Diving in Baa Atoll
All Information about Diving in Baa Atoll
Baa Atoll is an administrative division in the west chain of the Northern Atolls of the Maldives, and is actually made up of 3 atolls – Southern Maalhosmadulu, Fasdhuthere, and Goifulhafehendhu. It consists of 75 small islands, spread over more than 1,000 sq km and split by the Kudarikilu Kandu channel. In 2011 Baa Atoll was designated as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. With over 100 coral reefs, mangrove forests and the unique Hanifaru Bay with its manta rays, the opportunities for diving and snorkelling are quite exceptional, especially during the months from May to November.
For those interested in diving in Baa Atoll, we have compiled the most important information.
Baa Atoll also boasts a marine protected area, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Hanifaru Bay that is renowned for once in a lifetime manta ray and whale shark encounters. This is a relatively small bay near the uninhabited Hanifaru Island, which actually belongs to Dhonfanu, where our dive center is located. Hanifaru Bay is considered to be the world’s largest manta ray feeding station and has become known the world over as an amazing spot for experiences with both whale sharks and manta rays that few places on earth can promise.
In Hanifaru Bay you can often snorkel with 5 to 10 manta rays, on good days with up to 50 or 70 manta rays and on very good days with up to 200 manta rays. The chances are good that there are also one or two whale sharks between the manta rays, but this is not certain.
When diving at the manta cleaning stations, you can see between 1 and 4 manta rays on most dives. The manta rays are not shy, so that they sometimes swim past you at arm’s length.
As Hanifaru Bay is a natural spectacle second to none, we have compiled the most interesting information on a separate page.
Snorkle trips to Hanifaru Bay
From our island we need less than 10 minutes by dive dhoni to Hanifaru Bay. You cannot tell in advance, when there is a good time of day to go to Hanifaru Bay to snorkel with manta rays. It depends on the tide, the moon, and the mood of the mantas. We are in close contact with the rangers and the people from mantatrust, so we always know when it is worth to go. This might change plans from one minute to the next.
It is to know, that we have to buy tickets for each guest, when we go there. We charge for a snorkel trip the same price as for a dive. So instead of a dive from the package you can also go to Hanifaru Bay. The ticket cost are included. It is a must that you are accompanied by a especially certified guide.
The maximum time we are allowed to snorkel with mantas is 45 Minutes. This is a regulation of the Biosphere Reserve. It is to know, that we have to buy tickets for each guest, when we go there.
This season, beginning of May the first whale shark was seen in Baa Atoll. At present there are up to three whale sharks in the area all the time. Often one or two join the manta rays in Hanirafu Bay. The whale sharks seen here an in the Maldives in general are mostly juveniles with a length of 6 – 9 metres. It is not known, why there are almost no adult whale sharks here.
What else can you expect to see?
In Baa Atoll most dive sites are submerged pinnacles, plateaus and overhangs cutting into the side of the reef.
Fish life includes midnight snapper, small-toothed emperor, coral rock cod, moon fusiliers and broad-striped fusiliers, orange basslets, moon wrasse and lizardfish, yellow-lined snapper, soldierfish in big numbers, red toothed triggers, black pyramid butterflyish, parrotfish, angelfish, very longnosed butterflyfish, unicornfish, starry rabbitfish, legions of blue-dash fusiliers, jacks and trevallies which can be seen hunting the small bait fish, yellow-lined snapper, scribbled filefish, all among hundreds of species, innumerable anthias and dottybacks. However, it is for the quantity of fish that will live in the memory of scuba divers. Of course you can also see tuna, napoleons, barracudas, reef sharks and many others, too many to name them all.
You can see whip corals, brick red sponges, black coral bushes large fans and many zoanthids as well as hard corals like table, stony and mushroom coral, brightly-coloured pendulous soft corals and much more.
Of course, you will find also different kind of nudibranchs, anemones playing host to pairs of porcelain crabs, just to name a few of the small stuff. The sponge snail (Coriocella hybyae) can be found here, which is an unremarkable looking snail which could be described in scientific terms as “a dark, knobbly blob”. But it is an endemic species to Maldives that moves at around a centimetre a day.
Turtles can also be seen here, mainly green sea turtles and Hawksbill turtles. Especially Dhonfanu, the island of our dive centre, is known for their large number of green sea turtles. That is why we named our dive centre Fehi Velaa, which means green sea turtle in Dhivehi.
This year (2023) we have seen many pilot whales. On very rare occasions, you may also be lucky enough to snorkel with pilot whales.
On 30 June 2023 we saw for the first time a school of Risso’s dolphins with about 22 individuals.
On a few days in October or November you can see humpback whales, but you really need a lot of luck, as they are just passing by.
Best time to come
Diving in Baa Atoll is very good all year round. In winter you have almost no rain and less humidity. There is not so much plancton in the water so the visibility is better. However, you have to be prepared for some current.
In summer we have monsoon season and therefore it is raining now and then and the humidity is higher. There is a lot of plancton in the water so the visibility is not perfect but still good. On most dive sites there is no current at all so diving is easy. From May to November we have manta season for all that want to snorkle or dive with manta rays.
During the manta season there is a lot of plankton in the water, no plankton – no manta rays, but still usually more than 25 m. If it is cloudy, then of course it is also darker accordingly.
In the summer months it is monsoon season. You have to expect rain from time to time. Most of the times it is not raining every day, and if then only a short rain shower. This usually does not bother people at all.
However, if you are unlucky, it can rain a lot for several days in a row, but we still go diving.
Temperature is around 30°C (86°F) during daytime and 29°C (84°F) during the night. The humidity is around 85 – 90%.
Water temperature is 29° (84°F), also when you are 28m (92ft) deep.
Is the diving demanding?
In summer diving is easy as there is little to no current at most of the dive sites. However, we always go deep 25-28m (82-92ft) and stay long there. The maximum depth allowed in the Maldives is 30m (98ft). Therefore, to get most of your diving with us, you should be AOWD and certified for Nitrox. You could book both courses with us if you want.
How much money are you going spend here?
As there is no booze allowed on the local islands, you spend money for coffee, soft drinks, snacks and sweets. Fresh squeezed juices are expensive as fruits are expensive.
You can spend money on additional dives or specialty dives. You can spend quite some money on excursions like trips to Dharavandhoo or Eydafushi, on snorkel excursions, on excursions to an uninhabited island or a sand bank.
Local shops only accept the local currency. We accept cash in local currency or US$ and we accept credit cards.
There are not ATMs on all islands.
Currently we do not have a Bikini Beach. We have applied for a Bikini Beach with the municipality of the island, but such things take time. However, you can go swimming in swimwear even if you are a woman, as long as it is not too small. However, we are aware that this is an important point. We have a large terrace with sunbeds etc. on the first floor of our guesthouse. Our guests can sunbathe there in their swimwear without any problems. It is only 70 m from our guesthouse to the sea. We also offer for our non-diving guests the possibility to go with our diving dhoni. On the roof there is enough space to sunbathe and of course you can also go swimming.
Tourist Goods and Services Tax (TGST), Service Charge
The supply of goods and services in Maldives is subject to TGST at the rate of 16% cakculated on the net value of goods and services.
All businesses operating in the tourism industry in Maldives should pay Service Charge to their staff in USD and this money is collected from the Guests as Service Charge and distributed to all staff equally, regardless of the salary or the grade/position. The salary of the staff is basically the basic salary and the service charge, plus other allowances. Every service provided by businesses operating in the tourism industry in Maldives shall levy a service charge in an amount not less than 10%.
Taxes are calculated plus plus. With 16% TGST and 10% Service Charge, this gives a total of 27.6% on the net amount.
Prices in the Maldives are usually listed net, without taxes. When prices are quoted, it is therefore important to make sure whether GST and service charge are already included.