Without a doubt the most-popular & most-explored area of The Maldives is North Male Atoll. The atoll is 60 kilometres from north to south and 40 kilometres from west to east. It’s made up of dozens of islands, some of which are inhabited. But most are known as ‘resort islands’ which were originally uninhabited until tourism came to the country and resorts were built on them. Male’s Velana International Airport (MLE) is located at the south-eastern tip of this North Male Atoll and therefore, most of the people who live in The Maldives are based in this area. Also in the southeast is one of the most requested dive sites, Manta Point.
North Male Atoll is also known as North Kaafu, and most of the Maldives liveaboard cruises will include this atoll in their itineraries. This is partly due to ease of logistics, but mainly because the atoll has something for everyone. That includes divers of all levels of experience, as well as their varied needs and desires. Dive site areas include Banana Reef, Hannes Reef, Fairytale Reef, Meeru, Prisca, and many more. Within the dozens of islands that make up North Malé Atoll, there are many reefs, caves, drop-offs and some wrecks. The most famous wreck is Maldives Victory Wreck, which was a cargo vessel from Singapore that hit the reef in 1981. The huge vessel sits almost upright at a depth of 35 metres, with its deck at 25 metres and its mast as shallow as 12 metres. From 2016 the wreck to off-limits to divers for three years while a bridge was being built. In 2019 it reopened to recreational scuba diving.
It’s possible to dive at North Male Atoll from your resort at the ‘house reef’ off the beach, or on the resort’s day trip diving boat. But the best way to really enjoy diving here is to join a Maldives scuba diving liveaboard cruise. These are normally one week in length, offering approximately 18 dives, all at different dive sites.
Diving all year round is possible, but the weather is better from January to April. May to November has more rain. Water and air temperatures remain quite constant all year.
Reefs, wrecks, caves & drop-offs
North Male Atoll is located in the centre of the area that makes up the majority of The Maldives' atolls. It's on the eastern side of the archipelago, almost 600km. south-west from the southern tip of India.
It's possible to dive from the front of your Maldives resort, on what are referred to as 'house reefs' and those staying in resorts can also join day trips on the resorts' boats. But to best enjoy scuba diving at The Maldives' North Male Atoll you should go on a week-long Maldives liveaboard cruise.
Getting to The Maldives is nearly always done by international flight to Velana International Airport in Male.
Divers of all levels of experience and certification can enjoy scuba diving at North Malé Atoll. New and novice divers can dive safely within their limits, normally in sheltered bays with shallow reefs. Experienced divers can dive to the limit of their recreational depths, as well as enjoy caves, wrecks and even technical diving.
In summary, North Male Atoll is the best all-round diving area of The Maldives. Its location maximizes the logistical opportunities, because it's not in a remote area, far from airports. It's ideally located near many resorts, the main airport and the most-commonly-used port for the liveaboard boats. Also, it has plenty to offer divers of all levels and with a wide range of needs or desires. Marine life is abundant and diverse. Finally, sea conditions allow for year-round diving in warm water and weather.