One of the very first and most common questions to ask of any ‘Maldives Best Of’ selection is what is the ‘Best House Reef’.
Maldives is easily one of the world’s top dive areas up there with the Red Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean. But it really stands out for snorkelling. It’s topology of eroded atolls (check out Atoll Terms and Atoll Formation) provide endless shallow and protected areas for leisurely snorkelling as well as steeper reef walls for a different perspective.
The subject was raised on the premier travel review site, TripAdvisor – “Which are the Top 10 Best Resort Reefs?” – and the expert opinion for the top one is Kandoludhoo. The assessment comes from one of TripAdvisor’s top Maldive forum experts, ‘spammie’ with 1,946 posts on the Maldives to his credit. He writes…
“Kandoludhoo has been not been harmed in the ’98 el nino due to lucky currents. So while the other reefs have had to recover from severe coral bleaching, Kandoludhoo looks just like the Maldives used to. To my knowledge its the only actually intact reef in the Maldives. It’s generally considered the number 1 reef because of that. It’s full of huge table corals and just impressive. Also easily accessible. However, several of the other reefs are recovering nicely and are quickly catching up again.”
Given the omnipresent reefs that literally define the Maldives and the shallows around them, it is no surprise that the Maldives are littered with ship wrecks for divers to explore. But the best locale has to be ‘The Shipyard’ off Kuredu in the Faadhippolhu Atoll. It has not one, but two wrecks at the site including the ‘Skipjack II’ which has sunk vertically so that its bow is sticking out about the top of the water (see above). It is located on the east side of Felivaru Kandu with a depth from 1 to 30 metres.
From Tim Godfrey’s book on diving in the Maldives ‘Dive Maldives’…
“This ship was the mother ship for the Felivaru fish factory and spent some years permanently moored to the jetty at Felivaru. In 1985, it was decided that old Japanese ship was of no further use so it was stripped of anything of value and towed out to sea where it was to be scuttled. Kuredu Island Resort tried to purchase the ship for a new dive site, but the authorities decided against it. In the end, they got their shipwreck for no charge. While it was being towed out to sea, workers began cutting holes in the ship’s hull in preparation for sinking. However, the ship caught fire and because of the danger from chemicals and the fear of an explosion, it was cut loose…The second wreck was also in use at the fish factory and was scuttled at the same location. It too was in a vertical position until 1992 when a storm caused it to settle on the sea floor.”
Whales Sharks are a majestic and stirring sight on any diving privilege to see them, and in the Maldives they have a special folklore about them. The best place to see them in the Maldives, if not the world, is at the Dhidhdhoo Beryru Faru dive site (also one of the best wall dives in the Maldives) near Diva resort.
Tim Godfrey reports in his ‘Dive: Maldives’ book: “The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is the largest of all fish reaching 15 metres in length. It is a plankton eater and harmless to humans. Divers fortunate enough to see one will find them curious and fearless, sometimes allowing divers to get close enough to feel their rough skin…In early times, whale sharks were caught by brave Maldivian fisherman who would swim with a rope into the mouth of the shark and out through the gills…The practice of swimming into the mouth of a whale shark was outlawed long ago. In one case, a fisherman from Addoo Atoll was sentenced to 80 strokes of the cane and banished to an island for risking his life by capturing whale sharks in this way.”
The Euro-Divers dive centre at Diva adds, “We are also 1 of the 2 locations world wide with all year round whale sharks. This is our other main attraction. These gentle giants can be found on our outside reefs. Juvenile whale sharks what we have here are between the 3 and 8 meters long.”
The resort Sun Island and Holiday Island are also relatively nearby to these sites.
My wife, our son Chase and I dove ‘Hammerhead Point’ when we visited Kuramathi Village a few years ago. You get up extremely early around 6:00 am and you go off the dive boat in the middle of the deep channel. You descend to 30 metres where you are still quite a ways off the bottom pretty much suspended in the middle of vast blueness. And you wait for the hammerheads.
Now no dive is a sure thing and Rasdhoo Divers are very open that the hammerheads can be hit or miss. So the three of us were just suspended there for the full 40 minutes of our dive trying not to be too bored. It was a bit reminiscent of that Family Guy bit where they go on vacation to Purgatory (minute 6:57). But my colleague Philippa went on the same dive and said that it was amazing seeing lots of these eerie, prehistoric looking creatures.
Snorkelling and diving in the Maldives spoils you for colourful scenery and sealife and one of the popular favourites are the sea turtle. Several resorts, like Filitheyo and Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, operate turtle hatcheries and nurseries.
We have always readily seen turtles while diving and snorkelling in the Maldives, so choosing a top spot for them would be difficult. But Microsoft colleague and fellow Maldives enthusiast Keith Miller reckons it has to be Kuredu. In particular, a dive site known as ‘Turtle Cave’ or ‘Turle Wall’ Keith estimates that on a bad day you see a dozen turtles and on a good day you can see as many as 40!