The northern Maldives is remote and not nearly as developed as the central group of atolls. Here you can find very few liveaboards operating during the year, and completely empty dive sites throughout the region, which is nearly impossible in the more busy central and southern atolls closer to Male. The diving in the south is done on mainly reef slopes and steep coral covered pinnacles (called 'thilas'), along with some quality wreck dives. There is less drift and channel diving in the south as are done in other areas of the Maldives. Overall, the south offers a good combination of macro life, coral reef cover, and big fish action which can impress even the most seasoned of divers.
The northern atolls of the Maldives include Haa Alifu aka North Thiladhunmathee, Haa Dhaalu aka South Thiladhunmathee, and Shaviyani Atoll. Because of the distance from Male to these atolls (some 770 km), guests have to take short 30 minute long, very scenic flights to Hanimaadhoo in the Haa Alifu Atoll directly from Male airport.
Northern route trips in the Maldives focus mostly on diving around Haa Dhaalu Atoll, which is the most northern atoll in the Maldives. Here you can find some of the best dive sites in the entire country, with prolific fish life and good reef cover. Diving on pinnacles always includes some current on the sites, and because of this current, the fish swarm to these rocks for protection and feeding. Many reef sharks, eagle rays, napoleon wrasse, tunas, barracudas and trevally are seen regularly at these dive sites.
Further north at places like Baarah Thila on Haa Alif, divers can encounter huge numbers of mantas which come in from the blue to be cleaned by small wrasses and butterfly fish at specialized cleaning stations. During the north east monsoon from November to April, there is the possibility to see whale sharks on the western side of the atolls, where there is sometimes a large concentration of plankton blown off of the atolls. The mantas and whale sharks feed on this plankton rich water in the shallows.