The Maldives offers some of the best diving in the world and there is now a new atoll to pull on the fins and explore. Surrounding the soon-to-open Iru Fushi Beach & Spa Resort on the pristine Noonu Atoll are thirty dive sites with an abundance of marine life ranging from magnificent manta rays and rare humpback turtles to regal reef sharks and a rich variety of colourful corals. What’s more, divers at Iru Fushi can also visit Snow White and Christmas Tree – not quite what visitors would expect from the Maldives!
Iru Fushi, with its unspoilt landscape and virgin waters, offers fabulous diving for both beginners and the more experienced. Diving here is relatively easy compared to other atolls because of the wide channels, shallow depths and gentle currents. The sites range from 10 minutes to an hour’s journey by the diving boat, called a dhoni. It’s also easy to pick up a few memorable souvenirs as most of the sites are ideal for videographers and photographers thanks to the shallow reefs.
The house reef is located near the diving school and gently slopes down 18 metres to a sandy bottom. Covered with sponges and corals and teeming with neon coloured reef fish, it provides the perfect setting for beginners to experience a breathtaking first dive and a free trial dive in the lagoon is offered to all guests.
Nearby, the aptly named Snow White site offers a kaleidoscope of colourful and beautiful reefs with red berry sponges and green, blue and light brown finger corals – all framed by a snow white sandy bottom where hermit crabs and sea stars can be discovered. At rush hour, passing traffic includes large Jack fish, turtles, eagle rays, tuna, barracuda and schooling red snappers.
In keeping with the pantomime theme, Christmas Tree is located north-west of the island and so-called because, from a distance, the profile of the reef looks like a Christmas tree. As one of the most precious thilas in the Noonu Atoll, it’s home to an astounding array of soft and hard corals with deep and shallow overhangs where nurse, guitar and leopard sharks rest and green and hawksbill turtles feed. Furthermore, clouds of golden and jewel fairy basslets create a glowing effect at the top of the thila which makes Christmas Tree a photographer’s dream.
Another vision is Koen’s Dream, a heavenly thila where large barracuda hang motionless in the current and where majestic manta rays, small white tip and grey reef sharks are also common. Manta rays, on many a diver’s wish list, can actually be found at almost all dive sites and everyone can view grey reef sharks at an easily accessible location. The rarer humpback turtle is also frequently spotted among the large green and hawksbill turtles.
The PADI Gold Palm Sun International Diving School at Iru Fushi, which is conveniently located within the lagoon, has a broad spectrum of diving packages and excellent facilities, allowing all visitors to explore the deep delights of the Noonu Atoll. Other facilities and packages include Discover Scuba Diving, Open Water license, Assistant Instructor and a variety of specialities including Nitrox, digital underwater photography, videography, underwater scooter and Rebreather, giving the beginner and the experienced diver the opportunity to enrich their knowledge and work on their diving skills.
Seven nights at Iru Fushi Beach & Spa Resort in January starts from £1,485 per person on a half-board basis with Thomson. The price includes flights from Manchester Airport, seaplane transfers and accommodation. To book visit www.thomson.co.uk or call 0871 231 3234