The Banana reef, one of the oldest reefs discovered in the Maldives, is adorned with breath-stealing caves, enormously majestic cliffs, magnanimously beautiful coral growths and dramatically powerful overhangs. The best part of Banana Reef is the elegant yet fiercely predatory sharks, stunningly beautiful barracudas and spectacularly remarkable groupers just swimming around you! Now you may think that there are too many adjectives in the last few sentences, but they are still not enough to convey the unadulterated and untouched natural beauty of the mesmerising Banana Reef!
Diving at Banana Reef
The Banana Reef is most popularly a dive site, and one of the very best of its kind in the Maldives. The reason why the Banana Reef is more popular than most other diving sites in the region is because of the favourable diving conditions that the reef is blessed with. The calm and friendly currents coupled with great visibility prove to work really well for first-time divers, learners and novices to get their feet wet with. It is also quite a convenient option for expert and experienced divers because it allows them to go deeper and explore the vivid world beneath the surface of the waters better.
The range of the dive is quite wide - starts at 5 meters underwater and goes as deep as 30 meters underwater! Visibility remains immaculate in these clear waters up till 30 meters, and the water is quite accommodating too, ranging between a warm and comforting 24 degrees Celsius and 29 degrees Celsius. You can go scuba diving in these magical waters or even try snorkelling by the northern end of the reef.
The southern part of the reef is actually quite dense, trees and greenery flock the dive site from all around. The current in these waters is quite strong, and this affects visibility too, in shallow and deep waters both. So, if you're a novice, best avoid the south of the reef. Diving in from the east is the more attractive option for both - newbies and experts. The east dive side allows you to explore shallow caves along the southeast wall and gives you the best access to the soft corals of the reef. Drift diving from the east point is recommended for the experts because this will multiply your chances of spotting eagle rays, anemone city and even turtles! The northwest dive point is also a good option and will introduce you to one of the most stunning ergs you will have ever seen.
Flora and Fauna
As soon as you lower your head into this blue underworld, you will be greeted by prolific and vivaciously coloured coral beds. Find fan-shaped boulders and a plethora of anemones decorating the piled-up stones on the seabed. The colours are in mesmerising shades of purple, lilac, violet, flaming orange, deep maroon, indigo, sky blue and bright yellow! You will be enveloped by these vivid shades from all the sides - a truly overwhelming moment.
The coral growths are mainly soft corals, anemones and gorgonians and these invite a plethora of exotic and mind-numbingly beautiful fish. While the anemones themselves house thousands of tiny anemone fish, you will also find the emperor angelfish, the puffers and the unicorns. You can also anticipate seeing hunting lionfish, barracudas and groupers.
Say hello to the large schools of bannerfish that swim close by you in thousands or even more at a time! Bannerfish has beautiful vertical black and white striped patterns on their bodies along with long, dorsal fins. The mass of these fish together is so overpowering that you will feel the current of the water move as they do! Grouper fish, another beauty you will find here, can be found in the caves and deep corals and will be accompanied by wrasse and other different kinds of fusilier, which include the blue dash and its striped versions. Don't forget the black snapper fish, barracudas, giant squirrelfish, oriental sweetlips, soldierfish and grub fish and many other mesmerisingly beautiful yet strongly fierce fish that call this reef their home.
If you're lucky, you can spot the majestic eagle rays. Since we're talking about spotting rare and shy sea animals, let's talk about being lucky enough to spot the magnanimous and elegantly fierce, Whitetip sharks! Imagine, a 10-foot-long white tip shark swimming by you, in all its grace and beauty. You must know, white tip sharks fall under the Vulnerable category in many parts of the world and are Critically Endangered in the Northwest and Western Atlantic. So, being able to witness this beast in all its glory is actually a pretty big deal.
It is best to get here early in the morning, by 9:00 AM so that you are not bothered by the troublesome heat. The session is about 30 mins long- a 30-minute window to experience paradise. You should take about 3-4 hours to finish the whole activity, including travel times. The Banana Reef is accessible by speed boats which can be hired from the coast.
All in all, exploring the world of the Banana Reef in the Maldives is like exploring a new universe, an enthralling and deeply fascinating universe with unencumbered picturesque beauty.