Nurse Sharks in the Maldives

For the past four years, the turquoise waters of the South Male Atoll have become an idyllic second home for me and my wife, Yulia. Working as the Base Leader at the Anantara Resort Dive Center Aquafanatics, I get to share the underwater wonders of the Maldives with our guests every day. Meanwhile, Yulia finds her zen working in the resort’s Medi Spa, creating a haven of relaxation for visitors seeking rejuvenation. 

One of the most awe-inspiring encounters I get to facilitate is snorkeling with nurse sharks. These gentle giants, with their docile nature and fascinating habits, never fail to captivate visitors. Now, let me share my knowledge and help you plan your own unforgettable encounter with these magnificent creatures in the Maldives.

The Maldives offers a unique opportunity to observe nurse sharks in their natural habitat at three distinct locations: South Male Atoll, a diver’s paradise; and two cleaning stations within the Vaavu Atoll, one offering a daytime experience and the other, a truly unforgettable night dive.

Nurse Shark Photos: Respect & Distance

Nurse shark pics in the Maldives? Amazing! But safety first. Forget the risky “surrounded by sharks” poses – they might look cool online, but a defensive Nurse Shark bite (not fatal, but no fun) is a risk.

Focus on capturing these gentle giants and their beauty from a safe distance. Wide-angle shots of their movements or close-ups of their barbels work great. Play with light for dramatic effects. Respect their space and capture amazing photos responsibly!

South Male: Nurse Sharks & Rays

South Male Atoll offers a unique nurse shark encounter. Instead of vibrant coral reefs, imagine a predominantly sandy haven (5-10m deep) teeming with life. Responsible operators use bait boxes to attract nurse sharks (up to 8ft!) with scent, not altering their natural behavior. Witness these gentle giants glide alongside graceful Pink Whiprays and schools of Unicorn surgeon fish. Be prepared for choppy water depending on the wind, but it’s a small price for this unforgettable underwater ballet!

Underwater magic awaits! Swim over a  sandy haven (5-10m deep) in South Male Atoll and witness a mesmerizing underwater ballet. Nurse sharks, graceful Pink Whiprays, and schools of Trevallies dance across the sandy stage. Vibrant fish add splashes of color, while a bustling cleaning crew maintains the underwater ecosystem’s balance.

The surface might be choppy depending on the wind, but a little wave action is a small price for this unforgettable experience. Snorkel alongside gentle giants in the heart of the South Male Atoll – a memory that will last a lifetime!

Vaavu Atoll: Dhiggiri Nurse Sharks

Dive into a mesmerizing underwater scene near Dhiggiri Island in Vaavu Atoll. Here, a vibrant reef rests on a sandy haven, just 5-10 meters deep. The main attraction? Nurse sharks! These gentle giants arrive in impressive numbers, sometimes forming groups of 40-60 individuals. Witness their graceful movements as they cruise the sandy bottom.

While responsible operators use bait boxes to attract the sharks with scent, minimizing disruption to their natural behavior, it’s important to acknowledge that these sharks may have grown accustomed to this feeding practice over time.

But the show doesn’t stop there! Vibrant fish like the Unicorn Surgeonfish shimmer amidst the scene, and you might even spot a majestic turtle feeding on the reef. Be prepared for choppy water depending on the wind, but it’s a small price to pay for this unforgettable underwater adventure.

Reaching this snorkeling site near Dhiggiri Island in Vaavu Atoll may involve crossing open water, depending on your accommodation’s location. If you’re prone to seasickness, be aware that rough conditions can make the journey uncomfortable. Remember, you’ll be on the boat until returning to your starting point. To ensure a smooth journey, always take motion sickness medication 30 minutes before departure.

Vaavu Atoll: Night Dive at Alimatha

Alimatha in the Maldives throws down the gauntlet with a night dive unlike any other. Brace yourself for strong currents, but the reward is beyond compare: hundreds of nurse sharks come alive under the cloak of darkness.

This dive is strictly for experienced divers – the currents can be a challenge. But descend into the inky blackness, and the world explodes with life. Hundreds of nurse sharks glide effortlessly, their barbels twitching in the darkness. But that’s not all! Rays flit amongst them, adding a touch of elegance, while the occasional Grey Reef Shark or Silvertip Shark might make a guest appearance, their forms illuminated by your dive torch.

Alimatha’s night dive is pure Maldivian magic. The currents may test your skills, but the unforgettable encounter with hundreds of nurse sharks and the vibrant underwater ballet unfolding around you will leave you breathless. Just remember, experience is key – so ensure you’re ready to navigate the currents and maximize this incredible experience!

Nurse Shark Habits and Biology

Now, let’s delve into the fascinating world of nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum). These bottom-dwelling sharks, found in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, are easily recognizable by their distinctive barbels. These barbels act like sensory organs, helping them locate their primary prey: crustaceans like crabs and lobsters. Nurse sharks lack the sharp teeth of their predatory cousins and instead use their blunt teeth to crush their prey’s hard shells.

Unlike their more active relatives, nurse sharks are known for their laid-back lifestyle. They spend most of their day resting on the seafloor in caves, under ledges, or even nestled together in large groups of up to 40 individuals. This behavior has earned them the nickname “nurse sharks,” as it was once thought they were gathering for nursing purposes. We now know this social behavior might be a way to conserve energy or for warmth.

Nighttime Prowlers

Despite their daytime lounging, nurse sharks transform into active hunters at night. This coincides with increased prey movement – crustaceans like crabs, lobsters, and shrimp. Under darkness, they utilize their incredible sense of smell and electroreception, allowing them to detect faint electrical fields emitted by hidden prey.

Nurse sharks boast a remarkable sensory arsenal. Their barbels, whisker-like structures, are packed with sensory cells, detecting pressure changes as they brush against potential prey. This tactile information helps them locate meals. Additionally, their top-positioned nostrils aid in sniffing out prey, and their small eyes adapt well to low light for nighttime navigation.

The Power of Suction

Unlike predatory sharks with sharp teeth, nurse sharks have blunt, plate-like teeth for crushing. After locating prey with their senses, they create a powerful suction by expanding their mouths and gill chambers. This vacuum effect draws the crustacean prey directly into their mouths, where blunt teeth make quick work of hard shells.

One intriguing aspect of nurse shark behavior is their tendency to form large aggregations during the day. These groups, numbering up to 40, rest on the seafloor in close proximity. This behavior, earning them the nickname “nurse sharks,” was once thought to be related to nursing purposes. However, research suggests these gatherings might serve other functions.

One theory suggests they conserve energy by huddling together, reducing their surface area exposed to cooler water for a stable body temperature. Another possibility is that these gatherings provide warmth and security, particularly for younger sharks.

Snorkeling from Anantara Resort

Anantara Resort, situated on Dhigu Island in the South Male Atoll, provides easy access to all the sites in the region. Trips are made all around South Male Atoll, Vaavu Atoll, and whaleshark snorkeling to Ari Atoll. For guests seeking a luxurious snorkeling experience with professional staff this is the best option near the Airport of Male. Guests staying at the resort can embark on guided trips to the sites, led by experienced guides who ensure a safe and memorable excursion. Anantara Resorts Aquafantics offers top-notch facilities and equipment, ensuring that guests can explore the regions underwater wonders with ease and comfort.

Snorkeling from COMO Cocoa

COMO Cocoa Island Resort, also located in the South Male Atoll, offers another luxurious gateway to the sites of South Male and beyond. Guests can indulge in world-class experiences with professionals. COMO Cocoa Island Resort provides a tranquil retreat for divers and snorkelers, allowing them to explore the regions vibrant marine ecosystem while enjoying the resort’s luxurious amenities and personalized services.

Snorkeling from Maafushi Island

For travelers seeking a more budget-friendly option, diving from Maafushi Local Island provides an excellent opportunity to explore all the spots in South Male Atoll, Vaavu Atoll, and Ari Atoll. Located in central South Male Atoll, Maafushi Island offers a range of dive centers and tour operators that arrange day trips to all the famous spots. The word of advice, carful which operator you choose, some lack proper supervision and boats are overfilled. Maafushi Island is great budget option to discover the rich marine biodiversity of the Maldives while experiencing the local culture of the Maldives.

Snorkeling from Kinan Retreat

Escape to Fulidhoo Island in the Vaavu Atoll and immerse yourself in Maldivian charm at Kinan Retreat. This island beach Hotel offers a taste of local life with comfortable accommodations, authentic hospitality, and just steps from the beach. But the real magic lies beneath the waves. Embark on a snorkeling adventure and find yourself face-to-face with graceful nurse sharks, their spotted bodies gliding through vibrant coral reefs. Kinan Retreat: where island serenity meets unforgettable underwater encounters.

Diving & Snorkeling by Liveaboard

For adventurous divers looking to explore multiple dive sites in the Maldives, diving & snorkleing by Liveaboard boat offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Liveaboard operators offer dive cruises that visit Alimatha Night Dive  along with other renowned dive sites across the Maldives. Divers can enjoy the convenience of diving directly from the Liveaboard vessel while exploring the diverse underwater landscapes of the region. Read our blog best DIVE Liveabaord in Maldives 2024 for more information on which boat to choose to visit the Alimatha Night Dive and Nurse Shak snorkeling spots.

If you want to read more about Maldivess read our blog different blogs on the subject. Read Magic of Bioluminescent Waters in the Maldives, best way to Travel Maldives, and best DIVE liveaboards in the Maldives 2024.