Novice Diver in the Maldives?
You had fallen into the trap of being goaded into taking some diving lessons, and the next thing you know, bam! You’re on a trip to the Maldives to snorkel in Hanifaru Bay, in a fit of excitement to check out the surreal beauty of the archipelago. But what if halfway, your confidence falls through?
The sight of Maldives when you’re coming in to land at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Malé can be astoundingly beautiful and for a select few, terrifying. The beauty is of course, the near miraculous outlines of the Atolls fringed by aqua lagoons and tiny patches of white and green islands, not unlike omelets sunny side up. These atolls were once a series of mountains, or even volcanoes, worn down to sea level over the course of millions of years, way before human beings have ever walked on the planet.
And if you’re in the latter bunch, who clutch at their seat upon the sight of the archipelago, yes, some of the dive spots in the Maldives needs experience, but don’t worry, there are plenty of places where you can go diving, or even snorkeling, with proper guidance.
Getting to know Maldives, underwater
One of the easiest ways to get used to diving, without all the paraphernalia at the beginning is to go free diving with just a snorkel, mask and fins. Free diving lets you get used to what you’ll be seeing and feeling, without the apprehension of all the complicated procedures, and the ever constant worry of getting the “bends” or decompression sickness.
No matter how deep you dive on a free dive and how fast you surface, you’ll never get the bends, because there are no additional gasses in your circulatory system other than what you had in your lungs to begin with. Of course, there’s no better feeling than to swim up and break the surface of the water like a dolphin while free diving… something I learnt you can’t do while diving.
I had loved the experience of going snorkeling around the house reef of Horubadhoo Island. Sloping off towards the sea on the southeastern side was a field of living branching coral, and about 30 feet below were small grottos where pipefish hid in anxious worry that I might be intruding upon their homesteads. Off in the distance was a line of lobsters marching off to some imaginary, yet epic battle.
Well, diving in the Maldives is quite unlike anywhere else in the world, simply because of the astounding clarity of the sea. While tidal action can vary between seasons and the phase of the moon, strong currents around unusual reefs are often the main cause of aborted dives.
Most dive masters around here will take you on drift dives as it’s easier and gives you a lot more time to look at the flora and fauna. As the atoll structure causes the ocean to flood into the atoll when the high tide comes in, it’s generally safer to dive during then, rather than right after high tide as you might get swept out into the ocean.
So what should you expect, after Hanifaru?
Hanifaru, now accessible only for snorkelers after being declared a protected area, is a great place to get in touch with Maldivian waters and getting acquainted with megafauna. Believe me, after you see the gentle giants of the sea – whale sharks – and gigantic manta rays who all feed on plankton, there will be little else to surprise you, size wise.
Dive spots around the Hanifaru region are many, with nearly every channel into the atoll as interesting and unique as the other. However, channels can get a little difficult, so culling the list down to the easy spots, you could check out the following:
Maaddoo Giri is one, where you can see a few transparent pipefish and black coral. A few pink corals would be nothing compared to the gigantic tubelike structure that you can explore. Rising up vertically from a depth of 20 meters to almost 10 feet to the surface, you might get lucky and spot anglerfish around here.
Towards the northern chunk of southern Baa Atoll, the Voavah dive spot is a spectacular location that’s an easy night dive. Fishwatchers will be thrilled with the extensive varieties of gobies in the western sea of this uninhabited island. Anemone-like structures can be seen in abundance on the reef, and on the seaward side, you’ll see butterflyfish, red bass and blue-striped snappers, while on the sandy sea floors and near seaweed, you’ll see plenty of white spotted razorfish.
Another spot for easy nighttime dives is the Landaa Giraavaru Lagoon, where your safari boats can drop you off near the island onto an undersea sand slope that is quite close to a coral reef that rises to about 7 feet below sea level.
Entire schools of catfish, cardinalfish, fusilier and butterflyfish can be seen, along with snappers, on the slope which is colonized by sand gobies, and sponge reef gobies hiding under fan sponges.
Such wealth of marine fauna can also be seen along the reef of Kamadhoo island, where the coral reef is brilliantly fluorescent in ultraviolet light during daylight, and hiding amongst it are blue and clown triggerfish wrasse, basslet and hawkfish. Shrimps can be seen amongst and on sea whips here, and you’ll find it greatly soothing that the currents aren’t as strong as you may experience in other dives.
It’s very unlikely that you will come to harm in any of these areas, and you will find your confidence in diving growing after these visiting these spots. Always follow the buddy system protocol and seek the advice of your dive master before and after dives.
While the before dive advice will often include not indulging in alcohol, the after dive advice is particularly important. If you’d been diving continuously, it may be necessary that you do a few shallower dives towards the tag end of your vacation and have at least 24 hours above the sea before you get on an airplane.
Of course, you’ll be coming back… after all, once you see the Maldives the way it’s meant to be seen, there’s very few other places on Earth you’ll want to dive at.
Discover Hanifaru bay Maldives dive Travel
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