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Snorkelling in the Maldives is one of the best ways to explore this tropical wonderland: not just because the ocean offers a shimmering array of marine treasures and sea species, but also because the conditions for snorkelling are just perfect.
Waters are crystal-clear, boasting exceptional underwater visibility; and the numerous coves, bays and lagoons offer sheltered safe conditions. What’s more, the endless warm and sunny days that characterise the island lifestyle make the call of the refreshing sea so much more tempting – but the waters are never too cold, with temperatures averaging 25–30°C.
The Nautilus’s take on sublime snorkelling
At The Nautilus, we see snorkelling as one of those blissful activities that blend leisure with adventure, aligning with our style of laidback, barefoot hospitality. We prioritise this kind of getaway – a holiday escape free from schedules, hurry and demands – because we know that freedom of this sort offers the rejuvenating retreat so desperately needed during these times.
When it comes to the best snorkelling spots in the Maldives, the options are limitless. While you are spoilt for choice and cannot go wrong wherever you decide to dip into the deep blue that encircles 26 atolls of almost 1,200 islands, we are partial to the waters of the Baa Atoll: not just because it is our home, but also because it is recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its rich biodiversity.
Read on for a few of our favourite local snorkelling spots.
1. Hanifaru Bay
Hanifaru Bay is a snorkelling destination unlike any other, world-renowned for its seasonal population of manta rays and whale sharks, gentle giants that demonstrate an incredible natural phenomenon. It is a phenomenon called ‘cyclone feeding’ – a rare event of frenzied, mass feeding that gathers together over 200 manta rays, as they form a mesmerising vortex to feast on the influx of plankton funnelled into the bay by monsoons.
This natural marvel has rightly secured the bay the designation of Marine Protected Area, where visitor numbers are limited and scuba diving prohibited so as to leave the lightest footprint. Snorkelling is the best way to enjoy these magnificent creatures – it is not only ecologically friendly but also offers the most natural, intimate encounter within their underwater world.
Special encounters: manta rays, whale sharks, cyclone feeding
2. Blue Hole
This famed underwater spot is loved by both divers and snorkellers alike. It is named for its chimney-like reef structure adorned with luscious coral and teeming with sea life, beckoning scuba divers through its deep blue hole. But snorkelling over the opening and around the coral reefs nearby offers an underwater experience that is just as spectacular.
Special encounters: sting rays, hawksbill turtles, moray eels, frog fishes, leaf fishes, triggerfishes, nudibranchs, guitar sharks
3. Milaidhoo Wall
Milaidhoo’s house reef envelops the whole island, its shimmering wall of red, orange and yellow soft corals and large overhangs sheltering a myriad marine species. With its easy accessibility and rich sea life, it has long been a favourite among travellers, and cannot be missed.
Special encounters: bottlenose dolphins, lemon sharks, turtles, octopus, gold-spot emperors, schooling bannerfish, black pyramid butterflyfish, bluestripe snappers, long-jawed mackerel
4. The Nautilus’s house reef and lagoon
Perhaps the best snorkelling spot is the one that is on your doorstep. A snorkel mask and fins are included in your stay at The Nautilus, so when you are in the mood, a gorgeous underwater world is just a few steps away from your island home away from home – literally when you have selected an overwater Ocean House for your stay. The warm lagoon waters invite you to slowly sink and luxuriate, free from gravity, in the turquoise shallows. And the house reef is an easy swim away, waiting to show off its kaleidoscopic colour of coral and fish.
Special encounters: vibrant corals, multiple tropical fish species, dolphins, mantas
5. Banana Reef
Our final favourite lies beyond the Baa Atoll, but is a great snorkelling site for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is very conveniently located: most of our guests travel via Velana International Airport on Hulhulé Island, and this beautiful reef is just a few kilometres from its shores, making it an easy day trip while you’re in transit. Secondly, it is famed as the first dive site discovered in the Maldives. And lastly, it is, quite simply, picture-perfect. Striking caves and overhangs draw many scuba divers below, and there is an equally intriguing underwater landscape above the coral wall – where dazzling soft coral and multicoloured fish species make a superb spot for snorkelling.
Special encounters: soft corals, Napoleon wrasse, eagle rays, sharks, bannerfish, anemone fish, emperor angelfish, oriental sweetlips, squirrelfish
Dive into this dream world – and discover one of your own making. Visit thenautilusmaldives.com/underwater for more information.