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Though scattered across thousands of square miles of ocean, dive sites in the Maldives fall into three general categories, based on structure: Individual islands within an atoll are generally surrounded by a reef that creates a sheltered lagoon. Typically sand bottomed and less than 60 feet deep, lagoons offer relaxed diving on coral formations. Channels that cut between islands move tidal flow to and from lagoons. It is these current-washed passages that provide some of the most thrilling dives, as this is where big animals gather. The region's third distinct feature are the numerous coral-covered pinnacles that rise from the depths, serving as both habitats for reef creatures and gathering points for blue-water fish. Water temperatures range from the high 70s to mid 80s, with some southern sites dropping into the mid 70s from December to March.
Surface markers are required by most all dive operators. Though drift dives are quite common, some sites may require divers to hold a position in a current. Tethering devices known as reef hooks are often used, but divers should also make the effort to streamline their dive gear and to weight properly, as overweighting will require excessive BC inflation, resulting in the more current-catching surface area.
A surface marker buoy and reel that can be deployed from depth should be standard equipment for any drift dive. Reef hooks can often be rented, but it can be more cost-effective to buy and bring your own. Skin suits for lagoon dives, 3mm on drifts, and some may want a 5mm when diving in currents.
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