Haa Atoll is home to UNESCO World Biosphere reserve. In this reserve there is an island called Hanifaru, just outside the lagoon is an area called Hanifaru Bay which is one of the best whale shark and manta spots in the world. Access is regulated and managed by an office in Dharavandhoo which as a domestic airport. You can buy token at the office and they will arrange transport to Hanifaru Bay.
Hanifaru is actually the name of island next to Hanifaru Bay. Every year whale shark and manta season attracts many tourists to Baa Atoll. Resorts such as Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Soneva Fushi, Dusit Thani Maldives, Amilla Fushi, Royal Island, Kihaad Maldives are all located in close proximity to this wonderful attraction. If a guest has particular interest for Baa Atoll most probably this would be the reason. Apart from this fishing is also very good in this atoll.
Even though Hanifaru Bay is such a special places, in last week of November 2016, there was a very unfortunate incident right at Hanifaru Bay. A boat got stranded on the reef. Pictures tell the complete story except the extend of damage it must have caused to the reef.
At the time of writing this post, authorities were still investigating the damages. In Maldives there is an incredibly high fine on reef damages, be it on purpose or just an accident. In such cases fine usually becomes several folds of the boat value.
The reason for getting stranded remains unclear. As seen on picture there are waves in that area. In case of engine failure it would be quite difficult to control boat with ropes and anchors. The reason could also be negligence of boat crew or simply a blind accident. But it is highly unusual to boat captain to fall asleep while travelling, usually captains are very good to keep in focus and boats like this usually have GPS.
All in all, it is a very rare kind of accident to end up on reef like that. What makes this particular accident stand out is the UNESCO bio-sphere reserve status given to the reef.
Any damage this reef would be a loss to entire Baa Atoll, including resorts and local citizens. In local islands there are guesthouses and budget travelers stay in these places while experiencing excursions such as snorkeling with whale shark or fishing. So, any damage to Hanifaru Bay would be a hit at the locals directly.
The domestic airport of Dharavandhoo is very close and Biosphere Reserve office is located in Dharavandhoo. Hanifaru Bay is regulated and monitored by this office and there are rangers safeguarding the site, may be not 24hrs due to cost factor.
Looking at the picture, even though the reef is Hanifaru Bay, the location is not exactly there the mantas and whalesharks come. They actually swim in narrow passage that is like funnel. So that place they swim is actually not very shallow but it is surrounded by shallow reef. There was no report of any injury to a whale shark and they are still around as if nothing happened. The people of Baa Atoll are lucky this time.