The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on earth can visitors experience such a range of spectacular diving - from encounters with huge whale sharks and oceanic manta rays, to muck dives with beautiful Rhinopias and the exceedingly rare psychedelic frogfish.
Rising out of the ocean depths, this small atoll has found fame as the best location in the Maldives for encounters with perhaps ones of the ocean’s most sought after species - the scalloped hammerhead, that congregate around the atoll year round. Rasdhoo is also the site of some spectacular dive experiences with manta rays and schooling fish, and visitors can explore its deep reef walls and dramatic underwater topography. Combined with some beautiful beaches and acres of lush tropical vegetation, the welcoming Rasdhoo Islanders and the highly recommended Kuramathi Island Resort, Rasdhoo easily ranks as one of the Maldive’s best dive destinations.
- Dive at dawn in search of schooling hammerhead sharks
- Rasdhoo Madivaru dive site with its stunning topography, reef sharks, eagle rays and schooling fish
- Explore the culture of the local Rasdhoo Island
- Watch manta rays at cleaning stations from November to April
Scuba diving in Rasdhoo atoll is suitable for divers of all levels of experience. Shallow lagoons and gentle reef dives provide some great sites for beginner divers, whilst exhilarating current-charged channels and dramatic reef landscapes will entice the more advanced. And with its resident hammerhead sharks, reliable manta ray season and an unusually-large selection of weird and wonderful smaller critters, diving in Rasdhoo atoll offers a complete experience.
Rasdhoo Madivaru is arguably the most famous site in the atoll. Reaching out across one of the southern channels, a horse-shoe shaped ridge is patrolled by grey reef sharks, whitetip sharks and schools of eagle rays. As you look over the ledge into the depths, large sea fans and black coral can be seen clinging to the wall while thousands of anthias flutter in the current around you. Tucked inside over the lip of the ridge, an expansive sandy bowl is home to whiptail rays, marble rays and patches of garden eels. Returning to the shallows you will be greeted by beautiful corals and schooling reef fish such as oriental sweetlips, fusiliers, goatfish, snappers and many more. Throw in the occasional spotted eagle ray or a school of large barracuda and guests have all the ingredients for a near-perfect Maldivian dive experience.
Between November and April, manta rays slip into the atoll through the northern channel in search of a particular coral bommie, known as Manta Block. Here these gentle giants hover over the reef waiting for small cleaner wrasse to help pick parasites and detritus of their skin and gills. Divers can simply sit back and relax at a respectful distance and enjoy the spectacle.
The edge of the atoll is marked by steep walls plunging into the depths, most of which make for fantastic drift dives. At Hammerhead Point, divers head out into the blue at dawn in search of the resident hammerheads that are regularly encountered, but there is also plenty of interest back towards the reef. The atoll has plenty fo caves, some large enough to swim through while many of the ledges are perfect for sleeping turtles. Searching amongst the corals can turn up ghostpipefish, leaf scorpionfish, and frogfish and there are 3 wreck dives that have become havens for life. The largest wreck is a fantastic night dive with a host of nocturnal marine life providing some variety to the more iconic Maldivian fish species seen during day. Keep an eye open for crabs, shrimp, and octopus all rummaging amongst the wreck in search of a meal or a mate.
Even for avid divers, a snorkel around Rasdhoo island is highly recommended and can be as simple as walking off the designated bikini beach and enjoying the coral. Dive centres will take snorkelers to some of the dive sites as well, so guests have a very good chance of seeing turtles, lots of reef fish, eagle rays and manta rays during the season. Snorkelers have even reported seeing hammerhead sharks up on the surface - although chances are very slim. Wherever you explore, be sure to watch the currents and ensure you are dressed suitable if not at the designated bikini beach.
Located 56 kilometres west of Malé, Rasdhoo Atoll is the capital of Alif Alif Atoll - more commonly known as Ari Atoll. This clam-shaped, 3-island atoll may be small but it has plenty to offer, both above and below the waves. The island has been settled for hundreds of years and traces of the Maldives’ Buddhist past can be still be found, but today Rasdhoo could easily stand for that archetypal Maldivian island, known for its traditional living and love of fishing, food, and boat building. The small town with its streets lined by brightly painted shops and coral-walls is well worth exploring for a couple of hours - a great way to soak up the Maldivian way of life.
All international flights to the Maldives use Malé’s International Airport, located on a separate island, Hulhule, about 2km east of Male’ island. Domestic flights and seaplane transfers to resorts also use this airport, although the seaplane terminal is on the far side of the island and necessitates a free, five-minute bus transfer around the runway.
From Malé airport, guests traveling to Rasdhoo Atoll have a number of options. The quickest is to catch one of the regular seaplane that fly between Malé and Rasdhoo. Return flights are roughly US$305 although this may change. An alternative is the resort transfer by Kuramathi resort that runs twice daily and costs US$175 return. There are also two scheduled speedboat services from Malé to Rasdhoo that cost US$40 each way.
For those with a little more time, public ferries depart from Malé to Rasdhoo on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday at 9am from the Vilingili Ferry Terminal. In order to catch the ferry guests must ensure their flight arrives by 7:30am at the latest, or they can arrange to overnight in Malé. Tickets cost US$3.50 at the airport ticket counter. The return ferry from Rasdhoo to Malé runs on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday and departs Rasdhoo at 11:00am. The ferry arrives in Male by 2:30-2:45pm, so departing flights should be 4pm or later.
If you have a late flight arrival or if the transfer to your final destination is not available immediately, there are a number of accommodation options in Male itself. Alternatively, Hulhumale next to the airport is a good option, with affordable accommodation and hotel bars serving alcohol which is prohibited in the capital or on local non-resort islands.
For detailed information about getting to the Maldives, as well as navigating between atolls, check out our Maldives Travel Advice page.
Prior to the change in tourism laws in the Maldives, the only accommodation at Rasdhoo was on the island of Kuramahti to the west of Rasdhoo itself. Today this local island has a number of small resorts and homestay, as well as dive centres. Liveaboards are also a popular option for visiting Rasdhoo as many include the tiny atoll as part of an itinerary exploring Ari atoll.
The Maldives experiences a tropical monsoonal climate, with two distinct seasons; the northeast monsoon (dry season) and southwest monsoon (wet season). Temperatures can range from 25-31°C, with an average year-round temperature around 27°C. Water temperatures are also relatively constant throughout the year at 26-29°C.
Like most places in the world, with the ever-increasing impact of climate change, the seasons and transitions in the Maldives have become less predictable in recent years and more prone to shifting slightly, however the two monsoons still follow similar patterns whenever they arrive:
Northeast monsoon (January – April)
The dry season usually brings blue skies and calm winds - perfect weather a topical holiday. The season runs from January to April with the transition shoulder periods arriving earlier in December or continuing into May. The change to the wet season is usually signified by a wet spell of three or more consecutive days of rainfall along with a shift in wind direction.
Southwest monsoon (May – November)
The wet southwest season generally means more cloudy skies, stronger winds and a greater chance of rough seas. However, you would be unlucky if you had to endure anything other than a few hours of dramatic rain, as most of the storms are relatively short lived and soon blow themselves out.
As is the way in the tropics, rain can occur with little warning however the resorts are normally very good at providing sufficient warning and planning any alternative activities or events accordingly.
From a diver’s perspective, the monsoons dictate the migrations of the large pelagics such as manta rays and whale sharks. With tidal strength and wind direction affecting the movement of plankton, filter-feeders naturally follow the food, so at certain times of the year you are more likely to encounter these animals in specific locations. We have accounted for these changes in our search tool, but feel free to contact us directly for further insight and assistance in arranging your perfect Maldivian experience at the best locations and at the best time of year.
The award-winning Kuramathi resort at Rasdhoo Atoll is incredibly proactive with its sustainability and conservation efforts. They work closely with the local community and run programmes in the local school to educate the local children about environmental issues, as well as support two employees that manage the efforts to keep the island clean. The Kuramathi Eco Centre, established in 1999, works to spread awareness and education for both guests and locals. The centre ensures guests and locals alike are aware of proper snorkeling and diving standards as well as arranging clean up days, coral planting programs, and research projects