The Maldives is a collection of islands clustered into 26 glorious atolls throughout the Indian Ocean. Sharing the landscape with an array of luxury five-star resorts, the Maldives is also teeming with tropical marine life, from sea turtles and dolphins through to rays and sharks.
You can discover this underwater world by snorkelling one of the many coral reefs, embarking on a scuba diving excursion and even through floor to ceiling glass windows of one of six underwater restaurants. With more than 500 known shark species in the world, Maldives is home to a relatively small diversity of the species – 26 in fact. Ranging from the gentle giants of the sea – the whale shark – through to the blacktip reef shark, if you’re hoping to meet some sea predators during your trip, you’ll probably be in luck.
Blacktip Reef Shark
We should probably start by answering some of the most common shark-related questions.
Are sharks in the Maldives dangerous to humans?
Sharks in the Maldives are no more dangerous than those swimming in any other place in the world. Plus, statistically, sharks do not pose a huge danger to humans. In 2021, there were a total of 137 shark attacks recorded, and the average shark attacks per year for the past five years is just 72. To put this into perspective, spiders, snakes, hippos, deer, cows, horses, bee and ants are all at least five times more likely to kill humans than sharks are.
However, of the recorded shark attacks, the majority are credited to the great white, bull and tiger sharks, of which only one specie – the tiger shark – has been spotted in Maldives.
Is it safe to swim with sharks?
Yes, as long as you respect the sharks, they should respect you just like all other living creatures. We recommend you do your research before diving, and only embark on experiences with a professional dive school and responsible instructor. Listen to what they have to say and understand typical shark behaviour so you know to abort the dive should there be any sign of potential danger.
A few top tips to remember when swimming with sharks is to never touch any part of a shark, do not use flash photography and try to stay a safe distance away and out of their direct swim path.
South Ari Atoll
Where is the best part in the Maldives to see sharks?
This depends on the specie you are hoping to spot. The South Ari Atoll is known for having whale sharks all year round, while the Fuvahmulah Atoll is particularly popular for tiger sharks. However, reef sharks are popular around many corals and so you have a good chance of spotting them from many island hotel resorts across all the atolls.
One of the largest variety, the whale shark, is common to Maldives’ balmy waters. Do not be deterred by their size, these gentle giants feed off plankton and tiny shrimps, and are deemed harmless. An exciting day trip while in the Maldives is to go swimming with whale sharks and this is most popular in the South Ari Atoll where they are spotted year-round. The atolls are considered nurseries, so you’ll probably spot juvenile whale sharks, however they’re still recorded as measuring up to six metres in length.
Blacktip Reef Shark
Blacktip reef sharks
Blacktip reef sharks swim in the shallows and do not pose a threat to humans. These are the most common sharks for visitors as they favour the corals – with many reefs located within swimming distance of five-star island resorts. Blacktips are quite shy and are known to swim away if you get too close.
Adult Leopard Shark
Leopard sharks have unique spot and stipe markings on their body. These varieties are considered bottom dwellers and usually remain on the seabed at a depth of between 5 and 30 metres. Also known as zebra sharks, juveniles are dark with pale stripes while adults have lighter skin with dark spots.
The tiger shark has a reputation for being aggressive amongst tropical sharks, however you can still swim and dive amongst them with a qualified instructor. Known for its beautiful markings that resemble a tiger, the best area to spot these beauties isn’t he Fuvahmulah Atoll.
These nocturnal fish are usually found at the bottom of reefs. They seek shelter during the day and come out to hunt at night, feeding off small fish and lobster. The best time to observe nurse sharks is during night diving tours while they will be using their sense of smell to hunt. These sharks are considered harmless to humans and have extremely poor eyesight.
Maldives is considered one of the best locations for diving with hammerheads in the world, and particularly the Rasdhoo Atoll. Here, you’ll find schools of hammerheads swimming through the channel, often accompanied by other marine favourites including dolphins, turtles and whale sharks.
The best time to guarantee a sighting is early in the morning, before sunrise. And, if you’re really lucky, you may also spot a rare sighting of a pod of pygmy killer whales.
LUX* South Ari Atoll
There is so much more to do in Maldives in addition to snorkelling, scuba diving or swimming with sharks. Whether you’d prefer to enjoy a private picnic on a deserted sandbank, enjoy a spa treatment – or two – at the spa or simply relax in a hammock on the deck of your private overwater villa, there’s plenty to satisfy all.
To discover the best time to visit the Maldives, read our month-by-month guide here.
Are you planning a trip to Maldives? View our selection of Maldives holiday packages by clicking here or alternatively submit an online enquiry here.
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