One of the most iconic housereefs in the Maldives is in ruin. My advice is to not pay the high premiums for this inner atoll reef. There other places that will give you far more spacious villas and luxury, when the housereef is no longer a big pro to pay for.
Islands like Ihuru and Mirihi are used to high occupancy rates due to their wonderful housereefs. This has lead to a very steep increase in the prices, especially the last few years..
After the two year long high average in sea temperatures, and this year’s El Nino leading to extremes (especially i April and May) has has been devastating to many housereefs. The photos in this post are brand new, shot in late November.
Inner atoll reefs like Ihuru and Mirihi have suffered more than outer atoll reefs in general. That being said, most of the fish are still there. And it is also normal with a boost in herbivourous fish when corals become overgrown with algea.
Also, luckily the sharks seem to still be at the reef at Ihuru. Here is a photo of a small adult black tip swimming on the housereef:
It will probably take 4-10 years before these reefs can grow back to beautiful coral gardens (if they do), and until then it might be smart to save your money. Unless they start ro drop the prices considerably! Ihuru is after all; still a beautiful island with no water villas ruining the view.
Luckily there are still some highlights, like this Heteractis anemone that host beautiful clownfish from the Amphiprion genus.
The first big and somewhat reliable report in the Maldives (domestic and international teams) has indicated that inner atoll islands were reduced to 10% coral coverage, and outer reefs 25%. I addition to this; my belief is that west side reefs will have better coverage than this on average (than east side reefs, and inner atoll reefs worst.
What saved several reefs from even worse devastation this year was the early Hulhangu (South-West monsoon), which brought S-W cool currents as temporarily recharges, in the corals combat with active oxygen (which make them dispelling zooxanthellae) in this extreme period.
My best tip is to aim for outer atoll reefs in the next few years if snorkeling is an important factor. If not, you can get more luxurious resorts and far bigger villas for the same price as Ihuru and Mirihi, also Athuruga to some extent (expect their spacious water villas).
A big thanks to Claudine (a French girl that also loves the Maldives) for sending her photos and giving me permission to use them. Merci beaucoup!!