There are outstanding locations for snorkeling or diving. Some are even close to the shore and not a boat necessary. Share special places you know and describe what to expect.
The Maldives is an excellent year-round destination, especially for sightings of manta rays and whale sharks. However, there are a few exceptions. In general from November until April a higher number of manta rays can be spotted on the western side of the Maldive atolls. From May to October on the eastern side of the atolls, due to the high plankton concentration. Read on for more details regarding sightings at certain atolls.
Manta Rays – Year Round (Addu Atoll)
The Addu Atoll is the southernmost atoll in the Maldives. It's an exceptional scuba diving destination. Here, you can spot manta rays year round. You can also dive at the Maldives biggest wreck 'British Loyalty'. Besides manta rays, you will encounter eagle rays, sharks, turtles and generally big fish all year around.
Whale Sharks – Year Round (South Ari Atoll)
South Ari (also Alifu Dhaalu Atoll) is one of the best places for spotting whale sharks. The sightings are excellent year-round with a peak time from August to November. Also, encounters with big pelagic fish are guaranteed most of the time in South Ari Atoll. In terms of water conditions, the best time is from December to May, even better from January - April (see below: Diving)
Whale Sharks & Manta Rays – May/June to Oct/Nov (Baa Atoll – Hanifaru Bay)
Another outstanding place to spot whale sharks and up to 200 manta rays feeding is the Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll. The best time for sightings here is between May and October (some divers even recommend late July to early October): During these months the South West Monsoon causes massive build-up of plankton, drawing in hundreds of whale sharks and manta rays. Hanifaru is an uninhabited island, and the bay is smaller than a football field. In 2009 the area became a marine protected area where fishing and boating is restricted. There is a strict control for diving and snorkeling with a limit of 5 boats and 80 visitors which are allowed to spend a maximum of 45 minutes in the Hanifaru Bay.
The dry season starts in December and lasts until April influenced by the North East Monsoon. At the beginning and end of the dry season expect a little more rain. The driest months are February and March, but brief showers can occur. The humidity is lower with warmer temperatures around 30 degrees. The sea temperature is about 28 degrees.
The rainy season influenced by the southwest monsoon with the wettest months from May to September. Temperatures are around 26 degrees. In October it’s getting slightly better, and November is often more or less safe. Weather can change quickly in the wet season, but there can be heavy rain, storm and a rough sea for days. However, the Maldives weather is more unpredictable due to climate change. The wet season is the best time for surfing and impressive sunsets.
The best months for diving are in the dry season from December/January to April/May during the Northeast Monsoon: The sea is calm sea and the visibility is good. During the wet season, you could experience a rough sea, rain and less visibility due to the plankton. However, some divers visit in the wet season because: a) It's less busy and there is also more underwater life going on. b) Rain can be heavy sometimes but is often brief. On some days the visibility is as good as in dry season. c) In certain areas (see above: Hanifaru Bay) the best time to spot whale sharks and manta rays is during wet season. In the end, it's a matter of personal preference. Many would only go in the dry season, and others prefer the wet season with lower rates and less traffic. There are some interesting reports and opinions in this TripAdvisor topic: Maldives Diving - Low Season vs High Season
Peak Season (= dry season):
Mid-December to March and in August (school holiday) the prices are at their highest.
April except for Easter and the first half of December after low season. In December the rates also start to climb.
Low Season (= wet season):
May until July and September until November with lower prices and attractive offers. Several resorts are closed from May to September.
Tours are offered from October until May. Very best time for snorkeling around Surin islands from late January until the end of February due to a very calm sea at this time of the year. The sea can be rough, and sea sickness can be an issue.
Shoulder Season – less crowded:
October, November and April, May except Easter
October sometimes still too rainy and trips are canceled. May is hot but often still nice.
December until March. Prices are at the highest level. Surin is not offered daily and should be booked a few days in advance.
Similan Islands and Surin Islands are very popular for snorkeling. We got told that the reefs around Surin are more beautiful and Similan beaches are overcrowded. The trips are pricey therefore think twice where to go and when.
The Islands are a year-round destination. Except for Santa Barbara Island, where boats run only from April to November to San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and Santa Rosa. Boat trips to Anacapa and Santa Cruz Island are possible year-round, depending on the weather. Boat trips are not offered daily. Booking in advance is essential.
Most visitors come in summer during the June through August period. However, due to the limited transportation opportunities, it doesn’t get crowded.
The islands have a cool Mediterranean climate, but weather varies considerably from island to island. The winter is cool and wet summer is warm and often dry. Most rainfall from November to April with its peak in January and February and drier from May to October. Summer is the driest period. The climate is influenced a lot by the sea. Fog may appear, especially on the outer islands during the night but can occur at any time. The islands are often windy, and strong winds occur on the outer islands. Strong eastern winds from October to January. Sea temperature is around 50°F (10°C) in winter and around 65°F (18°C) at the end of summer.
Each season has its own character and different weather, natural history events, and outdoor activities. The best time to visit one of the islands depends on what you are looking for as well as the activities you’re planning:
Snorkeling: It's a snorkeling paradise and best at the end of summer until fall with a water temperature of about 65°F (18°C).
Watersports: Besides snorkeling, summer until fall is also the best time for sailing diving, kayaking, and swimming. Many consider early fall as the best time of year for diving or snorkeling as ocean temperatures go up to 70° (F) and visibility may reach 100 feet.
Whale Watching: January until March has the highest chance for gray whale sightings.
April to September is the season for blue and humpback whales due to the high plankton concentration. Year-round spottings: orcas, minke whales and different species of dolphins. Besides, it is common to spot seals, sea lions and water birds.
Birding: Birding is outstanding in the Channel Islands. Some endemic birds occur here like the Island Scrub Jay on Santa Cruz Island. Best time is the nesting season in spring. Shorebirds are best seen on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel.
Surfing: In the winter and spring the north shore is best, and in the summer and fall it’s the south shore. Best access to all surf spots by private boat due to the remote locations. Besides being one of the best times for surfing, in the winter also some of the best sunsets occur.
Wildflowers: Depending on the amount of rain from the end of winter until spring some continue to bloom during summer. Gumplant, buckwheat, poppies, and verbena can still be viewed in the summer.
Key Largo snorkeling is known to be very good all year round.
Snorkel and temperature conditions:
The summer offers the flattest and clearest water for snorkelers. But the summer is also known for its uncomfortably high heat and humidity. The months of November thru April are much more pleasant but there can be wind and waves which reduce visibility substantially. Also, there can be days where the surf is too high for snorkeling.
The snorkeling in Key West is great all year round, but there are seasonal variations.
Snorkel and temperature conditions:
While the water is reliably flat offering good clarity in the summer, the heat and humidity can be absolutely oppressive from May through September. And, it may be more comfortable outside from October through April, the surf tends to be higher and the water clarity drops significantly.
With convenient ferry boat from Ft Myers, it can be very crowded on the weekends, and of course, Key West has several huge festivals so you'll want to keep their calendar to either avoid them or partake!
Great diving destination at any time of the year with dry season in Cancun from from December to April. Weather is more predictable and sea is calm for snorkeling and diving. Less chance for rain.
Low season starts after Eastern and prices may drop. In summer more frequented by European tourists and prices increase. Hurricans and tropical storms can occur at the end of the rainy season September/October.