A complete Diving Guide to North Male Atoll. The essential and the main Dive Sites not to be missed.
Maldives North Male Atoll is perhaps the best known and most explored Atoll of Maldives due to its proximity to Male International Airport and thus its accessibility. Its location also makes it an ideal starting point for diving cruises.
It was also the first Atoll opened to tourism in the 70’s.
North Male Atoll has long been recognized as one of the richest of the Maldives.
Nowadays, if other places of the archipelago have taken over its status, it still remains an essential diving place to be discovered in Maldives, especially for its shipwrecks (some of which are amongst the most exciting in the Maldives), its famous “Manta Point” and its several “Thilas” (Dhivehi name given to pinnacle reefs).
Even if the Atoll remains one of the busiest of all ( but we’re in Maldives, so …business can be very relative compare to other diving destination in the world), North Male Atoll offers fantastic underwater sceneries and all types of marine species, ranging from the most colorful to the most impressive ones. The atoll is known to be an ideal spot to dive with large species such as sharks and manta rays, which are at the top of the list.
Diving in the North Male Atoll is characterized by numerous reefs, caves and magnificent walls fairly easy and quickly accessible.
Some key features of North Male Atoll and diving:
Length : 36 km long / 19 km width.
Depth : 5 to about 40m.
Visibility : 10 – 30m.
Currents : very little to very strong (the passes).
Experience Level : beginner to experienced diver.
Number of dive sites officially listed :about 40.
Major dive sites not to be missed:
– Its wrecks
– Banana reef (for its caves)
– HP Reef (Dhivehi: Thamburudhoo Thila)
– Manta Point
– Nassimo Thila
… To name just a few … (a useful small list for a short holiday, for example).
Diving with Mantas at Manta Point. One of the Dive Site of North Male Atoll
Manta Point is located in the southeast part of the atoll, not so far from Male. The average depth of the spot is only 15 meters, which allows to stay quite a long time underwater for the observation. As its name mentions, you come to Manta Point to see Mantas, but the site has more to offer with many other species such as octopuses, moray eels and white tip sharks…
Why are there so many Manta Rays in North Male Atoll ?
During the rainy season, which is approximately from May to September, called “Halhangu” or the southwest monsoon, the plankton blooms in these areas hit their peak.
During this period many mantas congregate on the reefs of Manta Point to feed and get cleaned by small fishes in what we call a “cleaning station“.
Quick Tip: To make sure that you get the best show, find a good observation place, remain neutrally buoyant and just let the mantas come to you and turn you around. . .
Manta Point is a unique and very exciting diving spot for both beginners and experienced divers.
Probably the best dive site of the Atoll. The spot has amazing rock formations, caves and extraordinary underwater life. The dives are ideally done until to 25 meters depth to enjoy all the advantages of the site.
One of the main attractions is located on the northeast side of the site with huge pinnacles whose peaks are fully exposed to powerful currents. The entire surface is composed of multiple corals, wrasses, jacks, snappers, moray eels and sharks. Barracudas are often at the spot too.
North Male Atoll Shipwrecks
One of the best Maldives shipwreck diving site lies down in North Male Atoll. Called the “Victory”, the big vessel is located through one of the many channels of the atoll, in one of the oldest sea routes of Male. Wreck divers fans will also have to visit Hembadhoo wreck spot for a dive on a former tug boat .
If you like wrecks, here are some more information about them:
The Victory : The 88m. cargo vessel sank in 1981 while returning to Singapore, its home port, when it hit the reef of the island of Hulule, next to the island capital Male. Unrecoverable, the boat sank the morning after the accident.
Located at a depth of 35 meters (25m. on the upper deck) on a sandy bottom floor, the wreck of the Victory offers good visibility but remains quite difficult due to the strong currents of the channel.
For security reasons, the wreck of the Victory is officially listed in the advanced / expert dive sites of the Atoll.
The wreck is very large, therefore it will need several dives to be entirely discovered. Each dive will be carefully calculated for the ratio time / air in order to be achieved safely and to easily return to the mooring lines attached to the buoy.
Victory wreck is marked by a surface buoy attached to a rope, itself linked to the mast of the ship for descents and ascents. Once the mast is reached, one can easily dive down to reach the ship prow.
Pay attention, the Victory is full of very sharp shells and stinging hydroids. Beware also of jagged fragments of metal coming out of the wreck.
Once the danger checked..ENJOY : large groupers, batfishes, sunfishes, turtles resting on the ledge or inside the wreckage. Some accessories form the crew can also be seen. Towards the bow, you can see hundreds of fishes of multiple species (groups of barracudas, lion fishes, soldier fishes…).
The coral has invaded all the vessel, resulting in stunning formations. Towards the stern, along the outer shell, you will see nudibranchs and pipefishes. Take this opportunity to pass by the wheelhouse before making your way up.
Going up, do not forget to look down for a last view of the wreck. It’s pretty impressive.
The tug of Hembadhoo: The wreck is an old tug, sunk on purpose by a diving school on the reef in 1988.
With 16 m long and 15m high, its hull touches the bottom at 22m. Less dangerous than the Victory, Hembadhoo’s wreck is ideal for semi confirmed divers and night dives. The site has a multitude of fishes and beautiful corals like the Tubastrea appearing in the lamp beams.
The hull is literally covered with invertebrates and a great variety of corals (you can even see black coral), sponges and other wonders. Among the many fishes to see, you will find rays, sometimes nurse sharks, reef sharks, great shoals of snappers and hatchets, big groupers, leopard groupers and of course many tropical species such as parrot fishes, scorpion fishes, angel fishes etc …
If you’re lucky, at night, you may see the big beautiful Napoleon sleeping under the wreckage and large moray eels.
This is only an introduction, which, I hope, will help you to make your first best dives and go straight to the point, during your next stay in the Maldives.
It is difficult to choose “the best ones ” among so many sites (about 40 !) and each will offer you an extraordinary show anyway. Both great wildlife and stunning landscapes are almost everywhere in the Atoll, as in all Maldives.
Finally, I would like to add, that each of the Atoll Resorts has its own favorite dive sites with for some, a wreck nearby.
Ask your favorite dive center at arrival, they will tell you which diving spot you should not miss, depending on the duration of your stay and your own holiday rhythm.
Jump into the water !
The Maldives offer some of the best diving spots in the world. Whether you are a beginner or experienced, the richness of both the underwater life and the atoll geography offer the wonderful opportunity to make great dives only at few meters under the surface.
No need to go too deep to be subjugated and to meet some of the most fabulous marine species.
If you never dive before, you must give it a try with an initiation proposed in all resorts. The dive happens in a maximum of 12 meters in clear waters. The magic starts from the very first seconds of immersion.
Wishing you all Great Dives !
Note: Thanks to both dive centers from Baros Maldives and Huvafen Fushi for their underwater photos that gave me the possibility to illustrate the underwater world of this article.
Discover more about Diving in Maldives with my series of Diver Interviews.
North Male Atoll Diving MAp
Hereunder, a map of the dive sites mentioned in this article to help you better spot them for your future stay in Maldives. Again, I have chosen what I consider to be the essential.
I now leave this page to the divers who have experienced dreamy moments under the sea in Maldives.
Please, feel free to share your emotions, your experiences, your favorite sites or your advice with other divers …and us.