1. Welcome to the Maldives
To the visitors, the Maldives evoke dreams of leaning palm trees, calm turquoise seas, shallow lagoons, endless sandy beaches and magnificent beach hotels and resorts providing a paradise for water sports and diving. The islands’ main attractions lie beneath the surface of the warm waters that lap the beautiful beaches of the Maldives. The coral reefs of Maldives are considered by many experts as some of the best in the world and are certainly comparable to the beauty and color of the Red Sea and to the variety of marine life of the Great Barrier Reef.
The nearest neighbors of the Maldives are India and Sri Lanka with lie northeast of the Maldivian Archipelago. Within the 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean of the Maldives, about 1200 coral islands and many small sandbanks. Sandbanks and coral patches, which may be exposed during low tide, may be submerged six hours later at high tide. The total land area of the Maldives measures approximately 298 square kilometers making it the smallest country in Asia. The islands lie along a chain of atolls that stretches 823 km north to south, 130 km wide and covering over 90,000 square kilometers.
The Atolls in the Maldives
The Maldivians were the first to use the word “atoll” which is in the Dhivehi language “atholhu” meaning a ring shaped coral island or reef surrounding a lagoon. The atolls of the Maldives form a double chain in the middle with a single row of atolls to the north and south. Deep channels, which are often swept by strong currents, separate the atolls from each other in the Indian Ocean.
The Islands of the Maldives
The islands of Maldives are coralline and are typical flat with a maximum height of the entire country no more than 3 meters above sea level. Most islands of the Maldives occur close to an atoll enclosure reef and vary in size from a patch pf sand to a fully developed island. Covering their coral foundation, the older islands of the Maldives have accumulated layers of soil made of decomposed vegetable and animal matter. These islands are now covered in lush tropical vegetation with a naturally high water table. Some islands of the Maldives even have fresh water.
Village Islands of the Maldives
Except of the capital city of the Maldives, Male, the villages of the archipelago have not been influenced much by the Western world and they keep strictly to their Muslim faith. Each of the village islands forms a self-sufficient community.
Climate of the Maldives
Every year, the Maldives are affected by two monsoons: iruvai, which is the northeast monsoon is hot and dry, while hulhangu, being the southwest monsoon, brings wind and rain to the islands of the Maldives.
The Maldives is an ideal holiday destination throughout the year; the best time to visit is during the dry monsoon, which is between November and April. These months are characterized by blue skies and sunshine. During the months of May to October, storms and tropical showers often break the hot days. Only the far northern atolls of the Maldives are struck by cyclones. The annual rainfall is approximately 1870 mm in the Maldives.
Plant life and animals of the Maldives
Plants of the islands are mainly coconut trees, banyan, screwpine, vines and mangroves. Some beautiful flowering plants like bougainvillea, red hibiscus and frangipani have been cultivated on the Maldives. The pink rose is the Maldivian national flower.
In comparison to its marine counterpart, where coral species, reef fish and large open water fish provide an infinite array of magnificent colors, wildlife above the water is fairly sparse. There are 67 butterfly species on the Maldives, other animals found in the Maldives are the large flying foxes or fruit bats, the two types of gecko, the garden lizard, the rapid moving skink, the koel bird, the bright green rose-ringed parakeet as well as the white-breasted waterhen.
A brief history of the Maldives
The origin of the first settlers of the Maldivian Archipelago before their conversion to Islam is obscure. It seems almost certain that the first known inhabitants of the Maldives came from India and Ceylon/Sri Lanka.
500 BC: possibly the first settlers arrive on the Maldives
AD 1152: conversion to Islam
1558: The Maldivian nation enters an era under the Portuguese that last for approximately 15 years
1573: The Portuguese rule comes to an end after a successful Maldivian uprising
1752: The Ali Rajas attack the archipelago of the Maldives, kidnap the sultan and take over the island of the
Maldives, after a few weeks the Maldivians gain their independence again
1887: The Maldives becomes a British protectorate
1932: The first constitution is drawn but discarded in 1939
1953: The Maldives become a republic after abolishing the sultanate
1965: The British relinquish protectorate status, Maldives becomes independent
1968: The second republic is formed with Ibrahim Nasir as president
1978: Abdul Gayoom is elected the new president
2004: Gayoom remains the head of state of the Maldives
The People of the Maldives
The Maldivians call themselves Dhivehin or “Island People”. On the village islands of the Maldives, small and strong Muslim societies have been established; the total population of the Maldives has not yet reached 300,000 people. As part of a totally Muslim country, Maldivian society is governed by strict Islamic Law and its religious beliefs.
The close contact with the Arab world and the Indian mainland influenced and changed the original Maldivian language and script and has established a distinctive language, which is known today as Dhivehi. English is rapidly gaining importance as the official second language in the Madlives.
Islam is the only religion of the Maldives but the people have combined their own traditions with Islam, which gives it its unique character. Faith in Islam on the Maldives is taken very seriously and the law allows no deviations, especially regarding drinking alcohol or eating pork. Muslims are not allowed alcohol and Maldives generally drink very sweet tea, but resort islands do sell alcohol to all non-Muslims.
2. Male and Hulhule
Male, the capital city of the Maldives
Male, the capital city of the Maldives rises from a coral bed only a few meters above sea level. Buildings situated in Male meet the surrounding breakwaters. Today, Male is the political, cultural and economic center of the Maldives. Just over 1.6 square kilometers in size, one could barely call Male a city, yet it is the heart of the Maldives.
The best way to explore the capital of the country is on foot. It takes about 30 minutes only to cross Male length and less than two hours to walk the perimeter. Suburbs of Male include Henveiru, Maafannu, Galolhu and Machchangolhi.
Amongst the many exciting places of interest to visit in Male are:
The imposing wooden jetty along the wharf is the official arrival place for dignitaries. It has become a popular meeting lace for locals and tourist who relax under the shade.
This area is famous for its many souvenir shops.
The fish markets bustle in the afternoons when fishermen lay their catch on the shiny concrete slabs and barter with the customers.
The Islamic Centre of Male:
The Islamic Center is located on Ibraahimee Magu, which houses the Grand Friday Mosque with its towering minaret.
The oldest and most beautiful mosque in Male is the Friday Mosque or Hukuru Miskiiy located in Medhuziyaaraiy Magu.
Sultan Park in Male:
Sultan Park is a public area and quiet oasis in the heart of the busy capital city Male. After the second republic was formed, the Sultan’s Palace was demolished except for one three-storey wing that was converted to the National Museum.
The National Museum in Male:
The artifacts in the National Museum include pre-Islamic stone objects donated by members of the island communities or found during archaeological diggings as well as regal costumes worn by kings and queens.
Hulhule, the airport island of the Maldives
Hulhule is a small island located in close proximity to the Male Island. It is on Hulhule Island where the International Airport is located. Water planes and sea taxis transport the arriving guests to their holiday island destinations in the Maldives.
3. Central and Southern Atolls of the Maldives
The central region of the Maldives includes the three atolls of Kaafu ( North and South Male), Ari (Alifu) and Felidhu (Vaavu) which are the most popular holiday destinations of the Maldives because of the concentration of resort islands.
Of the other five central atolls that strech south from the three resoryt filled islands of the Maldives, Meemu (Mulaku), Faafu (North Nilandhoo) and Dhaalu ( South Nilandhoo) have recently been designed by the government as part of the tourist zone and a total of five new resorts islands have been developed in these atolls.
The central atolls of the Maldives are:
Meemu (Mulaku) Atoll: its capital Muli is the atoll’s main fishing center
Faafu (North Nilandhoo) Atoll: the most important archaeological finds in the Maldives have been found here
Dhaalu (South Nilandhoo) Atoll: has eight fishing islands and around 40 uninhabited islands
Thaa (Kolhumadulu) Atoll
Laamu (Hadhdhunmathi) Atoll.
The southern atolls of the Maldives are:
Gaafu Alifu (North Huvadhoo) Atoll: Huvadhoo is one of the world’s largest atolls
Gaafu Dhaalu (South Hudvadhoo) Atoll
Gnaviyani (Foammulah) Atoll: this atoll is divided from Huvadhoo Atoll by the Equatorial Channel which is
43 km wide; a small atool, Gnaviyani is one of the most isolated islands of the archipelago.
Seenu (Addu) Atoll.
4. Northern Atolls
Less crowded, the northern atolls stretch up to their sister archipelago, the beautiful Lakshadweep Islands. The weather pattern that sweeps past these northern reaches of Maldives is unpredictable and devastating. Hurricanes are more common in these regions of the Maldives.
The northern atolls of the Maldives are:
Lhaviyani (Faadhippolhu) Atoll: Naifaru is the capital island of the atoll; Kuredu Island Resort Hotel,
Komandoo Island Resort Hotel, Palm Beach Resort & Spa Hotel Maldives, Hudhufushi Island Resort
Baa (South Maalhosmadulu) Atoll: Reethi Beach Resort Hotel Maldives, Coco Palm Resort & Spa Hotel
Maldives, Sonevafushi Resort Maldives
Raa ( North Maalhosmadulu) Atoll: Meedhupparu Island Resort
Noonu (South Miladhunmadulu) Atoll
Shaviyani (North Miladhunmadulu) Atoll
Haa Dhaalu (South Thiladhunmathi) Atoll
Haa Alifu (North Thiladhunmathi) Atoll.
The One&Only Kanuhura Resort is located on the eastern side of the Lhaviyani (Faadhippolhu) Atoll.Kanuhura is a long thin island 1000m by 200m with a shallow lagoon on the west side. The One&Only Kanuhura Hotel Beach Resort has excellent beaches and has been developed to provide a high standard of accommodation and facilities. The resort provides luxurious rooms, including water bungalows, suites, a spa, restaurants, a mini club for children and a fresh water swimming pool.
5. North Male Atoll
Situated in the northern section and forming part of the central chain of Maldivian atolls, North Male Atoll is the largest of the four that comprise the administrative Kaafu Atoll. The northernmost of Kaafu’s four atolls is the large island called Kaashidhoo, which is located in the center of the Kaashidhoo Channel that separates, North Male from Lhaviyani Atoll. Close to the northern rim of North Male is a small oval shaped atoll while to the south separated by the narrow Vaadhoo Channel is South Male Atoll. North Male is the hub of Maldives. With the republic’s capital city, Male, situated on its southern rim, its waters are the country’s equivalent of a spaghetti junction of highways.
Resort Islands of the North Male Atoll
All the islands are very similar: coconut palms and green bush, sugar-white sand and crystal clear lagoons.
Resorts and Hotels located in the North Male Atoll are:
Asdu Sun Island Resort Maldives
Baros Resort Maldives
Boduhithi Coral Island Maldives
Club Med Faru (Farukolhufushi): the grand resort island of Club Med is 6ha in size.
Eriyadhoo Resort Island Maldives
Full Moon Beach Resort (Furana) Hotel Maldives
Mahureva (Gasfinolhu) Resort
Giraavaru Island Resort
Helengeli Resort Island Maldives
Taj Coral reef ( Hembadhoo) Resort Maldives
Soneva Gili Resort (Lankanushi) Maldives
Angsana Resort and Spa Maldives (Ihuru)
Club Med Kani (Kanifinolhu)
Kudahithi Relais Resort Maldives
Lhohifushi Resort Maldives
Four Season Resort (Kuda Huraa)
Makunudhoo Island Resort
Meeru Island Resort (Meerufenfushi)
Huvafen Fushi Spa Resort Maldives
Paradise Island (Lankanfinolhu) Resort
One&Only Reethi Rah Resort Maldives
Dhonveli Beach (Kanuhuraa) Hotel Maldives
Thulhaagiri Resort Maldives
Banyan Tree (Vabbinfaru) Resort Maldives
Summer Island (Ziyaaraiyfushi) Resort in the Maldives.
The One&Only Reethi Rah Resort in the Maldives is located 35 km from Hulhule International Airport on the western side of the atoll. The island is just 800 meters long and 100 meters at its widest. Regular inhabitants of this part of the lagoon facing the open sea are baby blacktip reef sharks looking for protection in the shallow waters and small stingrays. The protected waters surrounding the island are well suited for windsurfing, especially for beginners preferring the tranquility of a lagoon.
6. South Male Atoll
Separated from North Male by the 300-meter deep Vaadhoo Channel, the South Male Atoll is approximately 30 kilometers in length. The island resorts and hotels in this area of the Maldives are concentrated mostly along its eastern rim. Away from the busy waters that surround Male and the airport, the South Male Atoll is more tranquil and it is only from the resorts Languna Beach (Velassaru), Vaadhoo and Taj Exotica Resort and Spa that the capital’s skyline can still be seen. From the other resorts, the view is one of expanses of turquoise blue waters alternating with deep blue sea and peppered with small fishing villages and a few deserted islands.
Resort Islands of the South Male Atoll
Hotels and resorts found on the South Male Atoll include:
Biyaadoo Resort Hotel Maldives
Cocoa Island (Maakunufushi) Resort
Dhigufinolhu Resort Maldives
Taj Exotica Resort and Spa
Fun Island Resort (Bodufinolhu)
Kandooma Resort Maldives
Laguna Beach Resort (Velassaru) Maldives
Olhuveli Beach and Spa Resort Maldives
Palm Tree Islands Resort in the Maldives
Vaadhoo Island Resort and Hotel Maldives
Vilivaru Resort Maldives
7. Ari and Felidhu Atolls Maldives
Separated from the North and South Male Atolls by deep Alihuras Kandu, the Ari Atoll is part of the western chain of Maldives’ turquoise necklace. The Ari Atoll is oval shaped and is 80 km long and 30 km wide. To its northeast there are two small satellite atolls which form part of Ari Atoll: Rasdhoo and Thoddoo Atolls. The round shaped atoll of Rasdhoo has three islands two of which are resorts and the third is a fishing village. Shaped like a boot, the Felidhu Atoll is situated south of the South Male Atoll across the 20 km wide Felidhoo Kandu Channel.
Ari Atoll Resort Islands Maldives
The fasted and quickest way to travel to the resort islands of Ari Atoll is by seaplane.
Hotels and Resorts found in the Ari Atoll of the Maldives include:
White Sands Resort (Dhidhdhoofinolhu)
Athruga Resort Maldives
Bathala Hotel Beach Resort Maldives
Fesdu Fun Island Resort
Gangehi Island Resort
Halaveli Holiday Island
Holiday Island Resort (Dhiffushi)
Kuda Rah Resort
Lily Beach Resort (Huvahendhoo)
Mirihi Resort Maldives
Nika Hotel (Kudafolhudhoo)
Hilton Maldives (Rangali)
Ranveli Village (Villingilivaru)
Sun Island Resort Maldives
Twin Island Resort Maldives (Maafushivaru)
Velidhoo (Avi) Resort Maldives
Vilamendhooo Island Resort.
Rasdhoo Atoll Resort Islands Maldives
Felidhu (Vaavu) Atoll Resort Islands Maldives
Alimatha Aquatic Resort
8. Under Maldivian Waters
Small and relatively flat, the islands of the Maldives have a limited variety of flora and fauna when compared to the infinite abundance of marine life found on their coral reefs. Soft and hard corals, tiny shrimps, turtles, shells, sea slugs, manta rays, sharks, reef fish as well as moray eels are only a few of the great variety of species that inhabit one of the greatest reef systems in the world. Corals do not grow if the water temperature is below 20 degree Celsius. With an average water temperature of 28 degree Celsius, the ocean surrounding the islands of the Maldives is ideal for thriving coral growth.
Sea life in the Maldives
Corals: soft and hard corals
Crustaceans: shrimps, crabs and lobsters
Molluscs: sea snails, sea slugs, clams and mussels, octopus, squid and cuttlefish
Fish: powder blue surgeonfish, emperor angelfish, butterfly fish, batfish, snappers, moray eels, pelagic fish,
great reef sharks, rays and turtles.
Popular Dive Sites in the Maldives
The dive sites of the Maldives are innumerable. Included below are some of the favorite dive sites to be found in the Maldives:
The Ship Yard
Biyaadoo House Reef
Don’t miss the following exciting adventures during your stay in the Maldives:
A snorkeling safari
A diving rip to a manta point
Spotting giant clams