It goes without saying that you should bring a swimsuit to the Maldives—after all, almost 99% of its territory consists of crystal-clear water in mesmerising shades of blue and turquoise. Made up of 1,192 islands, the beautiful archipelago is home to meandering shorelines and expansive lagoons that are a haven for thrill-seekers and water worshippers. Here are five aquatic adventures to experience while you’re in the tropical paradise.
Venture below in an underwater scooter
While the Maldives’ landscape will take your breath away, part of its true beauty lies underwater in its colourful reef ecosystem. You’ll discover coral gardens, sea fans and starfish, as well as a vibrant community of Moray eels, groupers, parrot fish, manta rays, and the endangered giant Hawksbill and leatherback marine turtles. The great thing is that you don’t need to be a scuba-diving pro to see these aquatic wonders. Underwater scooters, which you can rent at locations throughout the Maldives, are equipped with self-contained breathing environments and can travel to depths of 5 metres at about 2 kilometres per hour.
Test your skills with free diving
Free diving—holding your breath and diving deep underwater—has long been part of the Maldives’ history. Fishermen would do it while trying to catch lobster by hand or to unmoor their boat from a rock. Nowadays people do it for fun, and the Maldives’ lagoons are some of the best places to practice. All you’ll need is a snorkel, mask and some flippers. But before you hit the water, make the most of the knowledge from the many local free divers who can teach you the best techniques for holding your breath for long periods of time.
Paddle away via canoe or kayak
One of the best ways to explore the Maldives is via a canoe or kayak because it gives you the freedom to explore at your own whim. You’ll find many places to rent canoes and kayaks—some with transparent bottoms—throughout the archipelago. Head to calmer beaches like Haa Alif and North Ari Atoll where the water is clear enough to reveal the fascinating sea life below, or to the serene waters of South Kaafu Atoll, which is also prime paddling territory.
Test your agility with kitesurfing
For a true rush of adrenalin, try your hand at kitesurfing, which combines elements of wakeboarding, windsurfing, and paragliding. Wider lagoons like those near Meedhupparu and Kuramathi are the best places for this because the water is smoother (just watch out for snorkellers!). Or for something a little more laid-back – but still a great workout for your abs – try stand-up paddleboarding in the same lagoons.
Head out on a surfing safari
The Maldives is renowned for being a surfing mecca, and its long barrels are best suited to intermediate and advanced surfers (waves usually reach around shoulder height). Head to Malé Atolls for the most consistent and easy-to-reach swells, though be prepared for it to get a little crowded. At Central Atolls, you’ll likely have the waves to yourself, but they can sometimes be a little challenging, while the South Atolls are extremely remote and best reached by boat. Prime surf season for most atolls is between April and September.
With so much to do and so many amazing places to stay, the Maldives really is the perfect aquatic wonderland (so you’ll probably need to pack more than one swimsuit).