Blessed with a sunny tropical climate year-round, well watered by two mild monsoons, these pristine islands, strewn across the equator in the Indian Ocean in a garland-like atoll chain, are nature’s bonus to holiday makers. One impression carried home indelibly etched in the memory is lush coconut palms swaying over sugar-white sand beaches, clear lagoons merging into cobalt blue ocean abounding with coral reefs and colorful fish. This is one of the top dive destinations on the planet.
For a totally relaxing beach holiday or for honeymooners, there is nothing to compare with a resort stay. You have a wide choice, ranging from the simple to exotic. The resorts are originally uninhabited islands still preserved in their primeval glory except for the beachfront bungalows nesting among the trees with a central complex housing reception, coffee shop, restaurants and bar. A wide range of water sports are available including scuba diving. A sport growing in popularity is surfing.
Choose the full day tour with barbecue lunch on a virgin island or the half day fishing village tour. Equally memorable is the excursion to the thriving capital island Male’ with its fish market, the museum, the old Friday Mosque, and the Presidential Palace.
Transfers to and from the resorts are by speedboat unless the resorts are located outside Male’ Atoll in which case a seaplane is to be preferred.
A passport or travel document, valid at least up to the departure date, is required for entry. A 30-day tourist visa is given on arrival at the airport.
Visitors without hotel or guesthouse reservations should seek assistance at the Airport Tourist Information Counter in the Arrival Hall. Most visitors arrive at Maldives by air. Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is situated on the island of Hulhule,’ ten minutes by dhoni (Local motorboat) from the capital island, Male’. Resort Representatives are on duty at flight times, and guests are met and greeted on arrival and departure. Transfer to Male’ and the resorts are available by dhoni, speedboat, or floatplanes depending on the distance between the airport and the resort.
Import of liqueur, narcotics, pornographic literature or pictures, and firearms are strictly prohibited. Export of tortoise shell and coral is illegal.
The Maldives is hot throughout the year. Light, summer cotton and linen wear is ideal. Pack lots of tee shirts, beachwear, light skirts, cotton shirts, slacks and shorts. At the resorts where you’ll have to walk on soft sand most of the time, going barefoot may be ideal for some. However, on visits to inhabited islands, where most of the streets are of compact sand, or Male’ where most of the streets are paved, casual shoes or sandals are easy to walk on.
It must be said that official regulations do not allow public nudity anywhere in the Maldives. Even at the beach on your resort or swimming or snorkeling around your cruise boat. At least bikinis or swimming trunks are a must. Most resorts do not allow swimwear inside the restaurants, to avoid offending fellow holidaymakers. At the in-house bars or restaurants casual cotton tropical wear is highly recommended. Visiting inhabited islands or Male’ the capital requires paying a little attention to what you wear.
Most resorts would advice you on this before you leave on excursions. Please be sensitive to local norms, culture and traditions. On such visits it is important to be clad in a decent garment, shorts and T-shirts for men, and blouse or T-shirt and skirt or shorts that cover thighs for women, are minimum requirements in this 100% Muslim country. If you envisage attending a formal meeting or making a formal visit, do bring along light formal wear.
All resorts have first aid facilities and on some you can get the services of a resident doctor and facilities for minor treatment. Some have clinics with separate observation rooms and small pharmacies. The Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and the ADK Hospital are the two major hospitals in Male’. In addition there are a number of smaller clinics where you may consult a doctor. In both the IGMH and ADK doctors are on duty 24 hours of the day. Both conduct surgery and offer a number of specialist services. The country is free from malaria, yellow fever or any other plague. Certificate of inoculation is required only if arriving from endemic regions of the world.
If you suffer from a permanent disability or chronic illness it is advisable to inform your resort before arrival and find out whether they can cater for your specific requirements. Most resorts cater for special dietary requirements without additional charges. If you are dependent on any medications please bring along an ample supply, together with a valid prescription in case you are required to produce it at Customs.
Currency: Local currency is the Rufiyaa (MVR). Hotel and guesthouse services are generally paid for in foreign currencies. United States Dollar is the dominant currency. Other hard currencies such as Euro are also accepted. Major credit cards accepted by the hotels are AMEX, VISA, MASTER, DINERS and JBC.
The climate is tropical. The air temperature averages 30 degrees Celsius and the water temperature 28 degrees to 30 degrees Celsius (83 degrees to 86 degrees Fahrenheit).
The islands come under two distinct seasons determined by the prevailing winds caused by the cooling and warming of the Asian land mass. The North Eastern monsoon lasts December to April. After a short spell of gusting winds, the weather subsides to a balmy breeze. The South Western, prevailing May to October, has clam periods too but these are interspersed with rainy days.
Shopping is the favourite activity for the locals especially in the evenings, when it is cooler. The Majeedhee Magu, which is the main road on the island, has along its sides various shops selling goods from the smallest commodities to virtually everything you could think of. The shops are well stocked with garments, perfumes and cosmetics, jewelry, watches or electronics, to name just a few. Many find it a pleasant experience to join the throngs of shoppers on the main shopping streets in the evenings. All shops are open until 11.00 pm in the night, except for Islamic prayer times, when they are closed for 15 minutes.
The main commercial area of Male’ is located on the northern waterfront of Male’. This area is the main hub of trade and is a hive of activity throughout the day. The waterfront and the by-lanes in the area are crowded with shops stocked with a variety of goods. Also in the area are the Male’ Fish Market and the Local Market selling a range of local produce. While some ‘dhonis’ from all corners of the country unload dried fish, fresh fruits and vegetables from the atolls others are seen loading everything from foodstuffs to construction materials. The pace increases in mid-afternoon as fishing ‘dhonis’ start returning with their day’s catch. The catch, mainly tuna are carried across the road into the open-sided market and laid out on the tiled floors. As fast as the fish are brought in they are bought and taken away by men from all walks of life. The market is kept scrupulously clean, washed down each day and disinfected.
Every resort in the Maldives caters for scuba divers and dive schools are well equipped. For those learning to dive, all resorts conduct open water and advanced courses such as night diving, rescue diving, underwater photography. Courses such as naturalist and shark specialist courses have proved most popular due to the growing interest in the marine environment. At resorts, diving is conducted daily all year around and it is only rarely that diving has to be cancelled. Most resorts would have access to a protected reef on the leeward side of the island that enables them to dive even during times of rough seas and strong winds.
Snorkeling over the shallow reefs of the islands is an ideal way to explore the underwater world. The house reefs of most of the islands are just a few strokes away from the beach. Even if the reef are quite shallow and one may simply walk up to the reef to enjoy its beauty. Snorkeling equipment is available at all the resorts. Some organize regular snorkeling excursions to give visitors a chance to experience the diversity of marine life and reef structures in the Maldives.
Maldives is fast establishing itself as a destination for surfers. Surfing is relatively new to the Maldives, especially compared to more established activities such as scuba diving. However, the now regularly held O’Neil Deep Blue Contest held 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. For resort based surfing it is advisable to choose one of the resorts on the eastern side of North Male’ Atoll where you could get access to a number of excellent breaks.
Until today, divers are said to be the only people who truly enjoy their holidays in the Maldives. After all, what is a visit to the Maldives without experiencing its magical underwater world? Now with the introduction of the German built Whale Submarine, divers and non-divers alike can enjoy the enchanting beautiful coral reefs and magnificent tropical fish from the comfort of an air-conditioned submarine with friends, family or loved ones. This incredible adventure takes place aboard the world’s deep diving largest passenger submarine! Descend to100 feet below the ocean surface and witness ocean life and other treasures, sights once only seen by scuba divers. Boasting with a 100% safety record worldwide this is a must experience for every visitor, an excursion only available in a very few parts of the world.
The Maldives’ unique island geography means it is particularly vulnerable to climate-related impacts such as rising sea levels, monsoonal storms and drought. High population density and dependence on climate-sensitive industries such as fisheries and tourism add to the country’s vulnerability.
The Maldivian President who dived underwater with his cabinet has given a new meaning to the association between Maldives and ‘environment’. The world now knows how dependent the Maldives is on its natural environment. The environment has a direct affect on all facets of a Maldivian’s life. The islands are protected by thousands of reefs that need to be alive for this unique archipelago to exist in future.
Bodu Beru (literally means big drum) is the most popular form of music and dance in the country, enjoyed by the young and the old, men and women. There is a Bodu Beru troupe in almost every inhabited island and is regularly played at special functions and festivals. The musical instruments used in Bodu Beru consist of three or four drums and a variety of percussion instruments. The drums are made from hollowed coconut wood and covered on both ends with manta ray skin or goat hide. A lead singer chants the lyrics and a chorus of 10 to 15 follows as they clap to the beat of the drums. The rhythm build as the song continues until it reaches a frenzied crescendo. As the rhythm picks up, dancers come out from amongst the troupe swaying to the rhythm. As the beat becomes faster the dancers leap and jerk to the beat as if in a trance. Onlookers join in the clapping and dancing.
Old men, suddenly catch a stray rhythm and throw themselves into the arena. To wild applause from the crowd they gyrate and grimace in their dance, passing on to the young what they have learnt from their forefathers. According to some historians Bodu Beru was introduced to the country in the early 19th century by African slaves. During the reign of Mueenuddeen I, these slaves were liberated and sent to Feridhoo in Ari Atoll. It is believed that bodu beru spread out from there to become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the country.
Thaara also holds a special place in local entertainment. Two lines of men attired in white sit on the ground and sing beating hand drums while others dance between them. Thaara is believed to have been introduced from the Middle East in the seventeenth century. Today Thaara is only played at national events.
Dhandijehun is another form of entertainment, which is popular throughout the country. This is mostly performed to celebrate festive events such as Eid and other national occasions.
Bandiyaa Jehun is a more popular form of dance performed by young women. The women carrying metal water pots stand in two lines facing each. They sing and dance to melodious tunes while taping the rhythm on the pots with rings worn on the fingers.
Although western pop and Indian music is quite popular today, Traditional forms of music and song that have been passed down to us by our Ancestors survive. Raivaru, farihi and bandhi are all unique styles of singing that are still practiced by people around the country.
Male’ would certainly count as one of the smallest capitals in the world in terms of its physical size. A third of the country’s population, about 120,000 live in Male’. Different from any other island in the country, Male’ is a city of high-rise buildings and paved roads. While the government offices are located in one area, the main streets are lined with shops and offices. In the old bazaar area which still houses the country’s hub of wholesale and retail trade, the lanes are so narrow that a single vehicle would find it difficult to navigate through, especially with its throngs of busy people. There are no natural 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. Parts of Male’ are still relatively green and is a vibrant and pleasant city.
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 harbor in the southwest corner and the 400-year old Friday Mosque, 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. You may be surprised at the large number of motorized vehicles in Male’. If you prefer, you could make a tour of the capital by taxi. Many taxi centers operate a number of comfortable, well-maintained air conditioned taxis.
Capital Male’ is the ideal place for shopping. The souvenir shops have a rich variety of local and foreign crafts. Among the best buys are handmade lacquer ware and mats woven with locally grown rush called hai, dyed and decorated with beautiful geometrical designs.
Official Name: Republic of Maldives
Location: Indian Ocean
Area: 298 sq km or 115 sq miles (of which less than 10% is only land)
Number of Islands: 1190
Population: 328,536 (Est. 2012)
HDI: (2011) 0.661 (medium)
Major Industries: Tourism, Fishing and Construction
Major Exports: Tuna and Reef fish
Major Imports: Consumer goods, capital goods and petroleum
Official Language: Dhivehi
Second Language: English
Religion: Islam (100% Sunni Muslim)
Government: Presidential Republic (elected every 5 years through public referendum)
Justice System: The constitution of The Maldives which is based on Islamic Shari’a
Time difference: +5hrs GMT
Telephone: GSM Mobile phones are available from 2 operators.
Currency: Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) (Notes) and Laari (Coins)
Exchange rate: MVR 15.42 per US$
Official Weekly Holidays: Friday and Saturday
Business Hours: Government offices: 0800 – 1300
Banks: 0830 – 1330
Airports: International: 3 (Male’ International Airport, located in the island of Hulhule)
Hanimaadhoo International Airport in Ha Dh Hanimaadhoo (north)
Maamigili International Airport in A Dh Maamigili (Central Maldives)
Average Temperatures: 30.7 degrees Celsius (Max)
25.7 degrees Celsius (Min)
Average Rainfall: 1868.9 mm
Electricity: 240 Volts, 50 Hz