Hanifaru Bay, home to a large numbers of whale sharks.

Hanifaru in Baa Atoll, is an uninhabited island with a natural underwater bay -locally known as ‘Vandhumaafaru Adi’– famous for whale sharks. The bay, known to divers as ‘Aquarium’ is home to a large numbers of whale sharks, grey sharks, manta rays and sting rays, is also a nursery for these species.

Hanifaru Bay, nursery for a large numbers of manta rays and sting rays.

It is believed to be ‘one of the very few places in the world where whale sharks congregate to mate.’ Divers might have known the bay very recently. However, the fisherfolks of Baa Dhonfanu and other nearby inhabited islands had known the place for centuries, not as a dive spot, but as a whale shark fishing point; whale sharks, caught for their liver oil and/or fins, used to be an important source of livelihood for them.


Hanifaru Bay, one of the very few places in the world where whale sharks aggregates for mating.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, in June 1995 imposed a ban on all fishing, capturing or the taking of whale sharks under the Fisheries Law. Whale shark is also listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).


The Maldives is a party to the Biodiversity Convention, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Under these treaties the Maldives has obligations to ensure the conservation and protection of habitats and species in both national and international context.

It is a sad irony that the Fisheries Ministry, which is empowered by the Fisheries Law to establish special sanctuaries, has recently leased Hanifaru to a private party on a long term basis, to be developed for industrial purposes. Furthermore, the island was not put on tender, and no Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) was done.

Hanifaru Bay, home to a large numbers of sharks.

Any industrial activity on Hanifaru will upset the fragile ecosystem of Vandhumaafaru Adi. This ecosystem, vital for the aggregations of whale sharks for mating, is a unique natural habitat and one of the very few such places in the world. It is imperative that this bay is protected from human encroachment and declared as a whale shark sanctuary.


  1. mondae said,

    August 1, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

    At times i feel its useless to talk about these issues. Simply because i know these issues will fall into deaf ears. I think we have to accept the truth that we, the maldivians, are hypocrites when it comes to environment. We talk about how vulnerable we are as a nation in international conventions, conferences and meetings on environment and the very next day we start a project that will destroy our environment such as land reclamation, dredging harbours just to name a few. And people say jews are hypocrites but i think they actually learned their trade from us. I cannot understand the need to reclaim land to build resorts when we still have so many uninhabited islands. I guess its time we do one or the other, either stop talking about our environmental vulnerabilities or factor in environmental impact into our decisions. god save us!! errr..just for once, lets not leave it to god alone lets save us ourselves..

  2. Abdulla Saeed said,

    August 3, 2008 @ 11:54 pm

    Gayoom’s real character is seen with such actions. He is a man who trumpets about the environment whenever he gets an opportunity, but on the ground, here in this delicate environment of the Maldives he is an environmental terrorist.

  3. Rocky said,

    August 4, 2008 @ 10:21 am

    I’m new to your discussion, but here are some words of encouragement….from the blog of Roz Savage.

    “The planet doesn’t need saving; it’ll be just fine in several million years. If the lifetime of the Earth were condensed to a year, mankind arrived at a few seconds to midnight on December 31st. When we are gone, the Earth will recover from the mess we’ve made. Even though our effects on the planet appear to be catastrophic, it’s ourselves that we’re harming. The Earth will continue. We may not.”

    So our causes are ultimately condensed to doing what is right and moral (and human) and that fight will never end. I love your blog.


  4. hamza said,

    August 4, 2008 @ 4:39 pm

    these issues need more public outcry and support…if the public is not educated before the whole of our nation is a dying bark dried in the sun that the government sold off for immediate financial gains…to hell with life here..thank you Bluepeace fdor highligting these issues…lets ahve a public forum about the issue of selling reefs…and bays…

  5. Amooo said,

    August 4, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

    on 1st August 2008, i have captured several mantas and a whale shark on video in Hanifaru. it was an amazing experience to see all thes creatures with my own eyes. any development here will definitely ruin this place. this area has to be totally protected. if anyone is interested in seeing this video clips, pls contact us. we will also post them on our website very soon.

  6. zamaan said,

    August 4, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

    It is important to bring to our attention tha Hanifaru bay is already being used for seaplane (TMA) landing area… its is pretty much active area as almost all the planes to Valtur Kihadhuffaru are landed on this bay…As such a notable damage is already being done to the ecosystem of this bay…Government Authorities needs to do something to protect these vulnerable ecosystems even by way of banning the use of these bays by seaplanes and resort operators…

  7. mugaa said,

    August 4, 2008 @ 9:43 pm

    This is useless, the father of environment knows what he is doing so we should all keep shut and be good citizens or we stand against it and become saviour of a species probably 😀

  8. HH said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 12:17 am

    how about where Mr. Gasim is building the airport at Ari Atoll, Maamingili.
    Have any one seen this area recently? ,……
    This area is one of the places whale shark frequents regularly and also one of the best dive sites for some tourist like the Japanese market.
    The whole area is destroyed coz of the reclamation for Mr. Gasim’s airport, now whale sharks rarely frequent to this area but will Mr. Gasim or the government cares about this….
    I don’t think…so let’s just wait and see what they will do to Hanifaru Bay.

  9. Ibrahim said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 1:47 am

    This is Citizen Journalism in action………good work. Well, there are more issues to be raised by Bluepeace. One of the issues Bluepeace should raise immediately is the issue of Keylakunu, uninhabited islands in Haa Dhaa Atoll leased for agriculture purpose. Check how the EIA for this island is done. Keylakunu has been proposed to declare as UNESCO Heritage site, because of its ecological importance….why on earth such an island has been selected for agricultural purpose when there are many uninhabited islands in the Maldives. It is a unique island andi t should be let as a nature reserve….Don’t let it to be destroyedfor industrial purpose.. There are few islands like Keylakunu for its unique wetland species…

  10. ali said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 7:03 am

    Make a plan and let us know………..lets have a blue peaceful ihuthijaaj as we call it.

    we talk about environment on foreign stages and get awards. time for change.

  11. moorey said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 7:21 am

    The best way to combat this is to sign a petition and take it to the president. since its election days there is a chance government might change their mind. Get a study done by divers, marine biologists..( I wonder what people at marine research section do ) and get it signed by people, foreigners etc and also give some leaflefts to the guests who depart maldives so people every where know this is happening

  12. Fehurehi said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 10:09 am

    Protected animal other than human beings,

    No more Vandhoo Maafaru but still we are under those treaties and convetions. Maldives still ensure the conservation and protection of banded species, both national and international level. Destroying their environment does not mean killing the species. This is how I keep the conventions and treaties.

  13. mohamed faiz said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

    Hanifaru was given to Thaa Atoll MP Shareef as part of a deal to get his vote.
    Can you imagine?
    Shareef is supposed to be a honourable member in the opposition!

  14. Tim Davies said,

    August 6, 2008 @ 5:51 am

    Hi guys – glad to see such an interest in preserving Hanifaru for its importance as a manta and whale shark feeding area.

    My name is Tim and I have been studying whale sharks in the Maldives for the past few months – I’m based at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, which is very close to Hanifaru in Baa Atoll.

    Hanifaru itself isn’t a whale shark mating area – in fact science does not yet know where these huge sharks meet to reproduce – but it is an important feeding site. Whale sharks move seasonally within the atolls, and many visit Baa between May-October to feed on tiny planktonic organisms, such as krill. Hanifaru lagoon acts like a net and traps this planktonic food, and sometimes – depending on the tide and the moon cycle – water is literally thick with food. This is when whale sharks arrive to feed, often accompanied by hundreds of manta rays.

    It is an amazing spectacle, and Hanifaru should be protected to that all future generations can witness it.

    I will be writing an extended article for the Bluepeace site discussing my research in more detail, and some highlighting some major threats to whale sharks here in the Maldives.


  15. Peter Martin said,

    August 15, 2008 @ 1:10 am

    Dear All,

    I have been coming to the Maldives along with extended family and friends for over 10 years now and we have been staying at a number of different resorts enjoying Maldives’ hospitality and unique water world..

    We are keen nature lovers, this is a major reason for us visiting the Maldives, and have been watching wildlife such as Manta Rays, Whale Sharks and more constantly on every of our many visits to this country.

    If the Maldives Government is so ignorant and short sighted to try to make fast money from destroying the environment, its citizens should raise up and action not only with a public outcry but in ousting all these corrupt Government officials who don’t care about the future of the country.

    I think we all know that Tourism is about the only industry keeping this country afloat and Maldivians will soon have to revert to the old times, where they have to make a living from fishing only – as there will be soon no tourists who will pay your bills…..(if there are any fish left in the sea!)

    I for my part, along with many friends and colleagues in the travel industry will actively inform International Press and Tour Operators of this sad state of affairs in the Maldives!

    Peter Martin on behalf of many foreign tourists…

  16. Ali said,

    August 17, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

    And President Gayoom wants the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the Protection of the Environment!

    This is an outrageous destruction of our environment for short term gains by this government. Yet he goes on bragging to the international community about how they are trying to protect the environment. Shame, Shame, Shame

  17. Kareen said,

    August 20, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

    Dear Bluepeace and its readers,
    Is there anything we can do to stop Hanifaru’s development going ahead? Is there anything we can do to stop or change the decisions being made at the cost of our delicate and unique environment? Are there any petitions being sent around to oppose this action? How informed are the general Maldivian public on this issue? We can’t just throw our hands up and complain about how hypocritical and corrupt our government is. That’s exactly what they (the decision makers) want us to do – feel helpless and hopeless to change the situation. We are letting ourselves down by doing nothing!!
    Like Peter Martin has pointed out in his comment, we are so reliant on the tourism industry and our environment – if we lose our fragile ecosystem, it not only has grave implications for the whale shark population, but also for our own existence as we know it!
    Let’s do something!
    Bluepeace, please feel free to email me. I’m happy to discuss ideas and actions with you about how to bring some change. It sounds like there’s research and experts in the field who might be help back us up in our efforts to make people understand the reality and the immenseness of the situation…I don’t know much, but I am so afraid for our future and I am passionate about changing the way there’s so little regard for our environment!

    Thank you for your efforts in raising environmental issues in the Maldives.

  18. Lisa Allison said,

    August 21, 2008 @ 1:24 am

    Hi My name is Lisa Allison,

    I work in the Maldives on a liveaboard, and over the 4 years been out in the Maldives i have had the pleasure of been in Hanifaru to see both the Whale Sharks & Mantas feeding.

    I feel very strongly about the Maldives Government even thinking of developing this area, we have enough to hope with in Maamagili.

    This sight should be fully protected, and to have the Maldives be a big part in helping PROTECT the whale shark . This area is a perfect place to study the Whale Sharks.

    Why not put the Money instead into better use Re: education for both locals and tourist about the Whale Sharks and Mantas and doing talks around the many resorts in Maldives.

    I love working and diving in the Maldives but feel the local government is not doing enough to protect there sea of Shark fishing and now this in Hanifaru.

    I can honestly say i’ve seen a big drop in Shark sightings around the Maldives over the time i’ve spent in the Maldives, which is very upsetting for both myself and my guests.

    Come on Maldives move in a positive way and actually PROTECT what you have got rather than just talk!!!!!!!!!.

  19. Mohamed Hamza said,

    August 21, 2008 @ 2:41 am

    Its a real sad thing , but true … the government don’t care the general public dono about it mainly and they don give a damn since most of the maldivians have no love for the ocean around them same any other human bieng with no love to the home they live in …. throwing cigerette butts , plastic bags and god knows what to the ocean , the same ocean that feed us … HAVE SOME F***ing respect

    The Hanifaru will be destroyed unless all the DIVERS ,…. maldivans , foriegners all who love the earth and for the sake of our own country … please some one help these stupid people from themselves …

    a regime change will no prevent this , this is done in the name of money, so unless we convince how much money the people will lose by making maldives a industrial waste … this will not stop …


  20. Affan said,

    August 21, 2008 @ 7:14 am

    its amazing what they say happens and goes around at hanifaru.. just saw a bit for the first time jumped over there for a swim and was amazed.. saw a few mantas while swimming.. it was a few among many sited in our boat ride …sad it might soon be over…its not just ours only .. we sud ensure that its a passed on to our generations to come..The significance of the area. The unique environment with its biodiversity sud be protected.

    We have many places sanco shareef can do industrial work not on the one out of the two known places for e whale shark cleaning and sitings of large amount of mantas.

  21. Hani Amir said,

    August 22, 2008 @ 4:08 am

    I think it’s about time us Maldivians protested about something other than politics. We need to take a stand for this beautiful nation. Most of us have no idea how lucky we are.

  22. Verena said,

    September 1, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

    I’ve forwarded this issue to TUI… I want them to pressure from an international side… like Mohamed Hamza said: DIVERS etc.

    Divers unfortunately can destroy a lot (I’m surprised that most of the divers I went with have no idea of buoyancy control or know what is alive and what is dead)… but on the other hand they’re really important in terms of protecting a dive site…….

    I hope TUI can do something……………

  23. kaya said,

    September 11, 2008 @ 10:22 am

    how can you trade such beautiful like the whale shark and the manta for industrial s***?!..

    people love to dive and love nature as it is, sow keep that and don’t build a city!

  24. faixxal said,

    September 12, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

    i feel really disgusted … ive always been in love with the underwater life … n since i got the oppportunity to go for diving ive fell head over heels with the life beneath the landlubbers … its a really sad thing that these issues go unheard off .. hope there wud be someone with great power to stop these … i wud totally support n help in anyway i can …


  25. Katrien Vandevelde said,

    June 29, 2009 @ 8:08 pm


    I just read this blog and was wondering if Hanifaru is now protected again, or if the development went through. It’s so hard to believe that your government would allow this place to be destroyed while the presence of mantas and whalesharks are a mayor tourist attraction and thus a big source of income for the country?

  26. KonstantinMiller said,

    July 6, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

    How soon will you update your blog? I’m interested in reading some more information on this issue.

  27. me said,

    July 31, 2009 @ 9:22 am

    Very cool stuff above on this site.

    Did anyone catch this? It was pretty cool. About Steve Alten and his new book Hell’s Aquarium.


    The last first-edition collector’s hardbacks of MEG: Hell’s Aquarium are being shipped to Barnes & Noble, Borders, and in time for Discovery Channel’s SHARK WEEK, August 2nd – August 9th. MEG, short for Carcharodon Megalodon was the 70-foot, 70,000 pound prehistoric cousin of the Great White Shark. Reviewers have called best-selling author Steve Alten’s latest installment “the Moby Dick of giant killer shark novels.”

    Must-reading for shark lovers!

  28. Rick said,

    August 23, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

    Why not make an online petition and try to get as many signatures as possible? Those can then be presented to the Ministry of Environment (or something like that) and they HAVE to think about it once more. …or is this my European way of thinking that is too wishfull…?


    September 13, 2009 @ 6:36 am

    […] We have called for the creation of more nature reserves in the country, and raised alarm when Hanifaru Bay, a whale shark mating area, was threatened with industrial activity. Bluepeace welcomes the […]

  30. BLUEPEACE blog » Cabinet decides to lease Dhigulaabadhoo for aquaculture said,

    November 25, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

    […] significance to be leased for commercial activities. In 2008, Bluepeace and other concerned parties protested against the leasing of Hanifaru, the uninhabited island located in the now world famous Hanifaru Bay, for commercial activities. […]

  31. latest news said,

    July 15, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

    Management of Hanifaru in Baa Atoll,an uninhabited island with a natural underwater bay -locally known as ‘Vandhumaafaru Adi’- famous for whale sharks has been handed over to Baa Atoll Council on 15 July 2011 by Environment Protection Agency of the Maldives.

    The Area was listed as protected in 2009 by the Government of Maldives after growing pressure from environmental activists and now is part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Baa Atoll which came into being on June 2011.

    Bluepeace has campaigned hard for the protection of Hanifaru read our article @ http://www.bluepeacemaldives.o​rg/blog/biodiversity/whale-sha​rk-mating-area-leased-for-indu​strial-site at our blog which appeared on August 2008.

  32. Hartzu said,

    October 2, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

    Thank you so much for doing protecting our reefs,fishes and everything .

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