Maldives Wildlife

Maldives Wildlife

Updated: 2023-11-17T14:10:03.881Z
Maldives Wildlife

What animals will I see in the Maldives?

The obvious answer to this question is fish and the multitudes of marine life but did you know there are lots to look out for on land too?

The Maldives wildlife is largely very safe. Here are some animals you may have concerns about and some others that you may not realise you’ll see.


This may be the first animal you consider when you think about swimming in the ocean and you’ll be relieved to hear, there are no great white sharks in the Maldives!

The sharks of the Maldives are primarily non-aggressive.

They do not see humans as a threat and will often swim away from you or be completely indifferent to your presence in their home. There is also an abundance of available food for them and with their poor eyesight and good sense of smell they will follow the fish, not the tourists. As with most wildlife, however, don’t go too close or touch or hurt them as, much like a provoked pet cat, they have teeth, and they could turn aggressive.

Here's a list of the most common sharks found in the Maldives and some information about them.

  • Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus). Depth 0-140m. Size 1500cm
Whale Shark

Whale Sharks – named for their huge size – are one of the most exciting animals to see in the Maldives while snorkelling or diving and the friendliest of the sharks. Many tourists travel to places like Hanifaru Bay specifically to see them. They are the largest known extant fish species and can live up to 130 years. Despite their size and huge mouths, they pose no threat to humans as they are filter feeders, feeding almost exclusively on small fish and plankton. They are safe to swim with.

  • Black Tip Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) Depth 0-75m. Size 160cm
Black Tip Reef Shark

The Black Tip Reef shark is the most commonly seen shark in the Maldives. Easily identified because of the black tips on their fins. They prefer shallow waters so they are often spotted in house reefs. They feed on small bony fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans, and has also been known to feed on sea snakes and seabirds. It has a timid demeanour and will likely move away from snorkelers and divers and only bite if attacked. They are seen as safe to swim with.

  • White Tip Reef Sharks (Triaenodon obesus). Depth 8-40m. Average size 160cm
White Tip Reef Shark

Another very common shark in the Maldives is the Whitetip Reef Shark. You can probably guess what the difference is between the whitetip and blacktip reef shark although another difference is they tend to swim a little lower down so they might be more difficult to spot for snorkellers. The whitetip reef sharks is more fearless and curious than the other reef sharks so may swim closer to divers and snorkelers but they are seen as safe to swim with.

  • Grey Reef Shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos). Depth 0-60m. Average size 188cm
Grey Reef Shark

Yet another common reef shark in the Maldives is the Grey Reef Shark. This fast swimming and social shark will often be found in a group, and they are mostly found in depths less than 60m although has been known to dive much deeper. When snorkelling you can usually find them near the drop off on the outer edge of the reef. Grey Reef sharks may look scary but are usually harmless and seen as safe to swim with, taking little to no interest in humans but can be more aggressive when feeding. If you see a shark feeding, then it’s best to avoid that area.

  • Scalloped Hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini). Depth 0-275m. Average size 300 cm
Scalloped hammerhead shark

Scalloped Hammerhead sharks are often found in large groups and are more likely to be seen in specific locations around the Maldives. These include the Vaavu atoll, the Rasdhoo atoll (Northern part of North Ari atoll), Kuredu Island in the Lhaviyani atoll, Fuvahmulah island in the Gnaviyani Atoll as well as a few other spots. Feeding on mainly sardines, mackerel, herring, and occasionally squid and octopus, they pose little threat to humans. Although larger specimens may also feed on smaller species of shark like the blacktip reef shark. They are not considered dangerous and are not usually aggressive towards humans.

  • Zebra sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum). Depth 0-62m. Average size 235cm
Zebra Shark

The often solitary and endangered Zebra Shark (sometimes known as Leopard Sharks in the Maldives) is nocturnal and hunts at night so you may not easily see one in the Maldives. They hunt small bony fish, crabs, lobsters, mollusks and sometimes sea snakes. They are docile and slow moving and not dangerous to humans.

  • Tawny Nurse sharks (Nebrius ferrugineus). Depth 0-70m. Size up to 320cm
Nurse Shark

The Tawny Nurse Shark has a docile demeanour and divers have been able to approach and swim alongside them without incident. They are the second least dangerous shark in the Maldives. They can often be tamed to be hand fed although this should always be left to the professionals! Their diet includes corals, sea urchins, crabs, lobsters, squid, octopus, small fish and sometimes a sea snake.



Everybody loves to see dolphins playfully jumping around in the ocean. Luckily almost every resort will have a “Dolphin Cruise” excursion as an opportunity to see them. You may even be able to spot some from the beach of your resort! Dolphins are most active early or late in the day and will stick to the deeper waters. They can be seen all year round but they are less active in bad weather so you might want to opt for a trip in the dry season if this is a “must see” for you.


Sea Turtle

There are a few different sea turtles in the Maldives but the most common are the Hawksbill Sea Turtle and the Green Sea Turtle. As with the “Dolphin Cruise”, many resorts will have an opportunity to snorkel with sea turtles and take you to a location where you will likely find some. These amazing creatures can grow up to 1m in length and live 80 years in the wild. They are safe to swim with and are not afraid to swim up close to divers. You must be careful not to touch, chase, frighten them or block them surfacing for air.


Shoal of powder blue tang surgeonfish

Snorkelling with the fish in the Maldives is something that everyone should experience whilst there. The vibrant fish can easily be seen in the crystal-clear waters of the reef and if you swim out to the drop off you will be able to see hundreds of fish and larger animals too. The drop off is the edge of the reef where the water suddenly becomes very deep.

Whilst the majority of fish in the Maldives are harmless there are some to watch out for if you spend a lot of time scuba diving.

Dangerous fish of the Maldives

Venomous fish are among the most dangerous animals in the Maldives. Stingrays, Stonefish and Lionfish may attack if provoked. Barracudas are overly curious and may swim quite close to you but will usually leave you alone. If bitten then it will not be life threatening, but still pay a visit to the resort doctor. Similarly, Moray eels and Titan Triggerfish can bite but are not venomous.


You will likely recognize rays from their flattened bodies, enlarged pectoral fins that are fused to the head, and gill slits that are placed on their ventral surfaces. There are several different rays in the Maldives but the most exciting ray to see and swim with is the Manta Ray.

Manta Rays

Manta rays in the Maldives can have a wingspan up to 5.5m! Our top place to swim with them is Hanifaru Bay, a Marine Protected Area and UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, in the Baa Atoll. It is famous for its concentration of reef manta rays during the wet season – May through to November - though there are Manta Rays all year round. The Ari atoll is also a good hotpot for Manta rays.


Another common ray you will likely see are Stingrays. As the name suggests, they can sting in self-defence, so it is best not to get too close. Many resorts have a daily stingray feeding where the rays will swarm to the beach to feed.

Spotted Eagle Ray

Other rays you might see in the Maldives are the Spotted Eagle Ray, the Blue Spotted Ray, the Spotted Torpedo, Devil Ray, and the Guitarfish.


Box Jellyfish

There are jellyfish in the Maldives, but the majority of tourists won’t come across one. Most jellyfish are relatively harmless, despite being able to sting.

There have been sightings of box jellyfish in the Lhaviyani atoll in the past. Make yourself aware of the danger systems in place at your resort when you arrive. There will be an alert system for any dangerous animals spotted in the surrounding waters. It is a good idea to wear a rash vest or a T-shirt when out swimming or snorkelling. This is also helpful for protection against the sun.



Did you know that coral is actually an animal, despite looking like a plant? The Maldives contain around 3% of the world’s coral reefs. Coral has a beautiful and soft surface but underneath it is rough and rock-like and can leave a nasty wound if trodden on.

It is important to never touch the coral and to leave any washed-up coral on the beach. Some coral can also leave a rash if touched as it has the ability to sting. If you think you may have been stung by coral, then visit your resort clinic.

The coral in the Maldives is 60% bleached due to changing conditions, such as rising sea water and temperature. The coral expelled the algae living in its tissues, turning it white. The algae provide up to 80% of its nutrients so although the coral is not dead, it is starving. Recovery can take many years.

Wildlife on the land

Not only is there fascinating wildlife in the ocean but also on land in the Maldives. A few common ones to look out for are crabs, hermit crabs, fruit bats, geckos, water hens and herons. There are no dangerous land animals in the Maldives.


Ghost Crab

First thing in the morning, on the beaches or pathways, you may notice a lot of strange tracks which almost look like bike tyre tracks going in every direction. These are the tracks left by ghost crabs which come out to feed, when no one is around, during the night. There are many of these across the resort islands and you may see a few during the day but they are very fast and will always run away from you.

Hermit Crabs

Hermit Crab

Hermit crabs can be seen across the Maldives and can be seen in or out of the water. They are soft bodied and do not have their own shell so be careful picking up a shell from the beach as there’s a chance there will be a hermit crab inside! Although they are not dangerous, they could pinch your fingers if picked up. When they outgrow their current home, they will look for a larger empty shell on the beach to move in to.

Fruit Bats

Fruit Bat

Fruit bats are also quite common amongst the resorts. You can often see them flying around the various fruit trees at dusk or see them hanging upside down in the trees during the day.


Gecko climbing up a wall

Geckos and garden lizards are everywhere, particularly around the lights in the early evening and night-time. You may well find them outside your beach villa walls or scampering across the paths or in your open-air bathrooms. They are small and often very still but always exciting to spot, especially for children.

The White-Breasted Waterhen

White-breasted Waterhen

The White-breasted Waterhen is the national bird of the Maldives and can be found in abundance across the islands. You can usually hear them making their loud and repetitive croaking calls before you see them run across the pathways.

Asian Koel

Female Asian Koel

Asian Koels are shy birds but very loud with a distinctive call during breeding season (March through to August). The males (blueish-black in colour with red eyes) make a “Koo-Ooo” or “uwu uwu uwu” sound whereas the females (pictured above) make a shrill “Kik-kik-kik” sound.



There are several species of herons and bitterns that live across the Maldivian islands. Many resorts will be home to one or two. Standing up to 1m tall, herons eat fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects, catching them in shallow water with its long bill. For those resorts with a daily stingray or shark feeding, you can almost guarantee the herons will attend.

Daily Stingray and Shark feeding

Stingray and Shark Feeding

Many resorts have a designated spot and time of day where they feed the stingrays and sharks. Tens of rays and sharks swarm the area awaiting the food and it’s truly fascinating to watch. Well worth a viewing during your stay, whatever your age.


There are no dangerous insects in the Maldives, but mosquitos can be a nuisance on some of the islands. These resorts will provide a sleeping net, but it’s always advised to take your own repellent. Contact your resort, prior to your holiday, to find out whether this is necessary. Many of the islands are completely sprayed to ward off insects. This keeps some other wildlife away too.


While there are spiders in the Maldives, they are unlikely to be found in the villas, if seen at all.


There are two species of non-venomous land-dwelling snakes in the Maldives. Sightings of these are quite rare in resorts.

Sea Snake

The Maldives is home to a few sea snakes, all of which are venomous, but these are also rare. If you are going to come across one, it will most likely be whilst scuba diving. Sea snakes in the Maldives may swim alongside you but they are shy creatures and shouldn’t hurt you.

If a snake washes up on the shore, do not approach it, even if it is dead. Instead, tell a member of staff.

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