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THE MALDIVES

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Maldives
© Can Stock Photo /Anobis

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.

Malé, Maldives

Malé, © Can Stock Photo / Malbert

Visas:

There is no need to obtain a travel visa to the Maldives in advance.  Entry visas are granted on arrival.  For further information, refer to the Republic of the Maldives, Department of Immigration and Emigration or check your specific country at VisaHQ.   For a list of exempt countries, visit Project Visa.

Currency:

The currency of the Maldives is the Maldivian rufiyaa:

Weather:

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.

   

Transportation:

Tourism 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.

Maldives

© Can Stock Photo /Fyletto

Things to see and do in Malé on the Maldives:

  • Walk the island of Malé.  It's only 20 minutes from one end to the other.   

  • The Islamic Centre containing the Grand Friday Mosque - the largest mosque in the Maldives.

  • Old Friday Mosque (Hukuru Miskiiy) - built in 1656 including the Minaret of Hukuru Miskiiy.

  • Eid Miskiiy - mosque built in the 1800s.

  • Mulee Aage - a Sultan's residence.  

  • The National Museum and Sultan Park - located at the site of the former Sultan's palace. 

  • National Handicraft Centre

  • National Art Gallery

  • 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 Malé.

  • 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 islands.

Maldives

© Can Stock Photo /Konstik

Savor the Tastes (Tuna) of the Maldives:

  • Garudiya - fish broth, tuna chunks and tuna heads.  The most popular native dish.

  • Skipjack tuna is the most popular fish.  Yellowfin tuna, mackerel and sardines are common too.

  • Rihaakuru - fish paste, made from tuna.

  • Maldive fish - cured tuna.

  • Fish curry.

  • Mashuni - a breakfast of smoked tuna and coconut.

Hotels in the Maldives:


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