Explore wildlife in the Maldives on an aquatic adventure holiday

With over 2000 species of fish calling these shores home, the wildlife in the Maldives is a top attraction

With over 2000 species of fish calling these shores home, the wildlife in the Maldives is a top attraction

The turquoise waters and pristine beaches of the Maldives are a tropical paradise that beckons intrepid explorers and nature enthusiasts alike. Known for being a “step off the world” relaxing escape, there is so much more to this part of the world than luxury resorts and spa treatments. The wildlife in the Maldives stands out as being a truly memorable and outstanding attraction and embarking on an aquatic adventure is an ideal way to enjoy it. Discover the underwater world of the Maldives and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

Discovering wildlife in the Maldives

The Maldives, a collection of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean, is famous for its picturesque overwater bungalows, coral reefs and crystal-clear waters. This is no ordinary destination. This is a haven of relaxation where days melt into nights and the velvety white sand becomes your home away from home. When staying in the Maldives, there is no better way to explore the Maldives wildlife than by immersing yourself in the topaz waters of the Indian Ocean. These warm waters are known for their biodiversity and visitors to these shores are blessed with sightings of colourful tropical fish, moray eels, whale sharks, rays and much more.

Luxury Maldives resorts: A modern, neutral hotel bathroom

Inside the private villas of Barceló Whale Lagoon 

Choosing the right time and place to see the Maldives' wildlife

To enhance your chance of seeing a wide range of Maldives flora and fauna it is important to plan your beach holiday during the right season. While the Maldives is an all-year-round destination, there are certain times of the year that offer increased sightings of certain species. As a general rule, it is best to plan your travels during the dry season from December to March for optimal visibility. 

As a general rule, it is best to plan your travels during the dry season from December to March for optimal visibility

Yet, if you are keen to swim up close with manta rays, the best season is between May and November. From April to October, the wet season sees an increase in marine activity and provides an exciting moment for marine enthusiasts to explore the deep blue Ocean. 

Wildlife in the Maldives: A bird’s eye view of the South Male Atoll

Bodufinolhu Island, Maldives

What to see on your Maldives wildlife holidays

Imagine yourself in the warm embrace of the Indian Ocean surrounded by the glistening sun and the gentle lull of the waves. Dive under the crystalline waters and you can see a menagerie of marine life, coexisting in harmony just metres away from the resorts. While there is no guarantee that you will catch a glimpse of all the Maldives animals listed below, the following list gives you a rough guide of what you might find when out exploring. 

Watch the stunning showcase of Maldives tropical fish

Numerous species of fish inhabit the coral reefs creating a captivating kaleidoscope of colour beneath the ocean. The tropical fish of the Maldives are a permanent sighting that delights snorkelers and divers alike. It is believed that there are over 2000 species of fish residing in the waters of the Maldives and as you swim you can find anything from small reef dwellers to large hunters. Parrotfish, clownfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, sweetlips, snappers and nurse sharks are just a glimpse of the wildlife in the Maldives waters. Maldives' strategic location in the Indian Ocean, surrounded by warm currents and nutrient-rich waters, creates an ideal habitat for an abundance of fish species. 

Wildlife in the Maldives: Two scuba divers looking at a group of red fish

Tropical fish in the Maldives

Snorkel in the Maldives coral reefs

For marine biology enthusiasts, the Maldives is a living classroom, especially when it comes to the majestic coral reefs. From novice snorkelers to experienced divers, as you glide through the crystal clear waters, the reefs reveal a breathtaking panorama of colours, shapes and textures. Renowned as being some of the most vibrant and diverse in the world, these reefs form intricate ecosystems that support an abundance of marine life. They act as natural barriers protecting the islands from erosion yet they face many threats such as coral bleaching, climate change and human intervention. 

Wildlife in the Maldives: A close up of the coral reefs of the Maldives with fishes

The coral reefs of the Maldives

Get up close to the Maldives manta rays

Wildlife in the Maldives comes in all shapes and sizes and the manta rays, with their long thin tales, are an impressive sight. Manta rays can be found all year round but they migrate seasonally within the Maldives, following the plankton. It is said that Baa Atoll is the best for spotting these majestic creatures yet they can be found on every atoll in the Maldives. These graceful creatures, known for their wing-like pectoral fins glide effortlessly through the water and since they feed off plankton, they pose little threat to humans.

Maldives Turtles

The abundance of sea turtles in the Maldives makes for a magical diving experience. Five of the seven species of sea turtles call these waters home and the most common ones that you will come across are the green turtle and the hawksbill turtle. For a guaranteed sea turtle sighting, head to Lhaviyani Atoll where almost half of all known green turtles in the Maldives have been reported to be found.

Travellers may also come across Maldives turtle conservation projects while on holiday. These initiatives typically involve research, monitoring, and community engagement to raise awareness about the importance of sea turtle conservation. Travellers have the unique opportunity to actively participate in these initiatives, contributing to the ongoing efforts to safeguard nesting sites, rehabilitate injured turtles, and implement sustainable practices to mitigate human-induced risks.

Wildlife in the Maldives: A close up of a sea turtle swimming underwater

Sea turtles in the Maldives

Swimming with sharks in the Maldives

As scary as it sounds, this is one of the top activities to try when looking to explore wildlife in the Maldives. The waters surrounding the islands are home to 26 different types of sharks with the most common being white-tip reef sharks, black-tip sharks, grey reef sharks and whale sharks. Don’t worry, the sharks mainly feed off plankton and are not interested in humans at all. Yet, diving with these majestic creatures is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

The South Ari Atoll is known to be the best place to see whale sharks in the Maldives

The South Ari Atoll is known to be the best place to see whale sharks in the Maldives and most resorts have their own dive centre that offers guests PADI open water training in order to be able to get up close to these majestic creatures. 

Swimming with sharks in the Maldives: A scuba diver taking a photo of a whale shark

Scuba diving with whale sharks

Whales in the Maldives

If you are thinking of whale watching in the Maldives, you are in for a treat. 14 of the world’s whale species reside in these waters meaning you don’t have to go far to catch a glimpse of one of these impressive creatures. The blue whale, the largest animal in the world, has been spotted in these waters along with others such as the humpback whale, sperm whale and minke whale. When out on a whale-watching excursion, it is not uncommon to also see dolphins jumping through the waves, especially during the morning. September to early December and February to early May are the best times for whale watching as the sea is calmer. Yet if you want to get super technical, it is rumoured that the best time for whale watching in the Maldives is during the El Niño years when the sea warms up due to the El Niño effect. If you are celebrating your honeymoon, charter a yacht and enjoy a private adventure exploring the marine wildlife in the Maldives.

Responsible tourism

While the allure of swimming up close with the wildlife in the Maldives is undeniable, it is important to prioritise eco-tourism. Ensure minimal impact on the marine environment by choosing tour operators that adhere to strict ethical guidelines and respect these impressive creatures. By protecting these natural habitats you contribute to the conservation efforts that safeguard the delicate balance of the underwater ecosystem. 

Maldives hotels: Sunset over a collection of villas in the pink Ocean

Stay in one of the luxury over-water villas