Where To Snorkel

Usually an island is surrounded firsdy by a sand-bottomed lagoon, and then by the reef flat (faru), a belt of dead and living coral covered by shallow water. At the edge of the reef flat is a steep, coral-covered slope that drops away into deeper water. These reef slopes are the best areas for snorkelling - around a resort island this is called the house reef. The slope itself can have interesting features such as cliffs, terraces and caves, and there are clearly visible changes in the coral and marine flora as the water gets deeper. You can see both the smaller fish, which frequent the

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world -they regularly reach up to 12m in length and are one of the biggest diving attractions when they cruise the kandus in May.

reef flats, and sometimes much larger animals that live in the deep water between the islands, but come close to the reefs to feed.

You can also take a boat from your resort to other snorkelling sites around the atoll. A giri (coral pinnacle) that rises to within 5m of the surface, is ideal for snorkelling, which is not difficult if it's in sheltered waters inside an atoll. A kandu (sea channel) will usually have excellent soft corals, schools of reef fish and large pelagic species.

The best resorts for snorkelling have an accessible house reef, where the deep water is not far offshore, at least around part of the island. There are usually channels you can swim through to the outer-reef slope. To avoid grazing yourself or damaging the coral, always use these channels rather than trying to find your own way across the reef flat. Another option is to walk out on a jetty to the reef edge - all resorts have at least one jetty, though sometimes they don't extend right to the edge of the reef.

Resorts with excellent house reefs tend to be popular with divers too. Some of the best are Ellaido, Bathala, Vadoo, Mirihi, Biyadhoo, Eriyadu, Machchafushi, Vilamendhoo, Filitheyo, Reethi Beach, Embudu Village, W Resort, Soneva Gili, Olhuveli Beach & Spa, Vakarufalhi and Kuredu.

Resorts that don't have an accessible house reef will usually provide a couple of boat trips per day to a good snorkelling site nearby, but this is a lot less convenient as you're limited in time and not usually alone. Many resorts offer island-hopping trips or snorkelling excursions that stop at really superb snorkelling sites, and these are a far better option. Full-day excursions usually cost from US$20 to US$30 or so, but are definitely worth it. Kuredu Island resort has the most comprehensive snorkelling programme, with guided snorkelling trips to many interesting sites, including a shipwreck. Sometimes snorkel-lers can go out with a dive boat, if the dive site is suitable and there's space on the boat.

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