Liveaboard Diving in Northern Atolls

What To Expect On A Northern Atolls Liveaboard

Northern Atoll liveaboards take divers to the large expanse of ocean north of Maldives' Central Atolls which opened to liveaboard diving in the not-too-distant past. Visitors can enjoy the quintessential Maldives diving experience without the crowds. The Northern Atolls contain some dive sites that are famous throughout the country for unique and special characteristics or reef inhabitants. However, the area is equally recognized for offering a high-quality, well-rounded underwater scene, with abundant reef fish, interactive topography, and blue-water visitors.

Northern Atolls Underwater

Liveaboard dive cruises to the Northern Atolls is diverse. It's got pinnacles, channels, walls, and bays. The marine life that surrounds you as you descend from your dive dhoni will probably be equally diverse. Some areas are known for large and plentiful reef fish, and some get regular visits from mantas and other pelagics. Sharks have their special spots within Noonu, Lhaviyani, and the Far North Atolls. In addition, the Northern Atolls hold many sites with particularly unique topography, making for memorable dives, either because of the quantity and variety of interactive features, or because the reef simply looks unlike any other.

Dive Areas Of The Northern Atolls

Due to the variety of dive sites and atolls available to divers a Maldives dive liveaboard is the best option to explore the area.

Baa Atoll
is known for having loads and loads of fish, great variety of species, interactive topography, and good manta-viewing. Baa also lays claim to one of the Northern Atolls unique offerings: a famous underwater landscape of blue, green, and yellow soft corals at the dive site Maavaru Kandu. Dive cruises visit Baa's various channels and pinnacles for the chance to mix seriously impressive fish biomass with fun swim-throughs and overhangs. To top it off, Baa's World Biosphere Reserve Hanifaru Bay offers an incomparable sight from May through December: huge aggregations of manta rays and whale sharks going wild in a plankton-eating frenzy.

Lhaviyani Atoll offers a wall dive called Madivaru, known for abundance and variety of reef fishes, including multiple butterflyfish species, triggers, emperors, and Napoleon wrasse. The crevices and overhangs of Madivaru's vertical topography present great opportunities to check for additional reef life, while the adjacent blue water often offers tuna and barracuda. Dive sites in Lhaviyani's channels are good spots for finding reef sharks, which are rarer in the Northern Atolls than in the Central and Southern Atolls.

Raa Atoll's pinnacles, like Baa Atoll dive sites, host impressive fish biomass and diversity. Divers who like to know and study their fish will enjoy the sheer variety of species at Raa, made even more exciting by their abundance. Fenfushi Giri and Reethi Thila are the two most famous sites; divers here have a good chance of being absolutely surrounded by fish. Crevices and overhangs are common at Raa, like in many areas of the Northern Atolls, and divers should be sure to explore them for soldierfish and squirrelfish, and even Napoleon wrasse.

Shark-lovers in the Northern Atolls will be happy to dive at Noonu Atoll. At a dive site called Orimas Thila, there is a channel where grey reef sharks swarm in communities of twenty or more, from small juveniles to adults over three meters long. Noonu Atoll also claims a star for unique topography; at Christmas Tree Rock, large, life-encrusted shelves are ornamented with colorful dancing fish in vibrant shades of pink, yellow, and blue. The Christmas tree imagery is uncanny, and the resting reef sharks and pelagic visitors further recommend this site to divers, many of whom cite it as one of their favorite Northern Atolls dive sites.

Lastly, the Far North Atolls, namely Haa Alifu and Haa Dhalu, are serious contenders for the best Northern Atolls underwater sights. Hardly any liveaboards make it all the way north to these atolls at the top of the Maldives, but those who do are rewarded with plentiful mantas, loads of sharks, some hard coral gardens, and incredible visibility. Serious Maldives divers should consider booking a liveaboard dive cruise to the Far North's walls and pinnacles before it gets too crowded.

Top Tips For Divers

In the Maldives, a new Green Tax of 6 USD per person per night applies for every tourist in the country. The official language is Maldivian, also called Dhivehi.

Gear to bring includes your own mask, booties, fins, and dive computer. These are personalized pieces of equipment which we donít recommend renting. An ill-fitting mask or pair of fins can make diving virtually impossible, and a dive computer is your most-important piece of safety equipment.

Getting To The Northern Atolls

Like anywhere in the Maldives, the Northern Atolls are best dived by liveaboard; in no other way can you access so many dive sites, often near uninhabited islands or far from land. The length of most Maldives liveaboard itineraries in the Northern Atolls ranges from 7 to 10 nights, with budgets from 200 to 400 euros per night. Some trips include Central Atolls destinations like Male, Ari, and Vaavu, and others spend all their time in the North.

Many Northern Atolls liveaboards depart from Male. However, some depart from Hanimadhoo on Haa Dhalu or from Baa (also called Dharavandhoo). Baa and Hanimadhoo can be reached by domestic sea plane from Male. Male is easily reached by direct flights from Dubai, Singapore, and Colombo. Longer international flights from Europe, America, China, India, and Australia are all readily available, often connecting through the airports mentioned above.

Northern Atolls dive area can be visited year-round, though the southwest monsoon from May to November sometimes makes the seas a bit choppy; December to April is the season with the best conditions. However, the mantas and whale sharks are most plentiful from August to November, so consider a trip during that time of year if the giants are your number one priority. In the Northern Atolls, the water temperature usually ranges from 27-30 C and visibility from 10-30 meters.

Northern Atolls Diving Reviews

  • 8.9 Fabulous
  • 11 Verified Reviews
  • 10.0 Exceptional
  • Laura S
  • United States United States

We did a manta night dive - while we saw a lot of manta rays, the visibility was really difficult since we had gotten so much rain, and the bottom was sandy. But the mantas are just gorgeous.

Diving Northern Atolls in January on the Princess Sara

  • 8.4 Very good
  • Leanne D
  • Canada Canada

Stunning, with tons of fish!

Diving Northern Atolls in August on the Blue Voyager

  • 8.4 Very good
  • John F
  • United Kingdom United Kingdom

Very good - it would have been excellent if the visibility had been better

Diving Northern Atolls in March on the Amba Liveaboard

  • 9.2 Superb
  • jorge H
  • Spain Spain

Very good. The best thing is you are all alone. Not other boats are around. Many times in the central atolls it gets very crowded.

Diving Northern Atolls in November on the Amba Liveaboard

  • 8.0 Very good
  • United Kingdom United Kingdom

good but very often similar topology, thila

Diving Northern Atolls in January on the Amba Liveaboard

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Josje A
  • Netherlands Netherlands

Oké. Unfortunately a lot of the coral was broken. You could find some nice nudy branch in between though.

Diving Northern Atolls in July on the Princess Sara

  • 9.6 Exceptional
  • Bernard S
  • Singapore Singapore

The encounters with manta rays and nurse sharks at Mirihi and Feashoo lagoon were unforgettable.

Diving Northern Atolls in December on the Princess Sara

  • 9.2 Superb
  • Kee Wee T
  • Singapore Singapore

more sharks than you can imagine and a true reflection of pristine health of the reef.

Diving Northern Atolls in December on the Princess Sara