Snorkeling at Oblu Helengeli, Maldives – 2021

By Nik

I went snorkeling at Oblu Helengeli Resort in the Maldives in March 2021. I chose this place because:

  1. It was named in several ”10 best places to snorkel in the Maldives’’ lists
  2. It’s an all-inclusive, no-tipping resort
  3. The resort is reached by speedboat from the main airport, so you don’t have to pay extra for a seaplane transfer. (On the boat trip to and from the airport we saw dolphins!)

I went in March 2021 and the weather was great. I stayed for four days and in that time only had one rain shower that lasted less than an hour. The winds were at the most a gentle breeze.

Oblu Helengeli Island House Reef

The house reef circles the whole island, and there are several channels to enter and exit the reef. The supervised house reef is located on the east, in front of the Deluxe Beach Villas and Lagoon Villas. Since I didn’t have a snorkel buddy, I stayed in the supervised part. You can enter the supervised part from the beach, use the channels, or walk to the end of the snorkel/dive jetty where you enter the water at the drop-off. There was one safety guard responsible for the supervised zone. You can ask him any question you can think of about the marine life on the reef, he’s very knowledgeable about which fish to find where, the tides, etc.

Unfortunately, when I was there, some tourists walked on the coral close to the jetty and thought it was fun to grab turtles by their shell to “swim together”. There are warning signs on the jetty and in the diving shop that these things are not allowed, but they don’t seem to help much. When I motioned to a man in the water next to me to let go of the turtle swimming away from us, I got an elbow in the ribs 🙁

Species I Saw on the House Reef

Now for some good news! There are many, many different kinds of animals living on the house reef. I can promise you that on every snorkel you will always see a turtle and a shark. I also found two cleaning stations shallow enough that you can float and watch at your leisure and take really nice pictures.

School of Red-toothed Triggerfish over the drop-off at Helengeli Island Maldives

At the drop-off you will also always see three big schools of Chocolate Dip Damselfish, Black Pyramid Butterflyfish, and Red-toothed Triggerfish (picture above). One afternoon a school of frenzied Blue Trevally swam around me hunting on the shallow reef, that was very exciting!

Day Octopus on the Oblu Helengeli House Reef

As is usually the case, the very shallow reef is a nursery full of adorable baby fish, the drop-off has the big boys. Here is a brief summary of the animals I saw and could identify:

  • Octopus and Bigfin Reef Squid: These are usually hiding under or around the jetty
  • Sharks: Tawny Nurse Shark, Black-tip Reef Shark, White-tip Reef Shark. Baby reef sharks circle around the restaurant (that is partially over water) so you can have a good look at them while you’re enjoying breakfast 🙂
  • Wrasse: Floral, Yellowtail Cleaner, Bluestreak Cleaner, Sixbar, Rockmover, Checkerboard, Napoleon (a group of four big Napoleon Wrasse usually appear together at the drop-off, they are almost always there and the safety guard can tell you where exactly), Green Birdmouth, Barred Thicklip, Zigzag, and more
  • Unicornfish: Elegant, Short-nosed and Humpback
  • Triggerfish: Clown, Lagoon, Indian, Yellow-margin, Red-toothed, Boomerang, Orange-lined, Titan, Wedgetail
  • Morays: Giant and Yellow-edged
  • Butterflyfish: too many to name, almost all the species that were described in my book about marine life of the Indian Ocean were swimming around there
  • Parrotfish: again, too many to name
  • Trevally: Bluefin and Giant
  • Several different species of flounder, spadefish, damselfish, rabbitfish, surgeonfish, Scrawled Filefish, stingrays, fusiliers, angelfish, goatfish, groupers, sweetlips, snappers, porcupinefish, boxfish, pufferfish, … and many more!
  • Coral: Common Mushroom, Moon, Hard Brain, Cauliflower, Dipsastraea pallida, Boulder, etc.
Grouper at a cleaning station Oblu Helengeli House Reef

How Tides Affect Snorkeling at Oblu Helengeli

High tide is at noon and is perfect for floating over the shallow nursery reef. Other times of the day the water level is too low to safely snorkel there, except for in the channels. If you stay in the supervised zone it is marked until where you can safely swim to avoid strong currents. I found that the ocean was very calm early in the mornings and evenings, but even so, I never had any problem with strong currents staying in the safe zone during any time of the day.

Pair of Humpback Unicornfish Helengeli

Organized Snorkels by the Resort

The resort organizes snorkel trips to other reefs and night snorkels on the house reef, for an extra charge. I signed up for both of these activities but unfortunately never got to do them. They require a minimum of six participants and it seemed there was not a lot of interest.

Resort and Island

Both lovely, white sandy beaches, very friendly staff, good food with a selection for vegetarians and vegans, clearly marked at the buffet. I stayed in a Deluxe Beach Villa. It was a nice room and it took 10 seconds to walk from the front door into the ocean.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Nik,

    Thanks so much for your wonderful, thorough, and useful post!

    Oddly, we just got another post about snorkeling Helengeli from another community member. You can see it here.

    For anyone interested, here is a link to TripAdvisor’s reviews of Oblu Helengeli Resort. You can help us if you use this link. We may make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.


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