Baa Atoll lies to the Northwest of Malé, the capital city of Maldives. Approximately 1,200 km in its entirety, the atoll has 75 islands of which 13 are inhabited with a population of roughly 12,000 people. 8 islands are used as tourist resorts, while 57 remain uninhabited. Baa Atoll is a popular region where tourists flock to on an annual basis, with more than 350,000 tourists visiting per year. This is due to the fact that the atoll boasts a rich biodiversity, including many coral reefs, large mangroves, and a unique diversity of fauna.
There are 250 different species of corals, 1200 types of reef and ree-associated fish, and a high diversity of marine life: whale sharks, manta rays, hawksbill turtles, sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins and parrot fish are just a few of the notable marine species that you can be lucky enough to witness here. Baa Atoll is also well-known for the high density of “faru” in the region; flying above these ring-shaped reef forms is sure to be a treat in itself!
Baa Atoll was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in June 2011. This atoll in particular was selected due to its significant biodiversity, the commitment of local communities and its potential to address threats to biodiversity. Baa Atoll also supports one of the largest groups of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. Some of the areas protected by the Biosphere Reserve include Mendhoo Region, Olhugiri and Hanifaru Bay.
Hanifaru Bay attracts voluminous groups of tourists every year who want to witness the large gatherings of manta rays (with some mantas being the largest in the world) in a single congregation, where they feed on the plakton pushed into the bay by the tides.