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Diving with Tiger Sharks in the Maldives: A Complete Guide

A truly unforgettable experience, diving with the tiger sharks of Fuvahmulah is something you can’t overlook when traveling to the Maldives.

While the Maldives is often known for its luxury resorts, there is an entirely different world that lies below the surface of the crystal blue waters.

From beginner divers to thalassophiles alike, the likes of the Fuvahmulah Atoll will provide an unforgettable experience to anyone looking for a life-changing adventure. 

A drone view of the Fuvahmulah coast
Fuvahmulah Atoll from above

What is the Fuvahmulah Atoll?

The Maldives are an archipelago of islands found in the Indian Ocean, renowned for their dreamy white sand beaches and impeccable diving experiences. 

One of the best dive spots, Fuvahmulah, is an island in the South Atoll of the Maldives; it is the closest Maldivian island to the equator, hosting a diverse array of coral and marine life.

Fuvahmulah has a lush tropical environment and picturesque beaches, but the real magic happens beneath the ocean’s surface.

The marine life in Fuvahmulah is nothing short of abundant; with a countless array of sharks including thresher, hammerhead, oceanic white tip, silvertip, grey reef, and whitetip reef sharks all making notable appearances throughout the year. This is also a great spot for whale sharks and oceanic manta ray spotting, depending on the dive season.

Tiger Zoo

A true bucket list experience, this is where all of the magic happens. The Tiger Zoo is a renowned dive spot with guaranteed tiger shark sightings year-round. 

There are a few dive operators that offer freediving or scuba diving experiences around this iconic dive location; yet it’s still well regulated and safe to visit. 

A close up shot of a Tiger Shark in the Maldives
Experience these beautiful sharks up close and personal!

Fuvahmulah Dive School began researching and conducting daily operations at the Tiger Zoo in 2017, and has since become one of the leading dive operators in the area and has been able to share this experience with divers around the world. 

Diving with tiger sharks may seem intimidating at first, but you’re sure to fall in love with the experience after indulging in the Tiger Zoo.

Is the Maldives shark diving ethical?

Every company running tours in this area respects the sharks and has extensive knowledge on handling them. 

This shark population was found naturally, as fishermen used to dump their fish waste back into the ocean at the end of the day, many began to notice that tiger sharks would return each day to feed on it. 

The sharks were not coerced nor forced into residing in this atoll, and all of the dive shops do an exceptional job of explaining the history of the sharks and why they choose to hang out there.

A tiger shark swimming out in the blue
Check out those stripes!

Local dive shops also conduct daily shark research that monitors the numbers and conditions of the resident sharks for further research and protection of the resident sharks.

Choosing Your Dive Experience

Two primary dive shops operate around the Tiger Zoo: Fuvahmulah Dive School and Pelagic Divers Fuvahmulah

Both shops offer very similar dive packages and amenities; the largest difference between them is the greater options for scuba diving courses at Fuvahmulah Dive School vs the freediving packages at Pelagic Divers Fuvahmulah. 

Scuba Dive Packages

While you can choose to book individual dives with either shop, the best dive experience will come from the dive packages! 

Both shops offer dive packages with slight variations, but most will include:

  • Round-trip airline tickets to and from Malé (Maldivian Capital + International Airport Hub) or speedboat transfer to and from Gan (a popular nearby island)
  • Transfer from Fuvahmulah Airport to accommodation (with return transfer)
  • Accommodations and Meals
  • Daily round-trip transfers between accommodation and dive shop
  • Daily dives (number of dives is dependent on package chosen)

Though these two shops are the primary operators of this area, it can get confusing quickly. While choosing a basic or luxury package is up to you and how much you wish to see, the first thing you should decide is how long to spend in the Maldives.

While this is dependent on your budget and timeframe, the best way to get the full Fuvahmulah dive experience is by staying 7-10 nights. 

These packages are great because the entire schedule is organized and requires less planning on the traveler’s part. All you have to do is show up in Malé ready to get your adventure started!

Liveaboards

Liveaboards are a unique diving experience in which divers can immerse themselves in the underwater world more easily by never leaving the boat! 

Accommodation, dining, and recreational activities are all included on these trips of typically 5-7 nights of sailing across various dive spots.

Several liveaboard options advertise both snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities that work with the local dive team at Fuvahmulah to offer Tiger Zoo dives on their liveaboards.

You can search for these on Liveaboards.com for the many packages- typically ranging from 5 to 15 nights on average throughout several islands in the Maldives. 

Most of these liveaboards will encompass several Maldivian islands and only visit the Tiger Zoo for a day or two. While you’re guaranteed tiger shark sightings, the pelagic density of Fuvahmulah is so great that I’d recommend a dive package to spend more time on just Fuvahmulah. 

Dive Courses

Diving in the infamous Tiger Zoo is something that you truly can’t miss when exploring the Fuvahmulah Atoll, but it does require an Open Water Scuba Diving Certification. 

Not certified? No problem! Both Fuvahmulah Dive School and Pelagic Divers Fuvahmulah offer several courses that can bring you from complete beginner to pro with a few theory sessions and dives. 

This is arguably one of the best places to get your scuba diving certification in the world because of the pristine diving conditions and volume of marine life.

An underwater shot of Laynie scuba diving

I took my Advanced Open Water Course with Fuvahmulah Diving School and it was the best scuba diving training experience that I’ve had to date!

Fuvahmulah Tiger Shark Divers Specialty Course: The only place in the world to receive it, you can get certified in Tiger Diving by completing 2 shark dives, theory, and an exam (only available with Pelagic Divers Fuvahmulah).

Fuvahmulah Dive School also offers several specialty courses including Shark Conservation Diver, Underwater Photographer/Videographer, and Dive Master courses.

No matter how you choose to visit the Tiger Zoo, both Pelagic Divers Fuvahmulah and Fuvahmulah Dive School are well-equipped with experienced and knowledgeable divers who are there to guide you every step of the way. 

Both shops do an exceptional job of keeping enough guides in the water so that divers always feel safe and comfortable with the sharks, along with educating guests beforehand on the history and upkeep of the shark population at this dive site.

Preparing for Your Trip

The best time for diving in the Maldives is from December to May; these are the driest and warmest months of the year when the sky is clear and the seas are calm, allowing for higher visibility and generally better dive conditions.

While the dive conditions may be better during the aforementioned time, August to November is also a great time to visit as there’s a higher chance of hammerhead and whale shark sightings- along with the year-round tiger sharks. 

If you’re just headed to Fuvamulah for the tiger sharks, they will be there year-round. However, both dive shops offer several more intriguing dive spots with countless other pelagic creatures to see.

A shark handler redirecting a tiger shark
A shark handler redirecting a tiger shark

Luckily, if you decide to choose one of the dive package options, a lot of the worries of travel planning are managed by the dive school.

Most visitors will arrive at the Velana International Airport on the capital island of Malé; the dive packages will include a round-trip flight to Fuvahmulah, but it should be known that there are only two flights per day between the islands, at 3:05 PM and 11:05 PM. 

Bringing your own mask, snorkel, and fins will allow you to have a more personalized dive experience, but all dive shops will have equipment available for rental as well.

Other Things to Know about the Maldives Travel

  1. Dressing modestly: The island of Fuvahmulah, like all of those in the Maldives, adheres to traditional Muslim customs. Men can wear T-shirts and knee-length shorts, but women should be covered from elbows to knees at all times in public. The dive shops allow you to wear whatever swimwear you’d like, but it’s respectful to remain completely covered until you get on the boat.
  2. Ramadan: With a 100% Muslim population, local Maldivians also participate in fasting each year during the time of Ramadan. Many restaurants may be closed during the day at this time, and it’s respectful to restrain from eating, drinking, or smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. The exact dates of Ramadan fluctuate each year (they’ll fall on March 10 – April 8 in 2024), so it’s important to be aware of this holiday when planning your trip to the Maldives.
  3. Alcohol: There is no alcohol served on the island of Fuvahmulah (again, this is for religious reasons), so if you’re looking to celebrate after a day of diving, you may have to save it for the trip back! Conditions on alcohol consumption vary between accommodations on the island, but it’s best to prepare to not find any alcohol during your time in Fuvahmulah.

Keep in mind that many of these religious policies apply solely for public interactions outside of your hotel and the dive boat. 

A drone shot over the full island of Fuvahmulah
The island may be tiny, but Fuvahmulah has tons to offer

With its great population of massive and majestic tiger sharks, coupled with the abundance of diverse marine life to be found here, it is no wonder why Fuvahmulah has the best scuba diving in the Maldives. 

The Tiger Zoo is an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience that allows divers the opportunity to experience Maldives shark diving like never before in an exhilarating way that supports the shark community that lives there. 

So if you’re looking for a sustainable shark diving experience that you will never forget, head to Fuvahmulah and explore the captivating marine life that resides there.

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