With feeding manta rays, graceful whale sharks and schooling hammerheads, the Ari Atoll is a pelagic dream. Most of the dive sites here are not protected walls or coral reefs. Rather, the region favors thilas (pinnacles) and kandus (channels) perfect for drift diving. Because of the exposed nature of the atoll, currents can be quite strong and many dive sites might not be suitable for beginners.Maaya Thila, widely regarded as one of the top dive sites in the Maldives, can be suitable for beginners, but with variable current, it’s best to listen to the advice of dive masters in the area. The pinnacle begins at 20 feet (6 meters) and drops gently to 40 feet (12 meters) where a sheer drop-off leads to 100 feet (30 meters). In the shallows, the pinnacle is covered in nudibranchs, frog fish and zebra morays. Further down, divers will delight in the schools of colorful fish, flying formations of eagle rays and even the occasional guitar shark.Fish Head, which is under marine protected status, is one of the best places in Ari Atoll for spotting sharks. Located in the mid-eastern region of the atoll, it is best reached by liveaboard as otherwise it is an hours-long speedboat journey. The pinnacle which plunges from 32-115 feet (10-35 meters) is covered in black coral bushes and dotted with caves and overhangs. Residents include up to 16 grey reef sharks and thousands of blueline snappers. Due to unpredictable current and the depth at which most of the marine life is spotted, this dive is most suitable to intermediate and advanced divers.The above may be the two most famous sites in the Ari Atoll, but the fun doesn’t stop there. The atoll is home to hundreds of amazing dive sites with at least a few accessible from every island.
Ari Atoll Sea Life
The Ari Atoll is famous among divers for its volume of pelagic species. It is not uncommon to see manta rays, whale sharks, hammerheads, guitar sharks, turtles, grey reef sharks and eagle rays all within a week’s diving. While the Ari Atoll may be heaven for big species, it features a good deal of macro life as well. Frogfish, zebra morays, nudibranchs, blueline snappers and hundreds of other colorful fish species reside here. Wherever you dive in the Ari Atoll, you are sure to be slack-jawed at least once a day by the sheer number of pelagic species you will encounter.
How To Get There
Male Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is well served by flights originating in Europe, although a stop-over in the Middle East may be required. If coming from Asia, expect to stop in Sri Lanka before continuing on to Male.If you’re staying on the Ari Atoll, you will need to transfer by seaplane (30 minutes), speedboat (1 hour) or by local ferry (4-6 hours).
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