With around 1,200 islands and 22 island atolls or clusters, the Maldives offers a plethora of sunny paradises for beach-travel-hungry visitors to choose from.
Among them is the scenic Raa Atoll, whose waters are bountiful and crystal-clear, and whose islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, offer something to feed your soul.
From untouched pristine sands that kiss the sparkling ocean waters to an island with a long-standing heritage of boat-building; whether you’re craving the quiet of a private island resort, snorkelling with manta rays or a window into the country’s heritage, you’ll find what you’re seeking in the Raa Atoll.
Get a Glimpse into the Mysterious World of the Manta Rays
One of the highlights of visiting the Maldives when you are a marine life enthusiast is being able to observe the manta rays. One atoll over, and a boat ride away, the annual Manta Ray gathering occurs at Hanifaru Bay in the Baa Atoll (keep reading for more on the neighbouring atoll in the next section).
However, closer to home, within the Raa Atoll itself, a manta ray feeding ground has been newly discovered. One of the local hotels in the atoll, InterContinental Maldives Maamunagu Resort, has partnered with the Manta Trust to aid conservation and research efforts. Intercontinental Maldives comprises of multiple 2 and 3 bedroom water villa options making it an ideal option for a family interested in observing manta rays in their natural habitat.
Located in the southern part of the Raa Atoll, the resort’s lagoon is known to be frequented by a good number of manta rays every year and plays a role as a potentially significant nursery ground for the rays.
In 2022, the resort launched a Manta Retreat (the very first of its kind), that allows guests a chance to get hands-on with manta ray conservation.
A Gateway to one of the Best Biodiversity Hotspots
The waters of the Raa Atoll teem with life, just like much of the salty waters of the Maldives do. However, when you stay in this atoll, you have the added advantage of being a 45-minute boat trip from one of the Maldives’ best marine life hotspots, the Baa Atoll.
The Baa Atoll is renowned for the diversity of the marine life that it supports and in recognition of that, has been designated as a UNESCO Bioreserve.
Some of the marine species that frequent the waters of the Baa Atoll (and sometimes the Raa Atoll, too,) include:
- A number of sharks such as whale sharks, blacktip sharks, leopard sharks and nurse sharks.
- Rays such as manta rays, sting rays and eel rays to name a few.
- On the reptile end of the spectrum, the olive ridley turtle, hawksbill turtle and green turtle are a sight for sore eyes indeed.
- Dolphins include bottlenose dolphins and spinner dolphins.
- Of course, we mustn’t forget the innumerable fish species: the Yellow-Fin Soldierfish, Crown Squirrelfish, Chinese Trumpetfish, Spotfin Lionfish, Variable-lined Fusilier, Coral Grouper and Black-Wedged Butterflyfish are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the variety of fish species that one can encounter in the Baa Atoll.
The Boat Builders of the Maldives
As with many atolls in the Maldives, relatively few of the islands in the Raa Atoll are inhabited, among them, Alifushi. Together with another island, Etthingili, it went by the name Powell Islands during the time of the British.
Alifushi is where you’ll find the traditional boat builders of the Maldives and offers a glimpse of how the Dhoni (a traditional Maldivan water vessel) is made. This island also boasts some of the island’s most skilled carpenters.
To get some insight into Maldivian culture and heritage, especially concerning craftsmanship, you can arrange to set off on a guided tour of the island and spend some time with the residents.
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