected areas. Although there are spots elsewhere for sharks and mantas the most reliable sites for this ever popular passing trade are located here.
Diving at Ari Atoll is not famous for its coral splendour. In fact, its thilas, giris and kandus can be a little dull by comparison to many other Asian dive destinations due to the strong currents in this region. There are some exceptions to this generality and we mention a few below, but divers do not visit here to gaze at pretty corals. Rather, visitors choose Ari Atoll for the regular encounters with big marine life, specifically whale sharks, manta rays and hammerhead sharks.
Maamigili's plankton rich waters at the southern tip of the atoll allow divers and snorkellers the opportunity to get up close with a whale shark, or you can snorkel with them too at Gangehi Maavaru in the north west. There are several places when diving in the Maldives for frequent manta sightings, but Ari Atoll leads the way with several cleaning station hot spots: Donkalo Thila in west Ari, Rangali Madivaru in the south west and Kudarah Thila in the south east. And finally, for schooling hammerhead sharks, Hammerhead Point at Rasdhoo Atoll, north east of Ari Atoll, is the dive site often visited by liveaboards. Its proximity to deep waters lends the location the best chances of getting close to these magnificent creatures.
Maaya Thila - If not the premiere dive site in the Maldives, then one of the best. This pinnacle has a tumultuous assortment of sea life, with an amazing variety and volume of creatures. Brightly coloured nudibranchs vie for your attention with giant frogfish. Turtles can be seen happily munching on the reef, and the elusive guitar shark can be spotted by the alert diver.
Fish Head - Another Ari Atoll pinnacle, this one being a favourite for packs of grey reef sharks, that buzz past in search of food. Neverending trains of fusiliers and batfish often shoot past on the ocean highway, to further destinations at the atoll.
How to Dive Ari Atoll
Being over 40 kilometres long, Ari Atoll is the second largest atoll in the Maldives. Due to the long distances between the best dive sites, a liveaboard is really the only way to see more than just a few of these excellent sites. The dive sites for big marine life are scattered across the atoll and, with 105 small islands, there are many great dive spots throughout.
Liveaboards in the Maldives become fully booked well in advance so we recommend that, to avoid disappointment or having to settle for a sub-standard liveaboard, you plan to book your trip at least 6 months prior to your proposed dates of travel.
Got a question?
Have a look through our Frequently asked questions
Diving in Ari Atoll is all the year round but the recommended months for confirmed liveaboard departures are from December to May, when the seas are at their calmest. If you wish to come outside of these months then the seas are unpredictable and it may be more difficult to find a departure date that suits you. Water temperatures are fairly constant at 26-29°C and visibility is consistent at 15-30m, but varies from site to site depending on which side of the atoll you dive in which season.
Whale sharks, hammerheads and other sharks are present throughout the year. Mantas are here in large numbers year round too but the peak time to see them is August to November.
Good for: Large animals, underwater photography and wrecks
Not so good for: Small animals, non-diving activities
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 10 - 30m
Currents: Can be strong
Surface conditions: Usually calm but can be choppy in southwest monsoon
Water temperature: 26 - 29°C
Experience level: Intermediate - advanced
Number of dive sites: >50
Distance: ~35 km south west of North Male
Access: Maldives liveaboard
Recommended length of stay: 1 - 2 weeks
Dive Site Descriptions
More detailed information on the Ari Atoll dive sites:
• Maldives travel information
View a map of:
• Ari Atoll - The Maldives
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