Diving is one of the most popular activities associated with the Maldives. Not only is the island archipelago home to a multitude of marine life, there are also some spectacular shipwrecks lying beneath the waves of this tropical slice of heaven.
The southernmost atoll of the Maldives, Addu, boasts a rich history with colonial roots, having played host to The British Royal Air Force until the late 1970’s. During this period, the people of Addu enjoyed significant infrastructural and economic development, which can be seen across the atoll even today. This era is best epitomized by the British War Memorial in Gan, established to pay homage to the soldiers who died in service, and the British Loyalty, one of the largest dive wrecks in the Maldives.
The British Loyalty was an oil tanker of over 5 thousand tonnes constructed in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and used in the transportation of fuel oil, motor spirit and coal. In May 1942, the ship was first torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in Diego Suarez Harbor, Madagascar. Five crew members and a gunner were lost in this incident. Later the same year, she was towed towards Addu Atoll after being refloated and repaired. Here she was used to supply oil to the base in Gan, right until a German U-boat torpedoed the ship again in 1944.
The submarine had taken a long-range shot from outside the atoll through a gap in the anti-torpedo nets. Although there had been significant damage, the British Loyalty did not sink. However, it was not fully repaired after, instead kept as a fuel storage vessel. In 1946, when the British withdrew from the Maldives, the ship was scuttled across the atoll.
Today, the shipwreck lies 33 meters underwater between the islands of Maradhoo and Hithadhoo in Addu City, and is easily accessible to divers by boat. The 140 meters of the ship, and its 160 meter bow, are covered in various corals and is home to a multitude of small fish, turtles, and even manta rays and sharks from time to time. On the deck and keel of the ship are two large holes that lets divers swim in and out of it.
In order to preserve the natural beauty and surroundings around this wreck, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Maldives declared it a Protected Area in 2018. In 2021, collaborating with the British High Commission and the Addu City Council, a local NGO by the name of Nalafehi Meedhoo held a special event to mark the 75th anniversary of the wreck.
Despite some concern of oil leakage, the wreck continues to be one of the most popular dive sites in the country.