Maldives Snorkeling – By Resort or a Liveaboard – But Expect Unhealthy Corals

Maldives atolls from the airplane

Maldives snorkeling is a memorable and unique experience, but make sure and read a few paragraphs down about the poor health of the corals now due to warm water bleaching events.

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.

Native Maldives Anemonefish

As for whether we agree that the Maldives snorkeling is the best in the world, unfortunately, we do not. While at most spots, we did see much more fish life than the Caribbean or Hawaii, and we saw an amazing array and number of other creatures, the reefs were being severely affected by global warming.

We saw for ourselves a brand new coral 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.

Because the Maldives are so difficult to access for many and it’s expensive, and because of the poor health of the corals now, we would recommend visiting other destinations that still have healthy reefs. Since we visited the Maldives, we have been to Indonesia twice and the reefs are healthy and packed with fish and sea life, and we can easily recommend the Indonesia snorkeling trips that our partner offers as an alternative to Maldives snorkeling.

Maldives snorkeling with many tropical fish, and many bleached corals
Tons of fish, but also most of the coral was being bleached from high water temperatures.

What Is the Best Way to Snorkel the Maldives?

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.

Beautiful beach and waters at a Maldives resort with a good house reef.

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.

Maldives liveaboard and smaller Dhoni boat

Foggy Masks, Fin Blisters and Angry Snorkels!

Poorly fitting, cheap gear, can ruin your trip. See our snorkeling equipment reviews and fitting suggestions to make sure your next trip is great.

What Can You See While Snorkeling in the Maldives?

Watch the video below to get a sense of the types and numbers of fish and creatures you could see snorkeling in the Maldives.

What Is Maldives Snorkeling Like?

Snorkelers over a very bleached reef with white corals in the Maldives
Snorkelers over a bleached Maldives reef

The reefs we snorkeled in the Maldives were 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. At times we were snorkeling in 100°F water!

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 Black-tip and White-tip Reef Sharks, many Hawksbill Turtles, Whale Sharks, Spotted Eagle Rays, massive schools of brilliant fusiliers, Clown Triggerfish, various interesting butterflyfish and bannerfish, and many octopus. There was always something interesting to see.

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Three Eagle Rays in the Maldives
Hawksbill Sea Turtle in the Maldives
Green Giant Clam in the Maldives

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.

Maldives Snorkeling Travel Tips

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 eight 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.

Sea plane in the Maldives at a floating dock

Best Time of Year to Go for Snorkeling

There are two 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 you can find on this site, 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, which you can see on this site

Snorkelers in the rain in the Maldvies

We visited for the last two 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.

Beautiful palm covered Maldives island at sunset

More Maldives Snorkeling Tips