Snorkelling perfection is a sharply sloping, coral-packed reef a short swim across a turquoise lagoon from the beach. Ideally also, it stays close all the way around the island and has a couple of cuts through for a choice of return. Even in the Maldives this is rare (there are a few like this in my top 7 snorkelling resorts).
With over a hundred resorts, you are probably going to have to settle for something different. But don’t be overly concerned. Unless you are a repeat visitor to the Maldives with perfect snorkelling as a priority, almost wherever you end up you will be blown away by what you can see. Most of the life on any reef is in the top five metres of water, so snorkelling, especially if you learn to free dive, gives you the spectacular on a plate.
As well as the following advice on snorkelling in the Maldives, read the Diving section for more information about the reef, the fish and coral, and staying safe under water.
What you need to know
Anyone can snorkel, without training, and with no need to go out in pairs. If the house reef is accessible, you can head out there at any time. All you need is a snorkel, a mask and flippers.
Some guests arrive with their own equipment, although it’s all available from the dive school. On some resorts it’s all free of charge, on others up to $10 a day, in which case there are usually weekly deals to lower the cost a bit.
The biggest mistake in snorkelling? Not wearing a t-shirt and burning your back.
For absolute beginners there is enough life to delight in most lagoons, until they graduate to the drop-off. However, a number of lagoons are so sandy and featureless that there is almost nothing to see, so it is worth checking this out beforehand.
If the reef drop-off is too far away to swim to, it can be accessed off the jetty in most cases. This is convenient but does restrict where you can snorkel. In other resorts, even the jetty doesn’t reach the drop-off, so you will need to go on the resort-organised snorkelling trips. Many resorts will charge you for these trips. That is fine if there is open, perfectly good snorkelling on the island, but they should be free if the resort does not have an accessible reef.
Snorkelling from the dive base
The management on resorts tend not to put much effort into the snorkel trips, so everyone goes to the same place every day. A little bit of pressure should be applied to the management to add some variety.Where dive bases on the resorts organise the snorkel trips the quality is always much better. The dive base staff know about variety, where the good reefs are, and are more committed to pleasing the customer. They are also able to teach you to ‘equalise’ so that you can free-dive, to bring the wonderful world of the coral reef even closer.