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Anchorages In The Maldives From Male To Addu Atoll March/April 2006

By doina — last modified May 10, 2006 04:36 PM

Published: 2006-05-10 16:36:41
Countries: Maldives

Contributors: JACANA OF MELBOURNE

STOLEN KISS (FREMANTLE)

TIME OUT (SAN FRANCISCO)

These notes fine-tune and update the earlier notes of the 1999 yachts. As we moved south we found that the Maldivian communities had in many cases improved their lagoon entrances with poles, often with lights. The natural openings had been deepened to accommodate the larger safari boats and dhonis.

Jacana: We found a fish finder to be a great aid for anchoring in the Maldives. We installed a cheap black and white Navman finder with a puck that is mounted inside the hull and can read through it. It worked this way to about a depth of 30 odd metres. With some practice you can get quite good at reading the composition of the bottom - eg sand, mud, rock. Importantly it let us spot bombies that could snare our anchor chain. We would always do a slow speed grid pattern over our swinging area.

MALE ATOLL - MALE'

You do need an agent. We strongly advise using AMSCO, Abdullah Jaleel is the principal's name. He is most helpful both here and with advice as you travel through the islands, and he has an excellent contact in ADDU for clearing out.

We recommend contacting him by email in advance, because if you call him on 16 on approach, other cowboy agents try to hijack you and interrupt radio conversation with constant mike clicking. His address is amsco@dhivehinet.net.mv

Abdullah will advise you to go to the NW of Male' island to waypoints 04°10.94 N 73°29.95 E. From there he will direct you by handheld VHF into the commercial harbour where you med moor to the wall. It is not that crowded, but put out lots of chain to ensure a hold before backing in. Abdullah is adept at catching the stern lines. Within about an hour he has all the officials on board in the cockpit and the paper warfare is all over in half an hour. The Maldivian officials are polite, friendly and fair.

You usually spend one night here then go about 3 miles over to Hulhumale lagoon with the other yachts and anchor in a man made lagoon. You commute to Male by ferry for about 50 cents Australian. Ferries run half hourly and the ride takes about 20 minutes.

Male is not to be missed. Provisioning is excellent. Local produce is cheap, but for a price you can get almost anything, often imported fresh from Australia by plane; eg lettuce, celery, avocados. The local restaurants near the markets are so good and so cheap, both the short and long eats.

The Maldives are only expensive in the resorts.

Stolen Kiss - We cleared into Male and out of Gan, having a one month visa. This can be extended for a price! We had a cruising permit, which we had to produce in Gan. No-one asked for it in any of the atolls and the same went for Jacana. We had a crew who was signed off the boat in Male and was allowed to stay on board to cruise south. (Not usually allowed). This meant our crew could leave from many atolls and return to Male to fly out.

The Med mooring system in the Commercial Harbour was the option check we chose as well to clear in. We would not attempt it in any wind. We tied the dinghy up in the corner of the wharf area. No problems with theft. Two yachts in there at any one time appear to be the maximum as barges cut the corner of the entrance. Time Out had to move at dusk as she was too close to the entrance and a ship needed to leave. However it is cheaper than going to airport anchorage and paying for officials to come over to clear you in. We all arrived in the first week of March. NE monsoon was not well established so we had variable winds with one or two light squalls from NE, W and SW, but mostly light W - NW winds, clear skies. Perfect weather!

Jacana chose to cruise the western atolls, whilst Stolen Kiss and Time Out cruised the eastern atolls. We met up in South Huvadhoo Atoll.

Stolen Kiss/Time Out: The winds influenced our choice of anchorages as we stayed on the west side of the eastern atolls. It just so happens that most of the sand bars inside the reef system are on the west side, which meant lots of nice shallow (10m) sandy anchorages! Many islands/resorts now have marked channels through the reef to the lagoons, so it is not difficult to find good sandy anchorages. We did not experience any cross currents or difficult currents entering or exiting atolls or lagoons. We chose to enter and exit the channels and sail on the outside of the atolls, rather than through them. This allowed very pleasurable sailing between atolls, rather than the need to keep a look out on the bow for reefs. We had 0.5 - 0.75 kt southerly set with us the whole way down the atolls until the Equatorial Channel, regardless of the state of the tide.

Atolls have various names which can be confusing at times. Malways Atlas of the Maldives (Godfrey) and Lonely Planet are good guides to have on board. They are cheaper from Male bookshops. The atlas is excellent in the assistance with the location of sand patches! We also had Sunsail Cruising Guide and ANTRAC, however, they were only good for resort lagoons in North and South Male Atolls and Ari Atoll.

AIRPORT ANCHORAGE. Hulhumale, North Male Atoll.

Channel has been dredged to 6 m LWS. Depths vary between 6m and 15m.

Entrance is 04º 12.80 N 073º 31 75 E. We turned to stb on entering channel and anchored towards the SE corner which has been dredged to 6m. Here there is protection from all directions as you are sheltered behind the runway. Dinghy up to jetty slightly NE of the main entrance and catch the ferry to Male for 5 Rf. They run almost every half hour.

Fuel barge is located near we anchored in the southern part of the anchorage. No need to organize via agent (who will charge more). Just go to fuel barge and organize him to come along side. They are very good. We refueled via jerry jugs. 0.72 USD/L. If you want any information, ask the local guys on the dhoni boats.

There is a restaurant on Hulhumale up the street behind the ferry terminal.

From the anchorage we took the dinghy to Banana Reef approx 04º 14. 3 N 073º 32.2 E for snorkeling. Southern wall was fabulous with hard and soft coral and amazing amount of fish. Float along with the dinghy as the current is strong.

C-Map appeared to be quite accurate.

SOUTH MALE ATOLL

Valassaru Island - Laguna Beach Resort. Enter from the east. Several sticks mark coral heads. Along eastern edge of reef, there is a stick with orange top at approx 04º 06.469 N 073º 26.077 E which marks a coral head. Enter either side of this. Depth is around 10m. Continue towards resort, navigating around coral heads, most of which are deep. Anchored in 12m at 04º 06.975 N 073º 26.024 E.

Club Rannalhi - resort has a lagoon with easy entrance to the north. However, the western most part of the lagoon is the only sand which is free of bommies. One yacht anchored there in 25m. Good protection from reef. Resort had no problems with us being there. We went to south side of island and anchored in sand/coral in 10m. We could see the chain and there was a dive shop on the beach if we had a problem!! Not a favoured anchorage. We had NW wind so were protected. Would not have liked a blow from the W or SW!

WESTERN ATOLLS

SOUTH ARI ATOLL - DHANGETHI ISLAND

Dhangethi is on the west side of the atoll down toward the southern end.

Jacana entered the Kandu to the immediate north of the island. There are assorted items marking a northern entrance just after you pass the island heading east, however, this appears to only be used by shallow draft dhonis.

We kept heading east till we passed the end of the lagoon reef then we swung south down its western edge, ducking the occasional bombies. You can see the seaplane platform in the lagoon. Continue south. Then you spot another pole with a rectangular piece of wood nailed to it. You can weave in here after high tide, but for the deeper entrance keep going south until you are at least 2/3 down the island. Before weaving in through some obvious bombies. You do need to do it at the correct times. Large safari boats roar in and out this entrance. At low tide it had a least depth of 3 metres.

Once in the lagoon most of the bombies are fairly deep. At least 4 or 5 safari boats come in each afternoon to spend the night in this sheltered lagoon. We anchored in 8.5 metres of sand with 24 metres of chain out, between bombies. This length meant we had no chance of a wrap in the morning. The position was 03 36.41 N 72 57.14 E. Naeema runs the Cool n Fresh cyber café ashore. Most supplies are available. The little restaurant in the street opposite the cyber café sells good short eats.

NORTH NILANDHE ISLAND - MAGOODHOO ISLAND

Magoodhoo is on the SE corner of the island. Jacana entered the Kandu to the south west of the island, then conned our way around the reef in deep water, heading in a general NNE direction until we came to the entrance of the first lagoon. This is on the west side of the island and the reef enclosing the lagoon appears like a circle with about 1/8 of the circle cut out to form the entrance. The entrance is deep, over 12 metres. We then moved in through the fairly sparse but obvious bombies, which are easily seen when the light is right. The lagoon is generally 12 to 17 metres deep. We anchored in 12 metres of sand at 3 04.8 N and 72 57.5 E. Very good drift snorkel at the entrance to the lagoon.

The town has its harbour on the north side of the island, which is lit at night, so anyone who is sick on the other islands can get to the hospital at night. The harbour is not suitable for yachts. The people are so welcoming as always.

SOUTH NILANDHE ATOLL - KUDAHUVADHOO ISLAND

Kudahuvadhoo is at the southern end of the atoll. After entering the atoll via the large Kandu to the immediate east of the island, we worked our way in a general NW direction along the reef keeping a good lookout for the occasional bombies rising up from the deep water. You need to work your way a long way NW of the island. We ignored the small entrance marked by a stick and a floating yellow plastic jerry can. They appeared too shallow and only suitable for the shallow draft smaller dhonis. Eventually the reef thins out and it was quite simple in the good light to pick our way in and then head back SW towards the island, as always dodging some bombies. We anchored in a nice sand hole 9 metres deep, but only wide enough to put out 2.5: 1 chain.

The town is large with good supplies and again so friendly. You can have lunch at Iceline restaurant. There are quite a few stores. We bought oranges, watermelon and frozen chicken from Brazil. The anchorage was very comfortable in the west to NW that we experienced. Only enter or leave here in decent light, but otherwise, no particular problems for the careful.

KOLHUMADULU ATOLL - VEYMANDHOO

Veymandhoo Island is on the SE corner of the atoll. Enter the Kandu to the east of Veymandhoo Island; travel west along the northern side of the island. The entrance is just past the NW corner of the island. It is easily recognizable. You enter between 2 main made groins. Poles mark both the inner and outer ends of the groins. The outer pair flashes red and green at night. Even at low water springs there is a least depth of over 3 metres. Once through the entrance turn right picking your way through the occasional bombies. We anchored in 7metres in sand with 25metres of chain out with ample swinging room at 2 11.35N and 73 05.34E. This is a comfortable lagoon anchorage. There is an excellent short eats café near the town's busy jetty, and the normal shops with some fruit, frozen chicken etc. The people are most welcoming. We were confident enough, using our reciprocal course, to depart just on dark for an over nighter, with reduced sail to arrive at Thinadhoo in good light the next morning.

EASTERN ATOLLS

FELIDHE ATOLL

This is one of our 5 star anchorages, with protection from SW through to NE. Shallow outer reef provides good protection, although not sure what it would be like in heavy SW swell. Isolated and stunning!

Reef, Maafussaru Kandu - enter in this channel 03º 30.42 N 073º 17. 38E. Minimum depth 8m. Follow reef around until you find the entrance. There are a few bombies to negotiate, but these are easy to see. We anchored in the outer lagoon, which is all sand, turning north when we came to the end of the reef, which had protection from SW through to E. More shallow water could be found towards inner reef in front of us. We anchored in 17m sand at 03º 29.382 N 073º 17.424 E. Just to the south of our anchorage, another yacht anchored in 10m sand. There are more 10m sand patches around. The southern end of the lagoon has more bombies.

Exploring the reef and bombies is worthwhile as there is a lot of new coral growth and an amazing abundance of fish. We saw many hard and soft corals with good variation in colour and fish we have not seen before. We would not attempt to come into this anchorage on a cloudy day. There is a great view from the top of the light on the outer reef! Large sand bar is worth exploring. There were many manta rays on the sand bar and in the lagoon. Pod of whales sighted en route to Vattaru Falhu

VATTARU FALHU ATOLL

Entrance through the one and only channel in the south is straight forward, except that the chart does not show the reef that forms a T junction at the end of the channel, with an east and west exit. Both have adequate depth (no less than 6m). Malways Atlas does show the entrance correctly as it is a Marine Park. We had a forecast of W-NW winds increasing to 15 knots, so we chose to anchor to the west on a sand bank that is sparsely littered with bombies, which are not close to the surface. We anchored in 10m of water at 03º 13.54 N 073º 24.89 E Although the snorkeling was a little disappointing as there was a lot of dead coral, we found some very old coral with good variety on the south facing walls of the inside reefs. There were some very old stag horn and plate corals. Visibility in the channel was 20m which allowed us to see manta rays and 2m long Moray eels. Sadly, the fishermen have heavily fished the marine park!! They are friendly and happy to sell their fish (fortunately for us as we are terrible fishermen!)

MULUKA ATOLL (MEEMU)

This is another 5 star anchorage!! We entered the atoll on eastern side via Mulee Kandu at waypoint 02º 55.931 N 073º 36.510 E. C-Map depth at entrance was not accurate here as minimum depth we found was 26m at entrance. Passage to lagoon entrance is free from bombies. We made our way south past Muli Island and entered lagoon approx 1 mile south at 02º 54.285 N 073º 34.011 E. Channel has a minimum depth of 3-4m at mid tide. Stb hand marker at entrance, leave rock wall to port. Channel can be easily seen. Depth inside lagoon is 7m, sand with the odd bombie. Very clear of obstructions!! Muli Island is the capital of the atoll and has a small harbour entrance that is deep and lit with port/stb markers. Enter there at the N/NW entrance. This is a great anchorage!!!!!! The lagoon extends for over 6 miles and is easily navigable. We took the dinghy down to Hakurra Club Resort (with the tent like structures) and were welcomed. Smorgasbord lunch was $15 USD per head. They have a great bar!

NORTH HUVADHOO ATOLL

Melaimu, north of Kolamaafushi Island. The NW corner is a wide, easy entrance. Enter at 00º 51.867 N 073º 11.002 E. There is a small island to STB, reef easily seen and is very exposed at LWS. We anchored just to STB of the entrance in 7m of sand behind the reef. Protected from NW - SW, although it would be uncomfortable in heavy NW swell. Further inside the reef it is sandy (can see the bottom in 15m!) and excellent shelter in SW winds. Anchored at 00º 51.152 N 073º.019 E. Ocean is teaming with marine life here as we saw many turtles, dolphins and fish jumping everywhere. Edge of reef between us and island is good snorkeling as water is clear, many corals and large schools of fish.

A young gentleman paddled out from Kolamaafushi Island and invited us ashore. Great village. He gave us a tour and a load of fruit and would not take any money, so we gave him some cigarettes. He wanted whiskey, but we do not give the Muslims alcohol.

SOUTH HUVADHOO ATOLL

(We all came in the same entrance). Thinadhoo is on the west side of the atoll. We entered the atoll via Footukandu and made our way down the inside. There is a light on the southern edge of the reef which you keep to stb. Stb side of channel is the deepest. Enter channel through reef at approx 00º 31.763N 073º 00 523 E. Keep a weather eye cocked for the obvious bombies that appear, but generally this is a trouble free entry. Thinadhoo has a large lagoon, which contrary to appearances, is NOT entered from the north. Continue south until opposite the town (fish factory ships are often anchored off the entrance). The entrance to both the town harbour and the lagoon is just to south of a small island. It is marked by 2 outer poles, which are lit by flashing port and starboard lights at night. Go straight through the high diddle diddle. There is an inner pole that flashes red at night. Leave this inner pole to port. All the poles are painted with yellow and black horizontal stripes. Once through the entrance (which we found to have a least depth of about 3.8 metres) hook right. The bottom is top holding sand with many clear areas between small bombies with plenty of swing room. It is a protected anchorage. Sandy lagoon is approx 4 - 5m deep.

Thinadhoo is a large welcoming community with good stores, cyber cafes, short eats, long eats etc. We stocked up with cauliflower, pineapple and bananas. It is one of the better places to get stores in the Maldives.

Fares to the south has a narrow sand patch in front of the reef where the local boats anchor. We anchored in 6m sand at 00º 11.949 N 073º 12.756 E. Sheltered from SW and W, with a bit of fetch from NW. A good starting point for Gan, Addu Atoll as the exit via nearby Vaadhoo Kuda Kandu can be made in the dark. We left before first light. Channel is straight forward; however a large fishing boat sitting high and dry on the reef is a reminder of what can happen!! We set our waypoints up in the afternoon and plotted a course on c-map, which was very accurate.

Jacana - We anchored in sand in about 5 to 6 metres that shelved gradually out to about 10 metres before dropping off into coral. We had 30 metres of chain out with ample swinging room. Quite a few boats could find decent sized sand patches here. The anchorage is between the 2nd and 3rd tiny islets from the Kandu to the west. We took the tinny out Vaadhoo Kuda Kandu with a hand held GPS in daylight and found C Map to be accurate. There was a large fishing dhoni high and dry on the reef. Salvage attempts were under way. The skipper had run her up at night.

Although the island looks to be sparsely populated, in fact 2000 odd people live around here. Fares has a cyber café. We never went ashore but were visited by the informative local magistrate who filled us in.

ADDU ATOLL - GAN

SK/TO - We entered the atoll via the NW channel at 00º 36.535 S 073º 08.255 E. Entrance is deep and clear. C-Map accurate. There is a small harbour at Gan across the causeway which is 2 - 4 m deep. Entrance is marked. We went in towards low tide (neap) and shallowest spot was 2.7 m. There are some good sandy spots to anchor, but beware of the tide which sweeps through from the gutter in the causeway. We anchored outside in 18 meters at 00º 41.009 S 073º 08.255 E. Other yachts anchored along Gan in 25 - 35 m. Bottom is reported to be good holding in sand/weed with no reports of coral.

Abdullah's associate, Mohamed Saeed was our agent here and looked after us very well. We organized some motor bikes to rent to tour the atoll.

Jacana - We entered the atoll from the north via Maa Kandu. Vessels entering do so to the east of the island. Departing vessels go west of the island. It was simple to steer via C-Map with a lookout down to Gan. Very few dangers.

There are 2 options at Gan: inside the inner harbour or outside.

The inner harbour is between the islands of Gan and Feydhoo, sheltered to the SW by the causeway. The entrance is on the Gan side. Enter between a prominent pole to starboard and a floating reddish, now almost white buoy to port. Further in leave the next buoy (yellow drum) to port, then the next buoy (yellow drum) to starboard.

The entrance is about 3.5 to 4 metres deep. It is about 4 metres in the harbour. The holding is good in sand, except opposite the sluice in the causeway where the strength of the current has washed the sand away to expose coral. It is safe and comfortable with room for about 6 boats on short chain. The downside is the flies and mosquitoes. Outside the holding is in sand and sometimes in sand and weed, in depths ranging from about 15 to 25 metres. 16 boats were outside in 2006 and no-one had any trouble with retrieving their anchors. Some needed a few tries to get the anchor to bite because of the weed. There is plenty of room along the Gan foreshore and the flies and mozzies are not a problem.

Construction is well underway on the harbour of Hithadhoo. At sometime in the future the authorities will require yachts to anchor in this new harbour. We viewed it from land and it is well protected, roomy and we were told it is a sand anchorage.

We found that Mohamed Saeed from the Two Plus One Store on Feydhoo to have the best range of supplies, to be extremely helpful and ultra honest. He can arrange most things and expedite clearing out. He is the local contact for AMSCO Yacht Agents who we thoroughly recommend. Mobile 778 1967.

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