There are 70 species of birds listed as protected in the Maldives. Their capture, trade and keeping in captivity is prohibited under the Environment Protection and Preservation Act. Many islands and sandbanks act as resting places for protected migratory birds, while others are used for nesting. 29 islands are bird resting islands. Of these, at least three are of significance. Olugiri in Baa Atoll is a regular roosting island for the Lesser Frigate (Fregata ariel) and a breeding island for tropical birds. Hithadhoo in Gaafu Alifu Atoll is an important roosting site for shearwaters and boobies, while Finolhu in Alifa Dhaalu Atoll is a sandbank for egg-laying terns.

Maldives Map
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Dhidhdhoo - Whale sharks of South Ari Atoll

The southern tip of South Ari Atoll is a 12km stretch of reef that hosts whale sharks year round - unlike most other Whale Sharks hotspots around the world, which are seasonal and usually coincide with feeding opportunities such as a coral or fish spawning events. It was declared a Marine Protected Area in 2009 and attracts a large and growing number of visitors. The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) is a long term monitoring program that began in 2006 and has since had over 1000 separate Whale Shark encounters. Using a technique called photo-identification, which uses images of the shark's unique spot patterns as "fingerprints", over 170 different individual sharks have been identified. The number of "known" versus "new" sharks has enabled researchers to estimate how many whale sharks are in these waters at any one time - surprisingly few with less than 200 estimated to be in South Ari waters at any one time.

Read more: Dhidhdhoo - Whale sharks of South Ari Atoll

En Madi

"En madi" means "manta ray" in the Dhivehi language (Maldivian).


Manta Rays of the Maldives

The Maldives archipelago contains an estimated 10,000 individual manta rays - the world's largest known population of manta rays. This population primarily consists of the smaller Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi), but the larger Oceanic Manta Ray (Manta birostris) is occasionally seen, which accounts for less than 1% of mantas reported. Pre-2009, all mantas were designated under the species Manta birostris, but research into the Maldives population by The Manta Ecology Project, which commenced in 2001, has contributed to the current scientific opinion that there are at least two species of Manta.

Read more: En Madi