In recognition of its incredible marine diversity and spectacular sea life, it was 10 years ago this month that Baa Atoll was named the Maldives’ first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
To mark this significant anniversary, Vakkaru Maldives is inviting guests to explore the underwater wonders surrounding the resort on the first-ever Baa Atoll Big Five safari and to enjoy a range of special events and privileges as part of its 50 Shades of Blue celebration.
Inspired by Africa’s land-based big five safaris, Vakkaru Maldives’ Baa Atoll Big Five safari highlights five of the most beloved creatures that can be observed in Baa Atoll, ones that sea lovers from the whole world over regularly request to see while visiting Vakkaru.
The Baa Atoll Big Five
Manta Rays: Ethereal creatures with wingspans of up to 9 metres, manta rays are regularly seen at Hanifaru Bay near Vakkaru from May to November each year.
Whale Sharks: Stretching up to 12 metres in length and also found in Baa Atoll from May to November, whale sharks are the world’s largest fish and a momentous sight to behold.
Turtles: Hawksbills and green turtles are found in Baa Atoll year-round and sightings are almost guaranteed in Turtle Reef, about 15 minutes from Vakkaru by boat.
Dolphins: Spinner and bottlenose dolphins are also regularly spotted on Vakkaru’s dolphin-watching cruises, with their playful antics and acrobatic jumps making them a particular favourite with children.
Sharks: Nurse, whitetip reef and blacktip reef sharks can often be seen at Baa Atoll’s dive sites.
Vakkaru Maldives dive-centre team can organise special Baa Atoll Big Five trips that will maximise guests’ chances of seeing these creatures for themselves, which can be customised to include a range of special experiences.
Private cruises to Hanifaru Bay might conclude with champagne and canapes to celebrate a successful manta ray or whale shark sighting; dolphin-watching cruises can be supplemented with visits to castaway sandbanks for private picnic or sundowner suppers; visits to Turtle Reef can be complemented with conservation work that protects the Indian Ocean’s threatened species.
Anyone who manages to spot the Big Five can consider themselves privileged to have witnessed some of the Indian Ocean’s most awe-inspiring residents, and Vakkaru’s F&B team can enthusiastically arrange a special celebratory Big Five Feast for any parties who witness all
five on one trip, but Baa Atoll provides so much more to admire besides and every visit promises to reveal its own underwater wonders.
The Maldives’ coral reefs support approximately 250 species of coral and 1,200 reef- and reef-associated fish species. Vakkaru Maldives’ expert marine biologist knows the region intimately and has also created a guide to Baa Atoll’s Top Five Dive Sites in celebration of its 10th anniversary as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. They are:
- Maavaru Thila where a thila (underwater mountain) emerges at 12 metres deep. These waters provide a vibrant home to jackfish, napoleons, stingrays and much more. Coated in soft corals, the walls of Maavaru Caves are a marvel in and of themselves, but this atmospheric setting is also populated by grey reef sharks, eagle rays, turtles and dolphins.
- Mutafushi Thila is packed with anemones, kaleidoscopic schools of fish and curious octopus.
- At Miyaru Thila the underground mountain emerges at 8 metres deep, where sharks and batfish might also be seen.
- Barracuda Thila is expansive and beautiful, with its waters enlivened by darting schools of yellow snapper, tuna and, of course, barracuda.
The team at Vakkaru’s dive centre will happily arrange visits to each of these remarkable settings, while anyone who visits the resort over the remainder of 2021 will be able to enjoy much more besides.
Throughout the rest of the year, the ongoing 50 Shades of Blue programme will celebrate Baa Atoll’s 10th anniversary as the Maldives’ first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve by hosting a panoply of special events.
A particular focal point will come in mid-August when a week-long 50 Shades of Blue celebration will see the resort host residencies by ocean experts; musical performances and a showstopper pool party; a series of special dining experiences; creative kids’ activities; thrilling ocean expeditions; and a range of revitalising wellness offerings.