The Atoll with the finest dive spots in Maldives
Home to the magnificent beautiful whale sharks, Ari Atoll is one of the largest atolls in the Maldives. At 80 kms long and 30 kms wide, it is divided into 2 parts: North and South Ari Atoll.
North Ari Atoll is a popular area among divers with 23 well-known dive sites including 1 shipwreck and is famous for its hammerhead sharks. South Ari Atoll is one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks, which are spotted year-round on the outer reef, which is a Marine Protected Area. The sightings are excellent year-round with a peak time from August to November. In terms of visibility, December to May is the best.
Each island in this beautiful atoll is surrounded by the trademark Maldivian aqua blue marine waters with rich marine life, white sands and beautiful landscapes.
POPULAR DIVE SPOTS
Ari Atoll is a diver’s dream destination, with so many rich dive spots around the atoll to choose from. Each spot boasts their own uniqueness from other spots. Here we list down our top picks from 4 different regions within the Atoll.
Fedu Wreck is a famous wreck of a 30-meter coastal fishing trawler lying at the end of a small “thila” that is about 50 meters out from Viligilee Falhu. There is a beautiful growth of soft and had coral all over the “thila” with of marine life including moray eels.
Himendhoo Dhekunu Kandu is famous area for Hammerhead shark sightings. There is a long overhang starting at 20 meters and rising to five meters here. Colorful sea fans are attached to the bottom and walls of the protrusion surrounded by black snapper and midnight snappers. Squirrelfish, sweetlips and emperor angelfish can also be found inside the channel. Further across the channel several large outcrops of the reef where barracuda, big dog-toothed tuna and grey reef sharks are found.
The Halaveli Region
Maaya Thila is a protected Marine Area which can be dubbed as the white-tip reef shark capital. Maaya Thila is 80 meters in diameter and can easily be covered in one dive, if the current is favorable. Dog-toothed tuna, tailfin batfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, lionfish, barracuda, white-tips and a whole lot of other fish can be discovered at a big cave on the north side of the area.
Halaveli Wreck is a 38-meter cargo vessel 40 meters from the reef and at 28 meters below the ocean surface. The deck is at 20 meters and it sits upright with the bow facing north. The main attraction is four large stingrays that tend to swim over divers. Apart from that large moray eels and turtles can be seen around within the corals that have grown beautifully around the wreck.
The Thundufushi Region
Thudufushi Thila is a remarkably long and spectacular “thila” with many exciting features. It is a large and rounded “thila” at around 1 km. The channel is 35 meters at the deepest end inside “Kalhahandhi Kandu”. There are shallow caves with saber squirrelfish and steep ledges for most of the dive between 10 and 25 meters. Several reef outcrops at 25 meters or deeper are well worth a closer look. Around them are schools of masked bannerfish, moorish idols and mantas during different seasons.
Dega Thila is one unique reef formation to be seen in the Maldives. It features many species of snapper, cardinalfish, white-tip reef sharks and turtles swim along the wall of sea fans through the tunnels where black coral bushes sprout from the walls leading to branching corals on the main reef.
The Rangali Region
Madivaru Reef is a beautiful spot in “Rangali Kandu” where school of Manta Rays can be found feeding on the plankton-rich waters that generally flow with the currents out of the atoll. There are two swim throughs with sea fans within the reef which makes way to caves where numerous squirrelfish and lionfish resides in. Parrotfish, Napoleon and basslet are among the other species that can be found in the reef along with magnificent table corals.
Angaga Thila is a small and round “thila” with interesting marine life. It is one of the most prominent spots in Ari Atoll for grey reef sharks. There are also other species of fish including anemone fish, freckled hawkfish, suckerfish and flutemouth.
If you want to experience the best of what Ari Atoll have to offer on a budget, you can book your stay in one of the below islands and still swim with the whale sharks and sight hammerheads.
Thoddoo is considered one of the largest producers of agricultural products in the Maldives- specially watermelons. Located at around 50 minutes by speedboat from Velana International Airport, Thoddoo offers the whole package of world-class diving, local experience, watersports and so much more.
When it comes to the best of Ari Atoll, Ukulhas is second none. With its numerous Guest accommodations and holiday packages which include diving, island hopping and excursions, it really is a budget travelers’ dream.
Maamigili, also known as ‘Whale Shark Island’ is an inhabited island with its own domestic airport in South Ari Atoll. It is a popular base for divers with guest accommodation withing closer proximity to the whale shark sighting spots. The whale shark point is the second-best spot in Asia to snorkel and dive with this beautiful wildlife.
Located at 35 km from Maamigili, Omadhoo is a beautiful inhabited island ideal for swimming and house reef snorkeling. The island is covered with beautiful vegetation and coconut palms. Flying foxes and herons can found around the island.
RESORTS IN ARI ATOLL
Like all the atolls in the Maldives, Ari atoll also features different range of hotels for all types of guests (Luxury, Couples, Families, All-Inclusive and Budget). Our favorites include; LUX* South Ari Atoll, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Nika Island, Lily Beach Resort & Spa, Constance Halaveli & Moofushi and the upcoming Maafushivaru resort.
Photo Credit to respective owners: Images taken from Google & Instagram accounts of Lily Beach Resort, Conrad Maldives, Lux* South