Diving in South Malé Atoll

Maldives Scuba Diving Guide

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August, 2019

South Malé Atoll diving in the Maldives is famous for it's pelagic dives and it's Kandus. The South Malé Atoll or South Kaafu Atoll is one of the central atolls in the Maldives, and is separated from the North Male Atoll by a deep Vaadhoo Candu channel. The oval shape, South Malé is 36 km long and 19 km wide. There are 30 islands of which there are 3 local islands. The capital of the atoll is Maafushi. South Male is popular among divers due to the good conditions and many world-class dive sites. Diving and safaris are good for all levels of experience. Candus or channels are an important feature of dives in South Male. On the eastern wall of the reef there are 6 channels. Diving in the South Male Atoll can spot pelagic life, many soft corals and caves, as well as one very good wreck. Eagle Rays, Mobula Rays, Tunas and Grey Reef Sharks are common sighting in the atoll's waters. The South Male Atoll is also a popular diving site for liveaboards from Malé Harbor.

Velana International Airport (MLE) is well served by flights from Europe and Asia, although the first option may require a stop in the Middle East. If flying from Asia, expect a stopping in Sri Lanka or in India before continuing the flight to Male.

To get from Malé to other islands in the South Male Atoll, you can take a speedboat transfer or local ferries.

You can go house reef snorkelling right from the beach, but diving around Kandus, Thila and Wrecks will require you to take a step aboard of dhoni boat to explore the most exciting of all dive sites. The best way to get acquainted with the underwater world of the Maldives region, and to visit all the best places for snorkeling in the Maldives at once is also a liveaboard. Unlike its northern neighbor, South Male has fewer resorts. Nevertheless, diving played an equally important role in this development and the popular area is usually included in the routes of the Maldives dive safari. The competition for space on boats is strong enough, especially in the high season, so we advise you to book dive in advance, at least not less than 6 months before the trip.

Budget travellers can find affordable accommodation and cheap diving excursions on the islands of Maafushi and Guraidhoo - a good option for divers who want a break from terrestrial living before or after their dive safari. Local diving centers combine experience, passion and fun surrounded by a fantastic underwater scenery boosting with an amazing marine life, while not compromising on any PADI safety standards.

Best Time

Diving in the South Male Atoll is possible throughout the year, although sea conditions are usually best during the northeast monsoon from late December to May. The southwest monsoon is from June to November and brings with it a greater chance of rain and a less calm seas. However, rainfall here occurs less frequently than in the southern atolls of the Maldives. The water temperature in the South Male Atoll ranges from 26 to 29 ° C. Visibility is from 15-30 m all year round, depending on which side of the atoll you are dive in this or that season.

Mantas, whale sharks, turtles, reef sharks and hammerhead sharks live in the Maldives all year round; Manta rays congregate in large flocks during the southwest monsoon. From August to November is the best time to see manta rays. As for other pelagics, collisions depend on non-seasonal factors: whale sharks are more often found during strong tides, while hammerhead sharks rise from the depths in shallow water at sunrise.

Confirmed liveaboards run from November to May. If you wish to arrive outside these months, then it may be more difficult to find a departure date that will satisfy you.

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What to See

Aquatic life is the best here, you will for sure experience Manta Rays, Sharks and Turtles. Whale sharks are very common here, and are spotted often.

At least six channels provide ways for strong nutrient-rich currents to enter the South Male Atoll, and this phenomenon attracts large schools of fish, reef sharks, and many other big pelagics. In fact, the South Male Atoll is often regarded as the main habitat of the reef sharks of the Central Atolls. On the other hand, hard coral cover remains better on North Malé, although diving trips in the South Male Atoll will still give you images of abundant colorful soft corals on many sites.

The South Male Atoll is full of marine life, which includes such species as sweetlips, pipefish, jacks, sharks, eagles, tuna, barracudas, giant trevally, mantas (at season), napoleons, turtles, as well as beautiful gorgonians, colorful sponges, corals and sea fans.

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Popular South Male Atoll Liveaboard Diving

Like anywhere in the Maldives, South Male Atoll is best dived by liveaboard so your dive dhoni can hop between dive sites with the least hassle, and your cruise can easily sail from North Male to other destinations. The length of liveaboard itineraries in South Male Atoll usually ranges from 7 to 10 nights, with a budget from a bit over 200 to 350 euros per night. South Male Atoll liveaboards often commit to a northern or southern route to fit in a bit more of Ari and Baa (to the north), or Vaavu and Meemu (to the south). Read More...

The Most Popular Dive Sites

There’s an array of exciting dive sites waiting to be explored just a stone’s throw from where you are now. They include submerged shipwrecks, colourful coral reefs, caves, thilas and manta ray cleaning stations. Watch reef sharks feeding, marvel at manta rays effortlessly gliding by, spot moray eels hiding in holes, observe turtles searching for food or maybe even search for macro life like nudibranchs and cleaner shrimps. A variety of exciting dive sites are available, but the 5 ones - Embudu Kandu, Guraidhoo Kandu, Losfushi Corner, Kadooma Caves and Kuda Giri Wreck - must go if you explore underwater world of South Male atoll.

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Embudu (Emboodhoo) Kandu

Embudu is one of the most popular and exciting dive sites in the Maldives not only because of the abundance of aquatic life and healthy corals. This channel is constantly on everyone's lips when it comes to sharks in South Male Atoll. The dive site is a marine reserve due to the large population of white tip and grey reef sharks. The site lies in the atoll's northeast corner and divers there should be prepared to drift. This varied dive-site pleases by its interesting reef formation. A diversified reef offers steep drop-offs interrupted by softer sections. A series of large overhangs at various levels are adorned with colourful hard and soft coral and fans. All the variety of Wadoo Channel’s reef-formations and marine-life is to be found here: Walls covered with sponges and soft corals, small caves used by morays as resting and cleaning places. A lot of lionfish and other small reef fish give joy to your dive - still don’t forget the sharks once in a while relaxing on the bottom close to the reef. Schools of tropical reef fish, tuna, reef sharks and moray eels can be discovered lurking in the canyon while turtles can often be seen feeding in the shallow reef areas above. Besides sharks, divers may encounter Napoleon wrasse, huge groupers, rays, and benthic reef inhabitants that will give photographers plenty of material to work with. READ MORE

Kandooma Thila

Kandooma Thila is a large, deep under-water pinnacle on the atoll's outer edges whet top is located 13m from the ocean's surface, while the sandy base is 35-40 meters deep. The narrow channel between the thila and the reef usually creates a strong outgoing current directed from west to east. This is the place where the underwater show begins, and where you must be. The current ranges between medium to very strong and attract grey reef sharks, eagle rays and large schools of fusiliers. Larger reef fish can be observed too, such as sweetlips, snappers and groupers. Expect descend into the blue and let the current drift us to the reef. Large tuna, giant trevally as well as spotted eagle rays are likely to ride the current with you making this one of the most exciting dives in the atoll.

Cocoa Corner

Cocoa Corner aka Cocoa Thila is a large, deep-sea tower on the outer edges of the atoll. The site has many caves and overhangs near the corner with beautiful soft and hard corals, sea fans and sponges, that're attract large fish, such as gray reef sharks, eagle ray, and large schools of fusiliers. Also, another large coral reef fish can be spot here: sweetlips, snappers and groupers. Turtles as well as surgeon and black snappers can be seen along with white tip sharks and spotted eagle rays. The current ranges from small to strong. The curent's power will set how much interesting you will see on this site. Inadequate flow can deprive you of the kind of exciting underwater inhabitants. A flow break may mean that after a minute or more, you have nothing more to do here! Middle course means you will experience one of the most beautiful dives in the Maldives.

Guraidhoo Kandu

Guraidhoo Kandu is a large underwater area with a variety of channels, reefs, walls and vertical falls, often considered among the most impressive dive sites in the Maldives, to explore fish life and underwater photography. The entire Guraidhoo channel, between Guraidhoo Faru and Maadhoo Falhu is a Protected Marine Area. This site is topographically complex, sprawling mainly on 2 channels and a central reef. The diversity of topography is reflected in the many temptations of marine life from moray eels, lion fish, squirrel fish, soft corals and fans occupying the colorful living spaces of the chamber to large trevalli and sharks patrolling the channels and walls of the reef. In fact, the place covers a large area, not dividing small dive sites, and it can be explored several times and in different ways, each time discovering something new. There are in fact two channels, Losfushi Kandu and Guraidhoo Kandu, separated in the middle by a reef known as Medhu Faru.

With either an outgoing or ingoing current, ranging from small to strong, Guraidhoo Corner promises a wide range of fish life. The outside reef has many reef fish including schools of Bannerfish, groupers, fusiliers, rainbow runners, tuna, trevally congregate, napoleons and grey reef sharks. Inside the channel there are a series of caves and overhangs with fans, sponges and soft corals.

Losfushi Kandu & Medhu Faru

The channel on the north side of Medu Faru has a very shallow, narrow sandy entrance. he current ranging from small to medium allows for an enjoyable dive along the outer slope with plenty of marine life to discover. White tip reef sharks, Gobies, butterfly fish, schools of snapper, fusilier, tuna, napoleons, moray eels will be part of your underwater journey.

Medhu Faru is one of the most scenic drift dives in the area. This dive site is located on the north side of Guraidhoo Kandu, and when the current is directed to the atoll, the place really looks at its best. With the current ranging from small to very strong, a number of overhangs allow for shelter when the current is strong. Wavering seafans are springing out from the ledge and the site offers an abundance of soft corals as well as the opportunity to view sharks, barracudas and napoleons in the open ocean while near the corner trevally

Kandooma Caves

Kandooma Caves are one of the underwater marvels of the Maldives. The huge caves on the reef near Kandooma island consist of a group of 4 large caves in a row, with one over 50 metres. Current ranges between small to strong. With some of the overhangs blocking out much of the light it is recommendable to take a torch to discover the beauty in front of you. Inside are yellow sponges and small tube corals as well as giant morays. Along the reef we will encounter clown triggerfish, napoleons, angelfish and sweetlips.

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Kuda Giri

Most divers describe this place as a small steel wreck set vertically on the seabed between 20 and 30 metres and is ideal for beginners and night divers. The wreck is home to many small fish including a leaf fish if you are lucky enough to find it. However, the name of the site is giri (like a small mountain in the sea) that can be found nearby, and which with its appearance and underwater inhabitants should not disappoint. You may also encounter yellow sweepers and blue fin trevally swimming near by as well as a large school of bat fish. After exploring the wreck, numerous caves and overhangs filled with soldier fish and groupers offer another lovely facet to the dive.

Vaadhoo Caves

At the northwest corner of Vadhoo Faru lies Vadhoo Caves. As the name implies, you will be asked to take up underwater speliology and explore a series of caves and hollows. Feathery soft corals, brightly coloured hard corals and delicate sea fans decorate the walls and surrounding area of Vadhoo Caves. Large gorgonian and whip corals are amongst the incredible species to be admired there. Small and expansive overhangs and caves stretch along the north side of the site at various depths. A drop in each cave is like moving along a conveyor belt, when from each cave you can easily flow into the next one. It’s also a superb spot to watch sharks and other large species such as tuna and trevally when the current is medium to strong. When the current is at it’s strongest it can be a tricky site to dive so is best for intermediate to experienced divers on these occasions.

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