Manta Block is a manta cleaning station inside North Channel; the past couple of years during the manta season (November to April) we have always found mantas being cleaned on this large single coral block. The bottom here lies at just 13 meters, but provides for spectacular close encounters with large rays and is a favourite of many divers irrespective of experience level. We often have current here as even though the block lies deep inside the channel, at this relatively shallow depth the water movement is still notable.
Madivaru is a spectacular dive site due to both the topography of the reef and the marine life inhabiting it. This horseshoe-shaped reef structure lies next to the island of Madivaru and the island wall makes up part of the divesite rising to a few meters below the surface. The top of the outer reef lies between 15 and 22 meters and at depth features overhangs and promontories. Healthy corals are plentiful and a large sand patch at 26m is a central feature of the dive site. Madivaru is always a great dive, some dives are just more breathtaking than others. Here we can often find a school of grey reef sharks, large dogtooth tunas, schools of eagle rays and mobulas, large schools of trevally and jacks, white tip reef sharks, sting rays, a school of barracuda, mantas in season, napoleons and turtles. Very occasionally we also have dolphins sucking garden eels out of the sand like spaghetti, the odd guitar shark, a few scalloped hammerheads or a lone great hammerhead, a few silvertips and almost anything else you can think of big or small that lives underwater in the Maldives! It rarely disappoints even with poor visibility or on “quiet” days.
Caves is approximately a 20 minute boat ride from Kuramathi and is located on the western end of the atoll past the sandbank. There are many large overhangs here, but also two caves through which divers can swim. In the caves and overhangs we can often find white tips, stingrays or even nurse sharks. Only advanced divers will be able to reach both caves and most of the overhangs, but open water divers can also reach one cave and the shallower overhangs. A favourite of many repeat diving guests.
Hammerheads! – diving with Hammerhead sharks is our specialty! World famous Hammerhead Shark Point is situated a mere five minutes boat ride from Kuramathi, and we make this Advanced dive at least three times a week. It is one of the few remaining places left in the world where you can still see these magnificent animals. Nevertheless, you still have to get up early if you want to dive with the hammerheads. The best time is around sunrise which means about 6.00 am! It’s a spectacular dive and there is something special about jumping into the 29C water in the soft light of dawn and letting yourself descend 30 meters into the blue. The sparkling blue plankton lights our path and the surgeonfish accompany us as we hover in the deep waiting for the hammerheads (up to 4 meters long) to appear from the depths. If you see a large hammerhead up close and personal, the image will probably remain with you long after your holiday is over. Even if you are unlucky and the hammerheads decide not to show, most divers still find this dive a fascinating experience.
Rasdhoo Channel is a big scenery, big fish, advanced channel crossing between Kuramathi and the neighbouring local island of Rasdhoo. An excellent dive with the right conditions – ideally with medium current pushing mainly across and slightly in – to provide good visibility and an easy passage drifting from one thila to the next. These thilas are huge coral blocks which are mounted on the 30 meter sandy bottom of the channels outer edge before it drops into the open ocean and a depth of almost 200 meters. The top side of these large thilas is found between 22 and 27 meters so it is a deep dive and a great dive on nitrox. Rasdhoo Channel often features grey reef sharks, white tips, stingrays, napoleons, turtles, eagle rays, lots of big groupers, many large snappers and sometimes you really do not know where to look. Even on quieter days, the channel is a memorable dive just for the impressive landscape of the thilas and the sand between them and there is somehow an odd feeling of accomplishment in achieving the crossing from one island to the other.
North Channel is about twenty minutes by boat and in season is one of our best spots for mantas. The channel is relatively shallow and we rarely dive deeper than 20 meters here so it is in range for competent open water divers and much of the dive is spent at between 10 and 15 meters. Nevertheless the current can run hard here so choosing the right time to visit is important. Mantas can be seen at several shallow cleaning stations in the channel or on a massive thila named Veligandu Thila which borders the Veligandu side of the channel and can offer an exciting dive by itself. If manta season has come and gone, the channel is still a great dive where divers can find a huge school of jacks, many napoleons and groupers, white tips and the occasional grey reef shark, honeycomb moray eels, stingrays, lionfish, leaf fish and an amazing variety of brightly painted reef fish.
Veligandu North is a finger-like reef protruding out of the island of Veligandu. A favourite of some of our dive guides because of the marine life that sharp-eyed divers can find and photograph there. We travel a mere 15 minutes to reach the site on our fast comfortable dhonis and we dive on the outside edge of the finger. The top of the reef lies at between 3 and 6 meters and once below the reef top, the current runs reef parallel and we enjoy an easy drift dive. The reef contains many small overhangs and it is within these overhangs that we can usually find several members of the rare ghost pipe fish family and leaf fish family. This reef is also “moray city” as it is full with many different species of moray, the most spectacular being the honeycomb moray or the white mouth moray. In addition, with a little luck we find feeding turtles, napoleons and a few white tip sharks as we progress along the reef. In season mantas or mobulas are also regularly sighted. The dive is suitable for all levels and the most interesting marine life is found between 8 and 18 meters though the reef descends to between 35 and 40 meters before reaching a scrubby plateau.
Rasdhoo is an interesting site with the wall of the island of Rasdhoo on one side and massive coral blocks (or thilas) mounted on the outside steep drop-off of the atoll. These two features create a corridor of sand between the inner reef and outer thilas, in places only 20 meters wide. The aqua dynamics of this corridor seem to attract mantas in season, and on the sandy bottom we often find resting stingrays and white tip sharks.The thilas provide encounters with hunting jacks and trevally, white-tip and grey reef sharks, eagle rays and occasionally large diamond rays. The individual thilas are inhabited by a beautiful resident blue ribbon eel, mantis shrimp and many morays and various reef fish. Napoleons are often spotted on Rasdhoo along with hawksbill turtles, plentiful sweetlips and snappers.
Fan Reef is a great dive and divers are often amazed by what they can see just two minutes boat ride from the main dive jetty. Fan reef is situated on one corner of Kuramathi island and if the current is running west we often jump in the narrow sand patch between Kuramathi house reef and the first thila of Rasdhoo Channel. This is an excellent point to start the dive as even though it is somewhat current exposed, this small area often provides an immediate sighting upon descent either of eagle rays, napoleon, barracudas, white tip and grey reef sharks, stingrays or a leopard shark and the descent with good visibility can open up a magical panorama below you. Fan reef is an easy wall dive and so is perfect for beginners and open water divers and most of the good stuff can be seen at shallow depths. However it is also a dive much appreciated by experienced divers and photographers. It is not a straight wall and features several large bays, a spectacular plateau and craggy coral blocks with overhangs, cracks and crevices. In the bays we often find white-tips sleeping, black tips patrolling and a leopard shark or two dozing. Eagle rays and tuna often fly by or circle in the bays and horse-eye jacks hunt fusiliers and other small fish with astonishing speed and agility. The shallow reef top at the eastern end is bedecked with huge healthy table corals and stunning reef fish. Up to a dozen semi-mature black tip reef sharks (1.2 to 1.4 meter) often circle on a highly photogenic shallow plateau and make this dive a thrilling experience, even if they are still juveniles – they are not shy! Turtles, napoleons and stingrays are often seen in the area too.