The Ari Atoll is a large oval lagoon scattered with islands and reefs, some 30 minutes by plane from Malé, the capital. Made up of 82 islands, only 36 of which are inhabited and 26 are “resort islands”, this is one of the biggest of the 22 atolls in the Maldives. The Ari atoll is the second most visited in the country, after the Malé atoll.
Along with the Baa Atoll, it is the most famous atoll in the Maldives for the quality of the sea bed and the variety of its underwater life. It is particularly renowned as the best place in the archipelago for seeing whale sharks.
If you want to snorkel in the Ari Atoll, you will need to stay (for the day or longer) on one of the many islands (or resort islands) in the lagoon. Among the most renowned for snorkeling are Maafushivaru, Vilamendhoo, Bathala, Velidhu, Kandolhu or Mirihi. The southern tip of Ari Atoll, known as Whale Shark Point, is one of the best spots to swim with whale sharks year-round (and with manta rays, in season).
Almost all the snorkeling spots in the Maldives are in the small atolls, often adjoining an island and always surrounded by a circular coral reef, with the outer slope the more interesting one to explore. The coral, which rise to the surface of the water, literally “drops” towards the ocean depths in a wealth of colors and shapes. The outer slopes of the atolls are open onto the ocean, and are a chance to see underwater life from the reef and the deep sea. During your excursions, you will come across manta rays, blacktip reef sharks, clownfish in their anemones, angelfish, green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles, and shoals of hundreds of surgeonfish… In all, 70 species of coral and over 700 species of fish await you in the Maldives reefs.
In the Maldives, the year is divided into two seasons determined by the monsoons. The north-eastern monsoon, from December to April, corresponds to the dry season. This is the best period for snorkeling, because the sunshine is exceptional, but it also corresponds to the peak tourist season (high visitor numbers and high prices). The south-western monsoon, from May to November, corresponds to the rainy season. Rains and storms are brief but intense, and are sometimes accompanied by very strong winds.
All through the year, average temperatures vary between 79 and 93°F (26 and 34°C), with more heat in the dry season. With a water temperature permanently around 82°F (28°C), the Maldives have ideal conditions for snorkeling all the year round.
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Whale Shark Point, reachable from all islands of South Ari Atoll, is one of the best spots to swim with these giants.
Frequently sighted at reef in all spots, including Velidhu Island and Moofushi Island
Found in almost all reef spots; look for the sea anemones
Common on the reef drop offs, for instance in Moofushi Island
Periodic sightings throughout the archipelago, for instance in Velidhu Island. Common in season at Whale Shark Point.
Present on all spots
Common on reef slopes
One of the most beautiful fish of the Maldives; occasionally sighted in Velidhu Island
Commonly sighted on all spots; frequently observed in large schools, for example in Velidhu island
On all spots
Resort island with reef drop off, sharks, rays and turtles
Open sea area visited by whale sharks and manta rays
Resort island with reef drop off and turtles
Reef drop off with colorful fish
Level: Free shore access
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