Snorkeling Helengeli Maldives October 2021 – Corals Recovering

By John Robertson

I love your website and your regular newsletters but I am surprised you have listed Maldives as “corals not very alive after multiple bleaching events”. It is true that Maldives has suffered badly by bleaching but the fish life shows no obvious decline, in my opinion.

On my last visit for snorkeling Helengeli in October 2021 I counted more than 200 species of fish including five species of shark. There were numerous turtles and octopus. And there were strong signs of coral recovery, though whether this can be maintained remains to be seen. I am sure the Maldives can no longer compete with the beauty of the reefs in Indonesia but it is still a great place to visit and snorkel.

Green anemone and fish
Lemon Shark over the reef on the north side of Helengeli Island Maldives

I saw the above Lemon Shark for instance, the first one I have ever seen. It was about six feet long and actually approached to about six feet but was not aggressive and swiftly departed. This was taken while snorkeling Helengeli on the north reef, but on the south side there was a lot of new coral, mainly Porites rus but also boulder corals, brain corals, and Acropora.

Porites rus coral on the Helengeli house reef Maldives

See the above closeup photo of Porites rus which had recently covered large areas of the back reef on the south side of the island. I was also in Helengeli in 2018 and at that time the south reef was dreadful and covered completely in a thick dark algae.

Here are a couple more photos of small healthy corals I saw on the reef on the south side of the island. The first is a form of boulder coral, probably another species of Porites. And the second is a small new growth of Acropora.

Porties boulder coral Helengeli Maldives
Small Acropora coral Helengeli Maldives

Helengeli Maldives brain coral, possibly Favites

The image above is a large brain coral, possibly Favites. As brain and boulder corals grow very slowly and these were typically 300 to 750mm across. I suspect they were alive on my 2018 snorkeling Helengeli trip even though everything I saw on the south side then appeared dead. At that time the north reef had good growth of Heliopora but that had sadly diminished by 2021.

Scarus frenatus parrotfish Helengeli Maldives

As for fish I have included a few pictures. The photo above shows Scarus frenatus parrotfish attended by cleaner wrasses at the reef edge. This particular cleaning station was visited by a Napoleon Wrasse, a large grouper, a Clown Triggerfish and an Emperor Angelfish all in the space of 10 minutes, one early morning. The butterflyfish is Chaetodon meyeri, one of my favorites.

Emperor Angelfish Helengeli Maldives
Chaetodon meyeri butterflyfish Helengeli Maldives

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing your Maldives snorkeling experience Robert. It’s great to hear there are still so many fish to see, and that you are seeing some recovery in the corals. It has been a few years now since we visited and witnessed the terrible bleaching events.

    We personally really love seeing healthy corals, and find snorkeling over hard hit reefs with lots of dead corals rather depressing, which is the main reason why we suggest other destinations in Indonesia that are much healthier. Hopefully the Maldives continue to recover and we will be enticed back with great reports and pictures like you have shared.

    There is another community post describing the snorkeling at Oblu Helengeli, Maldives.


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