Exotic Maldives – The ultimate exotic getaway
Republic of the Maldives is a sovereign archipelagic nation positioned in the Indian Ocean. Notably the South Asian Island nation has no counterpart in the entire world in terms of its unique geography and topography.
The Maldives comprises of 26 natural atolls consisting of dual island chains. Incidentally the Maldivian language has the distinct pleasure of contributing to the English word “atoll”, which was derived from the Maldivian word “atholhu”.
There are channels of various sizes between the atolls used for navigation. For efficient administrative functioning, the 26 natural atolls are categorized into 20 administrative divisions. Particularly the island nation is located in a strategic area with access to major international sea routes in the Indian Ocean.
The Maldives, located on top of a vast underwater mountain range have around 1190 islands and sandbanks. The pearl string like islands covers a land area of no less than 298 km. All the islands are encircled by a lagoon blessed with crystal clear water. These islands are protected by a reef structure, housing one of the most exclusive and spectacular underwater life.
Although they’ve been settled for about 2,000 years, the Maldive Islands did not embrace tourism until a few decades ago. As the republic consisted of 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (with 200 inhabited islands], a unique arrangement was developed to allow the world to experience its stunning beaches, blue waters, and virtually pure air: Each tourist resort is housed on a separate island by itself, with no local people or houses, lending a sense of isolation unlike no other destination on the planet!
Located in the Indian Ocean about 300 miles from the southern tip of India, the Maldives have the distinction of being the flattest country in the world – its maximum elevation is about 7-8 feet. One of the smallest world capitals – and one of the globe’s most densely populated cities – Male is the center for all commercial and government activities of the country. Surrounded by seawalls, the picturesque city is a popular destination, filled with numerous high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, as well as cramped, narrow streets lined with shops and restaurants.
The islands developed for tourism are each approximately 40 acres in size, composed of sand and coral to a maximum height of about 6 feet above the sea. In addition to a “private” beach completely encircling the island, each resort has its own “house reef,” which serves as a coral garden and natural aquarium for scuba divers, snorkelers, Consequently, the Maldives are an ideal destination for those whose idea of paradise involves long walks on quiet beaches, scuba diving or snorkeling in crystalline water, lounging in luxury huts with views of the blue horizon, and hitting the waves for windsurfing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, or sailing. In other words, a welcome contrast to the frantic pace of our lives….
In the Maldives, you don’t have to be Robinson Crusoe to relish your own secluded island!
Beautiful Maldivian People
Maldivians are esteemed around the World for their hospitality and affability towards their guests. Currently the population of the Maldives is 341,256. Additionally close to 60000 registered foreigners reside in the country.
Maldivians share a similar cultural heritage, history, ancestry, homeland, language and religion. These common factors are the reason for the unity and harmony prevailing in the alluring islands.
Maldivian ancestral roots can be traced back to Sinhala’s of Sri Lanka, Marathi’s and Guajarati’s of India, Arabs, Malays and Northern African dispositions. Accordingly, Maldivians emerged from a mixed race, which has enriched the culture and history of the country.
Presently Maldivians are adherents of the Sunni School of Islam. Maldivians embraced Islam in 1153 AD and since then the religion has played a key role in shaping the Maldivian society. Some of the famous landmarks in the country have been greatly influenced by Islamic architecture.
Before converting to Islam, the Maldivians were known to practice Buddhism and ancient paganism. Ancient Buddhist ruins are preserved in the country and antique Buddhist artifacts are displayed in the National Museum in Male’.
Traditionally whenever guests visit a local island, the islanders will welcome them by serving a fresh coconut drink. This tradition has continued to this day and do not be surprised if your resort offers a beautifully decorated coconut drink when you reach your destination!
The customs and social behavior of the Maldivians have been greatly influenced by the Indians, Sri Lankans, Arabs and North Africans who visited the Maldives while traversing through the trading routes of the central Indian Ocean. The Maldivian culture is rich and vibrant due to the infusion of various other cultural elements.
Though Maldives was culturally influenced by other traditions, Maldivians have built and preserved an exclusive cultural identity.
Accordingly the Maldivians converse using a language of their own; In 1153 AD Maldivians converted to Islam and the religion has transformed and introduced new fundamentals to the Maldivian culture.
Getting to know the Maldives
The Maldives offers so much more than sand, sun and sea as the islands are blessed with a rich culture and heritage. A holiday in the Maldives is a chance to gain an insight into this unique country, by exploring island villages, sourcing local handicrafts, visiting heritage sites and the National Museum, tasting local cuisine, and watching cultural performances.
With a total area approximately the size of Portugal but a land area comprising islands and sandbanks about the size of Singapore, islanders were isolated from each other by the ocean that forms over 99% of the country. Their self-sufficiency is reflected in the implements and clothes they fashioned for themselves, which have become today’s handicrafts, and in agriculture. Some islands are very fertile, lush with mangroves and with interior ponds. Every island supports vegetation of some kind with coconuts somehow managing to thrive in a small, sparse land area. Careful nurturing on islands devoted to agriculture has fostered the growing of papaya, peppers, eggplants, melons, limes, breadfruit and bananas.
With 1,190 islands and scores of uncharted sandbanks, the Maldives provides plenty of opportunities to go island hopping to discover how Maldivians really live. Since inhabited islands have opened up to tourism, ferry boats travelling between Male’ and those islands have become more frequent. However, hopping from one island to another in the same or neighbouring atoll takes patience as you look, or wait, for a boat going your way. The operators of guesthouses will advise on how to get to their islands. To islands far away from Male’, it would be easier to catch a domestic flight and then charter a boat from the destination airport to get to the island you want to visit. With ten domestic airports, travel between islands can be swift and comfortable by scheduled flights. Short trips by boat to visit neighbouring islands could be arranged while being based in a guesthouse on the domestic airport island. If you want to hop between resort islands, that can be done by using Ibrahim Nasir International Airport as the hub, arriving on one resort boat and leaving on another. However, you would need to make room reservations in advance at the next resort to guarantee a boat will meet you. The easiest way for guests to visit other islands while staying at a resort is to take one of the resort’s guided tours. These typically include a visit to an inhabited island with an escorted walk around the sandy streets, an opportunity to buy souvenirs and have tea in a café. Some tours take in a visit to a genuinely uninhabited island, for a chance to swim or for a picnic. Some resorts will organize a daylong Robinson Crusoe experience on an islet or sandbank. Since boats are the taxis of the islands it’s possible to hire one to get from one island to another. From Male’, you can easily visit the residential islands of Hulhumale’ or Vilingili by inexpensive ferry running regularly from their Male’ terminals. If you are in a group wanting to visit several islands, then chartering a Live-Aboard safari vessel for a few days is the best way, as you can arrange with the boat’s skipper to visit islands off the tourist trail.
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