The water on the beaches on these islands is the same turquoise colour as that in the resorts. Most of the dive sites and excursions you can access from here are also the same as those you can from the luxury resorts.There is a small difference though.You can spend a fortnight here for the nightly rate you'll pay at the resorts. But that is not even the real reason you should go here. You should go here if you want to know what ordinary Maldivians are like and how they live. That's something top of the luxury resorts cannot give you. That's also the topic of a separate blog post ????.
Maafushi has atleast 3 PADI certified dive schools and dozens of companies that organize snorkeling, dolphin watching and fishing excursions. All the providers have their offices in a row, close to the ferry jetty. Do ask around for the best prices. If you are keen on getting a glimpse of the resort life and are not very hard up, day excursions can be arranged for $100-$150 pp (rates vary by resort and operator) which will include buffet lunches at the resort including alcohol. Gulhi has fewer options and the guest houses there can arrange most of these activities for you, but typically at a higher cost.
My advice to every serious traveler is to visit the local islands NOW. Before they loose all semblance of local culture and become tourist traps.Or a new regime reverses the decision to open the local islands to tourism.