A scuba diver and a huge manta ray in Maldives Islands, Indian Ocean.
There are hundreds of established dive sites in the Maldives which can be categorised as reef dives, wrecks, dives on coral formations and channel dives, but note that the area is known for strong currents, especially where the large beasts roam.
Inner reef dives, which are more protected, are the easiest – surf and currents can make the outer reef quite demanding.
Wrecks, some deliberately sunk, are mainly within the atolls and are more interesting for their marine life than for their history.
Coral formations, which rise from the atoll floor, are divided into two groups – ‘giris’ reach close to the surface (they are too shallow for Maldivian boats to cross and the top surface may be too shallow to dive) whilst ‘thilas’ are deeper (so traditional boats can cross). Both share similar features in terms of reef fish and coral.
‘Kandus’ are channels between islands, reefs and atolls that are subject to strong currents, providing a lot of nutrients not only for soft corals but also for large animals. Graphic of Maldives island coral structure
Dive sites in the Maldives cover all levels from Novice to Advanced, sometimes in the same location.
Whilst diving conditions are mostly benign with warm water and good visibility, strong, unpredictable currents can be experienced especially on channel dives.
Negative entry (diving straight down to the site rather than gathering on the surface) is recommended if there is a challenging current; remember to vent all the air from your BCD first.
Once on the dive site use the topography – coral outcrops, caverns etc. – when possible to find some shelter and ensure you don’t get out of breath when swimming against the current, which is usually weaker closer to the bottom.
Bear in mind that the current can change and sometimes divide during a dive; for example the flow will accelerate in front of and behind a thila but generally be slower on top.
On the other hand, strong currents can make for an exhilarating dive such as the adrenaline rush on the ‘Kuredu Express’.
Carrying signalling devices – audible and visual – is prudent in case you surface far from the boat, with at least one safety sausage for each buddy pair, and you should of course stick together.
Some divers prefer flags with extendable poles because their height gives greater visibility. Bobbing by yourself in the middle of the Indian Ocean is not much fun.
Given the maximum permitted depth, diving on air is normally fine but Nitrox can be a better option on sites where decompression limits may come into play, for instance, on some shark dives.