Clownfish at Reethi Faru Resort in Maldives

Maldives Snorkeling: Best Reefs + Our Full Snorkeling Trip Report

Last updated Apr 9, 2022 | Maldives, Outdoor

We can all agree the Maldives is absolutely gorgeous. Exotic. Pristine beaches. Water so clear you can see straight down to your toes wiggling in the sand. There’s more to the Maldives though than world-class beaches, and that is the vibrant underwater world! Going to the Maldives and not snorkeling is like going to Cambodia and skipping Angkor Wat. It would be unthinkable. What can you expect from Maldives snorkeling? Let me take you on an underwater tour.

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My Snorkel Rating of the Maldives

SNORKEL RATING 

5 out of 5 snorkel icon

My husband and I love to snorkel, so I created my snorkel rating system to help differentiate all the places we have been. Some of our favorite snorkeling destinations have been the Great Barrier Reef, Belize, Bora Bora, and St. John USVI. You will see all of my snorkeling blog posts will have a snorkel rating at the top. The key is below: 

Snorkel rating key

Snorkel Rating Key

Pick a Resort with an Awesome House Reef 

Before I jump into my personal snorkeling experience, there is one super important thing to note. If snorkeling is a priority, pick an island resort with a good house reef.  

The Maldives is made up of 1,190 islands. There are 100+ resorts, and each resort sits on its own island. Most of the islands will have the drop dead gorgeous beaches that look like they were featured on a travel agent’s brochure. Not everyone though will have an amazing house reef. Or the island may have good snorkeling but you have to pay for a boat excursion to reach it.

A house reef is the reef you can swim to right from the resort’s shore. You can snorkel to your heart’s content day or night without any added expense. Choosing a Maldivian resort with an amazing house reef was one of our top priorities. 

House reef at Reethi Faru Resort in the Maldives

House reef at Reethi Faru Resort in the Maldives 

So many fish swimming under the overwater bungalow at Reethi Faru in Maldives

So many fish swimming under our overwater bungalow at Reethi Faru in the Maldives

WHICH ATOLLS HAVE THE BEST HOUSE REEF

You know you want an awesome house reef. Now, how do you know which resort boasts the best reef? 

Research the best atolls for snorkeling. An atoll is a coral reef that surrounds a lagoon. I haven’t been to all the atolls, so I won’t claim to be an expert. However, Trip Savvy does an excellent job summarizing which are the best for Maldives snorkeling.

We choose to set up base in the northern atolls, which include Baa, Lhaviyani, Noonu, and Raa. An incredibly unique experience in the Baa atoll is to snorkel Hanifaru Bay,  a marine-protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This reserve is the premier location to swim with the WORLD’s largest aggregation of manta rays. 

From June to November, these graceful creatures swoop in and have a feeding party on the plankton that gets funneled into the channels of the atoll. Sometimes whale sharks even join in on the feast. 

We went to the Maldives at the end of December/early January, so we unfortunately missed the manta rays. 

Manta ray

Courtesy of Shutterstock: Manta ray

OUR RESORT PICK: REETHI FARU 

We decided on the Raa atoll, which is well known for its reef system and abundant marine life. And it’s right next to Hanifaru Bay in the Baa atoll.

Which resort was the winner for us? 

Reethi Faru. 

Besides the incredible snorkeling, check out the 5 reasons why we chose this incredible Maldives hotel. 

Plus, if you go during the right time of year, you can book an excursion to snorkel with the manta rays in Hanifaru Bay. 

The Overwater bungalows at Reethi Faru Resort in the Maldives

The overwater bungalows at Reethi Faru Resort in the Maldives

Best Time for Maldives Snorkeling 

Overall, the best weather and driest months for snorkeling is January – April.

Our Snorkeling Trip Report of Reethi Faru’s House Reef

If you are traveling to the Maldives from the United States, prepare for a long trip. Our 36-hour flight path included 2 stopovers: Hong Kong and Male. After spending the night in Male, we took an exhilarating 45-minute seaplane ride. And finally … we arrived at Reethi Faru Resort! 

Reethi Faru to Male via a 45 minute seaplane ride

Reethi Faru to Male via seaplane

Lots of effort … was the snorkeling worth it? 

You decide. 

Here’s our underwater tour. 

BABY REEF SHARK 

My husband and I were walking along the beach at Reethi Faru and saw this little baby black-tipped reef shark literally right at the shoreline. I jumped in to get a quick photo with my GoPro. 

This cute little guy was not interested in sticking around and immediately swam away from me. You can see in the photo he was swimming around in pretty shallow water. 

We saw a few adult-sized sharks while swimming around our overwater bungalow. They always kept their distance, as did we. I have always been told these magnificent animals should be not be feared but respected. Although I am a little more comfortable around sharks now (we even did cage diving with great white sharks!), my heart still races at the sight of them. 

Before I went to the Maldives, of course, I googled “Maldives shark attack” to see if there had been any incidents. Surprisingly, I found there have been no recorded shark attacks on humans in the Maldives.  The theory is the Maldives is situated in a very food-rich area of the Indian Ocean. In other words, the sharks are happy because they have no problems keeping their bellies full.

I like happy sharks! 

I googled this same search term again while writing this blog post, and I did find one shark attack on a fisherman who fell off a boat in December 2020. But compare that to the total of 1,657 attacks that have occurred in the United States. Clearly, a shark attack in the Maldives is incredibly rare and almost unheard of!

I like those statistics.

Baby black tipped reef shark at Reethi Faru Resort in Maldives

Baby black-tipped reef shark 

ORIENTAL SWEETLIP 

How cool is this fish? Its beautiful body pattern is like a cross between a zebra and a leopard. These fish have puffy swollen lips, hence the name sweetlips. 

This was definitely one of my favorite fish species that I saw while we snorkeled in the Maldives. 

They are little divas and usually prefer only live food. Supposedly, this tasty fish is considered a delicacy in the Maldives. 

Oriental sweetlip in Maldives

Oriental sweetlip at Reethi Faru Resort in Maldives 

BLUE STRIPE SNAPPER 

These brightly-colored fish with 4 vivid blue stripes love to hang around in groups around coral. We were able to swim quite close to them without scaring them off. 

Blue striped snapper in Maldives

School of blue stripe snapper in the Maldives

WHITESPOTTED PUFFERFISH

This was yet another beautiful fish we encountered during our Maldives snorkeling adventure. The whitespotted pufferfish gets its name because of its ability to “puff” itself up by taking water into its stomach when a predator is around. These solitary fish don’t like to be bothered and will usually dart into a hole when approached. 

Japan considers puffer fish a delicacy but only certain species. One is prized above the rest: the quite poisonous torafugu or tiger puffer fish. Its toxin is more poisonous than cyanide! Only certified chefs can prepare and serve this fish. My husband tried fugu at Sushi Toro in Washington DC; luckily he’s still around to tell of the experience. 😉

Whitespotted pufferfish in Maldives

Whitespotted pufferfish in the Maldives

BUTTERFLYFISH

Butterflyfish are gorgeous and have really interesting body patterns and long thin snouts. Many have dark bands across their eyes like a bandit and little dots on their body that could be mistaken as an eye. This unique pattern often confuses predators, allowing the butterflyfish to escape. 

Butterflyfish in the Maldives

Butterflyfish in the Maldives

BLACKTAIL & BLUE SURGEONFISH 

Don’t mess with a surgeonfish. They have a little spine that sits in a groove on both sides of their body. That spine will pop out like a scalpel if you tick them off. But only if you tick them off.

The surgeonfish is not aggressive and will move away when approached. We saw a lot of surgeonfish during our snorkeling trips in the Maldives! 

The Blacktail surgeonfish in Maldives

Blacktail surgeonfish in the Maldives

Snorkeling with a surgeonfish in the Maldives

Maldives snorkeling with a blue surgeonfish 

TITAN & ORANGELINED TRIGGERFISH 

This is another fish you need to respect. We saw two types of triggerfish: the titan triggerfish (yes, he was a big boy!) and the orangelined triggerfish. 

These fish will inflict a nasty bite if you provoke them. The time to be extra careful around them is during mating and nesting season. Their nest is usually in a sandy area right next to coral. Pretend there is a big cone right above the nest and avoid it. If you venture into it, good luck. 

How do you tell if you made the triggerfish mad?

It will suddenly do a face-off with you or roll onto its side to get a better look at you with its beady eyes. The best bet is to swim horizontally away, keeping your fins between you and the fish. 

Triggerfish in the Maldives

Titan triggerfish in the Maldives

Orangelined triggerfish in Maldives

Orangelined triggerfish in the Maldives

MOORISH IDOL 

This shy fish supposedly got its name from the Moors of Africa. It kinda looks like an angel fish.

The graceful Moorish idol has a white long filament-looking crest that sweeps along the body. We didn’t see too many of these beauties. They tend to be solitary or in pairs. 

Moorish Idol in the Maldives

Moorish Idol in the Maldives

PARROTFISH

This vibrantly colored fish gets its name from its beak-like mouth. And they love to chomp! Their teeth are constantly munching on coral to remove the algae, which they then poop out as sand. 

One large parrotfish can produce 1,000 POUNDS of sand a year! 

We saw quite a few parrotfish during our Maldives snorkeling trips.

Parrotfish at house reef in Maldives

Parrotfish at house reef in the Maldives

LONGFIN BATFISH

It took me forever to identify this fish. Our Longfin Batfish loved to hang around the steps leading down from our overwater bungalow and never wanted to show his face as I snorkeled close to him. 

Although this one was playing hard to get, they are supposed to be social, friendly, and quite clever. When threatened, this fish can change color and even flatten itself out on its side in an attempt to look like a flatworm as shown in this video.

I later learned our little friend was a juvenile Longfin Batfish. Adults and juveniles look very different. Juveniles are characterized by their long dorsal and anal fins that can sometimes look like floating debris or seaweed. As they turn into adults, their fins shorten and they get a little bony bulge on the forehead.

In my opinion, the kids are much more attractive looking than the adults. 

Batfish in Maldives under overwater bungalow

Batfish in the Maldives under our overwater bungalow

SCORPIONFISH 

I am horrible at picking out small creatures and camouflaged fish. My husband, on the other hand, has an amazing eagle eye! 

Thanks to him, I had the privilege of seeing my first scorpionfish while snorkeling in the Maldives. They literally blend into their surroundings, waiting for unsuspecting prey. 

Scorpionfish have long elongated bodies with little protruding eyes. They have poisonous spines, so be respectful and keep your distance. Stonefish are the MOST VENOMOUS fish in the world and can look similar to scorpionfish. However, they have more rounded bodies and literally look like a stone.

Scorpionfish in the Maldives

Scorpionfish in the Maldives

UNICORNFISH 

You can’t miss this fish! Unicornfish have a huge pointy protrusion coming off their forehead. These playful fish don’t mind getting close. Watch your hands though because this fish also has scalpel-like blades at the base of its tail like their relatives, the surgeonfish. 

Unicorn fish in the Maldives

Unicornfish in the Maldives 

GOATFISH 

The goatfish is yet another easy fish to identify. I saw this one on the sandy bottom, using his long chin barbels (or goatee or whiskers) to probe the sand for food. This fish also has a distinctive forked tail. 

They can rapidly change color and will turn a pale cream when hanging out in the sand to avoid predators (like in the photo below).

Goatfish in Maldives

Goatfish in the Maldives

CLOWNFISH 

You cannot help but smile and fall in love with this adorable little orange fish as it darts in and out the sea anemone playing peekaboo. 

The clownfish aka Nemo has a symbiotic relationship with the sea anemone. The clownfish uses the sea anemone as a safe haven; in turn, the sea anemone uses the clownfish to clean its tentacles and fend off intruders like the butterflyfish. The clownfish is protected from the sea anemone’s stinging tentacles by the thick mucous that forms on its body. 

Clownfish in the Maldives

Clownfish in the Maldives

COLORFUL CLAM

The Maldives has some beautiful giant clams like this bright purple one we passed by snorkeling at Reethi Faru. They feed on algae and can grow quite large. 

Colorful clam in the Maldives

Colorful clam in the Maldives

What Snorkeling Gear to Bring 

If you flew across the world to the Maldives specifically for snorkeling, you may want to consider investing in the right gear. There’s nothing worse than a constantly fogging mask or fins that keep digging into your legs.

Get properly fitted.

Here is a list of the travel snorkeling gear I bring on all of my underwater adventures. 

Final Thoughts on Maldives Snorkeling

I have never seen such an incredible variety of fish! The Maldives snorkeling was some of the best we have encountered and was certainly worth the 36 hours and 2-stopover plane ride to get there. Make sure to pick a resort with a good house reef and be prepared to immerse yourself in an incredible underwater aquarium. 

Maldives snorkeling under the overwater bungalow

Ready to snorkel at this world class site? 

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Have you snorkeled in the Maldives? What were your favorite resorts with a good house reef? 

Let me know in the comments below!

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