The Maldives has some great coral reefs, but it's actually the abundance of marine life throughout the country that sets it apart from other dive destinations around the world. It is also a photographers dream so you'll want to pack your camera.
When to go
December to April
The North East monsoon from December through to April represents the Maldivian summer and is generally characterised by drier conditions.
Visibility on the eastern sides of the atolls is excellent through the North East monsoon. Although the visibility drops on the western sides of the atolls during the North East season, you are more likely to encounter Manta Rays and Whale Sharks on this side of the atolls during this period.
May to December
The South West Monsoon from May to December shifts the focus on diving to the western sides of the atolls.
Dive sites in the west experience wonderfully clear visibility and slightly cooler water temperatures, attracting many of the shark species closer to the surface. During the South West season Manta Rays and Whale Sharks will typically only be found off the Eastern edge of the atolls. Sea conditions can be a bit rougher but the diving remains superb.
What to see
Maldives is one of the best places in the world to spot manta rays and whale sharks which should be enough to convince anyone to travel there.
Reef sharks like whitetip and grey reef are quite common too, together with big tunas, Napoleon fish, eagle and stingrays. Big schools of jackfish patrol the reefs, morays and turtles are also very common.
The reefs consist of both soft and hard, colourful corals, and tons of little fishes, nudibranchs and worms.
What you'll need
Obviously you are going to need some kit to make the most of your trip so we have some recommended essentials for you.
Travel regulators are a great way to reduce weight and you don't even have to sacrifice performance to do it.
Reef hooks are a controversial thing but it has been proven that correctly using a reef hook will result in less damage to a reef than trying to maintain your position on your own and accidentally kicking or bumping into corals.
Dive computers can be a big expense depending on what you want so it is understandable how some divers are put off purchasing and will rent instead.
Consider this though ... depending on which resort / liveaboard you are diving with you might be charged approximately $15 a dive. Do just 20 dives over a number of years and you could have bought yourself your own!
Your BCD can be the single most bulky and heavy piece of kit you'll need to pack, especially if you are a regular cold water diver.
Buying a travel BCD makes sense. They are lightweight to maximise your luggage allowance and are typically designed to fold to a compact size which will allow you to fit more in your bag.
The Maldives has hundreds of corals that are easily accessible from the beach or on a short boat trip. Don't forget to pack your snorkelling kit