White sandy beaches and palm trees cover the 1190 islands in the archipelago of Maldives. Lying across two rows of atolls in the Indian Ocean just across the equator, Maldives in Southern Asia is sunny practically every day with temperatures around 30°C throughout the year.
The Maldivian islands are formed around twenty-six natural ring-like atolls that spread over 90,000 square kilometres. Inhabited by mostly communities of Muslim residents, it is key to note that alcohol, pork, dogs and all public observance of non-Muslim religions are banned on the inhabited islands accept for the resort islands where anything goes.
Located in the Laccadive Sea (Lakshadweep Sea) 700km south-west of Sri Lanka and 402km south-west of India, Maldives converted to Islam in 1153 and was a former Sultanate under the Dutch and British protection which was once ruled with an ironed fist of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Today governed by its current president Mohamed Nasheed, the island nation of Maldives thrives on it its tourism sector since 1972 as it faces restoration to its economy after the 2004 tsunami.
With a blend of cultures of its earliest settlers from southern India and Sri Lanka, the ethnic people of Maldives are known as Dhivehis. Ethnicity also differs from one atoll to the other, attributing to the genes passed on by South and South-East Asians, Africans and Arabians. The language used is Dhivehi with slightly different dialects spoken in other regions. Though Islam dominates the islands, influences of the supernatural continues to play a role in most communities based on folklores and Buddhist traditions of the islands’ first settlers.
The islands’ waters are home to a wide variety of ecosystems and the archipelago is famous for colourful coral reefs, home to over 300 species of fish, 5 species of turtles, 51 species of echinoderms, 5 species of sea grasses and 285 species of alga & sponges, crustaceans and tunicates. Obviously, apart from photography of its scenic surroundings, diving, swimming, snorkelling and sailing are its main activities on the islands. There are approximately 92 resorts in Maldives.
Getting around Maldives can be a lot of fun. There are only three modes of transportation between islands or resorts: boats (equivalent for cars), sea planes (air taxis) or private yachts. Taxi boats transport tourists to and from the islands in the North and South Malé atolls.
It is important to note that air taxis and boats do not operate at night; hence arriving by flight into Malé will have you residing in the capital or the airport hotel in Hulhule until morning. Remember that travellers are prohibited from importing alcohol, pork or pornography into the country.
Open to tourism, it is the northern most atoll. Visit Kuredu Island famous for scuba diving.
Home to most resorts, Kaafu covers most of the North Malé and South Malé Atolls. The international airport is located in this region and so is the country’s capital.
Considered the second most popular region, most resorts take 20-30 minutes to reach by sea plane.
This is a fully Islamic island and importing alcohol, pork or pornography into this region is forbidden.
The Gan international Airport is located here. Connected by causeways are the islands of Gan, Feydu, Maradu and Hithadhoo.
Raa, Baa, Vaavu, Meemu and Faafu:
These are not resorts islands therefore Islamic laws apply.
Visit the capital Malé:
Located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll, it is the most populous city in the republic of Maldives. Visit the oldest mosque Hukuru Miskiiy, takes the kids on a Whale Submarine ride to view the corals, check out the artificial beach, drop by the National Museum or take a stroll through Sultan’s Park.
A must see is the Fish Market:
Located on the west side of Independence Square, observe fresh fish being brought into town straight from the boats. It’s a spectacular sight to see Tuna spread out on the markets floors as far as the eye can see.
Diving & Surfing:
The clear waters provide high visibility throughout the year. Most resorts and safari boats provide basic to advanced training should you need any. Considered Mecca to surf-enthusiasts from June to September during the monsoons. There are well-known surf breaks located both in the North and South Malé Atolls.
Visit the local islands:
With brightly painted house walls, harbour areas and the traditional wooden holhuashi’s, a trip to the local islands will expose you to an interesting cultural experience.
Savour the Maldivian Cuisine:
Indulge in some various seafood dishes and pastries like mas huni (shredded smoked fish with grated coconuts), bajiya (pastry stuffed with fish, coconut & onions), keemia (deep-fried fish rolls) or masroshi (mas huni wrapped in roshi bread and baked).
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