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.
This tranquil atoll, comprised of twenty-two islands scattered across the reefs, offers lush resorts, world-class surf breaks and gorgeous sand bars. Channels - known as kandus in Dhivehi - are a major attraction of the diving here, particularly along the eastern edge of the atoll where six breaks in the reef funnel a huge volume of water between the ocean and the atoll lagoon. These currents of nutrient rich waters provide the perfect conditions for huge amounts of marine life - and some exhilarating diving.
- Dive Kandooma thila, one of the Maldives' most famous dive sites
- Encounter schooling eagle rays, manta rays and a grey reef shark cleaning station
- Beautiful shallow reefs for snorkeling
- A great selection of left and right surf breaks
South Malé Atoll is rightly famous for its current-swept channels but also provides a wide variety of stunning diving options for divers of all levels of experience and skill. Known for its steep walls, ledges and small caves, South Malé is home to huge numbers of the Maldive’s beautiful reef fish, as well as plenty of macro- subjects and a few manta ray cleaning stations.
Kandooma thila - often known as Cocoa thila - is quite possibly the most famed dive site in the Maldives. Set within a wide channel, the site has grey reef sharks patrolling the reef edge facing the ocean, a manta ray cleaning station, schooling eagle rays, turtles, and the ever-present colourful reef fish covering the entire reef.
The Guraidhoo channel between Guraidhoo Faru and Maadhoo Falhu is a large marine protected area and home to a massive concentration of reef life, including sharks, schooling trevallies, rays, turtles and reef fish. The complex of channels, reefs, walls and drops offs also has some fantastic locations to spot manta rays during the season that runs from May to October, as well as some stunning soft corals.
The atoll’s eastern edge acts as a barrier reef, protecting some lovely shallow reefs called _giris _that are ideal for snorkeling. Fields of coral thrive in the sheltered conditions, protected from large swells whilst still enjoying the nutrients funnelled into the atoll through the channels. These sites also have abundant reef life, with turtles regularly seen and spotted eagle rays making an occasional appearance in the shallows.
If you are staying in a resort on the outer edge of the atoll, it is unlikely you will be able to snorkel the outer reef due to waves, so we recommend joining a snorkeling tour on a traditional wooden boat called a _dhoni_ to a nearby _giri_. Alternatively, you can explore the shallow lagoons with a kayak or a SUP board for a chance to see young blacktip sharks or eagle rays.
South Malé Atoll is considerably more peaceful than its busy northern neighbour, with fewer resorts and a lot less people. Of the 22 islands, 3 on the eastern edge of the atoll are inhabited, 16 are resort islands, and the rest are home only to swaying palm trees. The diving around the atoll is incredibly varied and exploring a different environment every dive is the norm. In a single day, divers can have easy, relaxing dives on thilas, drift dives along the walls, and of course some thrilling diving in the channels. You can expect amazing fish schools in sizeable numbers, large pelagics, and plenty of colourful soft corals teeming with reef fish.
South Malé is one of the best atolls in the Maldives for the independent or budget traveler. Great deals can normally be found for accommodation on Maafushi which has a ‘foreigner’s beach’ and organizes ‘party’ boats where alcohol is allowed - an exception to the normally ‘dry’ local islands.
As a major tourist destination, the Maldives has many flight options to choose from, perfect for all types of travellers. All international flights to the Maldives use Malé’s International Airport, located on the island of Hulhule, about 2km east of Malé. With its location at the southern tip of North Malé Atoll, the airport provides easy access to the resorts and local islands of South Malé Atoll.
All resorts are accessible by speedboat and transfers are normally arranged directly through the resort. Guest pick-ups are located at the jetty directly in front of the international airport. The local islands of Maafushi, Guraidhoo and Guilhi are accessible by local ferries or chartered speedboats.
With its proximity to the airport and long-established tourism industry, South Malé Atoll has plenty of options to choose from when it comes to accommodation. All the resorts are found on the islands around the edge of the atoll, concentrated in the north, southeast and southwest. The resorts in the southeast offer the best access to the channel dives and surf breaks, but given the size of the atoll, all of the best dive sites are accessible from any resort.
The Maldives experience 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.
Surf (March – October)
In general, March, April and May have very clean conditions, June through August provide the potential for the bigger swells for more experienced surfers, with September and October known for consistent swell with variable wind conditions and tropical storms starting to dissipate. Intermediate short board and long board surfers will find long, fun, peeling rights and lefts.