Liveaboard Diving in Ari Atoll

Ari Atoll Liveaboard Dive Sites

Scuba divers plunge into the waters of Ari Atoll for the promise of spectacular pelagic encounters. Ari Atoll is the most reliable Maldives location for whale sharks and manta rays, as well as for tons of reef sharks and turtles. The area's general topography is dominated by kandus and thilas. Thilas are volcano-shaped pinnacles rising from the depths of the sea and attracting lots of sea life; kandus are current-filled channels from the open ocean, where big fish ride the ripping highway to their next meals.

Ari Atoll's thilas are colonized by sea life like all Maldives pinnacles, but this area is not the best Maldives site for corals and color. Instead, Ari's main draw is the large wildlife in the water column. Various marine protected areas within Ari Atoll ensure the conservation of its incredible underwater creatures, so diving within Ari Atoll sanctuaries at sites like Fish Head and Kudarah Thila should not be missed.

The crowning jewel of Ari Atoll is Maaya Thila, considered one of the top Maldives dive sites for both day and night dives. This pinnacle is famous for the wild abundance and diversity of its reef life, from nudibranchs and octopus to schools of pelagic fish. As you descend to the deeper areas, caves and overhangs add variety to the topography.

Maaya's neighbor Donkalo Thila holds its own crown as a premier cleaning station for mantas and sharks in the western section of the atoll. Kudarah Thila and Rangali Madivaru, both in the southern section of Ari Atoll, host high-volume manta cleaning stations as well, while Ukulhas Thila is the premier manta cleaning station in the north. Hammerhead Point in Rasdhoo Atoll, northeast of Ari, tops it all off. The deep water drop-off near this site gives divers a special opportunity to see hammerheads, the highlight of many divers' Maldives liveaboard adventures.

Within Ari Atoll's 40 km length and 105 small islands, site after site vies for divers' wonder and appreciation. However, if it's sharks you're looking for, Fish Head pinnacle is the best place for an adrenalin pumping dive- here, throngs of bustling grey and white tip reef sharks scour the reef for their dinner under huge schools of dancing fusilier. Fish Head lies in the eastern section of Ari Atoll and enjoys marine protected area status. It is known as one of the top ten Maldives dive sites, partly because of its shark abundance and reliability of sightings.

Those who want to swim with the giant of the ocean turn to Maamgili, where plankton-rich waters nourish whale sharks gliding over wrecks that also host large marble rays and nurse sharks. For wrecks, Ari Atoll offers Fesdu and Halaveli. Fesdu Wreck in the north is popular with macro critter lovers for its resident ghost pipefish and plethora of nudibranchs and flatworms. This fishing trawler was sunk to become an artificial reef more than ten years ago. Halaveli is a 33 meter long freighter where huge blotched fantail rays provide an impressive counterpoint to the macro-life tucked into the wreck's holes and corners, and can be dived day or night.

For divers who need color, Ari can also deliver. Rahdhigga Thila is crowned in its shallows with healthy branching corals and festooned on its sides with soft corals in every shade of the rainbow, not to mention other benthic organisms like sponges of many shapes and sizes. Pelagics lovers won't even feel left out here because Rahdhigga hosts shark action from silver tips, white tips and grey reef sharks.

Getting to Ari Atoll

The length of liveaboard itineraries in Ari Atoll ranges from 7 to 12 nights, with a budget of between 200 and 400 euros per night. Very often, a liveaboard bound for Ari Atoll and Rasdhoo Atoll will include North or South Male, Baa Atoll, or the southern atolls of Meemu and Vaavu in its tour. Usually, the south-focused itineraries which include Male, Meemu, and Vaavu, visit south Ari Atoll. North-focused itineraries visiting Male, Baa, and Raa, visit more of Ari Atoll, and include Rasdhoo Atoll as well.

However, Maldives liveaboard itineraries present great variety of choices and variations, like Carpe Diem's tour including Baa, Rasdhoo, Ari, Male, and Vaavu, and Orion's ìManta Madnessî itinerary. Most Ari Atoll liveaboards depart from Male, the capital city of the Maldives, but Carpe Diem's north-south trip departs from Baa. Most of these liveaboards are M/V luxury yachts, though the M/V Aggressor also has gorgeous sails.

The experience level required by Ari Atoll liveaboards varies from Open Water with no logged dives to Advanced Open Water with 100 dives. Currents are strong at Ari except at slack tides, but calm water also means no fish, so it's experienced divers who will be best able to take advantage of diving Ari Atoll.

Liveaboard departures

Many Ari Atoll liveaboards depart from Male, reachable by short flights from nearby Singapore, Dubai, and Colombo. Longer international flights from Europe, America, China, India, and Australia are all readily available, often connecting through the airports mentioned above. When Ari Atoll itineraries depart from other ports like Baa, a sea plane from Male is the best way to get there.

Best time to travel

Ari Atoll can be dived by liveaboard all year round. December to May hold the calmest seas; however, August through November is the best time for manta rays. Never fear though- manta rays can still be seen reliably during the calm season at certain sites. Shorty wetsuits usually keep divers comfortable at 26-29 C, and visibility is usually 15-30 meters. When visibility varies between sites, it's usually because of the seasons and the particular characteristics of each site location. Some of the best manta and whale shark sights are green with plankton, but catching a glimpse of these giants makes up for it.

Ari Atoll Diving Reviews

  • 9.3 Superb
  • 281 Verified Reviews
  • 6.4 Review score
  • Cornelia C
  • Österreich Österreich

Mantas und Haie, was will man mehr?

Diving Ari Atoll in Februar on the Ocean Divine

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Darija S
  • Slowenien Slowenien

je weiter südlich desto besser die Tauchgänge

Diving Ari Atoll in März on the Scubaspa Yang

  • 8.0 Very good
  • Jörn P
  • Deutschland Deutschland

Für uns waren alle Tauchgänge mit Highlights versehen und ein Atoll was genauso gut wie das andere.

Diving Ari Atoll in Dezember on the Emperor Leo

  • 9.2 Superb
  • Jürg H
  • Schweiz Schweiz

Sehr gut! Hai- sowie Strömungsdives.

Diving Ari Atoll in Dezember on the Emperor Explorer

  • 9.2 Superb
  • Dirk S
  • Deutschland Deutschland

Gut - viel gesehen; jedoch fehlte die Strömung fast komplett und somit auch nur wenig Großfisch und kein Wal-Hai; trotzdem gab es viele beeindruckende Begegnungen und auch langsam wieder wachsende Korallen zu sehen.

Diving Ari Atoll in November on the Carpe Novo

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Irene Z
  • Deutschland Deutschland

Sehr schöne Tauchgänge Schöne Korallen und Fische

Diving Ari Atoll in September on the Emperor Voyager

  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Tanja S
  • Deutschland Deutschland

Very nice! One of the Highlight was the Nightdive!

Diving Ari Atoll in September on the Carpe Novo

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Elisabeth H
  • Österreich Österreich

Wunderschön - viel Fisch, Haibegegnungen, Manta

Diving Ari Atoll in Juni on the Emperor Atoll

Origin: US