The Maldives is known as one of the best places in the world to scuba dive. We’ve always gravitated to the Southern atolls, however, this year we decided to explore somewhere new and headed north of Male to the Raa Atoll.
The abundance and variety of tropical fish here are some of the best I’ve ever seen in the Maldives! The water is warm and crystal clear, the dives are shallow and there’s a very high chance you’ll dance with manta rays, making it ideal for both beginner and advanced divers.
Is Raa Atoll Good For Diving?
In a nutshell, yes! It’s less busy so you’ll likely have the dive sites all to yourselves and you’ll be able to see so much more. From tons of tropical fish to sea turtles and if you love sharks you’re in for a treat. Giant nurse sharks, grey reef and baby black tips are in abundance. However, what makes scuba diving in the Raa Atoll famous, it's one of the only places in the Maldives where you can see Manta Rays throughout the year.
Where Is The Raa Atoll?
The Raa Atoll is one of the Maldives’ most Northern atolls, reachable by seaplane just 45mins from Male. Or there is a cheaper but slower option to take a domestic flight to a nearby airport. It’s also not too far from the UNESCO biosphere reserve – Hanifaru Bay.
Best Dive Sites In Raa Atoll
Depth: 15 – 30 metres / 49 – 98 feet
We had one of our best dives at Vaadhoo Thila. There is so much to see from caves and overhangs - where fish swim upside down, to reef sharks, nudibranchs and ribbon eels.
But, it was the turtle encounter that left me speechless! There amongst the crumbled rocks was a huge hawksbill turtle tearing away chunks of a purple-tinged anemone. It’s a wonder it didn’t swallow the clown fishes whole! I have never witnessed turtle behaviour like it and it’s a dive I will never forget! Watch the video here
Depth: 5 - 45 metres / 16 - 148 feet
Tip: Ideal for beginner divers
The top of the dive site is full of beautiful anemones and when you make your way down the sloping reef you’ll be met by plenty of marine life and overhangs. The dive conditions here are calm and relaxed with very little current - ideal for beginners and those looking for a chilled dive.
It's bursting to life with glassfish, oriental sweet lips, elusive lobsters and one of the most beautiful orange and white leopard print nudibranchs I’ve seen in the Maldives.
Depth: 12 - 35 metres / 39 - 115 feet
One of the most beautiful dive sites in the Raa Atoll, with a large variety of caves and canyons to explore. As you descend through the largest canyon, you’ll swim through schools of yellow snapper and past colourful corals, before sliding past a giant Gorgonian fan at the bottom. Expect to be surrounded by batfish, reef sharks and the odd passing eagle ray.
Depth: 5 - 35 metres / 16 – 115 feet
As you descend through the crystal-clear water towards the drop-off, you won’t find an abundance of coral, but you will be rewarded with some of the most impressive schools of fish I’ve seen! You'll be swimming through never-ending clouds of blue-striped snapper! Experiencing poor visibility due to the sheer number of fish in the water was a first!
We were lucky enough to spot two 3-metre (10ft) nurse sharks sleeping in a canyon just as a passing manta ray swooped directly above. This dive site was not short of surprises! You can also expect to see oriental sweet lips, nudibranchs and green turtles.
Where To Stay & Who To Dive With | Raa Atoll
We had an amazing experience splitting our trip between the following two luxury scuba diving resorts:
- Adaaran Prestige Water Villas with Dive Point Maldives -
The exclusive Prestige Water Villas form part of a 5-star mini resort within Adaaran Select Meedhupparu. Dive Point Maldives located on the island is an SSI dive centre run by an incredible team of international divers.
Their passion for the ocean, respect for marine life and attention to safety along with their chilled friendly vibe left us wanting to dive with them over and over again! Read more about our stay here.
- Heritance Aarah with Kaito Maldives Dive Centre -
The Heritance Aarah is a luxury 5-star resort and 5-star PADI centre, offering 15mins intro dives, certified courses and guided dives from a traditional wooden Dhoni boat. A team of friendly Maldivian locals run the stunning over-water dive centre, with a wide selection of premium quality dive gear. Read our full review of the resort here.
Best Time Of Year To Dive Raa Atoll, Maldives
The best months to dive in the Raa Atoll are January to April/May. However, If you’re looking for a chance to see Manta Rays you can actually see them all year round, with the peak season being September – November. The visibility might not be as great due to the high concentration of plankton; however, more plankton does mean more marine life with the possibility of whale sharks!
Sustainability & Coral Restoration
The Maldives coral reefs were hit badly in 2016 by El Niño – the damaging rise of sea temperatures, along with dredging and overfishing, however, the reefs are fighting back with the help of the locals, dive centres and resorts.
Coral restoration is essential for the Maldives and the dive centres and resorts we visited are all doing their bit through coral planting, reef cleaning, and following diving standards that protect marine life.