Best snorkeling in the Maldives for underwater photography

Chaaya Reef Resort - Ellaidhoo - North Ari Atoll - The Maldives

Recommended as a friendly, unpretensious, value for money, holiday destination and for underwater photography

Ellaidhoo is on the East side of North Ari Atoll (west by south of the Maldivian capital, Male).   25 minutes by seaplane from Maldive's Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

The airport on Hulhule island is right next door to the capital, Male.

If your first visit to the Maldives, experience the seaplane and the views.   The atolls are stunning from the air - a must do.
Alternatively, 85 minutes by speedboat.   Actually, the speedboat gets to Chaaya reef in about the same length of time as the plane due to lack of check-in and plane-related time-wasting stuff.

Ellhaidoo is a medium-sized island by Maldivian standards - (350 x 250 metres), with 112 villas.   15 minutes and you can walk around it.

A more sociable place than many more expensive resorts.   Some Brits when we were there (2013).

Orange-fin emperor
There is restrained entertainment until 11PM, giving the chance to meet people.   Not rowdy - just relaxed and friendly.

Having something to do in the evening is nice.

Not a flash resort but a nice feel and comfortable.
'5 o'clock' bar (see map below), is less formal and with entertainment, than the one near the over-water bungalows.

Unfortunately the island is surrounded by protective walls, which is probably the new reality for the Maldives due to global warming.

The night snorkel is a 'MUST'.   Lasts an hour and goes from 7 o’clock position to 3 o’clock (see map at bottom of page)

Head out with guide, each with torches.   A little daunting at first but quickly becomes the best and most exciting snorkelling of the trip.

Giant Trevallies use your torch lights for hunting.   Sharks look menacing lurking over the drop off. 

Best part is smaller stuff, which could be missed without the guide.   Octopus, red-banded shrimp, lobsters and yellow eel plus lots of Lionfish.
The corals, 'normal' by day, by night totally transform, teaming with colour and variety.
Ewan at night at Ellhaidoo
At $25 per person, the best money spent at Ellaidhoo.

Tip - try to pick an evening when there aren’t too many people as it can get crowded.

It’s fairly fast paced.  The guide highlights what he finds with his torch.  You race to photograph it.   You get 'finned' by others doing the same.   So, essentially, the fewer people the better.

Don’t miss out on it if it’s booked up.   Ours was a group of 8 but still totally worth it.

Ellaihdoo is said by some to be one of the best house reefs in the Maldives and it doesn’t fail to live up to this in terms of fish and critters.

Map of Chaaya Reef spacerB = bar;   DC = dive centre;   FP = football pitch;   J = jetty;   P/R/B = pool, restaurant, bar:   R = restaurant;
(Based on a 9-day stay in March 2013, so conditions and currents could well change).
What wont change - step out of your room, enter the lagoon via steps.   It is the ultimate easy access.

Usually lagoon is pretty sparse of wildlife but more regularly than you’d expect you’ll meet a Giant Moray or Reef Shark making their way along the inside of the lagoon wall.
Outside the wall - the width of the reef ranges dramatically.

Wherever you are you’ll find a very steep 30m drop off beyond the reef.
Current - around island was rarely strong and it didn'’t limit the wildlife seen.

Dive centre says current arrives at either 3 o’clock position or 9 o’clock position.

This means the opposite 'end' is then the most sheltered from the current.

3 o'clock - it’s around here we found the best snorkelling.  Best corals on the reef here and most fish (although very few schools of fish).

From 3 o’clock anti-clockwise to 11 o’clock the reef gradually expands out and offers a lot of space.

8 o’clock position - the schools tended to be around this position, although this area lacks much decent coral.
Around half way between the wall and the edge of the reef the coral is pretty much non-existent but this is where we most often spotted a turtle.

7 o’clock position - visibility seemed to reduce here but as continued anti-clockwise it quickly became clearer again.

6 o’clock - at the pier the reef is very narrow so best to quickly scoot past in case a boat arrives, on your way back to 3 o'clock position.
At a reasonable finning pace the island can be circumsnorkelled in just over an hour.   Why a photographer would want to do that though I have no idea.

With what you’ll see and want to photograph on the east side of the island (12 - 3 – 6) you can easily spend much more time even in a small area.   The fish vary according to the current.

Link to Chaaya Reef Resort - Ellaidhoo.

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(captions below needn't be read as you will have seen them with the gallery pictures - repeated below so are visible to Google/ search engines)

captions to Ellaidhoo 'fish and critters' gallery pictures

captions to Ellaidhoo 'seascape' gallery pictures

captions to Ellaidhoo 'night snorkel' gallery pictures

captions to Chaaya reef resort gallery pictures