Inside the atoll, often directly in front of the channel (kandu) entrances are submerged shoals or pinnacle reefs. This is where things get a little more tricky; just as the Inuit of Canada supposedly have hundreds of words to describe snow- the Maldivians have many dedicated words to describe the different types of reef that occur in the atolls. ‘Atoll’ by the way comes from the Maldivian word ‘atholhu’.
‘Thila’ is a very common word in the northern atolls for underwater pinnacles which do not rise all the way to the surface. ‘Haa’ is another word used more in the south to describe pretty much the same thing but on a larger scale.
Our first description is directly inside Fushi Kandu and aptly named ‘Fushi Kandu Haa’. This is a shoal with a fairly rocky surface starting at about 15m/50ft. It is roughly circular and has overhangs and lips to the north and south where currents have slowly eroded the walls and branching corals have increased the surface area of the top. There is normally a ‘dominant’ side where the current meets the circular reef and splits- just like flowing water acts around your legs when standing in a stream.
In the deeper overhangs to the north and south, there are many sea whips and black coral bushes which may hide Long-nosed Hawkfish, juvenile trumpetfish, lionfish and if you’ve been good boys and girls all year, ornate ghost pipefish. The true bottom of the pinnacle walls is about 50m/160ft, and with the generally excellent visibility, it is very important to monitor your depth and calculate remaining gas and no-deco time.
The top of the reef at first glance looks plain with little feature but on closer inspection, you may find a lot of cryptic animals such as mantis shrimp, octopus, juvenile lionfish, leaf-fish, false stonefish, nudibranchs as well as turtles and grouper. In the bluewater- usually on the dominant side are schooling fishes such as schooling bannerfish, surgeonfishes and fusiliers. Large dog-tooth tuna and other predator species such as jacks and barracuda patrol the reef constantly on the lookout for a meal. Whitetip reef sharks may be seen either sleeping or moving sluggishly to keep themselves oxygenated, waiting until nightfall before hunting for octopus and squid.
Generally speaking, diving the ‘Thila’s’ and the ‘Haa’ offer the most biodiversity on a given divesite. They are a little bit like highrise buildings where different organisms find their own niche, each playing a role in keeping reefs healthy. Other ‘Haa’ divesites in Laamu include Mundhoo Kandu Haa and Mundhoo Kandu Beyru Haa. Trying to spell that correctly in your logbook is why so many divesites around the world are called Shark Point 🙂
‘Giri’ and ‘Faru’can be described as long reefs which rise close to or break the surface at the lowest tides. The reef top is made up of a jumbled assortment of hardy boulder-like porites corals and a bit deeper are the more fragile branching corals. The reef generally slopes but may have dropoffs at the extremities and overhangs in the deeper areas where more current can flow. The fishes tend to be a bit more spread out compared to ‘thila’s’ but occasionally larger animals such as mantas and even whalesharks may visit these reefs as they tend to pool plankton near the surface. These reefs are good spots for photographers as most of the life on the reef are in the shallows, giving plenty of light.