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Coral Reefs »:: Climate »:: Currents »::Dive Safety »:: Tides »:: Protected Sites »
One of the great attractions of the Maldives
is the seemingly endless number of top-quality diving options. When combined
with its unique islander lifestyle, it is not surprising that divers are
lured back again and again to this Indian Ocean Archipelago.
Early mariners said the island were so numerous and the channels so narrow
that the ship yards touched the trees of islands on either side. Underwater
the reefs are so abundant. Divers can swim away from one reef and no sooner
loose sight of it than find another one looming up ahead, like a mirage,
until it clearly becomes distinguishable.
Despite their proximity, each dive site has its own character and mood,
just as the currents that are born of them display their own temperament
and behavior. The outside reefs are defiant like forwalls solid and impenetrable.
They spurn the seething water before them and temper its forces with a
solid barrier of battle hardened coral.
The Kandus, or channels, are more assertive, like the gates
of a fort, steering the restless currents through their narrow openings,
forcing them against jagged walls and into crevices and caves where the
first filtering of nutrients takes place. The currents bounce back fighting
forming eddies and swirling streams before being funneled, exhausted, into
the more placid interior of the atoll.
In the channels, divers can find caves and overhangs full of soft coral,
a wide range of invertebrates, gorgonian's, and sponges. There are also
canyons and on the outside corners are steep drop offs. At these impressive
sites, vast schools of fish feed in colliding waters.
Across the channels and inside the atolls are the thilas. Mysterious
and secretive, they are sentinels of rock that spring from the ocean floor
to within a few meters of the surface, splitting and trapping the currents,
as they pass causing surprise and confusion. These thilas act like magnet
for marine life and provide a spectacular change of scenery.
Around some thilas and reefs are large coral rocks, that can used like
compass points to direct divers away from the reef, perhaps to another
and safely back home. There are many reefs inside the atolls, they are
are often exposed at low tide and form the body of the atoll. They are
restful sites, pretty to look at, and always available.
Above the water is the vast collection of islands, reefs, and sand bars
that make up this rich and historically unique nation. No diver can fail
to be impressed by the formation of the islands and the way in which the
people have adapted to them.
The isolation of the islanders from the rest of the world has left an intriguing
history which is still being unraveled. Stepping ashore in the capital
Male' just 10 years ago was for westerners, like stepping into a time warp.
Fishing dhonis were tide off to old canons strewn along the sandy waterfront.
At the tea house on the marine drive, a foreign face drew inquiring glances.
Today every resort has an access to a dive center, and visiting divers
are the mainstay of the Maldivian economy. Changes to the marine environment
from the influx of tourists, a rapidly expanding local population and the
development of new, up-market resorts is inevitable. Keeping those changes
in context will be the challenge of the decade.