Best of the Maldives: Darkest Skies – Filitheyo

Filitheyo - dark skies

While the Black Moon might be the darkest month to the do some stargazing, where is the darkest place in the Maldives. Lots of factors affect visibility – light pollution from the moon, cloud/haze cover – but one of the biggest is light pollution from the ground. This light is what makes star gazing so difficult in built up areas and why the best observatories are located in the remote locations far from ambient light sources.

The question came up on the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum as few months ago. I pulled NASA’s night time photos of the world.  As expected, there are not many lights in the Indian Ocean.  The high-res TIFF shows basically 3 tacked vertically north to south.  The northern most (and by far the brightest) is Male, the middle is Gan and the southernmost is the British Indian Island Territory.

I was going to examine which parts of the Maldives were the furthest from Male (without getting close to Gan).  I’ve overlaid Google Maps onto the NASA photo to provide some perspective –

But doing a bit of research on skyglow shows that it doesn’t really extend beyond a few dozen miles from the major light. Check out the UK map on this site.

There is also the question of “glare” which is the light from the immediate vicinity.  This light does add to the sky glow, but more importantly it adds “glare” to your viewing.  So in short, you are looking for a resort who has relatively secluded villas (ie. away from the dense infrastructure of the resort operations and main public areas) and ideally one where the lighting is used sparsely. 

A simpler resort like Rihiveli comes to mind (less infrastructure).  A resort without water villas (at least on your side of the island) will eliminate the inevitable jetty and water villa lights (they don’t want people stumbling into the water).

This methodology narrowed down the possibilities to a couple of possibilities in some more remote, less populated atolls…

  • Filitheyo, Faafu (distance to capital island – 20 km)
  • Alimatha/Dhiggiri, Felidhoo (distance to capital island – 12 km, lowest population atoll)

I decided to lean to Filitheyo because Alimatha and Dhiggiri, though smaller and simpler resorts, are both near each other throwing skyglow on each other, while Filitheyo is all by itself 20 km (about the right distance for avoiding skyglow) from the major island in the atoll.

Best of the Maldives: Longest Reef – Alimatha

Alimatha - Fottheyo longest reef

While the Maldives might have limited links land above sealevel, it’s undersea world is an expansive wonderland. And the most expansive of them all is the Fottheyo reef in the Vaavu atoll

We all know that Australia has the Greatest Barrier Reef in the World, but how many of you know, which one is the Greatest One in Maldives in terms of square kilometres?! The biggest one is Fottheyo Reef in Vaavu, with its 68 SQ KM.”

Great QI challenge by Paola.

Best of the Maldives: Deep Dive – Alimatha

Tim Godfrey Alimatha

April is the heart of cherry blossom season around the world from Japan to Washington DC. And in the Maldives, you can see “cherry blossoms” both all year round and underwater (like so many Maldivian marvels). Specifically, at the Fotteyo dive site near Alimatha resort. Maldives dive author Tim Godfrey reckons it is the best deep dive in the Maldives…

“For deepest dives in the book, I’d suggest Fotteyo for the steep walls and caves, Rakeedhoo for the deeper step terraces and Rasfari for the deeper outer reef and steep outside wall.”

In line with its snorkelling paradise fame, the Maldives is mostly distinguished by its shallow dives. This makes it a great place for beginners. In the Maldives, dives are typically 15-18 metres. By contrast, in North Carolina seaside (where we often vacation visiting Lori’s family), the wreck and megalodon dives go 30-40 metres. Fotteyo is more of a North Carolina scale dive as Tim describes in his book Dive Maldives…

“An excellent dive regarded by many divers as the best dive site in the Maldives. It is a photographers’ paradise and a mecca for marine biologists. This is a dive with many possibilities. The best diving is on the outside corner of Dhiggaru Falhu. Divers can start at a bend in the outside reef where there is a cave at about 30 meters with holes you can swim through. Around the bend near the entrance to the channel is a special place with many caves and overhangs. These caves have a thick covering of wavering soft coral in all colours. They look like blooming cherry blossoms in springtime. Most of the cherry caves are found between 25 and 40 metres.

 

Alimatha Fotteyo

Best of the Maldives: Dive Site – Alimatha

Fotteyo Chart          Fotteyo 1

Maldives is one of the world’s leading diving destinations right up there with the Red Sea, Great Barrier Reef, Caymans, and Belize. But which is the top resort for diving among this top destination. Certainly a subject for much debate and hair-splitting. Picking out out a premier site over the 90,000 square kilometres of atolls would be a bit of a tall order.

TripAdvisor Forums have also discussed this topic and offer a range of other nominations with a particular fondness for the South Ari atoll. But the most prominent consensus pick appears to be ‘Fotteyo Kandu’ in the Felidhoo Atoll. Tim Godfrey’s book on the Maldives, ‘Dive Maldives’, describes in his full page review of the site (page 115) which includes the pictures featured here…

“An excellent dive regarded by many divers as the best site in the Maldives. It is a photographers’ paradise and a mecca for marine biologists. This is a dive with many possibilities.”

The dive travel site appropriately named ‘Maldives Dive Travel’ also anoints it #1in its own top 5 list with this compelling description…

“Many scuba divers consider Fotteyo Kandu to be the best Maldives dive site and it is also rated among the top 5 dive sites in the world. The mouth of the channel is exposed to the ocean and during north east monsoon when the currents are incoming, a good variety of fish species gather at the entrance to the channel.  Animals commonly spotted at Fotteyo Kandu include Gray Reef Shark patrolling the channel mouth, Jack and Tuna in the deeper water, schools of Midnight Snappers and Red Snapper form in huge groups. The wall features caves, overhangs and swim-thoughs at different depths. These caves and overhangs are filled with colourful yellow color like soft coral, deeper caves and overhangs are filled with huge bushes of black corals. The Thila in the middle of the channel entrance is the best place to do the safety stop.  A surface balloon is a must at Fotteyo Kandu.”

Two resorts are in the Felidhoo atoll for those seeking out Fotteyo, Dhiggiri and Alimatha, but Alimatha gets the nod because it about 4 kilometres closer to the site.

 

 

Fotteyo 2      Fotteyo 3