Along the northeastern outer rim of Ari Atoll is a long chain of underwater reefs which pop up from the 30-meter bottom at regular intervals. Ukulhas Thila is one such long pinnacle. The 300-meter long thila has a relatively flat top at around 15 meters with a slope that steps down to 25 meters and 30 meters. There are three sets of large coral rocks along the reef top at 13 meters that are cleaning stations for manta rays, which are found here between December and April. The mantas feed around the reef top, scooping up zooplankton as it drifts with the current up to the side of the thila. Schools of fusilier are also busy feeding around the reef top. There are many other fish types attracted to this isolated outcrop of reef including grouper, tuna, morays, turtles and sharks. Blue-striped snapper are always in abundance, and eagle rays are regularly seen gliding gracefully past the reef.
There are three sets of large coral rocks along the reef top that are cleaning stations for manta rays.
Currents can be strong and the seas turbulent here as there is little protection. Divers may have to begin their dive up-current from the thila and drift quickly down to the protection of the reef. Ukulhas Thila has an established reputation for manta rays, and as it is regularly visited by divers, it is important not to frighten the mantas by chasing them. Mantas are naturally curious, and if divers hold onto a piece of dead coral as a discreet distance from the cleaning stations, then the mantas will continually circle and hover above them. Since this reef is an open ocean, a safety balloon is an essential accessory for this dive.
Southwest of Kudafolhudhoo is a large reef called Maa Thila. The south side is a long drift dive with an undulating terrain that rises from the sandy bottom at 25 meters to the reef edge at 10 meters. Two sand ridges are leading away from the reef; one at 18 meters, the other at 20 meters. Around these rides are white-tip reef sharks. There are plenty of coral boulders around the base of the reef that are surrounded by reef fish. On the slopes are many snapper, bannerfish, and yellow-back fusilier. This reef has an unusual shape that leads divers around corners, over ridges, and into a bay before finishing the dive on the reef top around coral patches at six to eight meters.
On the slopes are many snapper, bannerfish, and yellow-back fusilier (seen above).
Bodu means large, and this is a big 500-meter-long thila starting at a depth of eight to ten meters. There are many coral rocks between 10 and 20 meters and in the middle of the reef is a saddle that dips to 14 meters. Surrounding depths are to 25 meters.
One kilometer to the east of Bodufolhudhoo is a shallow protected reef ideal for beginners. It is an oval-shaped reef with magnificent coral above 10 meters. It has a gentle slope to a sandy bottom at 25 meters. There are many sea anemones at shallow depths and plenty of small reef fish, especially wrasse. One attraction is a burrowing crab at 23 meters.
There are many sea anemones at shallow depths and plenty of small reef fish.
One of the longest channels in Ari Atoll is Gangehi Pass. There is good diving on both sides of the 2.5 km long channel. On the north side are large coral rocks around 20 meters and a 200-meter-long cave between the depths of 15 and 20 meters. There are many grouper, and stingrays in the cave and Napoleon are common during June, July, and August.
There are stingrays in the 200-meter-long cave.
This thila is about 80 meters long and quite deep with the top at 15 meters. The landscape is stunning, and divers can easily circle the reef in one dive if the current permits. On the southwest side is a canyon between two large coral outcrops and the main thila. In the middle of the reef are two tunnels about one meter wide, one at 21 meters, the other at 23 meters that pass right through the reef. A steady stream of fish, noticeably schools of blue-dash fusilier and thin-lined fusilier, pass through the holes like sheep through a gateway. Much of the thila is undercut with caves, and the surface is coated in soft coral and colorful sponges. Clown triggerfish, morays and surgeon are prevalent in the caves and Napoleon are a welcoming sight to divers.
A steady stream of fish, noticeably schools thin-lined fusilier, pass through the holes like sheep through a gateway.
Currents can be strong, and a quick descent to the protection of this reef may be necessary. This site is an excellent location for photographers and divers will appreciate the irregular reef formation.
Kuda Thila has to main reef bodies, one longer than the other. The larger portion peaks at six meters, the smaller one at 12 meters. A saddle at 18 meters divides the two reefs which bend in a ‘V’shape at the junction. Overall, the thila is not as small as the name suggests, being at least 100 meters in length. Between the two peaks are big schools of surgeon and blue triggerfish and also a small aggregation of bannerfish and some angelfish. Green coral trees grow on the slopes on the north side. At the eastern end is a little flat reef plateau at 20 meters with a half-moon shaped cave on the end. The cave has a pretty soft blue coral on the ceiling and a sand bottom at 25 meters. Two ridges continue off to the east to deeper depths. On the south side near a cave at 24 meters is a cliff with four big black coral trees. Game fish, like banded trevally and blue-fin jack, dart around the cliff edge while white-tip reef sharks are frequently seen at deeper depths. On the reef top is healthy soft and hard coral, feather stars and many smaller fish. Several Napoleon fish swim around this reef.
The cave has a pretty soft blue coral on the ceiling.
(Source: Dive Maldives: A Guide to the Maldives Archipelago. Tim Godfrey. Atoll Editions, 2015)