There are more than 100 resorts dotted on tiny islands the length of this vast archipelago straddling the equator in the Indian Ocean. Here’s our pick of 10 of the best for divers. Most are on uninhabited small islands and can range from the most opulent luxury to more simple barefoot beach villas. We have also included two unusual options at either end of the country where you can experience local life as well as awesome diving…
KUREDU RESORT SPA, LHAVIYANI ATOLL
Lhaviyana Atoll which lies about 100 kilometres north of the international airport has less tourist development than other atolls. Kuredu was one of the first resorts in the area and has been popular with divers for more than 20 years. It is in Maldivian terms a relatively large island nearly 2km long and up to 325m wide and there are more than 380 rooms. The diving in the atoll is excellent and includes the Shipyard site with two very diveable wrecks and Madivaru Kandu (channel) is a high-energy channel pulsing with pelagics. The resort is all-inclusive and the diving is run by the very professional and award-winning Prodivers. Good chance of seeing manta rays from May to November.
THE ONE AND ONLY, REETHI RAH, NORTH MALE ATOLL
A luxury resort which caters for families with lots of activities for children (under 11s stay free) and a world-class spa. This is peak Maldives luxury. A relatively quiet corner of the country’s busiest atoll (home to the most resort islands, the international airport and the capital) with some good diving. Great shark point at the drop-off on Voshimas Tila and as many as 20 reef sharks can be seen cruising the channel at Kuda Faru. Also, make sure you check out the wreck of the Hembadhu which was sunk in 1988 and is now brimming with marine life.
VILAMENDHOO ISLAND RESORT, SOUTH ARI ATOLL
A long-standing favourite with serious divers, this resort in South Ari Atoll is a 25-minute seaplane trip from the international airport and has a total of 184 rooms. The dive centre is one of the 11 in the Maldives run by the extremely professional Euro Divers – guaranteeing a very high standard of instructors and guides. There is an excellent house and more than 40 good sites to explore including Vilamendhoo Caves and the Khudarah Thila which explodes with vibrant soft corals. From June to October, there is a good manta ray dive. Day trips are frequently scheduled to nearby Mamigili, which has been designated a whale shark national park. One further treat is the night ‘fluo’ dives – an experience not to miss.
SONEVA FUSHI, BAA ATOLL
This resort sets the bar for Maldivian luxury and environmental standards – not always things that go together. For more than 20 years this luxury hotel out in the remote Baa Atoll has been lavishly pampering its guests in 57 extremely stylish villas. The diving is equally bespoke – the resort even has its own tiny solar-powered liveaboard for small groups to go off exploring for a few days complete with glass-bottomed Jacuzzi (insert photo). The hotel adds a two per cent levy on each room which is donated to its foundation which supports environmental, social and economic causes.
KOMANDOO, LHAVIYANI ATOLL
This resort is one of the more recent developments in the Lhaviyani Atoll and lies just to the south of the far larger resort of Kuredu. You stand a very good chance of being the sole dive boat at any site – there are more than enough to go round for the handful of resorts sitting on the northern end of this large atoll. Some all-action drift dives in sites such as Felivaru Kandu. This area is so unspoilt new dive sites are being regularly found. To date, 15 species of shark have been seen in the atoll and divers regularly encounter six of them. The dive centre is another run by the excellent Prodive. The island is a luxury resort for adults only – small, romantic and wonderful diving
OBLU HELENGELI, NORTH MALE ATOLL
This resort was the most popular in the Maldives in our 2017 DIVE Travel Awards and came second overall – quite an achievement for one that had only been open a couple of years. Its excellent position on the quiet northeastern fringes of the archipelago’s busiest atoll (home to the most resorts, the capital and the international airport) bang in the middle of one of the main channels linking the interior lagoon to the Indian Ocean helps make the diving superb. Plenty of pelagics and a dream house reef. The laid-back sophistication and good value all-inclusive packages attract a growing band of loyal and discerning divers.
The vast South Ari Atoll is considered to have some of the best diving in the Maldives and has long attracted discerning liveaboard divers. And this resort is an excellent base to visit some of the best sites. In fact, you are surrounded by more than 50 great sites – from high-energy drifts through channels to soft-coral covered seamounts, from stunning hard coral gardens to dramatic drop-offs. Prodivers run the slick dive operation on this all-inclusive luxury resort.
BAREFOOT ECO HOTEL, HAA DHALALU ATOLL
See the real Maldives – this is one of the few hotels based on an inhabited island. Hanimadhoo in the far north of the Maldives has a population of more than 2,000 farmers and fishers. The simple but chic and very environmentally friendly (no single-use plastic solar power) hotel is in the middle of a traditional village complete with school and mosque. Alcohol is banned on local islands so you have to take a five-minute boats ride out to a floating bar if you are desperate for a beer. In the early evening, it seems as if all the village’s families come down to the beach to hang out and relax. A totally different experience than the hermetic luxury of being pampered in a resort island. The dive centre has everything you will need and you will dive from a traditional dhoni. The island sits just below the Eight Degrees Channel which separates the Maldives and India‘s Lakshadweep Islands and, sadly, has been brutally overfished in the past – today they have clamped down on illegal fishing and the pelagics are slowly returning. The diving is gentle with few of the highs you would find further south – but on the plus side there are very few divers and you will have the reefs to yourself.
MEDHUFUSHI ISLAND RESORT, MEEMU ATOLL
There are only two tourist islands in the out-of-the-way Meermu Island so you are guaranteed the dive sites to yourself. Don’t miss the sites Manta More and Shark’s Tongue – their respective names make clear what they have in wait for you. The well-run dive centre is operated by the Werner Lau group and its Maldivian liveaboard starts its itineraries from the island – so a perfect spot to combine aa liveaboard and resort holiday. The luxury island has 112 beach and water villas. Its very attractive lagoon is an ideal spot for beginners to start their training.
REVERIES DIVING VILLAGE, GAN ISLAND, LAAMU ATOLL
This 25-room guest house is on the inhabited island of Gam in the far south of the country. The island has Buddist ruins and inland lake and miles of white sand beach to explore. As with the Barefoot Eco Hotel, there is no alcohol allowed on the island and in this case trips can be arranged to a nearby resort island if you fancy a beer as you watch the sunset. Good drift diving in the few channels with plenty of sharks and other pelagics. Lots of good condition coral and plenty of macro marine life.