It’s almost impossible to speak about the islands of Maldives, without sounding pompous or been driven into a glorious description of the Maldivian exotic nature. Thus, simply Maldives which is located in the Indian Ocean, about 500 km from the southern tips of Sri Lanka and India, the Maldives is an exotic tropical island paradise for the sun lover, the surfer,, the diver, the honeymooners and those who desire peace in its deepest meaning.
Scatters across the equator in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the gem like islands of the Maldives depict the rare vision of a tropical paradise. Palm fringed islands with sparkling white beaches, turquoise lagoons, clear warm waters and coral reefs teeming with abundant varieties of marine flora and fauna, continue to fascinate visitors, as it has fascinated others in the past, for thousands of years. Marco Polo referred to the Maldives as the “…….flowers of the Indies”, and Ibn Batuta called her in his chronicles “One of the wonders of the world:
Truly a natural wonder, the height of the islands rarely reach above 2 meters. It is said that nobody could exactly say the number of islands in Maldives. When one counts the smaller islets and sandbanks; the commonly agreed figure is 1,190 coral islands, consisting of 26 Atoll formations which are spread over an area of 90,000 square kilometers. The Maldivian Atolls are a classic discovery in its own right: the word “Atoll” has been derived from “Dhivehi” (our own language) the word “Atholhu”.
Each of the islands itself started the life as a little sandbank on a coral reef. And by the action of wind, waves, currents, rain and tides they gradually expand and evolved into islands. At this same manner, as a result of storms, changing tides; it disappear once more beneath the sea. Together these islands which have evolved from circular coral reefs are known by the Maldivians as “Atholhu”. So, could this be the largest reef formation in the world!
Thus, a low lying island is naturally formed. Coconuts are washed ashore, palm trees and hardy bushes grow and their roots stabilizes the sand on the coral. Sea birds and hermit crabs are the first known inhabitants. These islands are surrounded by shallow crystal clear lagoons enclosed by coral reefs. Further, these islands provide visitors with one of the most breathtaking views of underwater life in the world. Formed above peaks emerging from the depths of the ocean, upon layers of both living and dead coral, and remnants of other marine life, the islands are generally covered with dense tropical vegetation. Coconut palms towering above dense shrubs and hardy plants protecting the shores from erosion are natural features in most islands. The smaller islands and sand banks under formation are also wonders in themselves. These islands together embody living entities in various stages of formation, as interdependent elements in an ecology. In a food chain where birds, fish, and other marine life co-exist, with humans at its apex as caretakers for centuries.
Maldives is the smallest independent country in Asia and one of the smallest in the world. It consists of about 1,000 small coral islands that form a chain 764 kilometres long and 129 kilometres wide in the Indian Ocean.
The northern tip of the Maldives is about 600 kilometres south of India. These tropical islands cover a total of only 298 square kilometres. Fishing and tourism are the country’s leading economic activities.