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.
These creatures should get an endorsement contract with ‘Night Nurse’, the cold medication to help you sleep. It seems all these Nurse Sharks do is sleep. During the daytime when most dives occur that is.
My wife Lori got to see a couple of them diving Furana Thila from Kurumba. Her log book notes…
“Highlight of the dive was a young nurse shark resting in a shallow cave approximately 1.5 metres long. The mother is often there, but not this time. Saw another resting on the sandy bottom.”
Nurse sharks can be found through out the Maldives. They like caves where they can sleep during the day time. My nomination for the top place to see them is Fulidhoo Caves near Dhiggiri. According to Tim Godfrey’s book on Maldives diving, Fulidhoo Caves is one of 4 cave sites meriting the top 3-stars marks in his ratings and a great place for Nurse Sharks…
“The reef slopes from there to 50 metres with caves and overhangs ranging on depth between 25 and 40 metres. The most interesting feature of this dive are the nurse sharks sleeping in the caves.”
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.