Saying that a resort has the best snorkel experience in the Maldives are strong words but from our experience and also other travelers it seems to be Angsana Ihru has one of the best snorkel experiences in the North Male Atoll.Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru goes next on our ranking followed by Vilamendhoo resort that we visited last year.
Angsna Ihru has an incredible house reef right in front of the shore, there is no need for you to take any boat to get there, we went around the island snorkelling in around 1 hour and 30 minutes. There are many different species of fish, anemones, different kinds of coral and we could see turtles and sharks too.
In Angsana Ihru they take care of their coral reef and clean it different times a month, it is one of the best snorkeling/diving spots in the North Male Atoll and has 35 diving sites around for divers.
Between Angsana Ihru and their sister property Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru they collect broken coral that is still alive in the sea and plant it again. Coral planting is an activity we did, we took this still alive coral and plant it in a metal structure that would go again into the sea. The coral planting is done every week, each week in one of these properties alternating them. The following week the marine experts check if the coral planted managed to survive, the ones they did they keep them in the metal structure and the ones that didn't are taken out to have space to plant more coral that still has a chance to survive.
Planting coral is caring for the ecosystem and giving back, as due to weather conditions and El Niño effect coral has been damaged and it needs help to be restored and keep coral alive in the area.
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru Maldives
Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru has its house reef in front of the shore too, it has easy access and you can go around the island in around 2 hours, depending on how fast you swim. Vabbinfaru is famous for its inhouse sharks, as right beneath the jeti there is a family of 7 medium to large size sharks that live there and you will see them while snorkeling.
As always, you need to keep your distance, don't disturb or touch any animals or plants and don't make strange movements if you get scared it is better to keep your head under the water so you can see what is happening.
Every day at 5pm, the marine biologists feeds the manta rays, they are big animals and at 5pm sharp, they are waiting for their afternoon snack. They are very clever animals, while animals are being fed you should not be on the water or on the shore but you can admire them from the jeti or any platform available where they feed them.
In Vabbinfaru they have an incredible turtle program where they take care of baby turtles in the Marine Lab until they grow enough to put them in a sea cage they have so they are half caged half in the wild which is the previous step to release them. They use a satellite tracking system for juvenile Green Sea Turtles that they release to their natural habitat.
They also bring schools into the Marine Lab to inform children on the importance of caring for the fauna in Maldives and share with them all that is being done to save the turtles. The lab spearheads coral regeneration, studies beach erosion and researches and preserves species such as the Green Sea Turtle, Black Tip Reef Shark and the Napoleon Wrasse.
What can you see snorkeling
Snorkeling in the Maldives is an incredible experience, the reef eco-system in the country circles each of the 1190 islands of the Maldives. The islands are built actually from limestone skeletons that are secreted and left behind by living coral. New coral grows on the old dead coral, and keeps coming up to the surface and gradually building the famous reefs.
I will go around the many species of animals you will see while snorkeling in the Maldives, it is interesting to know their features and what are they called so you know what to expect in your snorkeling trips.
Giant Clams are very impressive, they are actually the biggest mollusks on Earth reaching 4 feet in lenght and weighing up to 500 pounds. Once they fasten into a spot in the reef they will live there forever. They are colorful and very big due to their sugar and protein consumption of many algae that live in their tissues.
Humphead Wrasse (Māori wrasse, Napoleon wrasse, Napoleon fish, Napoleonfish)
The humphead wrasse is an enormous coral reef fish and we have seen plenty of them, these fishes live up to 30 years old. They eat hard shell animals such as starfish, crustaceans or mollusks.
One of the most famous excursions in the Maldives is to swim with whalesharks, as it is the world's second largest fish. They live warm waters and they live in most tropical seas, they are around coral areas as their main food is plankton.
Sea turtles are also one of the star animals you will find in the Maldives while snorkeling. There are different species, we have seen green turtles and also hawksbill turtles. The green turtles is vegetarian and they feed from sea grass, you will find them near the shore wherever there is sea grass avaiable. However, Hawksbill turtles live on coral reefs and use their long beaks to probe into spaces between corals to find sponges and invertebrates to eat.
Stingrays in general, can be found around the Maldives, but Stingrays are very common at the resorts. They are not dangerous animals, but they do have a deadly tail, they would only sting in self-defense, though. They hide in the sand, but you will always see its tail, be careful not to step on it, always watch out when walking into the sea.
Corals in the Maldives
Corals in Maldives are amazing and it is the place where I have seen more alive coral of all the ones I visited. They like sunlight and will grow up to the surface to get sun into them. There are two kinds of coral species, the hard corals that grow in huge colonies and the soft corals that do not leave behind a skeleton of limestone and live solitary. Some coral species do the photosynthesis a similar process as plants, they are colorful and there are many varieties. You will find a lot of bleached coral the whiter they are it means they are dead already.
There are many different kinds of coral, the most common hard corals the Maldives being the brain coral, flat or sheet coral, branching stag horns or soft coral species such as the fan corals and the wire od whip-coral.
There are many reef fishes such as groupers, lionfish, wrasse and anemone fishes, gold striped angel fish, yellow butterfly fish, parrot fish, squirrel fish, Napoleon fish, puffer fish, tuna and schools of blue-lined snapper, travelley, and surgeonfish, just to name some of them.
Sharks are very common in the Maldives, you can see easily little coral reef sharks that will be spotted swimming in shallow lagoons around the island feeding on reef fish. The mature sharks are a lot more difficult to spot but in Banyan Tree and Angsana Ihru there are plenty, in Banyan Tree there is a family of sharks that live right behind their jeti. The ones we saw were black-tip reef sharks, that were about medium to large size, with approximately 1.5 to 2 meters long.
Dolphins are easy to find, interestingly they come up to the surface if you clap, they hear the noise and come out, they swim close to the boats and they normally swim together so when you see one you will be able to see more in a second