The Maldives – where, when, how and what kit do I need?
With news of the Maldives being removed from the government’s travel Red List, we have compiled a concise guide of helpful travel tips: when and where can you go, how can you get there and what equipment you will need for a safe and enjoyable diving holiday in Paradise.
South West of Sri Lanka, the Maldives is made up of 1000+ islands in the Indian Ocean spanning 540 miles. 26 coral atolls with sandy, palm-lined beaches sit in turquoise blue lagoons and are part of the smallest country in Asia. Diving in the Maldives can be enjoyed throughout the year but as a tropical destination, it is susceptible to wet and dry seasons. If you like calm seas, then December to June is the best time but the two monsoons bring different marine life, so choose carefully depending on what you want to see.
South West Monsoon:
From June-November you can expect some overcast weather and rain, with June and July being the wettest months. There are still sunny spells of course. Viz tends to be murkier but this is partly due to plankton blooms which tempt in the filter feeders. In August and September you can expect to see whale sharks and manta rays gathering around Baa Atoll in the north. Arrange your trip to fall around the new moon phase when greater tidal ranges bring an increased flow of plankton. July-October is when liveaboards operate itineraries around Hanifaru and the northern atolls. Generally the best diving will be on the west side of the atolls during the south west monsoon.
North East Monsoon:
During the north east monsoon clean ocean water flows in from the eastern side of the Maldives. Sumatran and Indonesian currents bring 40 metre visibility with December to April having the craziest currents, so don’t forget your reef hook! This is the time when reef sharks and big marine life is in abundance and liveaboard itineraries will reflect that with titles like “Sharktastic” and “Pelagic Magic”. The less explored deep south is also teeming with ocean going sharks (including tigers, hammerheads and silkies) in February and March. In the central Ari Atoll you can expect to see whale sharks following plankton trails and mantas enjoying cleaning stations.
There are 3 main types of diving areas in the Maldives. They are known as:
- Thilas/Giris which are underwater pinnacles - home to smaller marine life but also attractive to larger species like barracuda, eagle rays and sharks
- Kandus which are channels that connect the inner atolls to the open ocean - rich in nutrients, they attract large pelagics
- Farus which are reefs that surround the atolls – they attract a wide variety of fish regardless of the season
How to get there
In the winter months you can get a direct BA flight but this is a more expensive option than the indirect routes through the Emirates or Sri Lanka. With these flights there will be a short 2-3 hour transit via Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha or Columbo before you board your connecting flight. Alternative routes are via Rome or Germany. BA offers 23kg as standard, however you can often get between 25-30kg on routes through the UAE.
Liveaboards will collect you from the airport if departing from the capital Male. Occasionally - for northern and southern itineraries or if you are going onwards to a resort - you may have a connecting seaplane or domestic flight. It is worth remembering that these smaller aircraft only allow 20kg hold luggage unless you pay locally for extra. Resorts closer to Male may have speedboat transfers instead.
COVID testing requirements (correct at time of writing) *
From Monday 4th October if you are fully vaccinated you no longer need a pre-departure test before returning to the UK, you do not need to take a day 8 COVID-19 test and you do not need to quarantine at home. For all current rules and requirements for travelling back to the UK please see the FCDO page Red, amber, green lists: check the rules for travel to England from abroad.
House Reef and Local Diving
If you are planning to stay in a resort, choose one with a pretty and accessible house reef. Some resorts have numerous entry and exit points on their house reef so the diving is more varied. You will be able to pay for house reef diving packages in advance but boat diving supplements are usually added locally. Many resorts are happy for you and your buddy to go off by yourselves but some will require that you take a guide, depending on experience.
Book a land-based holiday through a diving tour operator as they will know which resorts have the best house reefs and are more diver-focused. It is never great to come across open water fishing boats from your resort while out diving.
Local islands can often have better diving and are quieter than resort islands. There is an eco boutique resort on the island of Dhigurah within the South Ari Atoll marine park whose diving centre works alongside the British Whale Shark Conservation Group (also based on the island). Just remember that alcohol cannot be consumed on local islands.
Whether you want to have a leisurely resort-based holiday or an adrenalin-fuelled liveaboard with 4 dives a day, you will need diving equipment. It is worth noting that equipment rental in either scenario is costly as there is nowhere to buy it locally. A tropical holiday does not need suitcases full of clothes (you will be barefoot all day long) so it is worth investing in some warm water gear. Our Lightweight Travel Dive Equipment Packages page features complete packages weighing under 7 kilograms. We are big fans of lightweight equipment that can be taken apart to pack strategically in your luggage, like the Scubapro Hydros and the Aqua Lung Rogue BCDs.
Warm water regulator packages are ideal for Indian Ocean water temperatures. The Aqua Lung Mikron Regulator and Octopus is compact and suitable for 10 degrees C and above, so will serve you well for other holiday destinations. The Scubapro MK17 Evo G260 Regulator is around 25% smaller than the MK25 and features metal components for excellent cold water resistance. This one is a good all-rounder!
Indian Ocean temperatures range from 26-30 degrees and being located just north of the equator you are going to get a lot of sun. We recommend covering up with a long sleeve Rash Vest or Lycra Suit. Many of these have Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), reducing the harmful effect of the suns UV rays. The Waterproof R30 Rash Vest Long Sleeved is available for both women and men and the flatlock stitching is super comfortable against bare skin. Fourth Element’s Hydroskin Full Suit is hypoallergenic and constructed from a high grade lycra based fabric with a SPF of 50+. In the water, a 3mm wetsuit or shorty will usually be all you'll need like the Mares Flexa 3mm or the Fourth Element Xenos Shorty
Full foot fins work well for sandy beach entries. However tropical sand can get hot, so open heel fins with spring straps that can be worn with socks are ideal. The Mares Avanti Pure Fins have a short blade but use a bi-material design that allows the fin and blade to shape as you kick for optimal performance in strong currents. They can also be worn barefoot.
Whether you want thrilling drift diving in the channels or a leisurely house reef bimble, you can be sure to have some big fish sightings and colourful marine life in the warm waters of the Maldives. It is the perfect destination to escape the crowds where lush vegetation and white sandy beaches can make you feel like you are a million miles from home.
*Please note that travel rules are constantly changing. We recommend that you book your holiday with a reputable tour operator who can keep you updated on any changes prior to travel or in resort. For more information on Maldives Diving Holidays, please contact Dive Worldwide.