The Maldives has become one of the world's premier scuba diving destinations, because of the abundance of amazing white sand beaches, coral reefs, clear warm waters, many scuba diving sites and rich marine life.
Most holiday resorts in the Maldives have a scuba diving facility and there are a number of liveaboard operators offering scuba diving cruise holidays that take guests to many dive sites all over the Maldives. Many scuba divers are keen to dive in the Maldives because of the presence of whale sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, reef sharks, hammerhead sharks and moray eels, as well as many smaller fish and coral species.
In the 2004 tsunami, the Maldives were severely damaged and much of the coral was bleached. Thankfully, the coral reefs have made an excellent recovery and have almost returned to their pre-tsunami condition.
The Maldives has been growing in popularity as a scuba diving destination ever since the 1970s when the number of resorts began to increase and people began discovering the Maldives as a holiday destination. Nowadays, the Maldives is firmly on the map as one of the world's finest scuba diving destinations, together with Australia, Belize, Egypt, Indonesia and Thailand, to name a few.
The territory of the Maldives comprises mainly water, with only 1% of the country being land-based. The land is spread over 1,192 islets, each of which forms part of an atoll. In total, there are 26 atolls in the Maldives. The following atolls are home to some of the most popular dive sites in the Maldives.
Tourist arrivals to the Maldives have been growing steadily for the last ten years, with the exception of 2005 (tsunami year), when the numbers dropped. Around 700 thousand tourists visit the Maldives each year (2008), of which some 15% go to the Maldives specifically to scuba dive. Other people go to the Maldives for another reason, for example, their honeymoon, but decide to scuba dive while they are there.