The most popular entertainment and activity is snorkeling in Maldives. Whether you’re vacationing on a local island or at a resort, snorkeling is available to all tourists absolutely free of charge in any part of your island. In this article, we’ll cover everything about this unforgettable activity, which is the reason why many people fly to the Maldives.

It will be difficult for you to plan your dream trip to Maldives without these websites

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Flight tickets

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What is snorkeling?

Simply put, it is swimming with fins and a mask with a tube on the water’s surface while observing the underwater world. In order to comfortably engage in snorkeling, certain conditions must be met, namely:

  • calm sea/ocean without waves. In the Maldives, the sea is only rough during monsoon season. For the remaining 8-9 months of the year, the water is perfect for snorkeling.
  • water temperature around 30 degrees so that a wetsuit is not necessary. The water in the Maldives is of this temperature year-round.
  • clear water, at least with a transparency of 5 meters. In the Maldives, the water clarity is more than 15-20 meters.
  • rich underwater world. Snorkeling in Maldives is unbeatable in this regard. There aren’t many places in the world where the underwater world is so rich right off the shore, almost any beach. But we’ll talk more about that below.
snorkeling in maldives with turtles
Snorkeling in Maldives involves encounters like this.

Interesting to know:

There are other resorts in the Indian Ocean that are just as good as the Maldives, such as Zanzibar, Seychelles, and Mauritius. And while these resorts have much in common in many aspects, snorkeling in Maldives is on a completely different level.

I recommend reading for those who haven’t yet chosen a place for their next vacation: where is the best place to vacation? Bali, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Zanzibar?

Snorkeling in Maldives: general information, paid and free options

Let me briefly tell you about the general aspects you need to know, and then it will become clear why snorkeling in Maldives is an unforgettable experience:

  • The Maldives is an island nation.
  • All 1200 islands in the country are of coral origin. This means that millions of years ago, all the land that is now above water was a coral reef. And what is underwater still remains a living reef.

To learn more about what atolls are, how they were formed, and how many atolls there are in the Maldives, read the article at the link. There you can find a detailed explanation of how the Maldives emerged from coral reefs, as well as which atoll to choose for your vacation.

coral islands for snorkeling in maldives
Each bright spot forms an atoll. What is above water is an island, and what is underwater is a reef.

In fact, there are two types of snorkeling in Maldives: paid and free. I’ll be brief because intuitively, everything is clear:

  • Every island, whether local or resort, has a house reef nearby. It’s absolutely free for everyone. With fins, mask, and tube, you can snorkel all day long.
    • You can rent all the necessary equipment on the beach or at your hotel. But for daily snorkeling, it’s better to bring your own gear since daily rentals can add up quickly. And there are only a handful of interesting activities on the islands, with snorkeling far and away topping the list.
  • Then there’s paid snorkeling, which you can buy at any diving center on any island. You’ll be given everything you need and taken by boat to a beautiful reef that you wouldn’t be able to reach on your own. Sometimes it’s 5km away from your island, sometimes it’s 25km. Lunch and drinks may or may not be included. It’s all very individual. Prices for such excursions range from $20 to $50.

I recommend buying such an excursion at least once during your entire vacation (paid snorkeling). Usually, they take you to reefs where you’re guaranteed to see sharks, manta rays, and turtles. They’re not found near every island. Also, there are many sunken ships in the Maldives, and almost every hotel has a snorkeling program near a sunken ship.

snorkel in maldives
We spotted the Mantas 100 meters away from the beach, but they only come closer to the shore in the early morning at dawn.

Good to know:

There is excellent snorkeling in Maldives on the house reef of any island.

House reef in Maldives

Let’s take a look at the photo below to understand what a house reef is and what to pay attention to.

dangers of snorkeling in maldives
This is the most standard island of the thousand islands in the Maldives. Snorkeling in Maldives usually takes place close to the shore.


Before your vacation, study the satellite maps on Google Maps of the islands you are flying to. These maps clearly show the house reef of any island, so you can understand in advance where the best snorkeling spots are and where the underwater world is richer.
  • The island in the photo above is a fossilized dead coral reef.
  • A house reef is a reef within the turquoise waters surrounding an island.
  • The boundary between the reef and the open ocean is also clearly visible. Where the house reef ends, the depth immediately begins. In the Maldives, this is called the “deep blue.” In conversation, you might hear something like, “I swam in the deep blue today and met a shark.” This means that the tourist swam at the border of the reef and the ocean.
    • The part of the reef that drops deeply underwater is called the “reef wall” or “outer reef” or “drop-off”. Typically, larger fish and specimens are found on the outer reef. Large fish rarely swim onto the house reef, except for turtles. Sharks, manta rays, and stingrays swim along the drop-off.


There are two things to understand about snorkeling at the drop-off.
  1. As soon as you swim to the drop-off and the outer reef, you enter the open ocean, which means there is an immediate lateral current. It can be strong in some places, but not in others, so be cautious, especially if you’re not a confident swimmer. You can always swim out with fins, but not always without them.
  2. If you pay attention to the house reef of any island, you’ll notice that the distance from the edge of the reef to the shore varies in different places. Sometimes you need to swim 500 meters, and sometimes the drop-off is only 50 meters away from the shore. From a safety perspective, it’s better to swim over the house reef, but the chance of encountering a manta ray, shark, or large tuna is much higher at the drop-off.
sharks snorkeling maldives
Snorkeling in Maldives is also about unexpected encounters. In the photo, there’s a reef shark, which is absolutely safe for humans, but encountering one is sure to send shivers down your spine.

All the underwater photos in this article are mine, taken with an iPhone in a waterproof case. If you have a GoPro, be sure to bring it along!

Who you can meet while snorkeling in Maldives

The list is truly impressive. There’s a large article about the underwater world in the Maldives, what to be cautious of, who you can encounter, and most importantly, when, since manta rays, for example, can only be seen at dawn. But to summarize, here’s the main list of underwater creatures you might want to encounter while snorkeling in Maldives:

  • sharks: nurse sharks, whale sharks, reef sharks. The one in the photo above is a reef shark.
  • mantas (devil rays)
  • stingrays and eagle rays
  • turtles
  • dolphins (they rarely come close to the shore, so people usually book excursions to see them)
  • moray eels
  • thousands of different fish species that you used to only see on TV in “Jacques Cousteau’s Undersea World.”
fish snorkel maldives
This is the typical scene you’ll have in front of your eyes while snorkeling in Maldives.
snorkel gear maldives
Remember: you shouldn’t feed anyone, as the entire ecosystem thrives without your bread from the restaurant.

Dangers of snorkeling: forewarned is forearmed.

Now here’s the interesting part. On the one hand, there is nothing to fear, but on the other hand, proper preparation is necessary so that there is nothing to fear :).

Let’s start with the clothing. It’s best to bring from home:

  • fins
  • full-face mask with a tube (it’s more comfortable and easier to breathe with for those who are not confident swimmers)
  • Clothing should cover from head to toe if you don’t want to get sunburned. The UV index in the Maldives is deadly; you can get blistered within 20 minutes, especially on the water. And most tourists snorkel for hours.
  • A buoy for open water can be purchased online for $10. If you get tired, you can hold onto it, and if the current takes you out to the open ocean, you will be more visible from a helicopter 🙂
  • Photo and video equipment for underwater shooting.
  • And of course, insurance, without which you cannot go to the Maldives. Any doctor’s call will cost you dearly since the main hospital and good specialists are only in Male. And on local islands, they can only apply a bandage and some green lotion. Read all about comprehensive insurance for the Maldives.
clothing for snorkeling in Maldives
The perfect clothing for snorkeling in Maldives

And now, the dangers that await you while snorkeling in Maldives, and also what not to fear:

  • currents – I wrote about it above, it’s clear.
  • ultraviolet index (UV) – people have really burned to blisters, and they had to call an ambulance. It’s especially dangerous in the first days of vacation when you are not yet tanned.
  • coral. They are sharp and can cut you. Try to swim where the depth is at least a meter. If it’s less, it’s better not to swim there; any small wave can toss you onto these sharp corals.
  • you don’t need to fear sharks, the main thing is not to feed them (you can’t feed anyone here, even fish, just watch). There are no dangerous sharks for humans in the Maldives.
  • it’s best not to approach stingrays, they have a spine on their tail and can sting you hard. It happens rarely, but it happens.
  • you must not touch turtles under any circumstances, they get sick later. The reef in the Maldives is not a petting zoo!
moray eel maldives
Such encounters are not uncommon. It’s better not to stick your hand out to them 🙂 The photo shows a moray eel.

If you’re looking forward to snorkeling in Maldives and want to snorkel for several hours every day, here are some more interesting articles about water activities in the Maldives:

luminous plankton maldives
In the Maldives, you can witness a rare natural phenomenon: bioluminescent plankton, but there are certain conditions for it to occur.

In conclusion, snorkeling in Maldives is the most accessible and exciting activity for tourists. If you choose the right island with a good house reef, you can encounter sharks, manta rays, and turtles during snorkeling for free.

Wishing you a thrilling encounter with a shark!

If you enjoyed the article and the content in this guide, you can buy me a coffee ^_^

Resources to help you plan your dream trip to the Maldives

  • Flight tickets and the best deals
  • Tour packages (from budget to luxury): Expedia
  • Hotels and guesthouses on any island:
    • Hotellook compares prices among a dozen other services and platforms and offers to choose the best one.
    • Booking – the most popular service for booking accommodation.
    • Agoda – the main competitor of Booking.
  • 12go is the largest Asian transfer service. It gathers all Maldivian carriers, even the small ones that operate between local islands.
  • Tours and excursions: Viator – a limited selection of excursions, but convenient and reliable.
  • Comprehensive insurance: EKTA
  • eSIM at the same price as in telecom office in Male.