Maldives

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The Maldives are an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 coral atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts) in the Indian Ocean. A member of the Commonwealth, they lie south-southwest of India and are considered part of Southern Asia.

Population: 393,988 people
Area: 298 km2
Highest point: 4 m
Coastline: 644 km
Life expectancy: 74.92 years
GDP per capita: $9,400
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About Maldives

History

Formerly a Sultanate under Dutch and British protection, the Maldives are now a republic. Long ruled over with an iron fist by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who did not hesitate to jail dissidents and was re-elected five times in more or less rigged elections, resistance to his rule culminated in violent rioting in 2003 and 2004. Much to everybody's surprise, free and fair elections were finally held in 2008, and Gayoom gracefully conceded defeat to opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, "Anni".

The Tsunami of 26 Dec 2004 caused extensive damage to the Maldives - of a population of only 290,000, over a third was directly affected by the tsunami and more than 15,000 people were left homeless. The economic damage alone was over 62% of the GDP or USD470 million.

The immediate response from international donors and agencies mobilized more than USD400 million in aid after the disaster, much of which was used to help misplaced persons rebuild their homes and infrastructure damaged by the waves. As of 24 Dec, 2010, six years after the tsunami, the number of persons living in temporary shelters had fallen from 15,000 to only 1,600 people.

Climate

The Maldives are tropical, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 30°C (86°F) throughout the year. However, rainfall increases considerably during the April-October southwest monsoon, particularly from June to August.

Activities

Diving and snorkelling

Aside from making the water bungalow rock on your honeymoon, the primary activity on the Maldives is scuba diving. The atolls are all coral reefs hundreds of kilometres away from any major land mass, meaning that water clarity is excellent and underwater life is abundant. Manta rays, sharks, even a few wrecks, you name it, you can find it in the Maldives.

While diving is very good by world standards even in the immediate vicinity of Male, visibility and the chance of encountering large pelagic fish increases as you head to the outer atolls. Many divers opt for live-aboards, which can actually work out much cheaper than paying high resort fees. Currents vary considerably, with generally little inside the atolls but some powerful streams to be found on the sides facing the open sea. Water in the Maldives is warm throughout the year and a 3mm shorty or Lycra diveskin is plenty. Diving is possible throughout the year, but rain, wind and waves are most common during the season of the southwest monsoon (June-August). The best time for scuba diving is from January to April, when the sea is calm, the sun is shining and the visibility can reach 30m. Decompression chambers can be found on Bandos in Kaafu (15min from Male), Kuredu in Lhaviyani Atoll and at Kuramathi on Alifu.

The one downside to diving in the Maldives is that it's quite expensive by Asian standards. Prices vary considerably from resort to resort, with specialist dive resorts offering better prices, but in general, you'll be looking at around USD50 for a single boat dive with your own gear and closer to USD75 without. Beware of surcharges: you may be charged extra for boat use, guided dives, larger tanks, etc. On the upside, safety standards are usually very high, with well-maintained gear and strict adherence to protocol (check dives, maximum depth, computer use, etc.) being the rule rather than the exception.

Surfing

The Maldives is becoming an increasingly popular surfing destination. Turquoise water and perfect waves makes it an ideal and un-crowded destination for surfers looking for smooth surfing conditions.

The best period for surfing in the Maldives is between March and October; the biggest waves occurring in June, July and August. This paradise is exposed to the same swells as Indonesia is, except that its higher latitude and its South-East exposure offers cooler and less hardcore surfing. The recent O’Neil Deep Blue Contests held in the Maldives has placed Maldives firmly on the world’s surf map. While most of the recognized surf breaks are in Male’ Atoll, there is certainly more to be discovered.

Specialized companies organize tailored multi-day boat trips in the region, allowing surfers to move easily from one point to another and maximizing the surfing time.

Food

All the resorts are self-contained so they have at least one restaurant, which generally serve the type of cuisine expected by their guests. ( i.e. modern European or generic Asian). Breakfast is almost always included, and most resorts offer the option of half-board, which means you get a dinner buffet, and full board, which means you get a lunch and dinner buffet. These can limit the damage compared to ordering a la carte, but your options are typically very limited and drinks are often not covered, not necessarily even water. If you're planning on drinking a lot, it may be worthwhile to go all inclusive, but even this typically restricts you to house drinks.

The only other place to find food is Male. This comes in two forms. Either small restaurants aimed at the tourists (of which there are a couple of nice Thai restaurants), which are often expensive, or small cafes called hotaa, selling local Maldivian food at prices as low as MVR20 for a complete meal.

Maldivian cuisine

Maldivian food revolves largely around fish (mas), in particular tuna (kandu mas), and draws heavily from the Sri Lankan and south Indian tradition, especially Kerala. Dishes are often hot, spicy and flavoured with coconut, but use very few vegetables. A traditional meal consists of rice, a clear fish broth called garudhiya and side dishes of lime, chili and onions. Curries known as riha are also popular and the rice is often supplemented with roshi, unleavened bread akin to Indian roti, and papadhu, the Maldivian version of crispy Indian poppadums. Some other common dishes include:

  • mas huni — shredded smoked fish with grated coconuts and onions, the most common Maldivian breakfast
  • fihunu mas — barbequed fish basted with chili
  • bambukeylu hiti — breadfruit curry

Snacks called hedhikaa, almost invariably fish-based and deep-fried, can be found in any Maldivian restaurant.

  • bajiya — pastry stuffed with fish, coconut and onions
  • gulha — pastry balls stuffed with smoked fish
  • keemia — deep-fried fish rolls
  • kulhi borkibaa — spicy fish cake
  • masroshimas huni wrapped in roshi bread and baked
  • theluli mas — fried fish with chili and garlic

Drinks

As the Maldives are Muslim, alcohol is banned for the local population. However, nearly all resorts and live-aboard boats are licensed to serve it, usually with a steep markup. Expatriate residents have an allowance that they can use in Male.

Maldivians generally do not drink alcohol although this is less true of the younger generation. They are, however, unhappy about being filmed or photographed while drinking.

Tap water in resorts may or may not be drinkable -- check with management. Bottled water is extortionately priced, with USD5/bottle being typical.

Shopping

The local currency is the Maldivian rufiyaa (MVR), divided into 100 laari. However by law, resorts price services in US dollars and require payment in hard currency (or credit card), so there's absolutely no need to change money if you're going to spend all your time at the resorts. Most hotels have a shop but this is limited to diving and holiday essentials (sun cream, sarongs, disposable cameras, etc.) Some excursions from resorts will take you to local islands where there are handicraft type things to buy, but they are typically made outside the Maldives and sold at outrageous markups.

If you are heading to Male or the other inhabited atolls, exchanging some rufiyaa will come in handy. The coins, in particular, are quite attractive and make an interesting souvenir in themselves, but the smaller denominations are rarely used or seen. The official exchange rate to the US dollar is floated but practically 15:1, but while dollars are near-universally accepted, shops usually exchange them at 15:1 or even 10:1.

If you want to get a local SIM card, there is a Dhiraagu shop (the primary local telecom company) just to the left of the airport arrivals area upon exiting. A local cell number is needed to purchase time at many Wi-Fi spots around the country (sometimes reachable from where live-aboards anchor for the night).

Costs

There's no way around it: the Maldives is expensive, and there is limited budget accommodation or transport. Resorts have a monopoly on services for their guests and charge accordingly: for mid-range resorts, $1000 per week per couple is a conservative budget for meals, drinks and excursions, above and beyond the cost of flights and accommodation. Practically anything — including hotel rooms if booked locally — gets slapped with an arbitrary 10% "service charge", but tips are expected on top.

There are a few Inns and B&B on the more populated atolls for budget minded travellers.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Maldives on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Maldives

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Malé , pronounced Mah-lay, is the capital of Maldives. The city occupies the entire islet of Malé and is located at the southern rim of North Male Atoll.

Interesting places:

  • Grand Friday Mosque
  • Sultan Park
  • Maldives Islamic Centre
  • Medhu Ziyaaraiy
  • Mulee Aage Palace
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Interesting places:

  • Holi Faru Dive Site
  • Rasdhoo Reef Dive Site
  • Adivaru Thila Dive Site
  • Madivaru Corner Dive Site
  • Big Blue Dive Site
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Interesting places:

  • Meeru Corner Dive Site
  • Asdhoo Rock
  • Chicken Island Reef
  • Far Reef
  • Meeru House Reef
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Interesting places:

  • Kuredu Beach
  • Kanuhura Beach
  • Palm Island Beach
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Malé , pronounced Mah-lay, is the capital of Maldives. The city occupies the entire islet of Malé and is located at the southern rim of North Male Atoll.

Interesting places:

  • Paradise Island Beach
  • Meeru Beach
  • Kurumba Beach
  • Kani Beach
  • Gili Lankanfushi Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Water Sport Centre
  • Dive School
  • Spa by Clarins
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Interesting places:

  • Angsana Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Maaya Thila
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Interesting places:

  • Maafushivaru Island Pier
  • Maafushivaru Island Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Vabbininfaru Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Dhidhoofinolhu Marina
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Ukulhas island is in the Maldives and is one of the inhabited islands of Alif Alif Atoll with an almost completely Sunni Muslim population of about 900.

Interesting places:

  • Ukulhas Beach
  • Ukulhas Harbor
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Interesting places:

  • Gaathafushi Island
  • Fesdu House Reef
  • Malhoss Thila
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Interesting places:

  • Full Moon Beach
  • Boutique by Island Breeze
  • Extreme Maldives Watersports Centre
  • Orofini Jewellery
  • Banana Reef Dive Site
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Interesting places:

  • Komandoo Beach
  • Naifura Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Himendhoo Thila
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Interesting places:

  • Madivaru Beyru Dive Site
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Interesting places:

  • Rannalhi Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Kandooma Beach
  • Olhuveli Beach
  • Dhigufinolhu Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Gan Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Fish Head Dive Site
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Interesting places:

  • Rihiveli Beach
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panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Maldives

  • Maldives is one of the lowest countries in the world and its geography can be considered a sight in itself.
  • Scuba diving is a popular activity and under water there is a whole world to discover - coral reefs, several colorful fish and other animal species living in the ocean.
  • In the capital Malé there are a couple of interesting museums and mosques.

Grand Friday Mosque - Male

Paradise Island Beach - Hulhule

Rannalhi Beach - Rannalhi

Kandooma Beach - Dhigufinolhu

Biyadoo Beach - Biyadoo Island

Fihalholi Beach - Fihalhohi Island

Kuredu Beach - Kuredu Island

Dhonveli Beach - Chaaya Island

Full Moon Beach - Furanafushi Island

Rihiveli Beach - Rihiveli

Meedhuffushi Island Beach - Vilu Reef

Holi Faru Dive Site - Veligandu Island

Komandoo Beach - Komandoo

Gan Beach - Villingili Island

Dhidhoofinolhu Marina - Dhidhoofinolhu Island

Angsana Beach - Ihuru

Bodu Hurraa Beach - Veligandu

Maafushivaru Island Pier - Maafushivaru

Meeru Corner Dive Site - Meerufenfushi

Vabbininfaru Beach - Vabbinfaru

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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