atollIntroduction

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.

mphinCulture

The Maldives has been a melting pot of different cultures as people from different parts of the world came here and settled down. Origin of the Maldivians is lost in antiquity, but history reveals that the islands have been populated for over 3,000 years ago. Early settlers were travelers on the Silk Route and from the Indus Valley Civilization. Inherently warm, friendly and hospitable by nature, it is easy to feel comfortable with Maldivians.
Some of the local music and dance for instance resemble African influences, with hand beating of drums and songs in a language that is not known to any but certainly represents that of East African countries.

As one would expect there is a great South Asian influence in some of the music and dancing and especially in the traditional food of the Maldivians. However many of the South Asian customs especially with regard to women – for instance the Sub Continent’s tradition of secluding women from public view – are not tenets of life here.

In fact women play a major role in society – not surprising considering the fact that men spend the whole day out at sea fishing. Many of the traditions are strongly related to the seas and the fact that life is dependent on the seas around. Dress is generally casual. T-shirts and cotton clothing are most suitable. In Male’, the capital island and other inhabited islands, it is recommended that women wear modest clothing without baring too much.

Sea Transport

The main form of local transport is the dhoni, a traditional all-purpose vessel now usually powered by a diesel engine. Visitors generally remain on their resort island for the duration of their stay, although island-hopping trips by ferries are widely available. Larger boats called vedis are used for longer trips to outer atolls.It is possible to arrange trips to the outer atolls when the neccessary permits are obtained by the operators. Helicopters and seaplanes are used to transfer guests to some of the more remote islands.

Land Transport

Most islands are so small that transport is not a problem. Exploring the islands mostly take longer than half an hour on foot. However, there are taxis, motorcycles and bicycles available for hire in the capital.

Holidays
 Jan 01, 2001
Mon
New Year Holiday
 Mar 05 – 08, 2001
Mon
Eid el-Kebir (Feast of the Sacrifice)
 Mar 27, 2001
Tue
Islamic New Year
 Jun 04 – 05, 2001
Mon
National Day
 Jun 05, 2001
Tue
Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet)
 Jul 26, 2001
Tue
Independence Day
 Aug 20, 2001
Mon
Huravee Day
 Oct 17, 2001
Sun
Martyrs’ Day
 Nov 03, 2001
Sat
Victory Day
 Nov 11 – 12, 2001
Sun
Republic Day
 Dec 17 – 19, 2001
Mon
Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
2Places of Interest

There are several places of tourist attractions in Maldives. Move around the tropical paradise and revel in the scenic surroundings.

Male’, the capital of the Maldives, is the commercial center, seat of government and the location of many important historical and religious landmarks. With an area of just over 1.77 square kilometers, it is home to over sixty thousand people, and is the busiest and most populous island in the archipelago. It has been known as the Sultan’s Island in the past.

There are no beaches on Male’; instead seawalls surround all its sides. However, a newly landscaped artificial beach area and adjoining breakwater stretching all the way round to the harbour in the southwest of the island provide a pleasant jogging route, especially popular in the evenings when it is cooler.

hukuru-miskiiy-old-fridayMale’ is still relatively green and pleasant. The streets in the residential areas are shaded with trees, at places forming an arch overhead. A fair number of main streets are lined with big trees providing shade on both sides. Even a stroll around it would offer interesting sites and shots for the memories; the fish market and the local market at the northern waterfront, the new harbour in the south-west corner to name a few. A stroll around the residential areas or shopping streets would provide an insight into the life and livelihood of the residents of the capital. Or simply sit down and relax at one of the small parks dotted around the capital and just observe the pace of life.

The fruit and vegetable market and the firewood market are busy and colourful where islanders from outer atolls trade their goods. The fish market nearby is always immaculately clean, until the fish is landed in the busy hours of late afternoon when fisher-folk begin to arrive with the day’s catch. The fishermen cutting and cleaning the fish have developed the process to an art. It is a clean and well-maintained area that generates much interest from visitors and provides a glimpse into the life of typical Maldivian fisher-folk.

20821380Seenu is the ‘second city’ of the Maldives, and the resort here is the best base from which to visit traditional Maldivian island communities. The Addu people are fiercely independent, speak differently from folk in the capital and at one time even tried to secede from the republic.

British influence can be seen in plenty on Addu’s modern history. The British bases were first established on the island of Gan during WWII, as part of the Indian Ocean defenses. In 1956, they developed a Royal Air Force base as a strategic Cold War outpost. The base had around 600 permanent personnel, with up to 3000 during periods of peak activity. The British built a causeway connecting Feydhoo, Maradhoo and Hithadhoo islands, and employed most of the local men. In 1976 the British pulled out, but many of their employees, who spoke good English and had experience working for westerners, were well qualified for jobs in the soon-to-be-booming tourist industry.

Tourist development in Addu itself has been slower to start, but a resort has been established in the old RAF buildings on Gan and there are now reliable connections to the capital in a new Air Maldives jet. The Ocean Reef Resort is not a typical Maldives tropical paradise resort island, but the old military base is a unique feature. Causeways to the adjacent islands link Gan, and it’s easy and pleasant to get around them by bicycle, giving unmatched opportunities to visit the local villages and see village life.

Monuments in Male

The Grand Friday Mosque, Masjid-al-Sultan Mohammed Thakurufaanu-al-A “z” zam is the biggest mosque in the Maldives. It also includes the Islamic Center. This Grand Mosque with its dominant golden dome decorates the facade of Male’. It can accommodate over five thousand worshippers at a time. Nearly all visitors to Male’ take time to visit this magnificent landmark.

The old Friday Mosque with its unique minaret and the tombs of national heroes and members of royalty resting in the quietness of its compound gives the visitor a glimpse of the past. The art in the mosque and royal burial grounds are unique and invaluable.

What to Wear

An overcoat and overshoes in a tropical paradise island? Doesn’t sound quite right does it? But there are those essentials you will need, depending very much on when and where you find yourself in the Maldives.

First of all, it must be stated that official regulations do not allow public nudity anywhere in the Maldives. Regardless of how private one’s tourist resort or cruising vessel is, at least a bikini and swimming trunk is a must.

You are also expected to wear decent swimwear to avoid offending the sensibilities of your fellow holiday-makers when you go swimming or snorkeling. At in-house restaurants, bars etc., casual tropical wear comes highly recommended.

When visiting inhabited islands, it is a must that guests be decently clad in garments that cover one’s body from the torso down to the knees. If you envisage making any formal visit locally, do bring along light formal wear.

When is comes to selection of clothing material, do bear in mind that light cotton garments would be the best choice. Also light footwear in the nature of sandals is strongly suggested.

baa-atoll2
Location

The Maldives Islands, an aquatic nation that spans across the equator in the heart of the Indian Ocean. The Maldives is located south of India to the west of Sri Lanka. Rarely can you find a more beautiful nation with its secluded tropical islands and clear blue waters. The nation is made up of over 1100 islands grouped into 26 different atolls. An atoll is a group of coral islands consisting of reefs and surrounding lagoons. Out of these numerous islands only 200 are inhabited, with 88 islands adapted as exclusive resort islands.

The Maldives has a hot, tropical climate. There are two monsoons, the southwest from May to October and the northeast from November to April. Generally the southwest brings more wind and rain in June and July. The temperature rarely falls below 77°F (25°C). The best time to visit is November to April.

Language

Dhivehi is the national Maldivian language. It is a combination of Sinahalese, Tamil, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Hindi and English words due to its historical links with its first settlers (believed to be from India and Sri Lanka) as well as the many traders who visited Maldives. “Elu”, an archaic form of Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka) shows great similarities to Dhivehi. English is widely used as a business language in government offices and the commercial sector. Other languages are widely used within tourist areas. Historical remains from as far back as 400 BC, shows strong evidence that Buddhism was widely practised among the people before Islam was introduced. However, Maldives has remained a 100% Islamic nation for more than 800 years. The Maldivian script known as “Thaana” is written from left to right.

Religion

According to legend, the Arabian traveler Abul Barakhat Al-Bar Bari brought Islam to the Maldivians in the 12th century. Historical remains from as far back as 400 BC, shows strong evidence that Buddhism was widely practised among the people before Islam was introduced. However, Maldives has remained a 100% Islamic nation for more than 800 years.

Climate

Generally warm, sunny and humid. The sun shines all year round and the average temperature is around 29 – 32°C.

Visa

Prior visa arrangements are NOT required. On arrival, visitors with valid travel documents will be given a tourist visa of 30 days. Visitors should be in possession of at least US$25 per day to stay in the Maldives. For those coming from yellow fever infected regions, an international certificate of inoculation is required.

Cuisine

Apart from all the fun and joy that Maldives has to offer, one of the greatest pleasures in Maldives is the fascinating Maldivian cuisine. The available cuisines in Maldivian resorts are of four kinds, European, International, Asian and Maldivian. In most of the resorts European and International cuisine are abundant while the guests would have to wait for a special buffet night to enjoy the taste of the local delight.

Currency

The Maldivian currency is Rufiyas and Laaris. A Rufiya is equal to 100 laarees (coins). The Rufiyaa comes in the following denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500. The American Dollar is the most common foreign currency. Payments in the resorts can be made in most hard currencies in cash, traveller’s cheques or credit cards.

Banking & Business Hours 

Weekend falls on Friday and Saturday in Maldives.
Banking hours: Sundays to Thursdays 8.00am – 1.30pm.
Business hours: Sundays to Thursdays 7.30am – 2.30pm (government sector);
9.00am – 5.00pm (private sector).

Communications 

Maldives has a sophisticated communications system which includes up-to-date technology and international satellite. IDD facilities are available on all resorts and card phones are available on all inhabited islands. Dhiraagu, the Maldives Telecommunications Company also provides mobile telephones for daily rental and is also the Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Customs 

The importation of pornographic material, firearms, alcohol and illegal drugs into the country is strictly forbidden and severe penalties are imposed on offenders. Exportation of coral, shells and other object removed from the marine environment is also prohibited.

What to Bring

Some hotels have telescopes but for the nature enthusiast it’s best to bring your own. If you desire, you can bring cigarettes (up to two cartons) and film (up to ten rolls). And don’t forget an extra bottle of your favorite suntan lotion, hats, sunglasses, water socks (reef walkers) and any common insect repellent.

When to Come

You can enjoy a few extra hours of sunshine if you visit the Maldives between December and April, which is the dry season. This is the tourist season, however, and resorts can be fully booked and prices are higher than the rest of the year. The Christmas-New Year period is the busiest and most expensive part of the tourist season. Between May and November it’s still warm, but the skies are cloudy, humidity is higher and rain is more likely. This is the low season, and there are fewer tourists and prices are lower. The transition months of November and April are said to be associated with increased water clarity and better visibility for divers.