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Maldives Snorkeling – When/Where to Snorkel, What To See

Constellating along the outline of the equator, the Maldives is a nation of islands famed for offering some of the world’s dreamiest landscapes. Fine white sand, abundant sunshine, emerald-like waters encircling luxurious resorts, and endless hospitality wait for visitors here. But not only the scenery is that makes this “land constellation” in the Indian Ocean one of the vacation destinations; the underwater world is also first class! So why snorkeling in the Maldives is so good, what is the best time to come, and on which island you should stay at? Let’s find out together!

Anett Szaszi - Snorkel Around The World

Written by Anett Szaszi

Anett is a certified scuba diver, freediver, and an expert in snorkeling with more than 10 years of experience. She fell in love with the ocean while snorkeling in the Red Sea on a vacation to Egypt back in 2008. Since then, she has been traveling to discover the world’s best snorkeling spots and sharing her experience and tips to inspire others. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!

Does the Maldives have good snorkeling?

The Maldives is undoubtedly one of the best snorkeling destinations. There are many reasons why these coral islands become a top spot to visit for those who want to explore the wonders of the ocean.

The calm, clear waters create conditions that are generally very safe for all ages and experience levels. Water temperatures averaging a comfortable 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28C) year-round ensure that underwater activities can be comfortably carried out in all seasons.

Snorkeler over shallow reef in the Maldives

In addition, shallow lagoons buffering the islands are usually enclosed by reefs that create “gated” spots for rich marine life. The Maldives reefs are home to more than 200 coral and 1000 fish species.

With a wide variety of accommodation options available from guesthouses on budget local islands and luxurious resort islands, this island nation in the Indian Ocean can cater to people seeking the best snorkeling in the world.

Maldivian Manta Ray

With house reefs that are easily reachable from the shore and fantastic boat-accessible snorkel sites where the oceans’ most beautiful creatures such as whale sharks and manta rays can be seen, visiting the Maldives should be on every snorkelers’ and divers’ bucket list.

Where can I snorkel in Maldives?

There are so many ways to enjoy snorkeling in the Maldives. Launching from one of the many sandy beaches available for tourists is the most common way to do so.

shore snorkeling on a resort island in the Maldives

Snorkeling resorts provide direct shoreline access that allows guests to enter the water easily from the beach using guidance, maps and sometimes even gear provided to them as part of their itineraries.

While shore snorkeling is popular here, if it won’t satisfy you and want to experience some other diving sites too, you can book boat excursions that are offered at every island and resort.

What can I see when snorkeling in the Maldives?

Another reason for the fanfare over Maldives snorkeling is the rich biodiversity under the tides that creates great potential for spotting interesting sea life! During snorkeling, you can observe many types of Maldives fish such as parrotfish, clownfish, angelfish, and butterflyfish.

The vibrant orange clownfish and royal-blue tang that are best known from the “Finding Nemo” animated underwater movie are also among the common reef fish to spot here!

Maldive anemonefish seen while snorkeling

The Maldivian archipelago is also home to abundant populations of majestic hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, and green sea turtles making it a to-go destination for those who are dreaming about swimming with sea turtles.

Sea Turtle and reef fish

Biodiversity in the Maldives is extraordinary. The region is home to more than 2,000 distinct coral reefs representing more than 258 stony coral reef species. These reefs actually represent 3.14% of the world’s total reef area!

Due to the risks of coral bleaching caused by pollution and climate change, Maldives visitors need to have conservation on their minds as they interact with the natural environment surrounding them.

What is the best time to go snorkeling in the Maldives?

Snorkeling never shuts down for the season in the Maldives! It is a year-round destination for snorkeling and diving as the water temperature stays comfortable and inviting 82-84 degrees Fahrenheit (27.7-28.8C) throughout the year. However, it’s important to time a visit with full knowledge of the wet season.

Maldives dry season weather

The period spanning from January through April is generally considered the best season for snorkeling in the Maldives. This is when visitors can enjoy sunny days and clear water with gentle conditions before the monsoon season begins.

Lasting from May to November, it is the wet season in the Maldives (monsoon season). While tourists do still come to the islands during this period, be aware that there is a high chance for rain, thunderstorms, and strong winds that could interfere with planned snorkeling excursions.

Snorkeling in the Maldives in the wet season

However, this period is the main whale shark season, so many divers and snorkelers intentionally schedule their holiday between May and November, especially between late June and October which is the peak of the manta ray feeding season too.

During the southwest monsoon, the region’s hotspot is Baa Atoll where you can experience swimming among hundreds of manta rays while snorkeling in Hanifaru Bay.

So, visiting the Maldives in the wet season is not a bad idea, you just need to accept that it might be raining.

Which Maldives island is the best for snorkeling?

There’s no shortage of great islands for snorkeling in the Maldives. However, different islands can offer different experiences. You can choose to stay at private resort islands or at local islands (these are inhabited islands where the locals live).

Local islands offer more affordable accommodation and the opportunity of exploring the real face of the Maldives but have stricter rules for example you can swim in modern bathing suit (aka bikini) at the designated bikini beaches only and cannot consume alcohol.

Resort islands do not have such rules as they are private. They are considered to be more organized and cleaner, but consequently, they come with a higher price tag.

One can find excellent options in both categories, here are a few examples that are the most suitable for a snorkeling vacation:

Resort islands

Special resort islands that are privately owned also offer great opportunities to snorkel in style while staying in the Maldives.

Resort Island in the Maldives aerial photo

Should you look for one that is considered to be affordable, Biyadhoo Island Resorts is at the top of our best Maldives snorkeling resorts list. Located on the North Male Atoll, Biyadhoo has an excellent house reef for divers looking to explore an underwater world.

Snorkeler at the beach in Biyadhoo Resort - Maldives

You will find here seagrass beds teeming with feeding turtles, angelfish, octopus, starfish, sharks, and more! Booking a stay at this lagoon-encased resort gives visitors unlimited access to the entire reef.

Embudu Village is another good option just 20 minutes boat ride from the airport. Although it is not the newest resort island it misses those fancy features that Instagrammers and social media influencers look for when traveling to the Maldives, we highly recommend it for those who want to stay at a friendly resort.

Embudu village beach

The staff is extremely helpful, the food is yummy, the cocktails are fantastic, and snorkeling at Embudu offers a lot to see; these features make this island an excellent choice for first-time Maldivers and for anyone looking for an affordable resort island.

Vilamendhoo Island Resort is a popular resort among those who wish to swim with whale sharks since it is located in the South Ari Atoll, which is the whale shark hot spot. If you are lucky, you may encounter a whale shark while snorkeling at Vilamendhoo’s house reef as sometimes they are passing along the island too.

Vilamendhoo water villas

With friendly staff, excellent service, stunning scenery, and vibrant aquatic life, this island offers great value for money.

Universal-owned Kuramathi is another great island offering easy access to snorkeling sites. Located in the Ari Atoll, this resort island routinely attracts vacationers looking for an island with amazing photogenic sandbank easy house reef snorkeling.

Kuramathi - Maldives

Budget local islands

One of the best ways to save money on a Maldives snorkeling holiday is to focus on affordable local islands that offer bed and breakfast type packages for far less than the “glitzier” islands. Some of them have on-site snorkeling too but all offer boat excursions to the area’s popular snorkeling sites for affordable prices.

Local inhabited Maldives Island

Maafushi is widely considered to be the cheapest island in the Maldives due to the fact that it’s home to dozens of budget hotels. What’s more, travelers can book public ferry rides to and from Male Velana International Airport instead of paying for private speedboat transportation.

Dharavandhoo Island is another budget island that never makes visitors feel like they’re “going cheap.” Located in the middle of UNESCO’s only marine biosphere reserve within the Maldives, Dharavandhoo Island shows off priceless natural beauty that outshines the expensive and flashy resorts found on other islands.

Dharavandhoo Island view

One of the few inhabited islands in the North Ari Atoll, a spot called Thoddoo has more than 20 budget hotels. While the white-sand beaches here are free to enter, guests can also choose to book a variety of cheaper-than-average snorkeling and island-hopping excursions for bigger adventures.

Island of Thoddoo

Ukulhas is another budget island in the Maldives to make the list. A genuine fishing village, Ukulhas is home to several economy hotels and guest houses. The fact that this island has its own great house reef and lagoon means that guests never feel like they’re sacrificing to save money by staying here. What’s more, Ukulhas has earned praise for being one of the most ecologically minded islands within the Maldives.

What to pack for a Maldives snorkeling trip?

Preparation is everything when enjoying a safe, enjoyable snorkeling expedition in the Maldives. While many of this island nation’s shallower snorkel spots are appropriate for family adventures, attempting to dive without proper gear and safety measures is extremely dangerous.

The items needed for safe snorkeling include a properly fitted mask, snorkel, and fins. Bring a float vest as well if you are not fully comfortable swimming in open water yet.

A mask defogger also comes in handy as in such warm waters, masks tend to fog easier. My pro tip is to pack some neoprene socks that will help to prevent blisters on your feet caused by friction from fins.

When visiting remote Maldives islands that are accessible by seaplane only, packing can be an issue as there are strict baggage weight restrictions. Luckily, finding rented snorkeling equipment in the Maldives is as easy as ordering a cup of coffee.

With underwater tourism being one of the biggest industries in the Maldives, resorts often make it possible for guests to rent snorkel gear without ever leaving their rooms. When booking a snorkeling excursion with a local guide, snorkel gear is also provided.

Do I need a wetsuit to snorkel in the Maldives?

Not necessarily. Technically, only a comfortable, secure-fitting swimsuit is needed as the water is warm enough year-round (80-86F/27-30c) to go snorkeling in the Maldives. Only those who are sensitive to cold water should bring a shorty, so they won’t start feeling cold even when spending hours in the water.

On the contrary, even if a wetsuit is not necessary, we highly recommend that you wear full-body UV protection clothing every time you go snorkeling to avoid getting sunburned.

How much does snorkeling cost in the Maldives?

The biggest advantage of staying on Maldives islands with a good house reef is that you can snorkel from the shore for free. Those who need guidance can sign up for guided house reef snorkeling for approx. $25-50 per person.

boat snorkeling tour

Boating excursions tend to cost more. Expect to pay between $50 and $250 to be transported to snorkeling sites by boat. Generally, special snorkeling tours such as whale shark, dolphin, or manta ray trips are more expensive than a general reef snorkeling tour.

Author’s Tip: Guests booking all-inclusive packages at certain resort islands often enjoy complimentary snorkel excursions. Check this with the resort of your choice before making a reservation!

Is snorkeling safe in the Maldives?

The Maldives offers some of the safest snorkeling conditions in the world. In fact, shallow sites that are buffered by lagoons offering safe snorkeling for first timers and for kids too. For novice snorkelers, the best way to stay safe is to snorkel with a guided group instead of trying to determine which sites are safe on your own.

Two people snorkeling in shallow lagoon in the Maldives

It’s generally recommended that non-swimmers avoid snorkeling, however, they can view marine life in lagoons where the water is shallow enough to stand. Also, the ocean in the Maldives is so crystal clear that you will be able to spot some creatures without snorkeling too simply by standing near the water!

baby reef sharks near the shore

Are there dangerous marine animals in the Maldives?

The truth is that danger lurks any time humans enter the natural habitats of wild creatures. The ocean environment surrounding the Maldives is no different, but marine life will generally leave humans completely undisturbed if snorkelers and divers keep a respectful distance.

Maldives moray eel

Certain fish species (such as Lionfish, Titan Triggerfish, Barracudas, Surgeonfish), moray eels, and sea urchins are generally considered to be the most dangerous forms of marine life in the Maldives. These creatures won’t hesitate to use spikes, venom, or bite if they feel attacked.

However, aggressive encounters are extremely rare. Snorkelers should keep a distance of at least 8 feet (2.5m) from all sea life to ensure safe, relaxing adventures.

Do snorkelers in the Maldives have to worry about sharks?

Reef sharks are commonly spotted during snorkeling excursions. The black-tip reef shark is a common presence in reefs and lagoons due to its preference for shallow water. While this shark is typically not aggressive, caution should be exercised when one is spotted.

Black tip reef shark swimming under the jetty

White-tip reef sharks are known to be slightly more curious when it comes to investigating human activity, but snorkelers can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that shark attacks in the Maldives are essentially non-existent.

Whale shark - South Ari Atoll

The Maldives’ most famous shark that every snorkeler and diver wants to encounter at least once in life is the giant whale shark which can be spotted in the area year-round with a peak season in September/October. Despite their size (whale sharks can grow up to 39ft/12m long) these creatures are generally harmless to humans as they are filter feeders.

What to watch out for when snorkeling in the Maldives?

To make your Maldives snorkeling holiday safe and smooth, keep in mind the following:

Do not touch corals

One of the most important rules of snorkeling safety is to avoid touching any marine life or corals with your hands. Not touching the corals is highly important due to the fact that the Maldives reefs are in a recovery phase after the devastating bleaching events that affected about 70% of the reefs so while snorkeling, you will see both live and dead corals. Any contact with the corals might worsen their condition and prevent them from recovering.

On the other hand, touching corals can cause allergic reactions and/or injuries. Many people assume that corals don’t pose threats because they are “passive.” In reality, the soft living material of a coral hides an abrasive structure that can easily tear at skin with the slightest touch or bump.

If coral penetrates the skin, it can lead to a wound with a dangerous bacterial infection. In addition to keeping humans safe from stings, bites, and attacks, the no-touching rule also ensures that humans don’t inadvertently upset the balance of the underwater ecosystem.

Think about sun protection

While many people assume that they are protected from the sun while under the water, the reality is that chances of getting sunburn are even higher while snorkeling due to the fact that the water reflects the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Snorkeling in UV protection clothing rash guard

What’s more, time spent on either a boat or beach while preparing to snorkel is time spent in the sun. Never visit the Maldives without clothing that provides protection against the region’s high UV index (rash guard). A biodegradable, reef-friendly sunscreen is also important for those areas of the face and body that aren’t covered by your wetsuit or protective clothing.

Pay attention to weather and water conditions

While it’s easy to focus on dramatic attacks from creatures of the deep, the truth is that the biggest risk humans face is actually pretty simple. Bad weather and rough seas can pose a big threat to humans.

Strong currents can be present in the Maldives in some areas; sudden surges can pull or push snorkelers down into the water. A rip current can leave a snorkeler completely disoriented. Violent surges can also drop snorkelers down against hard rocks and reefs.

This is why beginner snorkelers should only explore the water as part of a guided group and also experienced ones should take weather warnings seriously. Resort’s professional snorkeling instructors are trained to spot dangerous weather patterns and water conditions so they can provide guidance to snorkelers and deliver emergency support if needed. When staying on an inhabited island, ask locals where and where is safe to snorkel in case you have concerns.

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