Dhawa Ihuru: A snorkelling paradise in the Maldives

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

The Maldives encompasses over 1000 coral islands, which are situated in the Indian Ocean. The surroundings are home to some of the most stunning marine life in the world. The country is well-known as one of the best snorkelling destinations on the planet. It also offers spectacular sunsets, delicious cuisine, welcoming people and it is an excellent place to enjoy some winter sun.

We recently embarked on a trip to discover one of the best house reefs in the Maldives. There are countless luxury hotels spread across the atolls and, although the environment lends itself to excellent snorkelling, only a handful of islands benefit from a truly outstanding house reef.

Dhawa Ilhuru
Pictured: Dhawa Ihuru

If your priority when visiting this part of the world is to make the most of the experiences underwater, the house reef on your chosen island is absolutely essential. Located a short speedboat ride away from Male (approximately 30 minutes), Dhawa Ihuru boasts a terrifically vibrant house reef, with enviable access to the drop off. The small but idyllic island is a paradise for those who visit the Maldives with snorkelling at the forefront of their minds.

Dhawa Ihuru is a luxury retreat that provides snorkellers with easy routes out to several drop off points. They are clearly marked and just steps away from the beach. For those unfamiliar with snorkelling, the reef drop off is one of the liveliest parts of the reef. The drop off is where you will find thousands of different types of fish taking shelter on the cliff face. It is a spectacular sight and the first time you experience a reef drop off; it will undoubtedly take your breath away.  

At some hotels you must swim across long stretches of largely uninhabited sand before you reach the drop off, so it is a real treat to discover a destination where the drop off is only a stone’s throw away from the shore. At Dhawa Ihuru, the house reef is incredibly easy to reach. Within moments of putting on your snorkel mask, you will find yourself surrounded by a plethora of tropical fish, reef sharks, turtles and eagle rays. There are so many different creatures to watch underneath the surface of the water. They all swim in perfect harmony and the coral reef seems very peaceful.

Dhawa Ihuru caters well for all levels of snorkelling ability. The drop off points are marked with white posts and they are easy to see from within the water, with some only a short distance apart. More advanced snorkellers can swim around the entire island in one session. It takes approximately an hour if you swim steadily. This is a challenge that is well-worth completing during a visit to Dhawa Ihuru because some of the most spectacular shoals of fish can be found at the remotest point of the house reef (the longest stretch, which is between markers three and four). There are also shorter sections that can be completed for those who prefer to dip in-and-out of the water.

The island is excellent for all ages of snorkeler. We travelled to Dhawa Ihuru with young children and it provided a wonderful introduction to snorkelling. The lagoon hosts sections of coral that young children can enjoy (Michael*, 3, was able to spot several fish under the sea in this area) and the longer stretches between drop off points are easy to navigate (Rose*, 6, easily swam between drop off points one and three to join the reef sharks, rays, turtles and tropical fish).

Read our top tips for snorkelling with children

When researching this trip, we spoke to several experts who recommended snorkelling at sunrise. The reef starts to come to life as the golden rays of sunshine spread across the turquoise sea. With an alarm set at 5.45am, a visit to the lagoon just before 6am was richly rewarded. A huge nurse shark elegantly swam through the shallow water right next to the shore, along with eagle rays, several turtles and many reef sharks. It was a magnificent experience to see these creatures enjoying their natural habitat and well worth the early rise.  

Dhawa Ihuru

Although the island is small, it never feels crowed, even when at full capacity. In fact, Dhawa Ihuru feels like a private island most of the time. When staying on the ocean side of the island, rather than the lagoon side, the secluded garden area in front of each villa leads directly onto your own section of white sandy beach, with uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. The clever design of the villas means that privacy is always afforded. The accommodation is very spacious, with either an ensuite outdoor rain shower or outdoor bath provided, as well as an additional seating area that adjoins the bedroom. During our visit we found this side of the island cooler, with a welcome breeze.

Dhawa Ihuru offers visitors an all inclusive package. This may not always appeal to everyone; however, in this scenario is works extremely well. The hotels in the Maldives typically occupy their entire island, so options to dine elsewhere are limited. Although, this is not strictly true for Dhawa Ihuru. Another of its unique selling points is its close proximity to its sister property, Banyan Tree. Guests of both properties can travel between the islands by speedboat in only a matter of minutes, meaning that if you wish to have a change of scene, you can easily visit the other property. It is possible to eat at Banyan Tree for an additional fee and the bill can be charged to your room at Dhawa Ihuru. Use of the facilities at Banyan Tree are included.

Pictured: The small island never feels crowded

There is no swimming pool at Dhawa Ihuru; but, isn’t the Indian Ocean the perfect swimming pool?! For those who miss this facility, the Banyan Tree features a beautiful infinity pool, which is located next to their stunning open-air restaurant Madi Hiyaa.

In terms of dining at Dhawa Ihuru, the quality of food is excellent. The hotel alternates between a la carte dining and buffet, with different themes occurring every night. Delicious Sri Lankan curries usually feature, with grilled fish and Japanese cuisine also popular. There is a BBQ night for all to enjoy but you can also arrange a private BBQ on the beach for a special occasion. Among the selection of drinks included is a fresh tasting sparkling rose, French and Australian wines, many mainstream spirit brands and refreshing Tiger beer.

Pictured: The beautiful sandy beaches of Dhawa Ihuru

If you are travelling with young children, the speedboat ride to this island is a welcome alternative to a seaplane after a long flight. Dhawa Ihuru is not on a flight path and it is located far enough away from Male and the hubbub of other islands to ensure guests have a tranquil and relaxing experience during their stay. There is a fantastic Kids Club, which is included within the package and children can paint sea creatures and enjoy arts and crafts sessions.

All in all, for those seeking unpretentious luxury and the opportunity to share an island with other snorkelling fanatics who admire and respect this magical environment and the delights of nature, Dhawa Ihuru is a pretty unbeatable place to visit in The Maldives.

Sunset at Dhawa Ihuru
Pictured: The sun setting over Dhawa Ihuru, as seen from Banyan Tree

The Little Sloaney Verdict on Dhawa Ihuru

Following the launch of our Little Sloaney editorial section, we now cover many luxury experiences with children in mind to help feedback to our readers who have young family members.

Our Little Sloaney team share their highlights in their own words….

“The best part about visiting the island was the snorkelling. I was very lucky to do my first big snorkel here and I snorkelled for about half an hour along the drop off. This meant that I saw lots of reef sharks, an eagle ray, lots of fish and even turtles. I liked spotting the fish in the sea and then checking their names on the information board at the dive centre.

I really liked doing the crafts in the Kids Club. The lady helped us to paint sea creatures and make crowns. She was really friendly. I also enjoyed looking for hermit crabs on the beach and seeing the bird that lives on the island looking for his food in the sea.” – *Rose, aged 6

The bird at Dhawa Ihuru

“My favourite part was being able to do snorkelling in the lagoon. It was very shallow and the water was really calm here. This meant that it was easy for me because I find waves a bit tricky. It was really fun to be able to look under the water.

I saw lots of fish that looked like Dory and a few black and white ones too. I also liked being able to watch the reef sharks swimming near the decking at night. The lights made them very easy to see. The food was really nice, especially the poppadoms. The Kids Club was fun.” – *Michael, aged 3

*Names changed

Watch the highlights on Sloaney TV

Key Questions about Dhawa Ihuru

How do you get there?

Dhawa Ihuru is located a short speedboat ride away from Male. A representative from the hotel will meet you at the arrivals area and guide you to the boat.

What is the transfer time from Male Airport?

It takes 30 minutes by speedboat. The speedboats leave from outside the arrivals lounge and it is a much more straightforward process than having to connect to the seaplane terminal.

Is the drop off close to the beach?

This is one of the benefits of the island. There are five clearly marked access points to the drop off. Some of these are only a few steps away from the beach. Even the one that is furthest away (point 3) is within a short swim.

What drinks are offered as part of the package?

There is a sparkling rose and also a sparkling white wine. Spirits include the likes of Bombay Sapphire and other mainstream brands. Wines come from the likes of France and Australia. There is beer on tap (Tiger) and bottled (Lion).

What is the food like?

There is a swap between buffet and a la carte every evening. The buffet includes some excellent curry dishes and also food from other parts of the world. The food is very good and there is alot of choice. There is an egg station in the morning where you can have your eggs cooked to order and also a juice bar for freshly made juices.

Is there a Kids Club and activities for children?

Yes – the Kids Club is free as part of the package and there is also a table tennis table.

Is there live entertainment?

There are singers a couple of times a week and also live traditional Maldivian dancing once a week.

Is there a swimming pool?

No, but there is one at Banyan Tree.

Is the wifi good?

There is good wifi across both islands and it is straightforward to access.

How far is Banyan Tree?

It is a couple of minutes in a speedboat. You can get the speedboat shuttle at various times during the day. For an extra charge, you can book a private boat for whenever you want.

Can you eat at Banyan Tree?

Yes, but you need to pay extra and can bill it to you room.

Which island is best for snorkeling?

Dhawa Ilhuru.

Can you swim with turtles?

Yes, there are about three or four resident turtles on the house reef. They were seen mainly in the morning and almost every day.

What can you see in the sea and on the beach?

An endless list of tropical fish of all shapes and sizes. There are literally thousands of fish. The huge colorful parrot fish are beautiful. We also swam with and saw the following during our trip: reef sharks, nurse sharks, eagle rays, different types of squid swimming together, hawksbill turtles and a green turtle. Hermit crabs, ghost crabs and beautiful birds are on the beach.

The island looks small, does it feel busy?

Not at all. It feels more like a private island. Fellow guests kept themselves to themselves and everyone peacefully admired the beautiful surroundings. It is a very unpretentious, but luxurious, place to visit.

Is there dredging?

At the moment, there is a lot of development work near Male. You can see some islands being built in the distance. There is some dredging during certain times of the year. During our trip in February, a dredger was not seen near the island at any point. Any work going on did not have a negative impact on the trip at all and it was not noticeable. On the ocean side of the island there are uninterrupted views of the sea. On the lagoon side, you can see a new island being built in the distance, but it is not an issue.

Can you see Male?

Not really during the day. You can see the lights from Male from some parts of the island in the distance at night.

Are you tied to transfer times when returning to the airport?

No, unlike with seaplanes, there is a lot of flexibility if you have a late evening flight. The hotel organises the transfers in accordance with the flight time, which means you can make the most of your stay on the island without having to leave early. If you need to check out of your room, you can still eat from the a la carte bar menu and also shower before leaving.

Booking Information

Dhawa Maldives is located at Ihuru Island, Maldives. You can call to reserve a room +960 664-3502 or read more and book online: Dhawa Ihuru Maldives

Get Social

Follow The Sloaney on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook by searching @TheSloaney

Follow our #LoveTheBeach campaign


Words: Laura Toogood, RH and MH

Photography Sarah Bacon | Videography Gil