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The Maldives are often praised for their beautiful beaches, but this stunning destination is home to one of the top snorkeling locations in the world. As a UNESCO biosphere reserve and a designated Marine Protected Area, Hanifaru Bay in the Maldives provides an alluring experience for snorkelers. With pristine beaches and sparkling blue waters, the Maldives is home to a dazzling array of marine life, with perhaps the most magnificent being the gigantic Manta Rays. Adventurous travelers and ocean lovers should make the long trek (it's an over 18-hour flight) to this one-of-a-kind location, and see it in all its ethereal beauty for themselves.

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The Maldives: An Exotic Archipelago

Long considered a luxury destination for the wealthy, the Maldives is an archipelagic country located in Southern Asia, situated in the Indian Ocean. With a population of 559,496, this collection of islands is filled with resorts and marine life aplenty. For decades, the Maldives was considered a vacation playground for the rich or royals, but in recent years it has begun marketing itself to a wider audience, with Americans making up the overwhelming amount of travelers. Regardless of budget constraints, it is certainly possible to experience the beauty and wonder of this corner of the world, and travelers should do all they can to make it a top priority.

Adventurers should make their way to Hanifaru Bay, a gem amidst the sparkling elegance of the Maldives, where they can snorkel alongside some of the most beautiful marine life in the world.

Snorkeling With The Manta Rays

With crystal blue waters and a plethora of marine life to see up close, Hanifaru Bay is a must for snorkeling. It's best for visitors to head there during one of the two manta ray seasons in the Maldives--either from November to April on the western side of the atolls or May through October on the eastern side of the atolls. Snorkelers can swim alongside schools of these majestic creatures, the only rays in the world with a wingspan of up to 29 feet. Manta Rays are gentle giants, and though you can snorkel with them, they are an endangered species, so it is important to give them space when observing them. Manta rays feed on zooplankton, and the monsoon seasons in the Maldives affect their swimming patterns. With their graceful, ballet-like movements, manta rays are fascinating creatures to encounter.

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Swimming With Whale Sharks

In addition to the otherworldly manta rays, you can swim and snorkel next to whale sharks, which are year-round residents of the Maldives, making this yet another reason why this area is one of the most spectacular places in the world to experience marine life up close. Whale sharks are solitary creatures and slow swimmers with speeds of only 3mph, which allows curious divers to discover these majestic creatures up close. Growing in length of up to 40 feet or more, these are the world's largest fish. Technically not whales at all but rather sharks, these gentle creatures can live to be up to 150 years old.

In The Maldives, Marine Life Abounds

There are plenty of highlights to snorkeling in Hanifaru Bay. While scuba diving is not allowed anymore in this area of the Maldives, one does not need a tank to enjoy the experience. Some of the many varieties of fish that snorkelers can expect to encounter are anemone fish sneaking in and out of their anemones, Whitetip Reef Sharks, Hawksbill turtles, stunningly colorful giant clams, and, among much other marine life, octopus. Be sure to bring an underwater camera because it is common to experience once-in-a-lifetime moments here, and travelers will want to revisit the otherworldly beauty as often as they can.

Snorkeling In A Slice Of Heaven

With nearly 2,500 reefs, the Maldives is the ultimate destination for people who love underwater adventures. With calm, crystal clear waters, marine life can be studied and appreciated in full by experienced and novice snorkelers alike. As water temperatures here average in the 80s, swimmers can relax and feel as if they are diving into an aquarium. Snorkelers are advised to wear reef-safe sunscreen, bring their camera, and enjoy the marine life from a respectful distance, as many of these beautiful creatures are on the endangered species list. For travelers lucky enough to snorkel in Hanifaru Bay, they will discover the ethereal beauty of nature up close.