The Maldives is officially the Republic of the Maldives
and it consists of more than 20 atolls encircling more than 1,000
islands. They are located in the Indian Ocean, several hundred miles
southwest of India and Sri Lanka. None of the islands have a height
of more than 10 feet above sea level. They extend north and south in
a chain that often has two parallel strings of atolls. The Maldives
originally were ruled by royal dynasties that trace their ancestry to
mainland Asia. They were briefly part of Portugal in the 1600s and
were a British protectorate from the late 1800s until 1965. Today
the Republic is ruled by a President. The official language is
Maldivian and its population of just over 300,000 is almost completely
native Maldivian. The official religion is Islam and the
constitution forbids any other religions. Ancient Buddhist temples
from prior to the 12th century have been subjected to vandalism and
destruction. Malé, located on North Malé Atoll, is the capital and largest city
with a population of over 100,000. The city completely fills the
atoll and gives a strange appearance of a modern city set adrift in the
sea. The second largest city is Addu City on Addu
Atoll. It has a population of just over 30,000. The
country has seen political unrest in recent years as it tries to respond
to the economic setbacks from the 2004 tsunami and from the desire of many
to preserve Islamic traditions.
The currency of the Maldives is the Maldivian rufiyaa:
Temperatures are between 25 C (80 F) and 35 C (95 F) year round. Although there is high
humidity, the low elevation of the atolls ensures exposure to the
slightest sea breezes. The
monsoons of India reach the Maldives and can cause thunderstorms and
excessive rainfall that peak in the month of June. Warmer sea temperatures in recent years have
resulted in declines in coral and other sea life. January - March
have lower rainfall and make these months the best bet for good weather.
in the Maldives began in the 1970s, but has now replaced
fishing as the major source of revenue. Tourists can access the
Maldives by taking an international flight to Ibrahim Nasir International
Airport on Hulhule Island and taking a 10 minute ferry ride from the
airport to the capital of Malé. Ferries from the airport run day
and night on a continuous basis. Cruise ships anchor off the
northern shore of Malé and tender their passengers ashore.
The Fish Market is west of Independence Square (Jumhooree Maidhaan)
along the northern waterfront. Watch the catch being brought
in each evening and watch the fish cutters at work. Across the
street is the Local Market with fruit, vegetables and handicrafts
from the neighboring islands.
Spend time in a holhuashi - the Maldivian version of
a gazebo at the beach.
Go night fishing.
Go island hopping. Look for a dhonis (water
taxi) near the main ferry terminal to the airport or at the cruise
ship tender dock and head out on an island adventure from Malé.
Visit a beach such as the popular Kuda Bandos
Island Beach on the uninhabited island of Kuda Bandos via a 45
minute boat trip. Try snorkeling and diving there too.
Go scuba diving - the Maldives represent one of the world's
best dive locations. It is known for sharks, turtles and whale
sharks. Try Mushimasmingali Thila (Fish Head) near
Mushimasgali Island in Ari Atoll, which is a well known dive site with numerous gray sharks.
It takes about 45 minutes to get to Fish Head. The wreck of the Maldive Victory
is located just a few minutes from Malé, near the airport, but it's for experienced
divers due to the strong currents at the edge of the atoll. The Banana Reef is great for diving and is close to
Stay at a luxury hotel in an overwater
bungalow. There are numerous resorts on the islands
surrounding Malé. More than 80 resorts have leases to entire