North and South Malé Atolls are separated by the Vaadhoo Kandu with a depth of 500 meters through which current streams can be strong, attaining a rate of four knots or more. There are popular dive sites with spectacular drop-offs and caves along both sides of this channel. South Malé Atoll has six channels on the eastern side, most of which provide excellent long drift dives, and 12 channels on the western side. There is one main channel – Velassaru Kandu – in the north and another – Hathikolhu Kandu – in the south. The eastern side of the atoll is characterized by two long reefs, the 14.5 km long Maadhoo Falhu and the 10.5 km long Fushidiggaru Falhu, which is the most easterly point of the atoll. Depths inside the atoll are mostly between 35 and 45 meters.
There are popular dive sites with spectacular drop-offs and caves along both sides of this channel.
The caves are found directly to the north of Velassaru (Laguna Maldives) and range in depth from 15 to 32 meters. The caves cut into the vertical wall of the reef causing a jagged appearance, like the edge of a serrated knife. Some of the caves have sandy bottoms and are an ideal resting place for stingrays, turtles and nurse sharks. A pleasant safety stop can be made on top of the reef in five meters where there is plenty of healthy hard coral.
Sandy bottoms are an ideal resting place for turtles, as seen here being cleaned by a school of yellow tang.
Vaadhoo House Reef
The channel on the east side of Vaadhoo island is a popular dive with resort guests. The northeast corner of Vaadhoo reef pushes out into the channel like the point of an arrow. At the channel entrance are many caves, with sharks and trevally outside, while inside is a more gently sloping reef to 20 meters with many morays, snapper, and grouper.
There is a sandy bay 250 meters from the corner with coral rocks and stands of delicate branching Acropora coral teeming with colorful fish life, including butterflyfish, Moorish Idol, blue-face angelfish, and flame basslet. The reef alongside the resort is steep to 25 meters and is an ideal starting point for shore dives.
At the channel entrance are many caves with morays (seen above), snapper, and grouper.
The Vaadhoo Caves are similar to the Velassaru Caves and are one of the most spectacular cave dive sites in South Malé Atoll. There is a string of caves along the steep wall of the Vaadhoo Kandu beginning with one big cave from seven to 25 meters on the northwest side of Vaadhoo reef. There is a long overhang at 30 meters and a narrow cave with a swim-through from 16 to 24 meters. There are more caves on the northeast side of Vaadhoo reef.
The bungalows on the west side of Vaadhoo island overlook Coral Garden. It is an ideal site for novice divers or those seeking a more shallow and leisurely repetitive afternoon dive. The reef is covered in a dense layer of coral down to 12 meters before leveling off to the sandy base of the channel. The beautiful display of hard coral attracts numerous reef fish that dart in and out of the branching coral. On the sandy bottom are many yellow-margin triggerfish. They nest during the full moon period and when nesting they are spaced about 15 meters apart. On the reef slopes are titan triggerfish. They have their territory which they guard ferociously during the breeding period.
On the reef slopes are titan triggerfish.
If a titan triggerfish approaches too close, flick your fin at it.
A large chunk of rock looks to have fallen out of the reef leaving a vast canyon 50 meters long with caves and overhangs. Divers can begin up-current from the canyon and drift in the deep blue waters of the Vaadhoo Kandu – sometimes among eagle rays, Napoleon and sharks – before gliding into the narrow canyon at 20 meters. The top of the rock is at nine meters while the main reef rises to five meters. The bottom of the canyon peaks at 15 meters in the middle. On the main reef is a long cave protected from the currents and full or marine life. There are more caves and overhangs on the outside at 30 meters. Black snapper and blackjack are seen here. If the current is not too strong, it is worth circling the rock at different depths to explore all its features. This is an unforgettable dive and one of the highlights of South Malé Atoll.
There are more caves and overhangs on the outside at 30 meters and blackjack are seen here.
Located in the Vaadhoo Kandu near the Embudhu Finolhu channel marker is a section of reef 150 meters long that undercuts itself creating a dome-like structure from which its name is derived. The reef looks more like a wave, with the lip at 10 meters and the base at between 25 and 33 meters, before dropping away into the deep Vaadhoo Kandu. The long, hollow cavern is awe-inspiring and divers can ‘surf’ the cathedral when the current is running. Tuna, eagle rays, morays, and turtles share this reef with divers.
Eagle rays share this reef with divers.
Embudhoo Kandu – PROTECTED MARINE AREA
The entire Embudhoo channel has been declared a protected marine area. The south side of the channel is an exhilarating two-kilometer long drift dive known as the Embudhoo Express. With an incoming current, the express steams ahead at full throttle, giving the divers the ride of a lifetime. Predictably, currents at the channel entrance attract a range of pelagics, large napoleon and eagle rays. The south corner is sometimes called Shark Point after the grey reef sharks seen here. There are many small caves on the corner and a couple of long shallow overhangs between 14 and 30 meters. Under the overhangs are numerous snout-spot grouper. These fish are also called small-tooth grouper and brown-marbled grouper. They are well camouflaged and lie in wait for prey swimming in too close to the ledges. Inside the channel is one huge cave between five and 25 meters with a swim-through at 11 meters. Many dives start on the outside reef and finish around this cave. It is worth checking out the marine life inside as it is rich in sea fans and sponges and attracts large morays, angelfish, octopus, lionfish, and squirrelfish.
Many dives start on the outside reef and finish around this cave, which attracts lionfish.
Embudhoo Thila (Coral Garden)
Embudhoo Thila is a beautiful underwater reef on the north corner of Embudhoo Kandu. The reef top is between 12 and 15 meters, and a splendid display of hard and soft coral decorates the reef plateau. A ledge and small cave lie on the south side of the thila. Reef fish abound in large numbers, and this site is suitable for beginners if the current is favorable. Sharks are also present on the outside of the thila.
Most of the channels in northwest South Malé Atoll are relatively shallow with one or more thilas at the entrance. At Mas Thila, there are many small caves and sharks and trevally and at Bolifushi House Reef is the wreck of a nine-meter fiberglass yacht which attracts white-tip reef sharks, Napoleon, triggerfish, remoras and eagle rays.
Bolifushi House Reef
(Source: Dive Maldives: A Guide to the Maldives Archipelago. Tim Godfrey. Atoll Editions, 2015)