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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Joanna James Joanna James
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Marine life in Maldives - a whole new underwater world

The Maldives is known for its colourful and exotic sea life. The abundance of marine life provides excellent snorkelling opportunities, and here are a few sea creatures you may see among the reefs.


The reefs

Under the crystal clear waters that surround the atolls and lagoons are massive coral reefs which can be divided into two species. The hard coral, which grows in vast colonies and leaves a skeleton of limestone upon which grows more coral. This hard coral can be seen in various shapes from flat to rounded and the branched out staghorn. The softer corals, don't have limestone skeletons and live as solitary growths on the sea floor. The hard to view living part of the soft coral is best seen at night when the tiny retracted polyp reaches out to catch prey.



Fish in all sizes and colours swim in the clear waters around the islands. Smaller fish include tropical fish like butterfly fish, the Moorish Idol, angelfish, the Napoleon Wrasse, and the parrotfish. And then there are the much larger fish like the long-nose hawkfish which can been seen swimming among the black coral. The fearsome barracuda is a common sight, while schools of groupers, tuna and snapper are among the regular inhabitants.


Reef Dwellers

There are several species that inhabit the reef along with the fish. Moray eels can be seen lying in ambush for smaller fish to eat, while the many tentacles of an octopus dart out of its lair to snatch food. There are over 200 varieties of crustaceans living along the ocean bed including crabs, lobsters, and shrimps.



These graceful sea creatures are found in large groups around the islands and are not shy of swimming close to you. Several resorts such as the Adaaran Club Rannalhi, for example, a Maldives island resort, organise excursions to see the majestic creatures glide through the waters. These are several variants of rays living around Maldives including eagle rays, which live in the open seas, the much larger manta rays, and the sting rays, known for the barbed tails.



Sharks are common in these parts, with the small sharks staying near the reefs, whilst the larger sharks are found in the open seas. If you manage to spot a gray reef shark you can be sure you won't see any other type in the area because these sharks are known for chasing away competitors for food. The nocturnal zebra shark sleeps on the ocean floor during the day and is most active at night as it darts to and fro to catch prey. The most looked for in these waters is the whale shark - this gentle giant is the largest fish in the world, however it is actually classed as a mammal.


Sea turtles

There are five species of sea turtles found in the Maldives. The green turtle, loggerhead, hawksbill and olive ridley all come ashore to lay their eggs between June to November. However, the leatherback turtles can only been seen out in the open sea as they lay their eggs elsewhere.