Addu Atoll – The Southern Splendour of Maldives

Addu, the Heart-shaped Atoll, lies in the southernmost tip of the Maldives and is home to some of the most diverse natural habitats in the country. With its large islands, unique geography, flourishing population and long history and culture, Addu stands out as a destination that seamlessly marries nature with development. Addu represents a community evolved to embrace the future with imagination and pride.

A total of 24 natural islands of various sizes lie on a heart shaped coral rim. The islands on the western side of the Atoll have been linked by a man-made causeway that links the islands of Hithadhoo, Maradhoo, Feydhoo and Gan, an extent of 14km. On the eastern side of the atoll, lie the islands of Hulhudhoo and Meedhoo and the tourist resorts Canareef and Shangri-la’s Villingilli Resort & Spa. At the Southern tip of the Atoll is Gan International Airport. Gan marks the most southern point in the Maldives as well as the most southern point in South Asia.

Since 2012 Addu Atoll does offer alternatives for the resorts and several guesthouses can be found on the local Islands, one of the first guesthouses “Aquaventure Manta Lodge” was opened in 2013 on Maradhoo Island and the first Scuba Divers arrived in April the same year.

Since then, the “deep south” of the Maldives has seen a steady growth in both guesthouses and local PADI dive centres to name a few:

And the two PADI resort dive centres:

History

There are no exact records of when the first settlers arrived in Addu Atoll, but several historians and researchers have concluded that people were living on these islands for more than 2000 years. It is believed the first settlers originated from Sri Lanka and India. The Maldives was previously a Buddhist nation until it embraced Islam 800 years ago. The people of Meedhoo island in Addu were amongst the first to convert to Islam in the Maldives.

Despite its isolation, Adduans have always been energetic, creative and self-reliant. The community has always thrived on fishing, farming, weaving, toddy tapping, but the most significant of all the community’s achievements was its trade vessels. Addu is well known for its able sea navigators and vessels. The Addu-built wooden sailing vessels would regularly travel to Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, and even as far as China for trade, carrying local produce such as coconuts and sweet savouries made from toddy. The traders would then return with goods like grains, fabrics, medicinal herbs, spices, perfumes, etc. There were also annual trips to Arabia for the pilgrimage in Mecca.

The biggest influence on Addu’s modern history has been the British bases, first established on Gan during WWII as part of the Indian Ocean defence. In 1956, when the British could no longer use Sri Lanka, they developed a Royal Air Force base on Addu as a strategic Cold War outpost. The base had around 600 personnel permanently stationed there, with up to 3000 during periods of peak activity. The British built a series of causeways connecting Feydhoo, Maradhoo and Hithadhoo islands and employed most of the population on or around the base.

Tensions between the southern atolls and the central government in Male’ peaked in the 1960s under the leadership of Abdulla Afif Didi, who was elected president of the ‘United Suvadive Republic, comprising Addu, Fuvahmulah and Huvadhoo. Afif declared independence from the Maldives, but an armed fleet sent south by Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir quashed the short-lived southern rebellion. In 1976 the British pulled out, leaving an airport, some large industrial buildings, barracks and a lot of unemployed people, trained and skilled, who spoke good English and had experience working for Westerners. When the tourism industry took off in the late 1970s, many of the men of Addu went to Male seeking work in resorts and tourist shops. They have never lost their head start in the tourism business to this date. Even today in any resort, visitors find a large number of key staff hailed from Addu. Gan is now a commercial island with Equator Village tourist resort, business offices, shops and the airstrip now being used as Gan International Airport.

Getting There

Addu is a 75 minutes flight south of Velana International Airport, Male’. The city has an international airport on Gan which caters to both domestic and international airlines and private jets.

Scuba Diving in Addu Atoll

One of the best reasons for scuba diving in Addu Atoll – Maldives is because you can find Manta rays all year round.

Turquoise lagoons that are full with life, colourful coral reefs that rival some of the best in the world, and a breath-taking parade of fish species make this the premier location for scuba diving in the Maldives.

Addu Atoll is home to an array of dive sites, all with their own unique features. From wreck dives to drift dives and reef dives, there are plenty of things to see and enjoy, no matter what level of experience you have gained thus far in your scuba diving career, including multiple species of sea turtles and rays to schools of small and large tropical fish and impressive sharks and coral reefs.

Highlights

Addu Manta Point – Reef mantas 12 months a year
British Loyalty Wreck – 140 meter long on a depth of 30 meters
Kuda Kandu – Gray reef sharks, Nurse sharks, Eagle Rays and with luck hammerheads or Silvertips
Maa Kandu – Gray reef sharks, Manta Rays, perfect hard corals
Kottey Corner – Sea fan Garden, with luck oceanic Mantas and whale shark
Meedhoo Corner – Whitetip reef sharks, Stingrays, Barracudas, with luck oceanic Mantas