Imagine this: crystal clear waters, majestic but harmless sharks, and more fish than you’ve ever seen. Doesn’t this sound like a snorkeler’s paradise? Welcome to the Maldives. The Maldives comprises a group of atolls located just south of India in the Indian Ocean. Given the fact that it’s home to several reefs (around 2,500 to be exact), it has become a popular hotspot for snorkelling.
So, why should you pack your snorkel and fins and head here? Read on to find out. We’ll give you all of the snorkelling information you need—when and where to go, what to see, and what to consider in terms of safety.
Why Snorkel in the Maldives?
- You’ll be spoiled for choice with more than 200 islands available to explore.
- The coral reefs are home to an exceptional array of fish, unlike those you’ll see elsewhere.
- This is one of the only places in the world where you’ll get to snorkel with sharks—but only the friendly ones.
- Not only do the Maldives offer some of the clearest waters on Earth, but they’re also warm enough for snorkeling year-round.
- If you’re looking for extra excitement, you can explore one of the Maldives’ many shipwreck sites.
- Even if you can’t swim, taking a look at the magnificent underwater life is possible in one of the Maldives’ many safe, wave-free lagoons.
- With many of the Maldives’ beautiful luxury resorts, snorkelling is as easy as opening the door to your villa—beautiful house reefs are located right there!
Best Snorkelling Spots in the Maldives
From breath-taking house reefs as you step out of your villa doors to unique snorkelling spots with sea life that’s just as special, the Maldives is the place to be for any type of snorkeler. Here are our top 6 spots to snorkel in the Maldives.
1. Manta Point (Emas Thila)
Off the coast of Baros Island, you’ll take a 40-minute speed boat journey from North Male Atoll. Be sure you head there early, as Manta Point is home to most manta rays early in the morning (around 9am). As the name would suggest, this is the place to be for anyone seeking a snorkelling sea life adventure. It may leave you breathless, but we can assure you that seeing a huge and majestic manta ray will be a once in a lifetime opportunity! Stay calm as this beautiful and gentle being glides by—if you’re still enough it might even come up to you!
Highlight: More than just manta rays here—expect to see squirrelfish, oriental sweetlips, spangled emperor fish, masked bannerfish, and a variety of gentle sharks.
Experience: With occasional strong currents, this reef is best for intermediate to advanced snorkelers.
Guide needed? Not required, but a guide could be helpful for those who aren’t advanced snorkelers or are unused to strong currents.
Cost: The boat ride and tour can be booked at many resorts. Expect a cost of at least $100 USD, with some of the funds going to the environmental maintenance of Emas Thila.
2. Banana Reef
Banana Reef is one of the most common reefs in the Maldives, and for good reason! You’ll travel by speed boat to get here (even directly from the airport!). You’ll begin to notice the large banana-shaped reef as you get close. Be sure to arrive around 9am and plan on devoting several hours to all of the rich diversity that Banana Reef has to offer.
Highlight: Remember “Dory” from Finding Nemo? You’ll be reminded of her as you swim amongst hundreds of palette surgeonfish. Also be prepared to see barracudas, giant squirrel fish, oriental sweet lips, and soldier fish.
Experience: Better for intermediate to advanced snorkelers, as strong currents can be found here, too.
Guide needed? Guides aren’t necessary, but they may be able to show you some of the less popular and more exciting features of Banana Reef, including bulbous sponges, striped snappers, and reef sharks.
Cost: Speed boat ride starting at $20 USD and guide starting at $60 USD per person.
3. SS Seagull Wreck Point
Many people travel to the Maldives to snorkel in reefs that offer some of the most natural beauty found anywhere on Earth. But some also go to explore the non-natural beauty—namely the many shipwreck sites located throughout the various atolls. If you’re interested in seeing stingrays, fishes of different colours, and sharks, but also want a little extra adventure, head to Gaafaru to take a look at what remains of SS Seagull. It’s only 10 minutes by boat from the main island.
Highlight: Get ready to see the anchor, boilers, and stern from the steamship that was wrecked in 1879.
Experience: Suitable for beginners.
Guide needed? Guides aren’t necessary during your exploration.
Cost: The boat ride includes snorkelling equipment rental and will only cost you about $25 USD per person.
4. Angsana Ihuru
Considered by many travellers to be the best location for a snorkelling vacation, Angsana Ihuru will not disappoint. It differs from the previous two spots as it’s a resort, but that doesn’t mean it will be short on sea life. Expect to see some of the largest sharks you will ever encounter. When you’re bored with snorkelling (if that’s even possible), relax on one of the pristine beaches. And then be sure to head out again at night, you’ll see snakelike moray eels and nocturnal manta rays.
Highlight: Night dives, shipwrecks, and more than 150 fish species—need we say more?
Guide needed? No guide needed here, just step outside the door of your villa and you’ll have access to one of the best house reefs in the Maldives.
Cost: Free to snorkel. One night in a villa starts around $550 USD/night.
Vilamendhoo is another small hotel island entirely surrounded by coral reefs. It is another one of our favourite snorkelling resort spots. Its house reefs are exclusive to guests, meaning that you won’t have to battle several other snorkelers for the best views. When you stay here, expect to enjoy easy accessibility to coral drop-offs, as well as a wonderful array of aquatic life.
Highlight: It’s one of the only spots on our list to feature turtles, but you will also be able to see sharks, rays, parrotfish, and clownfish.
Experience: Shallow reef areas are ideal for beginners, and coral drop-offs are better suited for intermediate snorkelers.
Guide needed? No guide required, just open up the door on your villa and you’ll be exploring the reef in just a couple of minutes!
Cost: As one of the prime snorkelling spots, it is required that you stay at their resort. Nightly rates start at around $600 USD/night but includes a snorkelling lesson.
This resort is the last snorkelling spot on our list, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not one of the best. The boomerang-shaped island is located in the far central-north region of the Maldivian archipelago. The single resort is surrounded by a private fringe of house reefs, home to world-renowned diving and snorkelling. Plankton-rich water brings a variety of sea life to a variety of sharks, fish, turtles, and dolphins.
Highlight: Be sure to explore the lagoon and caves, as these areas are sea turtle hotspots! Baby sharks may be seen around the beach, too.
Experience: High waves and strong currents mean that this is one of the best spots for only advanced snorkelers.
Guide needed? No guide required, explore just outside of your rustic bamboo shack or over-water bungalow.
Cost: No guide or boat ride required to get to this snorkelling spot, but you will be required to stay at the resort to access its private reefs. Private villas start at around $205 USD/night.
What can you see Snorkelling in the Maldives?
One of the coolest things about snorkelling in the Maldives is that you can share the sea with sharks—and they’re harmless! Whereas other locations will require you to be submerged in a safety cage with these notoriously scary creatures, you can experience their gentle nature in the Maldives. As one of the only destinations in the world where sharks are able to be seen year-round (although January – April is best), you may be able to see spotted leopard sharks, whale sharks, blacktip reef sharks, and hammerhead sharks. Many snorkelers recommend either dawn or dusk for prime shark viewing time. Sometimes, you’re even able to see baby sharks in the lagoons—what a once in a lifetime opportunity!
Beyond seeing sharks here, you’ll also be graced with the presence of a vast variety of other sea creatures. Depending on the snorkelling spots you visit, you may see turtles, barracudas, and manta rays. Dusk is when most of these animals come out to hunt. Going snorkelling at night is also possible in many of the Maldives’ best snorkelling spots, and you may get a chance to see photoluminescent coral polyps. Needless to say, you’ll be exposed to a variety of the Indian Ocean’s most beautiful residents—day or night.
As we mentioned, in Banana Reef, you may get to hang out with “Dory” (palette surgeonfish). Needless to say, you’ll be exposed to a variety of the Indian Ocean’s most beautiful residents. I If you go snorkelling in the bright sun during the middle of day, you’ll see millions of breath-taking colours highlighted by the sun. This is also the best time to do lagoon snorkelling, as the white of the sand will reflect the sunlight so that the colours of the fish are highlighted even more.
The Maldives is known for its hundreds of shipwrecks. Many were plagued by misfortune as long ago as the early 1600s and their decaying remains serve as a popular snorkelling and diving attraction. You can find wreck sites all around the atolls that make up the Maldives. One of the most famous is Keyodhoo shipwreck in Vaavu Atoll, located just about 1 km away from the shore. You’ll be surrounded by crystal clear blue waters and all of the amazing sea life the Maldives has to offer. Oh, and then there’s the stern of the giant ship still sticking up out of the water for you to snorkel around. How cool is that?!
Is it Safe to Snorkel in the Maldives?
If you’re planning on exploring the house reef at your hotel, you would easily be able to go on your own. Many resorts offer free snorkelling lessons, too. Should you need one, it’s easy to find a certified instructor to assist you.
You may be exposed to dangerous-looking animals, but for the most part, they’re gentle and harmless. In fact, seeing sharks and rays up close will probably be the highlight of your trip!
You’ll have to be aware of the strong currents at some of the snorkelling spots; however, the Maldives is generally considered to be very safe for snorkelling. In fact, it’s thought of as one of the safest locations for all water sports. Finding quality equipment (a mask, fins, and a snorkel) will be a breeze, too.
What’s the best time of year to snorkel in the Maldives?
There are two monsoon seasons in the Maldives. The Northeast Monsoon is during the dry season, the Southwest Monsoon during the wet season. Based on rainfall and wind, the best time for snorkelling is during the end of the dry season, between March and April. You shouldn’t experience many thunderstorms and, for the most part, the wind should remain pretty calm.
It’s important to mention that many of the coral reefs are changing as a result of global warming. Coral bleaching is happening in several of the reef areas, changing how the coral looks for snorkelers. This will continue to get worse over the coming years. So, if you’ve been thinking about a trip to the Maldives for snorkelling, now is definitely the time to do it!