In early September, when Alex and I luckily heard that we might be able to swim with over a hundreds of Manta Rays and several whale sharks feeding together at Hanifaru Bay nearby Dharavandhoo Island in Baa Atoll. With our curiosity and love of the ocean, then new direction was easily set by our hearts.
Getting to Dharavandhoo
Dharavandhoo is one of the inhabited islands of Baa Atoll, and is situated about 120 km northwest of Male. There are several choices to get there; a domestic 15-minute flight, a seaplane or a speedboat.
As usual, we chose the worst choice! We chose to combine speedboats from Male to Eydhafushi, the capital of Baa Atoll, and then continued by another speedboat to Dharavandhhoo. Why was it the worst choice? It was a crazy day with a maniacally mad ocean after the storm. The boat was flying and crashing on the huge waves in every other minutes for 2 hours. So, mind your organs, back and neck please! It was also fun I have to admit, there is no need to go to amusement park after this journey for at least 5 years I believed.
But after all, we arrived safely in Dharavandhoo. Adil from Hibaru fishing lodge which we booked only a day prior to arrival had already waited for us with a very welcome smile.
First day in Dharavandhoo was still overwhelmed by rain showers. Fortunately, we got Hibaru lodge and Adil, nice food with good bed were provided with warmly confirmed that everything going to be better soon.
Maldives is incredible to visit in any season
The best weather to visit The Maldives supposes to be in Winter, between November and April, there will be mostly shiny day to enjoy but that doesn’t mean it’ll never be raining. In monsoon season like May to October also doesn’t mean there is no blue skies and sunshine day. From what I’ve heard and seen, rain in The Maldives is mostly just showering and gone in 15-30 minutes, and then, like nothing happened, welcome back beautiful cyan skies and sunshine day.
But then there was a thing; we had been facing with a storm for almost a week when those September hurricanes was teamed up. Since we didn’t have strictly plan traveling in The Maldives, so it was acceptable for us to take some time for a break.
Another thing is Manta Ray, Whale Shark and incredible thing like Blue Tear glowing on the beach season live in THAT monsoon season, so are you still convinced that visiting Maldives in monsoon season is also an incredible idea?
The island was impressed by its beauty and local life. Fishery and agriculture seem like the main things for a living. But tourism is also growing up. There isn’t anything water sport around, only going for a diving or snorkeling. There are many guest houses with a few resorts; The guest houses are blended with local houses and the resort side is pretty isolate and gorgeously peaceful. There are also many groceries. Local were friendly and treating us like friends. Walking around the island and you will find people here smiling a lot.
But it really sad to see a coral graveyard
After a few minutes I jumped in that turquoise water in a turtle garden reef house nearby Dharavandhoo, trying to find beautiful coral with colorful fish and hopefully lovely turtles, but I found the entire coral around the area were dead. Adil found us a lovely turtle, but my heart couldn’t erase how I was expected and sadly wonder how did that happened since I knew this area is a Biosphere Reserve, and honestly, at that moment with a basic logic, I thought everything is supposed to be well preserved and very beautiful.
“Many islands are facing with the same problem, starting from lack of knowledge in the former generation, concentrate amount of coral rocks were taken from the reef to use in construction, then the stream has changed, the sand is moving from head of the island to tail and repeat back from tail to head. It killed down the entire coral and hard to revived back.” Said uncle Hameed, a former Maldivian Sailor and the owner of Hibaru lodge.
Hameed also told that nowadays, People realized that preserving, recovering and taking care of environment are needed. Locals are taking a share in the expense to collect and sort the trash and clean the island daily.”
As we’ve seen, Dharavandhoo was clean and healthy! Some of other islands have also done well job and some still need more attention. Things keep changing, hope all change is change for the better.
Snorkeling with Manta Rays at Hanifaru Bay. But that’s really awesome!
Hanifaru Bay is best known for its concentration of the oracular, graceful, curious and intimately manta rays. When the right time comes; after high tide, rich plankton in the bay, there could be over a hundred of Manta Rays and several Whale Sharks feeding frenzy for 2 to 4 hours in the bay.
Nowadays we can do snorkeling only at Hanifaru Bay, diving is not permitted since 2011 to conserve and protect this amazing wonder. Permitted is needed to get before heading to the site and there is also a limit to a maximum of 5 boats, 80 snorkelers and 45 minutes at any given time.
It was almost 5 pm and mostly cloudy when Adil revealed a good news that Mantas appeared at Hanifaru Bay. It meant it’s time! Manta Rays don’t usually come to the bay everyday. We had been waiting for almost a week since we came to Dharavandhoo. Like I’ve mentioned we traveled to Dharavandhoo after those hurricanes and the weather was still slightly mad. Mantas love a good weather as much as we human love it.
The boat that supposed to be our Aladdin Carpet had left to the bay since afternoon, as time usually flies and never waits, so we took a small speedboat to get to the bay before a (look like it’s coming) storm.
When we arrived at the bay, there were already a few boats with about 10 swimmers in the dim turquoise water. It was a clear sign of rain was coming in a short swim so we better move fast. We quickly prepared life jacket and jumped in. The tide was high with strong waves, and plankton rich waters. It was only about 10 Manta Rays came to feed in the bay that day, no any Whale Shark, but holy Mantas! They were flying, teasing and moving so close to us. It was too awesome and exited! I was trying to avoid touching them but looked like they didn’t mind and try to get as close as they can to this flock of aliens. I could never imagine how I would handle the excitement if hundreds of them coming.
Getting back to Dharavandhoo with a storm but everyone was happy, so nothing to worry!
Domestic flight Male – Dharavandhoo: $80 USD one way /person provided by Hibaru Lodge. There are 5 times a day by Maldivian airlines and 4 times a day by FlyMe.
Combined speedboat Male – Eydhafushi – Dharavandhoo: 650 Rufiyaa/person ($45 USD) boat is leaving at 11 am daily, bought ticket from an agency we met around MMA jetty in Male (Near President jetty).
- Male – Dharavandhoo: Saturday, Monday, Thursday at 7 am And the cost is $70 USD one way /person.
- Dharavandhoo-Male: Saturday, Monday, Thursday at 2 pm.
Contact directly to the hotel to customize the excursion: Snorkeling, Diving, Dolphin Watching, Fishing Trip, Hanifaru bay. Etc.
Hanifaru Bay Fee: $20 USD in addition to the snorkeling excursion price.