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Swimming with Reef Sharks in the Maldives

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Visiting the Maldives had always on the bucket list, but it came to be in a very unconventional way. Having planned ahead, we were anticipating booking a quiet beach retreat in Antigua. Unfortunately, just before we booked, hurricane Irma and Jose hit the Caribbean. The island was spared major damage, but the resort had to undergo reconstruction.

Over-Water Bungalow at Hurawalhi Maldives
Over-Water Bungalow at Hurawalhi Maldives

That was the first time we seriously considered visiting the Maldives. A short six months later, we were there. It took approximately thirty hours, four flights and one small boat to arrive at Hurawalhi Maldives, but it was worth every second.

The Hurawalhi Resort, is situated on a small island Atoll and during our stay, we resided in an over-water bungalow that had direct ocean access. As a result, not only did we snorkel the house reef multiple times a day, we were always near water. Each morning, we breakfasted facing the crystal clear waters and often observed schools of dolphins swimming by and juvenile sharks approaching the shallow shore.

We did see larger (but still juvenile) Reef Sharks and Lemon Sharks close to our over-water bungalow, but they quickly swam away when we entered the waters.

Before we arrived, we did our research and pre-booked a snorkeling excursion with the on-site Marine Biologist, with the hopes of finding Manta Rays. We did find them, (I saw one from the surface) but they are shy and we were unable to snorkel with them that day. We did, however, snorkel in some of the most beautiful reefs, with hundreds of fish, a couple of Sting Rays and a family of Black Tipped Reef Sharks.

The small tour group cruised to multiple snorkel locations, one of which was near a large drop off into what we called, The Deep Blue. From the darkness of that water emerged huge schools of fish, seemingly out of nowhere. Beneath us, a family of three Black Tipped Reef Sharks weaved from side to side, staying close to the reefs but always within the vicinity of the snorkelers.

Black Tipped Reef Shark, Maldives
Black Tipped Reef Shark, Maldives

The resident Marine Biologist, and our guide, was particularly fascinated with sharks and free dove down to capture close-up photos of all of them, adding them to her collective research on sharks in the area. In addition to working with the Manta Trust, she was writing a thesis on sharks and attempting to identify the unique species that live in the atoll. The sharks took little notice of her presence, nor did they appear to care that she (or the rest of us for that matter) were observing them.

Our Marine Biologist capturing a photo of a Black Tipped Reef Shark, Maldives
Our Marine Biologist capturing a photo of a Black Tipped Reef Shark, Maldives

We did not observe them feeding or swarming, but occasionally they slammed into the coral, creating a small sandy cloud on the reef. Though they lingered with the group of snorkelers for over fifteen minutes, just as quickly as they appeared, they were gone.

The sharks we encountered in the Maldives did not incite fear. Perhaps it was the calm waters, the shallow reefs that allowed us to get up close and personal with the marine life or just the overwhelming beauty of the island, but we never seemed to be satisfied. No matter how many times we entered the ocean and surrounding reefs, we wanted to learn and observe more from the spectacularly fascinating underwater world.

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