Wildlife in the Maldives

You may know Maldives as a dream-like location of crystal clear waters and magnificent views, but it is far more than its beauty, also home to diverse ocean wildlife.Maldives always surprises tourists by the number of rare species of wildlife animals it has. Learn more abou the wildlife in the maldives here.


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About the Maldives

The Maldives is a nation of islands in the Indian Ocean, that spans across the equator, making it one of the world’s most geographically dispersed sovereign states. In particular it is made up of around 1,190 individual islands. The Maldives has one of the most delicate environments anywhere on the planet. Coral reefs are the foundation of the islands. They offer protection to the tiny islands as its natural defense system and so it has to be conserved.

Ready to read on further? Find your favorite wildlife species below:

Sharks

Turtles

Stingrays

Dolphins

Coral Reefs

Flying Foxes

Bird life

Summary

Location & Climate

Maldives, in full Republic of Maldives, also called Maldive Islands, independent island country in the north-central Indian Ocean.

wildlife in the maldives

The Maldives has a year-round hot tropical climate. The Maldives has two distinct and dominating seasons: a dry season (November to April), punctuated with northeast winter monsoons, and a wet season (May to October) associated with southwest monsoons and strong winds.

Culture & History

wildlife in the maldives
Shopping street with typically colorful house facades in Maafushi a local island in the Maldives.

Historically, the Maldives was an important crossroad in the Indian Ocean, hence Maldivian culture is a melting pot of various influences gathered from visitors who set foot there over the centuries. Maldivians have assimilated these influences over the years and created their own cultural identity like no other.  The Maldives culture is heavily shaped by Indian, Sri Lankan, Malaysia, Arab, Persian, Indonesian and even African influences. Maldivians are incredibly warm, welcoming and friendly people who will go above and beyond to make your holiday truly unforgettable.

Nature & Wildlife

wildlife in the maldives

The islands that make up Maldives are characterised by beautiful blue oceans and amazing white sandy beaches. There are over 2,000 species of fish found in the waters surrounding the islands. There are mantra rays, stingrays and eagle rays as well as many kinds of anemones and jellyfish.

Natural Attractions

We have collected some of the best attractions to encounter wildlife in the maldives.

Panoramic view of Maldives islands from sea plane

Hammerhead Point

Also known as Rasdhoo Madivaru, Hammerhead Point is a demanding dive on an outer reef where hammerhead sharks, mantas and other large pelagics are frequent visitors. Outside this reef the depth drops rapidly to over 200m and the water is exceptionally clear. Hammerhead dives usually start before dawn, descending by around 6am to have the best chance of sightings.

Lankan Manta Point

Lankan Manta Point is a seasonal dive site on the southeastern side of North Male Atoll and in the final months of the south-west monsoon season, which runs from May to November, Lankan Manta Point truly comes alive. The dive site takes its name from the nearby island Lankanfinolhu (which translates to Paradise) and the manta cleaning stations that are located here. Regular sightings include white tip reef sharks, eagle rays, hump head wrasse, barracuda and hawksbill turtles.

What are cleaning stations?

Manta Ray Cleaning Stations are locations where fish, sharks, and mantas gather to get a regular hygiene check by parasitic copepods and a variety of small cleaner wrasse. Mantas spend some hours of the day here to get their gills, teeth, and skin cleaned. How amazing is this?

Green Sea Turtle at an underwater cleaning station where fish feed on the algae growing on the turtle’s shell

Wildlife in the Maldives

The Maldives wildlife includes an array fruit bats, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, whales, dolphins, reef sharks, turtles, reef and marine fish, manta rays, eagle rays, skinks, geckos and many more.

Due to the small size of the island nation there are very few land-based mammals and reptiles (and no domestic dogs). There is only one species of flying fox and one shrew species that are endemic to the islands and there is only one gecko species as well as some snakes. Most of the mammals and reptiles found in Maldives are in the water. Whales and dolphins are common, so too are sea turtles like the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle and the leatherback turtle. There are also various sea snakes and even saltwater crocodiles. Much like the mammals and reptiles, the most common birds in Maldives are pelagic or ocean birds. There are over 2,000 species of fish found in the waters surrounding the islands. There are mantra rays, stingrays and eagle rays as well as many kinds of anemones and jellyfish. Octopus, squid and clams are common, so too are giant clams. 

Sharks

Sharks love the Maldives archipelago for its ideal waters and abundance of food. You will find different types of reef sharks in Maldives that are quite beautiful but not at all harmful to human Tourists often swim with them during scuba diving in the Maldives.

Shark season is a small window between January and March – this is the Maldives‘ dry season when the seas are at their calmest – although some species such as whale sharks occupy the waters all year round.

wildlife in the maldives
Surprised divers with whale sharks.
  • Leopard SharkLeopard Shark

f you join a night snorkel/ dive, you might spot a Leopard shark (also known as a Zebra shark). One of the most stunning in appearance, but rarely sighted. They belong to a species of Carpet shark and can be found moving around the seabed, close to the coral reefs.

  • Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

 Divers do have a good chance of spotting scalloped hammerheads. They are medium-sized sharks with the front edge of their head being slightly scalloped and rounded. They are true carnivores and even feed on other sharks, but are very sfae to encounter from a respectful distance.

  • Whale Shark.

The best place to swim with whale sharks in the Maldives is the South Ari Atoll. They frequent the channel to the south of the atoll and can be spotted year-round. The best islands for whale shark tours are Dhigurah, Dhangethi and Maamigili. These incredible sharks can be found in abundance here, specifically in the waters off the South Ari Atoll.

Wildlife in Maldives: Reef sharks

Off the reefs you may find hammerheads in Maldivian waters too, as well as graceful, spotted leopard sharks and sinister-looking – though totally harmless – blacktip reef sharks.

wildlife in the maldives
  • Blacktip Reef Shark

Blacktip reef sharks are some of the commonest shark species in the archipelago. They are medium-sized growing up to about 1.6 metres and they have black tips on most of their fins. These sharks live in shallow waters and feed on small fish and marine animals among the reefs.

  • Grey Reef Shark

Grey reef sharks that spend time in shallow water eventually darken in color, due to tanning.

  • White Tip Reef Shark

The Whitetip Reef Shark is demersal on the continental shelves and around oceanic islands and reefs at depths of 0–330 m. Whitetip reef sharks are rarely aggressive towards humans, though they may investigate swimmers closely. 

Conservation concerns

In 2010, a shark sanctuary was implemented in the Maldives when the declining status of shark fisheries and concerns over decreased shark sightings from divers encouraged the government to announce a total ban on shark fisheries in its waters.

You can support and volunteer at the Maldives Whaleshark research program.

Turtles

Sea turtle swims under water on the background of coral reefs. Maldives Indian Ocean coral reef.

You will find different categories of turtles, endemic to the wildlife in the Maldives, including Green turtles, leatherback turtle, hawksbill turtle, and many more. Almost half of all the identified green sea turtles in the Maldives live in Lhaviyani Atoll, and nearly all of them can be found around Kuredu. The Maldives is home to five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles, two of which are regularly seen, namely the critically endangered hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas).0

Stingrays

wildlife in the maldives

Not only stingrays, but eagle rays and further species can be seen frequently around the Maldives islands. These creatures are best to be observed from a reasonable distance. Manta rays in the Maldives are present from November to April on the western side of the atolls and from May to October on the eastern side of the atolls.

Dolphins

The best part of Maldives is its crystal clear waters which help you easily spot a dolphin or any other marine being. So it’s easy to spot a dolphin and they are extremely friendly.

A school of Dolphins swimming infront of a boat wildlife in the maldives

Maldives is famous for different varieties of dolphins, including Fraser’s dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, Spinner dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, spotted dolphins, and many more. Muli Channel in the Meemu Atoll is rarely known and talked about. But, it is definitely one of the best dolphin spots in the Maldives. There are only two resorts in Meemu Atoll, Medhufushi Island Resort and Hakuraa Hura.

Coral Reef

coral reef

If you visit Maldives, you will be mesmerized by the sheer number of different reefs available there. You will be able to witness more than 2000 coral reefs in there. The atolls of the Maldives form the central part of a tremendous underwater mountain range stretching for over 2,000 km from the Laccadive Islands, in the north, to the Chagos Islands, in the south. There is an amazing diversity of sealife in the Maldives archipelago, with corals and over 2,000 species of fish, ranging from colorful reef fish to the Caribbean reef shark, moray eels, and a wide variety of rays: manta ray, stingray, and eagle ray. The Maldivian waters are also home for the whale shark.

Coral reef Conservation status

When seawater exceeds the normal maximum seasonal temperature by as little as one degree Celsius for a prolonged duration, the coral reef begins to malfunction. The pristine marine ecosystems of Maldives are being threatened by natural factors such as climate change and related factors such as coral bleaching. They are also threatened by activity such as tourism and over-exploitation of resources without consideration given to biodiversity.

Flying Fox/ Fruit Bats

You will see many of these harmless bats hanging from the trees, all around our jungle areas. Fruit bats mostly eat fruit juice and flower nectar. They chew the fruit, then spit out the seeds, peel, and pulp.

Bat flying in the natural forest , Lyle's flying fox wildlife in the maldives

Fruit bats can be spotted all around the island.Their distinct squeaking sound will sure draw your attention. Fruit bats or flying foxes often seem to catch peoples eye here in the Maldives. They are often seen around dusk swooping down from the tree tops to sip water from the pool. It is one of the biggest bat species in the world with a wing span up to 1.5 meters.

Bird Life

Over 167 species of bird can be found endemic to the islands of the Maldives. The national bird is the White-breasted waterhen/ Kanbili.

Gray heron bird on the beach at Bandos island in Maldives

The most commonly seen sea birds are herons, cranes and seagulls. There are more than 12 species of herons, the most common being the grey heron.

Operators

Jerry’s Dive Club, Rasdhoo. Offering customizable scuba training experiences with endemic Maldivian wildlife.

Dive into the finest scuba diving experience at Rasdhoo, Maldives! Our diving experts have tremendous experience assisting people in experiencing life under the sea. Rasdhoo Diving is not only a magical experience but an entry ticket to a whole new world. You may as well learn from the best in the Maldives.

Summary

The Maldives is far more than just white, idyllic beaches and clear waters… It is home to countless marine life, bold south eastern culture and cuisine, hospitality and endless opportunities for tourism, wildlife encounter and discoveries.

For similar reading, take a look at wildlife in Thailand and the top 10 wildlife encounters. Which of these animals do you want to visit the most?

sharks
Blacktip sharks