5 unmissable things to do in the Maldives

This is part three of my four-part series about travelling to the Maldives in partnership with Visit Maldives and Air Seychelles.

Snorkel with Manta Rays in the Maldives

Ari Atoll – one of the largest atolls in The Maldives, measuring 89km by 3km – is one of the best sites to swim, snorkel or dive with Manta Rays as they feed on plankton.

Though these gentle giants of the ocean follow a seasonal migratory pattern, you can find them here year round. They are found on the western side of the atoll between November and April (during the northeast monsoon) and on the eastern side for the remainder of the year. During so-called cyclone feeding (when the southwest monsoon takes place between June and early October), you may see well over a hundred manta rays swirling in the plankton-rich waters of Hanifaru Bay on Baa Atoll.

Scuba dive with whale sharks in the Maldives

South Ari Atoll is home to the largest fish in the ocean, where whale sharks swirl around the islands of Dhigurah, Dhangethi and Maamigili year round. You’re more likely to see them swimming on the western side of the archipelago between May and December, before they swim to the eastern side until April. Because it’s such a whale shark hotspot, The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme is based here to encourage research-based and community-driven conservation initiatives.

Blow your mind with bioluminescence

Bioluminescence is a spectacular phenomenon that occurs where bioluminescent marine organisms (ostracod crustaceans – not to be mistaken for phytoplankton) radiate a vibrant green-blue light when they are disturbed. This ‘Sea of Stars’ phenomenon looks like a marine magic show that lights up the beach like a starry night. Bioluminescence occurs year round but there are more of these bioluminescent organisms in the water between June and December. It’s best seen on Vaadhoo Island on Raa Atoll, which is only 8km or a 15-minute speedboat from the capital city of Male.

Gourmet champagne picnics on a private sandbank

You can have your very own private island in the Maldives – even if only for a few hours – when you choose to do a sandbank excursion. As the tides ebb and flow, so various sandbanks emerge from the azure shallows. These are transformed into your personal retreat with flowy Bedouin tents and cushions set up in the powdery soft white beaches. Whether you choose to nap, read, swim, sunbathe or snorkel between your gourmet champagne picnics is totally up to you.

Stargazing in paradise

Stargazing in the Maldives will rival many any other astrotourism destinations because you are able to see both northern and the southern hemisphere constellations. To top that off, there’s also very little light pollution due to the archipelago’s remoteness and the vast distances between islands and atolls. Though it’s best to go star gazing between November and April, when the skies are at their clearest. Some islands even have their very own astronomers and observatories.

Getting to The Maldives

The award-winning Air Seychelles has weekly nine-hour (business and economy class) flights from South Africa to the Maldives, via Seychelles. This makes it quicker than transiting in Dubai, Doha or India, as is the case with many other airlines. Flights to Maldives depart from Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport on Friday evenings, briefly stopover in the Seychelles, and arrive at Malé International Airport the following morning. Flights from the Maldives to South Africa leave on Friday mornings and arrive in Johannesburg later that day. Air Seychelles also flies to Mauritius, India (Mumbai) and Israel (Tel Aviv).

Maldives Covid-19 travelling requirements

Fully vaccinated travellers don’t need a Covid-19 PCR test or booster vaccines, as long as they’ve been vaccinated at least 14 days before travelling. Tourists holidaying on inhabited islands no longer need a negative Covid-19 PCR test when departing. It’s best to look at the Maldives Ministry of Tourism’s website for COVID-19 updates and protocols.

Read my previous posts about everything you need to know to plan your trip to the Maldives and Stargazing in the Maldives.


This is a sponsored post on behalf of Air Seychelles and Visit Maldives. All opinions are my own, but you already know that! ;)

Iga Motylska

Iga Motylska is a Johannesburg-based freelance writer, photojournalist, sub-editor and blogger. She is published in numerous local and international publications, including: Forbes Africa, Forbes Woman Africa, Forbes Life Africa, CNBC Africa, Ventures Africa, Marie Claire, Sawubona, AA Traveller, Fastjet inflight magazine and Seoul Magazine among numerous others. Her editorial interests range from documenting the entrepreneurial spirit to women's and human rights issues, environmental affairs and of course travel writing.


  1. I would love to visit the Maldives! It has been on my list for a while :) I’m saving these incredible experiences for the future.

  2. What an incredible experience. I immediately want to go pack my bags and go swimming with sting rays.

  3. What an amazing destination. Your under water pics are awesome too. Not sure if I could do the swimming with the whale sharks…

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