Nature & Marine Life

The nature and wildlife to be found in Horsburgh Atoll is unparalleled. The islands of Goidhoo, Fehendhoo, and Fulhadhoo host a wide diversity of both marine and terrestrial species, with ecosystems like mangroves and seagrass beds unique in their abundance and health in the Maldives. Learn more about the kind of wildlife you can find in Horsburgh— and take our Climate & Community Pledge to learn how your visit can help protect it for future generations.

Common Heritage of Mankind: UNESCO Designation & Conservation Status

The Baa Atoll, which includes Horsburgh Atoll and its constituent islands, was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2011. This prestigious recognition highlights the region's exceptional natural beauty, ecological significance, and commitment to sustainable development. As a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Baa Atoll is committed to balancing the conservation of its unique ecosystems, biodiversity, and cultural heritage with the sustainable development of its local communities.

The designation has led to the implementation of a range of conservation initiatives and sustainable practices across the atoll, designed to protect its fragile ecosystems while promoting eco-tourism and community-based initiatives. These efforts focus on preserving the area's coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds, as well as the rich marine life they support, including endangered species such as sea turtles and manta rays.

Underwater Life

The waters both within and around Horsburgh are known for their rich and diverse marine life. Visitors to these islands can expect to see a wide variety of marine species, including colorful fish such as parrotfish, angelfish, and surgeonfish, as well as larger species such as tuna and barracuda. Macro life is abundant, including nudibranchs, sea slugs, and an array of crustaceans like the mantis shrimp and the ornate ghost pipefish. Elusive octopus or eels such as the giant moray and honeycomb moray hide between the rocks. Napoleon wrasses, lionfish, and schools of batfish swim gracefully through the vibrant coral gardens. On the surface—or, if you're lucky, beneath it— various species of dolphins like the spinner and bottlenose dolphins can be seen darting through the waves.

Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll is perhaps one of the most famous manta ray and whale shark aggregation sites in the world, with thousands of these animals coming each year during the southwest monsoon season between May to November. You can take a trip to Hanifaru from Horsburgh, and while you are likely to see manta rays and whale sharks only in Hanifaru between late June and October, you can see them in Horsburgh all year round! Manta rays are particularly abundant, feeding and cleaning in the reefs around the atoll throughout the year.

Horsburgh Atoll is a popular nesting site for sea turtles, and visitors to these islands may have the opportunity to see these majestic creatures in the water or on the beach. Harmless species such as blacktip and whitetip reef sharks can be commonly seen, making for a unique and memorable experience for visitors. The coral reefs in Horsburgh are also some of the healthiest and most diverse in the world, with over 250 species of hard and soft coral. Visitors can explore the reefs while snorkeling or diving and see the intricate structures and vibrant colors of the coral.

Horsburgh Atoll's 15 captivating dive sites. Scattered both inside the lagoon and in the open ocean, these world-class sites cater to divers of varying certification and experience levels, showcasing some of the most vibrant marine and reef life. Check out the various dive sites here.


Terrestrial Life

The terrestrial life in Horsburgh Atoll is equally captivating, with lush landscapes and unique ecosystems that support a wide array of flora and fauna. Goidhoo hosts one of the few mangrove forests in the Maldives, serving as essential habitat for numerous species of fish, birds, and crustaceans. These mangroves also act as natural barriers that protect the shoreline from erosion and storm surges, contributing to the overall health of the islands' ecosystems.

The native vegetation in Horsburgh Atoll plays a crucial role in preserving the islands' natural beauty and biodiversity. Dense vegetation, including various species of palm trees such as the iconic coconut palm, screwpine, and tropical hardwood trees like sea hibiscus, covers the islands, providing shade and habitats for a variety of bird species, bats, and insects. These plant species also play a vital role in stabilizing the soil and maintaining the delicate balance of the island ecosystem in the face of a rapidly changing climate.

Local farms are another important aspect of life in Horsburgh Atoll, as they provide sustenance for the island communities while simultaneously showcasing traditional agricultural practices. These small-scale farms cultivate a variety of crops such as bananas, papayas, pumpkins, watermelons, and leafy greens, all of which contribute to the local food supply. The farming methods employed on these islands prioritize sustainability and conservation, ensuring that the land remains fertile and productive for generations to come.