Although the Maldives are known around the world for the spectacular beaches and azure waters that typify the tropical idyll, its life under the water's surface is now a lot more respected by scuba divers in the know. The Maldive Islands offer gret coral reefs, but it is the abundance of marine life through the entire archipelago that sets it aside from other dive locations around the world.
The Maldives Islands lie Southwest of India. Scattered across the equator in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the gem-like islands of the Maldives depict the rare vision of a tropical paradise. Palm fringed islands with sparkling white beaches, turquoise lagoons, clear warm waters and coral reefs teeming with abundant varieties of marine flora and fauna, fascinates visitors as it has for thousands of years.
There are three distinctly different types of diving: inside the atolls, outside the atolls and inside the channels or passes, which is where the currents are strongest and you'll find the greatest congregation of fish life. Most intriguing are the cleaning stations, found around every corner and under every ledge. Groupers, Snappers, Surgeonfish, Eels, Parrotfish, even Giant Napoleon Wrasse park casually in corners, oblivious to all, (including cameras) while armies of wrasse, shrimp and other assorted cleaners pick at debris in their open gills and cavernous mouths. The big attraction, however, are the schools of fish that patrol the reefs in colorful packs: Humpback and Black and White Snappers, Trevally Jacks, Barracuda, Batfish, Unicornfish, Yellowback Fusiliers and Harlequin Sweetlips almost comical in design. The reef's larger inhabitants, including sharks, rays and occasionally even Whale Sharks, are often seen cruising in the blue.
Baa atollWith the diverse marine life around its reefs, thilas (submerged islands), overhangs and swim throughs, Baa Atoll deserves its UNESCO status. On either side of the thila are large rocks where schooling black jacks hunt fusiliers.To the south-east of the atoll is Nelivaru Haa and part of the atoll’s protected reef, is the Horubadhoo Thila, Advanced divers can explore Dhonfanu Thila and its swim throughs, at a depth of 39-52 feet (12-16 meters). You'll ascend to its exit at 59 feet (18 meters). The top of the reef is found at 46 feet (14 meters) and drops off to 98 feet (30 meters). Amongst the caves and overhangs, you’ll also find stingrays, big groupers, friendly batfish or a school of oriental sweet lips. Located at 82 feet (25 meters) is the base of a narrow swim through lined with black coral. The thila is covered in different hard and soft corals, lots of macro life and large pelagic. This entire reef becomes a cleaning station during manta season, and while they hover to be cleaned, you’ll be able to observe them closely. Shoals of glassy fish also swim around the coral. The thila starts at 26 feet (8 meters), and as you descend you may see manta rays. Depending on the light and density of the shoal, it can be a spectacular sight. The topography around this site is unique.
The popular whale shark spots may be full of ravenous snorkelers, but Baa Atoll’s dive sites are well chartered and offer lots of diverse diving and marine life. Star shaped canyons are found in the middle and overhangs, which are covered in hard and soft corals, are found on the reef’s walls. The coral appears through them, distorted, as though you’re wearing glasses with the wrong prescription. The south-west monsoon (May to November) sees manta rays using the thila as a cleaning station. Expect to see lots of other fish: redtoothed triggers, black pyramid butterflyfish, parrotfish, angelfish and starry rabbitfish. Amongst the reef’s overhangs are yellow-lined snapper, soldierfish and cleaning wrasses.
Hanifaru in Baa Atoll, is an uninhabited island of the Maldives with a small, enclosed, underwater bay approximately the size of a football field, locally known as ‘Vandhumaafaru Adi’. This small area coupled with the rich plankton-filled soup has altered the natural feeding habits of these graceful creatures whose wingspan can reach up to 3. These stately creatures are observed bumping into each other as the veritable feeding frenzy unfolds.Observing the manta feeding freezy in Hanifaru Bay is a spectacle to behold. During mass feeding, of 50 or more mantas, the head of the line catches the tail and the chain spins into a vortex. There can be no doubt, witnessing this spectacle can be considered an once in a lifetime experience.
If the number increases to over 100 mantas they spiral out, the chain breaks down and chaos feeding ensues.5m. Tourists flock to this confined soup bowl, to observe mantas ‘cyclone feeding’. Guy Stevens, a British marine biologist and director of the Manta Trust, shares his experiences, “Just after high tide you’ll see a few manta rays turn up, then poof, a whole group will move in, and you’ll get as many as 200 feeding for 2 to 4 hours in a bay no bigger than a soccer field”. Mantas are usually observed feeding in a sedate, patterned behavior which includes barrel rolling and swimming near the surface to funnel their microscopic meal via their cephalic lobes into their wide mouths which is filtered and the water is then passed back out through their gills,
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