North Male Atoll is the most frequented and famous atoll in the Maldives, not only due to the inclusion of the Island Capital, Male, but because of its stunning dive sites, beautiful islands and exciting liveabord holidays and dive safaris. North Male Atoll is 69 km long and 39 km wide at its broadest point. The administrative capital of North Male Atoll is Thulusdhoo, a small island on the eastern side.
Stunning coral reef at North Male Atoll
TOTAL ISLANDS: 50
ISLANDS IN NORTH MALE ATOLL:
Male, Funadhoo, Hulhule, Hulhumale, Dhoonidhoo, Feydhoo Finolhu, Aarah, Vihamanaafushi, Farukolhufushi, Furanafushi, Kuredhigadu, Kanduoiygiri, Bandos, Kuda Bandos, Thulhaagiri, Lankanfinolhu, Lankanfushi, Himmafushi, Girifushi, Thanburudhoo, Kanu Huraa, Vabboahuraa, Kuda Huraa, Huraa, Kanifinolhu, Lhohifushi, Gasfinolhu, Thulusdhoo, Viligili-mathidhahuraa, Dhiffushi, Meerufenfushi, Asdhoo, Helengeli, Kagi, Gaafaru, Olhahali, Akirifushi, Eriyadhoo, Makunudhoo, Ziyaaraifushi, Medhu Finolhu, Madivaru, Hembadhoo, Boduhithi, Kudahithi, Rasfari, Nakatchchaafushi, Baros, Ihuru, Vabbinfaru, Giraavaru, Thilafushi, Villingili
There are 50 islands in North Male Atoll and numerous smaller sandbanks and islets. Eight of the islands are inhabited, including the airport island, and of the 42 uninhabited islands 15 of them are privately leased while another 27 are holiday resorts and spas.
Many of the resort islands in North Male Atoll are close enough to the airport for transfers via the traditional Maldivian dhoani (boat), however the longer stretches are usually tackled with a speedboat or seaplane to save time and effort. The journey on the dhoani is still a popular option as you can enjoy the serene boat ride whilst absorbing the beautiful landscapes and you may even catch a glimpse of a whale shark, or other exotic Maldives marine life. The journey time to one of the more distant islands in North Male Atoll takes around four hours.
Map of North Male Atoll - Maldives
Over time, Male has grown to its physical capacity of 192 hectares, and has a registered population of over 47,000, although the unofficial numbers may be closer to 90,000. The word Male originates from the Sanskrit term “Maaliu” meaning “big” or “principle island”, very appropriate for the island capital in the Maldives.
Diver awakens a boxer at Hans Hass Place dive site
On the west side of Male Atoll the sea bed drops gradually to over 300 meters, while on the eastern ridge the depths drop rapidly to 2000 meters.
Due to the deep, clear waters all around the atoll, visibility is excellent especially in times of an ingoing current, and thus makes for excellent scuba dive excursions and is a firm favorite of divers looking to photograph the brilliant coral formations and the breathtaking interplay of the Maldives fish life.
Around the entrances to the channels you will usually find sharks, snapper fish, fusilier, tuna, barracudas, trevally and many more species of marine life; all attracted to the area by the food sources and/or the movement of the water. Inside the atoll the sea bed is mostly sand, and the depths range from 40m to 50m.
North Male Atoll has many reefs within the atoll that can be clearly seen by their brilliant contrasting colors against the Maldivian waters. A majority of the diving excursions in North Male Atoll are undertaken in the channels, kandus or through the outside barrier reef. There are around 16 channels on the western side which are generally bigger and contain big thilas across some of the openings. A further 20 channels frame the eastern side, and both sides of North Male Atoll are popular spots for drift diving.
An underwater shot showing a moray eel open-mouthed at Lankan Corner, North Male Atoll
In 1972 the first area to be dived in North Male Atoll in Maldives was at the southern end, where a majority of the island resorts started their development, and to this day it remains the most popular dive region in North Male Atoll. Some of the finest dive sites in the world are found here, and even though it is heavily frequented by scuba divers from around the world, they retain all their unique dive features and remain in very good condition. Check out the following links for more information on the live weather in North Male Atoll, as well as dive sites and marine life in the Maldives.
Some divers choose to stay away from the heavily populated islands of Male Atoll due to the increased boat traffic, as a result the reefs towards the north of Male Atoll are less frequently dived than those in the south. With an isolated stretch of over 20 km between Helengeli and Meerufenfushi, the trip north is made even more rewarding as it provides a real sense of freedom and isolation not possible in the more popular dive sites.
North Male Atoll has something to offer for divers of all levels, from novice to veteran, the brilliant features make for unforgettable dive safaris and unique and memorable liveaboard holidays.
Famous Maldives Dive Sites in North Male Atoll:
- Banana Reef - Gaathugiri
- HP Reef - Thamburudhoo Thila
- Hans Hass Place - Gulhifalhu
- Kuda Haa
- Makunudhoo Kandu - Kuda Faru
- Maldives Victory Wreck
- Nassimo Thila
- Okobe Thila
- Rasfari Island