Baa Atoll located in the central region of the atoll chain that form the Maldives is considered globally significant in terms of its biodiversity. The atoll covers an area of over 139,000 hectares and is situated just north of the Kaashidhoo channel that geographically separates the northern chain of atolls from the central chain. Baa atoll consists of several habitats that support the rich biodiversity of the atoll and includes coral reefs, islands, sea grass beds and mangroves.
Coral reefs are the most important habitat type in terms of area as well as biodiversity and is home to a high diversity of reef species, which includes 1,200 reef associated marine species, 250 species of stony and soft corals and populations of marine turtles, manta rays, whale sharks and seabirds. These also include threatened and endangered species such as the green turtle, hawksbill turtle, Napoleon wrasses, and tawny nurse shark.
The reserve consists of nine core areas in which extraction of any kind is prohibited. The areas are highly protected and are conferred the highest levels of conservation. They are clearly defined management areas that have a high ecological significance in terms of marine and terrestrial biodiversity. The limited activities permitted within the boundaries of these areas are monitored through stringent management systems, codes of conduct and due diligence from all users. Anchoring of any boat, unless in emergencies is prohibited in these areas.
Around the Core Areas are buffer zones which are also managed and monitored. Here non-damaging, non-extractive uses are allowed. Core areas and the buffer zones are enveloped by transitional areas, which cover the whole of Baa Atoll. Sustainable activities are permitted in the transitional areas.
Hanifaru Bay is the highlight when it comes to Baa Atoll’s biodiversity, attracting large numbers of visitors every year. This tiny Bay located on the eastern flank of the atoll has seen some of the largest gatherings of manta rays anywhere in the world. Up to a hundred of these gentle giants are seen in a single congregation, gliding through the waters to feed as the tide pushes abundant plankton into the bay.
There are several daily flights from Velana International Airport to Dharavandhoo Airport offering convenient connections to international flights. The flight time to Dharvandhoo is approximately twenty minutes.