The Maldives, known to the locals in their native language (Dhivehi) as Dhivehi Raajje, are an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 natural coral atolls in the Indian Ocean. They lie south-southwest of India and west of Sri Lanka. None of the coral islands measures more than 1.8 metres above sea level.
Only 192 islands are inhabited by its 300,000 inhabitants. The rest of the islands remain virgin islands except for more than 100 islands that have been developed for the top end of the tourist market.
With its abundant sea life and sandy beaches, The Maldives is portrayed by travel companies as a tropical paradise. Maldives was for the most part unknown to tourists until the early 1970s.
The economy revolves around tourism, and fisheries.Tourism accounts for 28% of the GDP. Over 90% of the state government income comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes.
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. Under international pressure, free and fair elections were finally held in 2008, and Gayoom gracefully conceded defeat to opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, "Anni".
Following protests that started on 1 May 2011, Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign from office on 7 February 2012. Mohammed Waheed Hassan, supported by the former dictator, was appointed president of the Maldives. There have been reports of violence and human rights violations by the security forces against protesters backing Nasheed.
The Tsunami of 26 December 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 December 24, 2010, six years after the tsunami, the number of persons living in temporary shelters had fallen from 15,000 to only 1,600 people.
Maldivian are almost entirely Sunni Muslim, and the local culture is a mixture of South Indian, Sinhalese and Arab influences. While alcohol, pork, drugs and public observance of non-Muslim religions are banned on the inhabited islands, the resort islands are allowed to exist in a bubble where almost anything goes.
The Maldives are formed of 26 atolls, or atholhu in Dhivehi — the source of the English word. These are not single islands, but giant ringlike coral formations hundreds of kilometres wide that have fragmented into countless islands.
The weekend in the Maldives runs from Friday to Saturday, during which banks, government offices and many shops are closed. You won't notice this at the resorts though, except that lunch hours may be shifted for Friday prayers.
Tourism, Maldives largest industry, accounts for 20% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Over 600,000 tourists visited the islands in 2006. Fishing is a second leading sector. The Maldivian Government began an economic reform program in 1989 initially by lifting import quotas and opening some exports to the private sector. Subsequently, it has liberalized regulations to allow more foreign investment. Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a minor role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and the shortage of domestic labour. Most staple foods must be imported. Industry, which consists mainly of garment production, boat building, and handicrafts, accounts for about 18% of GDP. Maldivian authorities worry about the impact of erosion and global warming on their low-lying country; 80% of the area is one meter or less above sea level.
The Maldives are tropical, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 30°C throughout the year. Although the humidity is relatively high, the constant sea breezes help to keep the air moving. Two seasons dominate Maldives’ weather: the dry season which is the northeast monsoon and the rainy season or southwest monsoon from April – October, with rainfall increasing particularly from June to August. The annual rainfall averages 2,540 millimeters (100 in) in the north and 3,810 millimeters (150 in) in the south.
The Maldives is becoming an increasingly popular surfing destination. Turquoise water and perfect waves makes it an ideal and uncrowded 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.
Coconut trees symbolize the tropical vegetation of Maldives. Some of the plant species differs in the inhabited to that of the uninhabited islands. Due to the influence of humans inhabited islands have small groves of banana, papaya, drumstick and citrus trees by the homesteads, while breadfruit trees and coconut palms are grown in available patches of land. On the other hand uninhabited islands have mostly different kinds of bushes (magū, boshi) and mangroves (kuredi, kandū) along the waterline as well as some coconut trees.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Maldives is the amazing diversity of sea life found in the archipelago, with wide range of corals and over 2,000 species of fish, ranging from colorful reef fish to reef sharks, moray eels, and a wide variety of rays: manta ray,stingray, and eagle ray. The Maldivian waters are also home for the whale shark. The Indian Ocean around the Maldives are abundant in rare species, of biological and commercial value. Tuna fisheries being traditionally the main commercial resources of the country, along with shells. In the few ponds and marshes there are some freshwater fish, like Chanos chanos and other smaller species.
Due to the oceanic location of the Maldives its birds are mainly restricted to pelagic birds. Most of the species are similar to Eurasian migratory birds, and very few can be associated with the Indian sub-continent. Some of the birds are seasonal, such as the frigatebirds. There are also birds that dwell in marshes and island bush, like the grey heron and the moorhen. White terns are found occasionally on the southern islands.
There are very few land mammals in the Maldives. The fruit bat or flying fox and a species of shrew could be said to be native. Cats, rats, and mice have been introduced by humans. In the ocean surrounding the islands there are whales and dolphins.
Most resorts take up their own island (from the tiny 250x250m to the sprawling 1500x1500m), meaning that the ratio of beach to guests must be one of the best in the world and it is hard to imagine that you would ever have to struggle to find your own private piece of beach to relax on. Many have a "no shoes" policy and with such soft sands it is easy to love this idea.
By now there are many guesthouses on inhabited islands. Maafushi island is popular among tourists looking for hassle-free accommodations of this sort. Low end prices are €25-35.
More examples include: Equator Village on Addu Atoll, a former RAF base converted to a 78 room hotel. Cost is around USD100-150 pp/per day all inclusive (includes regular brand alcohol). Another unique location is Keyodhoo Guest House, this guest house is located on top of a recreation centre build by Australian after the tsunami (USD20 pp/per night). Most travellers to these locations are scuba divers for the diving or adventure travellers. Other Inns/B&B can also be found on Vaavu Atoll, Dhaalu Atoll, Kaafu Atoll, North and South Male Atoll. Only a few of these Inn/B&B have their own pool. Be sure to inquire if bikini is allowed on the local beach. Travel between the inn and beach are usually very close but be sure to dress appropriately with Maldive customs.
Village home stay
More independent-minded travellers and those looking for cultural experience may consider renting rooms in villages. This will require either walking through the village and asking around if you're particularly confident of your social skills, or inquiring in Male whether someone can put you in contact with their friends or relatives on remote island for such an informal homestay. Prices can be as low as 15 euros per night for a clean functional room.
FREE 30 DAYS VISA UPON ARRIVAL FOR ALL VISITORS
No prior visa is required to enter the Republic of Maldives. Entry permit will be granted to visitors on arrival at designated ports of entry, based on the immigration requirements.
An entry permit does not allow an visitor to take up employment, set up any business or exercise any profession whether paid or unpaid except with the consent and in conformity.