All of the resorts have diving operations and some are known as destinations for serious divers. During peak season some sites may have several groups diving on them at one time, but good dive masters will know how to avoid the crowds at popular sites and where to find equally attractive but less popular sites. The following is a brief description of some well-known sites (from north to south), to give an idea of the possibilities.
Maayafushi Thila is a classic round thila known for the white-tip reef sharks that circle it. Caves and overhangs around the thila have lots of gorgonians, soft corals and schools of reef fish. It's a Protected Marine Area.
The well-known Halaveli Wreck was created when a 38m cargo ship was deliberately sunk in 1991. It's famous for the friendly stingrays enticed here by regular feeding - keep your fingers away from their mouths.
Fesdu Wreck is a 30m trawler with a good covering of corals at a depth of 18m to 30m. Moray eels and groper live inside the hull, which is easily entered and has good growths of soft corals and sponges. Divers can also check the adjacent thila, which has hard and soft corals as well as lots of fish.
Only accessible to Ellaidhoo's guests, the excellent Ellaidhoo House Reef has a long wall just 25m from the beach. It has a row of caves with sea fans, whip corals, schools of bannerfish, Napoleons, stingrays and morays, and even a small wreck. This reef is popular with night divers.
Overhangs, caves, crevices, canyons and coral heads make Orimas Thila an exciting dive. Marine life includes good growths of soft corals, sea fans, anemones and clown fish. The top of the thila is only 3m down, and can be easily enjoyed by snorkellers if the conditions are calm. It's a Protected Marine Area.
Also called Mushimasmingali Thila, Fish Head is one of the world's most famous dive sites. Its steep sides are spectacular, with multilevel ledges, overhangs and caves supporting many sea fans and black corals; its top is heavily encrusted with anemones. Beware of stonefish. The prolific fish life at this Protected Marine Area includes fusiliers, large Napoleons, trevally and schools of hungry barracuda. The main attraction, however, is the numerous grey reef sharks, which can be seen up close. Strong currents can make this a demanding dive, and extreme care should be taken not to damage this superb but heavily used site.
The north side of Kalhuhadhihuraa Faru is subject to strong currents, so the caves and overhangs of Panetone are thick with soft coral growth. As well as the many reef fish, there are giant trevally, sharks, barracuda and turtles. From December to
April, mantas feed around the outside of the channel; March to November are the best months to see sharks. There's excellent snorkelling in light currents.
Also called Madivaru, Manta Reef is at the end of a channel where powerful currents carry plankton out of the atoll during the northeast monsoon (December to April) -fast food for manta rays. Mantas also come to be cleaned. Reef fish include Napoleon wrasse, snapper and parrotfish, while pe-lagics such as turtles, tuna and sharks visit the outer reef slope. It's for advanced divers only, but great for snorkellers in the right conditions.
Kudarah Thila is a very demanding but exciting dive - if there is a current running, this is strictly for experienced divers. There are gorgonians, whip corals, black corals and a whole field of sea fans swaying in the current, surrounded by sharks and trevally from the open sea. In the gaps between large coral blocks, bluestriped snapper, tallfin, batfish, goby and other unusual small fish can be seen. It's a Protected Marine Area.
In the mouth of the Dhigurashu Kandu, Broken Rock is bisected by a canyon up to 10m deep and only lm to 3m wide. Swimming through the 50m canyon is unforgettable, but extreme care is needed not to damage the coral formations on either side. Rock formations around the thila are decorated with sea fans and superb corals, and are inhabited by abundant marine life.
From May to September, whale sharks cruise almost continually along the 10km-long Dhidhdhoo Beyru on the southwestern edge of the atoll, which extends from Ar-iyadhoo Kandu north to the tip of Dhigu-rah island. There's plenty of fish life on the reef, and mantas also cruise the area. The reef drops off steeply into deep water, and it's quite exposed and subject to ocean currents.
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