Choosing the right Maldives snorkeling resort is very important because the island's house reef needs to be interesting enough to explore for the duration of your stay. We chose Vilamendhoo and could have easily had fun exploring the house reef for a week or more during our stay in April, 2016.
On this page we will describe the snorkeling at Vilamendhoo and then provide you with a list of other resorts we considered for our trip due to the reviews we read about the house reefs.
This Maldives snorkeling resort is a large island by Maldives standards and there is reef you can snorkel around most of it. There are 10 trails through the shallow lagoon reef to the outer edge all around the island. They are marked by orange buoys on the outer reef edge. We have numbered the buoys 1-10 on the map below. The outside of the reef often has currents, but in our experience they are generally not too strong to swim against if you are wearing fins, but you do need to know how to read them.
The inner lagoon of the reef, near the beach, is shallow, really too shallow to snorkel at low tide without damaging corals at this Maldives snorkeling resort. You have to stay along the inner edge of the corals and you don't really see much. But, if you can catch it at high tide, you can swim over the top. There was lots of Staghorn, and many other corals, though there was some bleaching in progress. While there are fish in this shallow reef, they are not in the massive numbers and variety you see on the outside edge of the reef.
The lagoon area in the northeast of the island, north of the Asian Wok Restaurant, has a nice area to snorkel through at high tide. The farther east you get, the shallower it is, but there is plenty to see closer to buoy trail 4.
The lagoon where the water villas are seems to have a resident baitball and numerous young Blacktip Reef Sharks which are a real treat to watch or maybe get in the water with. You can also explore the edges of the reef in the lagoon to see some interesting sea life up close at this Maldives snorkeling resort.
As for the trails through the shallow reef, there are ones where the reef on both sides has quite a bit to see, with very healthy and dense coral reef (though there was some bleaching happening) and fish, like the trails at buoys 3, 4, 5, and 10. The trails at buoys 1, 6, 7, and 8 are all pretty barren of life. The trail at buoy 2 is fairly uninteresting near the drop off, but gets a little more alive the closer you get to the beach. The trail at buoy 9 is short, and has some life. We believe they are all passable during any tide, but some might be too shallow in a really low tide. Though there might be stuff to see in these trails, there can be currents pulling you in or pushing you out, so it may not be easy to stay in one place and look at the sea life.
The outer edge of the reef over the drop off is where the snorkeling at Vilamendhoo shines. We will describe the different sections of reef from buoy 1 clockwise around to buoy 10.
To the west of buoy 1 on the north side of the water villas, the reef has a vertical wall with some good corals, including table, and the top of the reef in the shallows was healthy too, but with some bleaching. This is a good area to see anemones with anemonefish. We saw lots of fish schools and a Blacktip Reef Shark. The current was very strong in places; if it is going westward, don't do this snorkel. In fact there is a sign at buoy 1 that tells you not to snorkel here at all. It is possible to swim over the top to get back into the lagoon if it is high tide and there is no surge or waves. Use your arms so you are not kicking the corals with your fins.
Between buoys 1 and 2, the corals are great and go down the sloping wall a ways, making for interesting snorkeling. There are tons of fish milling about over the reef and in the deep blue water off the edge. This is probably the best snorkeling on the island. We saw Blacktip and Whitetip Reef Sharks. And unfortunately again, some of the corals in this zone were bleaching.
Between buoys 2 and 3, the coral health is lower. But, at about halfway between, the wall goes more vertical and gets a little more interesting with numerous anemones with anemonefish. There are still a lot of fish along this section.
Between buoys 3 and 4 the reef is not terribly dense in corals, but certainly has some healthy ones. The reef wall is pretty much vertical along this section with good visibility a long ways down. There is a large cave in the side of the wall in this section. Freedivers can get down to see fish inside. There were always large schools of fish next to the wall of all kinds. The top edge of the reef is about the same, not dense with corals, but some healthy ones and lots of other things to see. We saw octopus, turtles, clams and tons of fish.
The reef to the east of buoy 4 is marked as a no swimming zone due to currents. We swam that way a short distance and the coral health was lower and the current was quite strong to the east, so it's probably not worth the risk. Heed the sign.
It was along the north shore at this Maldives snorkeling resort where we saw a group of three Eagle Rays going back and forth along the length of the reef.
The best areas on the south shore are near the ends of the island. On the east end, between buoys 5 and 6, there is some interesting stuff to see, but the corals are less dense and deeper. Though there are some wonderful colors of corals along with lots of fish and a big eel.
Between buoy 6 and the arrival jetty, and between the service jetty/buoy 8 and buoy 9, there is not much shallow reef at all and the wall below doesn't have much coral either. You are not allowed to swim between the 2 jetties as there is too much boat traffic.
On the west end, between buoys 9 and 10, the reef is quite lively with nice corals (with some bleaching), tons of fish and interesting other stuff.
To the west of buoy 10 we found little to no current, but that could easily change. There was quite a bit of coral, with some bleaching and it was on a slope instead of a wall. We found good numbers of schools of fish and lots of big clams. There is a sign at buoy 10 telling you not to swim past it to the west.
Vilamendhoo Resort itself is among the more affordable options for a Maldives snorkeling resort. There are 4 types of rooms to choose from: Garden Room, Beach Villa, Jacuzzi Beach Villa and Jacuzzi Water Villa (over the water). We stayed in both a Jacuzzi Beach Villa and a Beach Villa. The western end of the island has both of the Jacuzzi type rooms and is adults only. There is a separate smaller restaurant for the guests in these rooms. Though we did not use the Jacuzzi, the level of service both in the restaurant and from the room boy were superior to that while we stayed in the Beach Villa. We would pay more for that service if we return.
You can choose either full board or all-inclusive for your meals. We enjoyed the food and they accommodate dietary restrictions. The two main restaurants are not air conditioned, so it can be hot. There is one other ala carte restaurant and bar as well as another ala carte eating option. The island has two swimming pools, three other bars and a spa. Along with the dive shop, there are many other recreation options on the island too.
This Maldives snorkeling resort offers numerous boat excursions, including one to snorkel a local reef and ones to snorkel with Manta Rays, Turtles and Whale Sharks. They also offer guided house reef snorkeling and night snorkeling. These all entail extra costs.
We researched extensively when we were preparing for our Maldives snorkeling trip. We chose Vilamendhoo and it turned out to be a great choice, but we wanted to share with you the other resorts we considered based on reports about the house reef for snorkeling. Read the TripAdvisor reviews at the links below.
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