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.
“Darkness falls across the land
The midnite hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'awl's neighbourhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse's shell
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom”
– Vincent Price, Thriller
Happy Halloween! Most resorts will be dressing up a bit for Halloween today with special activities for the kiddies and some extra colourful festivities for the adults. But if you want something a bit more than some orange and black crepe paper, then Filitheyo features its very own “spooktacular” mystery graveyard…
“When the island was being cleared for the construction of the resort, a graveyard marked by approximately 30 headstones was discovered about 25m inland from the south-west shore. The origins of those buried and the reason for their burial on the island is unknown.”
When describing my motivations for adding a Dive Site database to Maldives Complete, I noted the lack of interactive guides. Most diving information is traditional hard-copy book form or magazine websites that provide articles and overviews, but not a structured, interactive resource.
The exception to this standard approach is the Werner Lau dive centre website. They have cleverly integrated a mapping of the dive sites near their centres with Google Maps to provide an interactive layout of all of the dives sites local to their 4 Maldives dive centres. You can scan the area for websites who have ToolTip annotations and then simply click on their names to take you to a full profile of the dive site complete with dive chart.
As promised, I have now completed my own list of post-tour challenges of getting all of the research material consolidated, profiles updated, notes organised, and as promised, expanded information on the resorts’ House Reefs. I’ve added a row to the Resort Profile devoted to House Reef details (see below).
Mostly, I have broken down the very crude “House Reef Rating” into several more granular ratings…
- House Reef Rating (focusing on the “drop off”)
- Drop-Off Coral Rating (focusing just on the coral variety and density as opposed to fish life or ease of access.
- Lagoon Coral Rating (focusing on the shallow water coral croppings)
As a part of my enhancing the House Reef information, I’ve also added a second video link to the resort profiles of footage taken on the house reef. Very often, the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum refers to such videos for first hand documentation of the reef quality. I’ve gone through the videos on YouTube and selected the best I could find in terms of showing the most of the reef (ie. not all close ups of fish and other sightings).
Through my house reef YouTube research, I came across a whole range of quality from grainy camera clips to Hollywood-style editted GoPro productions. The one that rose above as “Best Picture” (among some very worthy competition I must say), was “Maldive – The Movie” 39 minute feature film of the Maayafushi house reef.
Other special mentions include…
I’ve populated the ratings based on my visits and information others have shared, but it is at best less than half complete and could have some inaccuracies. If you have any information to share, please comment or email me.
One of the absolute joys of the Maldives is the snorkelling. There is plenty of debate in the diving community about the top dive spots in the world. The Maldives always ranks up in the elite top with the likes of the Great Barrier Reef, Cayman Islands and the Red Sea. There don’t seem to be as many ‘top’ lists or guides for ‘snorkeling’, but it would be hard to see how the Maldives could be bested for its clarity of water, comfort of water temperature, diversity and quantity of fish, and a range of other variables.
For a snorkelling neophyte, there is a sort of progression of steps one should take to build up to the main event…
- Sandy lagoon – Start in the white bottomed, impossibly shallow sandy lagoon. Look at the little sand gobies, garden eels, silvery goat fish ambling by, mini humbug damsels darting in and out of tiny crevasses, trigger fish munching on strewn bits of small coral croppings.
- House Reef – Proceed to the area of the island where the coral aggregates into an underwater sculpture garden teaming with ever more colourful and diverse fish from the classic surgeon fish, colourful wrasses, angel fish and parrot fish, perhaps a turtle or small reef shark will make an appearance.
- House Reef Drop-Off – But the big event to any snorkelling is the ‘drop off’. Where the depth goes from a few meters to virtual oblivion. As you swim along the precipice, it is the closest feeling to flying without being in the air that one can have. Out in this open water, the island reef is a massive canvas of aquatic colour. The bigger space affords room for schools of jacks, oriental sweet-lips and the occasional larger visitor like a Napoleon fish or a ray.
Once you visit the ‘drop off’, the rest of the snorkelling will seem rather tame though it will always have its comforts and charms.
The resort with the deepest drop off, according to Emu72 on TripAdvisor appears to be Filitheyo, “Filitheyo has the deepest drop off in the Maldives at 90m on the NE corner, and the reef remains in fairly good shape.”
I can personally attest to how great the Filitheyo house reef is and its drop off from personal experience with me pictured above here diving into its depths.