Cheap Diving in the Maldives – Fuvahmulah
Having relocated to a tropical Maldivian island in 2018, I couldn’t wait to experience diving in the Maldives. I had heard many amazing stories about the best dive sites in the Maldives and I was so excited to explore local islands, instead of diving on a resort island where I live.
My first diving trip was in April of this year to the Southern island of Fuvahmulah (pronounced a bit like Formula with stress on the ‘la’!). I was diving with marine biologists, dive instructors and divemasters, some of whom have over 800+ dives to their name and we all agreed it was the best diving we had ever done! Fuvahmulah is nicknamed the ‘Galapagos of the Maldives” and it is not without reason. In three days of diving, we dived with oceanic manta rays, whale sharks, tiger sharks and thresher sharks, staying in budget accommodation and paying a cheap price for diving the Maldives. It is no surprise that Fuvahmulah and neighbouring island Addu are being considered by the government as future biosphere reserves. Read more about that here.
Fuvahmulah – best island in the Maldives for cheap diving?
Fuvahmulah is an island and its own atoll, located in the South of the Maldives. The population is approximately 15,000 people and it is known as the only atoll to have one island. It is a local island, not a resort island and therefore Maldivian laws and customs are more applicable here than in resort islands. As on all local islands, alcohol is prohibited and you cannot wear bikinis on the local beaches. However, I did feel Fuvahmulah was one of the more relaxed places I have visited and I felt comfortable wearing whatever I wanted and wearing bikinis on the dive boat was not an issue. Fuvahmulah is not a well known tourist destination in the Maldives, although it is becoming increasingly popular for its dive sites and marine life.
Marine Life in the Maldives, particularly in Fuvahmulah
Fuvahmulah is host to a huge range of marine life. In season, you can scuba dive with oceanic manta rays, thresher sharks, tiger sharks and whale sharks. It is also possible to see hammerhead sharks as well as other sharks like oceanic white tips and silver tips at different times of the year and depending how lucky you are! I feel we saw more megafauna in 3 days of diving than most people see in a lifetime!
How to travel to Fuvahmulah from Male, Maldives
Fuvahmulah island is located in the deep South of the Maldives, so you can fly to Fuvahmulah from Male, the capital. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes. At the time of writing, two airlines with a few flights a day fly from Male to Fuvahmulah. While the diving can be cheap, the flights aren’t always so compare different airlines to find a better rate, try Maldivian airline and Fly Me. Manta Air are a new airline with more connections likely to come soon.
Where to stay in Fuvahmulah
Because it is not a well developed tourist destination, Fuvahmulah budget accommodation is limited to a few options. We stayed in a fairly cheap guesthouse Calyx Grand (click here to view) that I would definitely recommend. It was lovely – clean and spacious and the staff were helpful. Much better than I had been expecting considering it was one of the cheaper hotel options! We had a work permit discount for hotels in the Maldives but for a tourist rate please check with the individual hotels. We asked our Maldives dive centre for a morning pick up as it was a short truck ride to the harbour. I would also suggest staying near the harbour as a good option so that you can be close to the dive centres and dive boats.
What dive school to choose in Fuvahmulah
There is a well known dive centre called Fuvahmulah Dive School (FDS) who we considering going with as we had many good recommendations. However, we chose Fuvahmulah Tiger Dive as we booked through a friend and got very cheap dives because of this. One thing I recommend is asking if the dive school gets big group bookings. Some of the diving can be with big groups of Chinese or Indian divers and you may be expected to join dives with one of these large groups. We travelled as a group of 6 divers and therefore requested our own dive guide which was perfect for us.
Cost of Diving in Fuvahmulah
Fuvahmulah is one of the cheapest places for budget diving in the Maldives – which makes no sense because the diving is so incredible! Expect to pay upwards from $40 per dive depending on how many dives you are planning to do and if you have your own equipment. As usual with diving packages, the more dives you book, the cheaper the cost of diving. It is also possible to book Maldives diving package deals, with flights, accommodation and diving all organised for you. However, it is cheaper to book flights, accommodation and diving separately. It is also cheap to dive and travel to Fuvahmulah if you have a Maldives work permit as there are big discounts available.
Best Dive Site in the Maldives
We spent most of our 8 dives on the same plateau, a dive site called Farikede, about 15 minutes from the harbour by dive boat. In terms of the marine life, I think it must be one of the top dive sites in the Maldives! We had approximately 30 oceanic manta ray sightings, 26 of which the amazing Manta Trust team managed to ID for us and we added 22 new mantas to their database. Read here for more about Manta Trust and the work they do. We also saw 3 whale sharks, one of whom was new to the Maldives Whaleshark Research Programme and we got to give her a name. On our last day we scuba dived with the biggest whale shark I have ever seen (approx 8-10m) and 2 thresher sharks. The dive site depth ranges down to about 40m and we saw oceanic manta rays near the surface from the moment we jumped from the boat, all the way down to 40m. The marine life here seemed extremely curious and many of these sightings I would deem encounters, as the mantas and whale sharks seemed just as interested in us as we were in them. Many of the mantas and 1 curious whale shark circled us several times, looking and trying to work out who we were. We wonder if we may be the first humans they had ever seen?
Maldives Diving Boat
We scuba dived from a slow traditional boat, Maldivians call a ‘Dhoni’. We were very happy with this as I don’t enjoy diving from speedboats. The boat returned to the harbour after every dive so you can have breaks on land in between dives. Personally we preferred staying on the boat as long as possible and requested to do so after we had ordered snacks from the local cafe near the harbour. Not paying for a liveaboard or an expensive speedboat also kept the diving cheap. Click here for my recommendations of what to take on a dive boat.
The best time to dive the Maldives – when to dive in Fuvahmulah
Diving is possible year round in Fuvahmulah. However, most people agree that diving between November and April is the best season for diving because of the chances of oceanic manta rays, whale sharks, thresher sharks and hammerheads. In rainy season, from June onwards the sea gets rough but the chance of hammerheads increases. The tiger shark dive is available year round because they are fed. More on that to come.
Restaurants and Places to eat in Fuvahmulah
We loved Real Breez restaurant because of the large balcony and good food. Everyone enjoyed the local food and also the Indian cuisine. The cafe by the harbour we also ate at and it serves good local food. We all got obsessed with Kottu Roshi – I definitely recommend trying this Maldivian twist on the traditional Sri Lankan dish. If you’re vegetarian make sure you say so and make it very clear that being vegetarian includes no meat and no fish as vegetarians are still a relatively new concept to the fish-heavy Maldivian diet.
Maldives Local Island Travel Tip: Be prepared to wait a LONG time for food. This is not a resort island and we often had to wait over an hour (occasionally 2 hours!) for our food to appear. I recommend adapting to the slower pace of island life and also don’t wait until you are hungry to find a restaurant!
Things to Do in Fuvahmulah
- Visit Thondee – a large pebble beach on the island which includes a nearby restaurant
- Visit the lakes – Fuvahmulah is unusual because it has freshwater lakes. You can visit and kayak or pedalo one of the lakes as part of Fuvahmulah Nature Park.
- Go to Addu – take the boat to Addu – somewhere I would like to go in the future as we didn’t have time.
- Hot Spring with Mud Baths – near one of the lakes
Maldives Liveaboard Diving
It is possible to dive on a liveaboard around Fuvahmulah. As I haven’t dived on a liveaboard I cannot comment on the experience. I will say that we loved being on the island and as the dive sites are all located near the shoreline, it was not necessary to pay for a luxury liveaboard when we could stay in a cheap guesthouse and do budget dives.
Night Diving in the Maldives
Most dive centres do not offer night diving for safety reasons. The currents can be strong and I’d rather not meet a tiger shark at night time!
For what to pack for a Maldives trip read my Maldives Packing List guide here
Have you visited Fuvahmulah yet? How was your experience? Have you found any other islands for cheap diving in the Maldives? I welcome any recommendations for future affordable dives here in the Maldives!
For what to take on a scuba diving holiday or dive boat trip read my blog post here
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