A vast, sumptuously inviting oval lagoon dotted with reefs, Ari Atoll sits to the west of the capital. Like Male Atoll, Ari is known by its traditional name rather than its official name of Alif, a usage we have followed.
While the atoll is one natural entity, it’s large enough to have been split into two districts – North and South Ari Atoll. North Ari includes tiny Rasdhoo Atoll and Thoddoo, which aren’t naturally part of Ari, but just northeast of it.
Abundant marine life in the atoll creates nutrient-rich water that flows out through channels, attracting large creatures from the open sea and divers from all over the world – South Ari remains one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, which are spotted year-round on the outer reef.
The atoll hosts some of the most famous and exclusive resorts in the country, but its exceptional diving means there are a host of cheaper diving resorts and beach resorts.