Ari Atoll (Alifu Atoll) is one of the largest and most-developed of The Maldives' 26 atolls. Its size and central location on the west side of the archipelago enabled it to become developed for tourism, which mostly includes resorts. Most of the resorts are the only ones on each island, giving a true feeling of isolation and privacy.
There are many underwater pinnacles, known locally as thilas, and the channels between them are called kandus. Many of the dive sites at Ari Atoll are around these thilas, drifting along on the currents, and hoping to see large pelagic species such as Whale Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks and Manta Rays. Most of the dive sites are suitable for all levels of scuba diver, but depending on depth and current, some are only suitable for experienced divers. Unlike many other areas of The Maldives, Ari Atoll is not famous for colourful corals or long stretches of reef for divers to explore. Instead, it's best known for action-packed dives, mainly looking for schooling or pelagic species. A lot of professional divers consider Ari Atoll to be the best place to dive in The Maldives. Dive sites include Maaya Thila, Fish Head, Broken Rock, & many more.
The atoll is separated into two parts, which are North Ari Atoll & South Ari Atoll. Ari Atoll is large, measuring 90km north to south and more than 30km east to west. Most of its islands are on its eastern side, with its western side home to large sandbars that have been created by winds and ocean currents over thousands of years.
Regarded by many as the best place to dive in The Maldives, North Ari Atoll is home to dozens of islands and even more dive sites. Its location on the western side of the centre of The Maldives enables you to get there quickly from Male Airport and it's easy to spend several days diving there on a Maldives liveaboard cruise. You can dive there all year round, but from January to April or May is the period for the best sea & weather conditions. There's a wide range of high-quality dive sites and even more species of marine life in all shapes and sizes.
South Ari Atoll is arguably the best place to dive in The Maldives. there are at least 50 dives sites, some of them world-class, and several considered to be among the best in the country. The location on the western side of the centre of The Maldives, plus the way the atoll was created mean that the marine life here is extremely exciting and equally varied. Broken Rock is just one of the many wonderful reef dive sites in South Ari Atoll, and there are at least four good wreck dives.
It's possible to dive all year round at Ari Atoll, but the drier months are January to April, during the north-east monsoon. From June to November is the south-west monsoon, when winds and currents are reversed and visibility reduced. When the monsoons change (December & May) the weather is at its most unpredictable. During the second part of the south-west monsoon (August - November) is the best time to see large groups of Manta Rays, although they are present all year round.
Mostly drift dives in channels between undersea pinnacles, plus some reefs and wrecks.
Ari Atoll is located on the western side of the centre of The Maldives' archipelago. Its northern tip is level with the southern part of North Malé Atoll and its southern tip is level with Felidhu Atoll.
Getting to The Maldives is done by international flight only. From the country's capital city Malé, you can take a seaplane to your resort in Ari Atoll. However, the best way to travel and enjoy diving at Ari Atoll is by scuba diving liveaboard safari. These trips mostly depart from Male at the weekend, and cruise for seven days & nights.
All levels of diver can enjoy safe dives at Ari Atoll, but not at all the dive sites. There are many dive sites at Ari Atoll, and some are only suitable for experienced divers, usually due to currents and depth.
The marine life you can potentially see at Ari Atoll is generally more exciting than at other atolls of The Maldives. This is mainly due to its location on the western side, as well as the way the islands, sandbars and thilas have been created over time. Ari Atoll is considered by many to be the best place to see large pelagic species of sharks at The Maldives. This includes Manta Rays all year round, but especially during the south-west monsoon in August to November.
Ari Atoll should be on your bucket list for diving in The Maldives. And because it's so good, so popular and located in the centre of the country, it's often on most liveaboard boats' itineraries. Although corals are probably more colourful elsewhere in The Maldives, at Ari Atoll there is more chance of seeing large species all year round. These include Hammerhead Sharks, Whale Sharks and Manta Rays. It's an excellent place to dive in The Maldives, and easy to spend several days there because of the large number of fantastic dive sites.