Maldives snorkeling is a memorable and unique experience. This group of atolls in the Indian Ocean south of India, offer a good destination for a snorkel adventure. But unlike many other locations on this website, where you can visit an island and rent a car, the best ways to visit the Maldives for snorkeling are: to stay at a resort with a good house reef, or book yourself on a snorkeling liveaboard trip, which is difficult to find. We were lucky enough to do both.
We were enticed to visit the Maldives years ago by folks telling us they thought it was the best snorkeling in the world. But, because of the distance from the U.S. and cost, we delayed going. We were offered the opportunity to snorkel there by a former snorkel trip partner, and we took it.
As for whether we agree that the Maldives has the best snorkeling in the world, unfortunately, we do not. While at most spots, we did see the most fish we have seen anywhere else, and we saw an amazing array and number of other creatures, the reefs were being severely affected by global warming, and we saw for ourselves a brand new bleaching event in the southern part of the country and at the resort we stayed at in the north. There was a similar event in the northern part of the country in 1998 and other smaller ones since. Time will tell if the dying and dead reefs will continue to support the fish and other creatures. The picture below shows the mix of amazing fish life with a lot of coral bleaching.
That said, we do recommend it as a destination for a snorkeling focused trip, as long as the quantity of sea life holds up. Check out the video below to see just how many fish and creatures we saw.
We found that there are really two ways to do a Maldives snorkeling trip. Click on the links below for more information about both.
1. Stay At One Or More Resorts With Good Snorkeling House Reefs - We chose to stay at one Maldives snorkeling resort island during our trip and it had a wonderful house reef that could easily have been explored for a week or more. The resort offered short boat snorkeling tours to nearby reefs as well. In the research we did for our trip, we found a number of resorts that sounded like they had great reefs to explore too.
2. Book Yourself On A Snorkeler-Only Liveaboard Boat - We had a great time exploring the southern part of the country on our snorkeling liveaboard trip organized by a former snorkel trip partner. If unlimited snorkeling at many different spots is what you want, this is the ticket. You travel through the atolls on a large comfortable yacht, and then take a smaller boat out to the snorkel spots. Problem is we don't know any boat doing this right now.
Watch the video below to get a sense of the types and numbers of fish and creatures you could see snorkeling in the Maldives.
The reefs we snorkeled in the Maldives are primarily hard corals, a mix of table, finger, staghorn, boulder, lobe, and brain corals. There were a few soft corals like leather coral, but not sea fans or rods like you see in the Caribbean. We snorkeled along walls of coral, over shallow patch reefs with a sandy bottom, on the top and around the edges of pinnacle reefs, among others. The bleaching of the corals was unfortunate and sad. The very warm water temperatures were easily noticeable.
A few highlights of the Maldives snorkeling fish and creatures we saw were: beautiful anemonefish hiding in and flitting around their anemones, gorgeous colorful Giant Clams, many Blacktip and Whitetip Reef Sharks, many Hawksbill Turtles, Whale Sharks, Eagle Rays, massive schools of brilliant fusiliers, Clown Triggerfish, various interesting butterflyfish and bannerfish, and many octopus. There was always something interesting to see.
Nearly every reef we visited had great snorkeling depths. Depending on the tide, some of the lagoon reefs at resorts and over the tops of pinnacles and atoll reefs are too shallow to swim over, so you explore the edge or wait for high tide. Currents are variable depending on the tide and geography of the reef.
We happened to visit just as the season was changing in the Maldives bringing us some rainy stormy days and lowered underwater visibility as a result. When the weather was good we had very good to great visibility everywhere.
The Maldives are a group of 26 atolls that are south of India in the Indian Ocean. There are about 1200 islands in the country, with 200 being inhabited. It is known for being the lowest elevation country in the world; the highest point is a little less than 8 feet above sea level.
From the U.S. you can fly to the Maldives through Asia or the Middle East. You will be flying into Male International Airport (Ibrahim Nasir International Airport) on Hulhule Island next to the capital island of Male in North Male Atoll. From there you will take a boat, sea plane, domestic flight, or some combination of all of them to reach your Maldives snorkeling resort or liveaboard boat.
There are 2 seasons in the Maldives and they are called Monsoons. The Northeast Monsoon is the dry season. The Southwest Monsoon is the wet season. When the seasons change varies. By looking at rainfall statistics, it looks like the driest months are January through April and the wettest months are from May through December. The months with the lowest average wind speeds and lowest wind probabilities are March and April.
We visited for the last 2 weeks of April and we had a bit of rainy stormy weather. So, for the best snorkeling conditions, we recommend March as the best month to visit the Maldives for a snorkeling trip.