Dangerous fish in the Maldives? Of course there is, but luckily after decades of tourism and millions of visitors there are no serious attacks reported, and accidents caused by fishes are extremely rare.
There is an amazing diversity of sea life in the Maldives, with corals and over 2,000 species of fish, ranging from colourful reef fish to sharks, moray eels, whale sharks and a wide variety of rays.
Maldives underwater world is not dangerous for humans per se and snorkelling is probably one of the safest in the world but some fishes can be sometimes a bit aggressive if disturbed or annoyed by human intrusion. Below is a list of potentially harmful marine species you can eventually meet during your snorkelling or scuba diving trip. Don’t worry with proper caution and proper approach you can meet them without putting yourself at risk.
Morray Eels are very common in Maldives and are easy to spot as they live inside coral reef holes. They have gained a negative reputation due to their unpleasant appearance. Morray eels must constantly keep their mouth open for proper breathing, showing their razor sharp teeth. Not all eels species are poisonous but their bite is always extremely painful. Eels are a very calm fish, they would only attack if you pose a threat to them or if they think you are a (very) large piece of food. If you’re swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving and sight a moray, keep 2 meters distance from it and observe peacefully this impressive fish.
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TITAN TRIGGERFISH (GIANT TRIGGERFISH)
This fish is found in lagoons and reefs and can weighs up to 10 kg for a length of about 60 cm. Titan triggerfish has very powerful teeth and although the bites are not venomous it can inflict serious injury that may require medical attention. Triggerfish is especially aggressive during breeding period when the triggerfish guards the nest. In normal circumstances triggerfish will not bite but will swim at you and escort you out of their territory. In case a triggerfish comes facing you with its dorsal spine erected and then suddenly takes a horizontal position, then you must be cautious and leave immediately.
Stingrays have a flat body and camouflage in the sand. They are very common and very friendly. They are not aggressive at all and will use their poisonous hook on the tail for self-defence ( when someone unintentionally step on them or when someone try to grab them for instance ). They are fantastic to snorkel with and you can get close to them as long as you do not try to touch them or harass them.
This fish is probably the most venomous in Maldives and probably on earth. They do not attack at all and any contact with Stonefish is most likely accidental. Stonefish are masters of camouflage and can blend in so perfectly in their surroundings that it’s almost impossible to spot them. Their preferred habitat is coral and rocky reef where they stand still on the sea bed waiting to ambush their prey. Venom produced by stonefish provokes unbearable pain, paralysis and tissue necrosis. An immediate medical help is essential if stung by stonefish. Luckily Stonefish are quite rare and if you follow the snorkelling number one rule by not touching anything underwater you shouldn’t ever come in contact with stone fish.
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Lion Fish ( also known as zebra fish) is one of the most beautiful fish you can find in Maldives but also one of the most difficult fish to spot. The lionfish are also poisonous, but to a lesser degree than the stonefish. When disturbed, the lion fish spread and display its fins and, if further annoyed, will sting with the dorsal spines. This fish is very calm and peaceful, and is dangerous only if you upset him.
Maldives is home to over 25 species of sharks , Black tip reef shark and white tip reef shark being the most commonly found wandering in lagoon or hunting at the reef. Hammerhead, grey reef sharks, whale sharks, and nurse sharks can also be spotted while scuba diving or snorkelling. None of these sharks are aggressive unless you decide to carry fish/meat bait or blood when bathing, snorkelling and scuba diving (Feeding fishes is strictly prohibited!).
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Corals come in different colours and shapes and are fragile animals. Corals are protected and it is totally forbidden to touch, break or collect corals. Not only it is an offense to touch them but it is also unsafe. Corals edges are sharp and can lead to painful and dangerous infection. In an unlikely case you end up injured by corals, do not be careless to ignore, apply immediately a disinfectant ( or vinegar ) as soon as possible and consult a doctor if the cut become inflamed or swollen. Be careful not to touch, kick or stand on the corals you see in the water as it may break or even kill this extremely important ecosystem.
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Barracudas can reach 2 meters in length and are mostly solitary. Barracuda are scavengers (feeding on carrion) and have a massive jaw full of sharp teeth. Curiously, shiny objects seem to catch their attention and make them think that a diamond ring or a fashion necklace is actually a prey. Hand feeding or touching barracuda is to be avoided in order to avoid a painful bite.
Surgeonfish, also called Tang is 15 to 40 cm long. There are plenty of different species of surgeonfish ( more than 75 all around the world ) and they tend to ignore divers/snorkelers and move away when approached. However they have scalpel-like spines (non toxic) on each side of their tail base which can deliver a painful slash to another fish or a curious human hand. They use this weapon defensively exclusively as they are vegetarians and feed on algae. The most famous surgeon fish is of course Dory from the Disney Cartoon Finding Dory.
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Serious attacks on humans are inexistent in Maldives and accidents caused by fishes are extremely rare. For your safety always follow the golden rule of not touching anything underwater. See the beauty, capture it with your camera but never with your hands. Never try to touch or caress fishes, do not feed them, and beware of 30-45 cm creatures more than great white sharks. We must respect the nature, the fishes are in their house, and are us that are entering their natural habitat.
Also always remember to snorkel or dive with a partner and wear life jacket if you are not confident in the water. For the resort and cruise guests, always ask your dive master, snorkelling guide what are the areas to focus on and the one to avoid. For tourists on local island, ask the islanders , they have a deep knowledge of their reef and will advise you for a safe swimming.