Maldives Travel Guide
Scattered across the equator in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the gemlike 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 ‘flower of the Indies’, and Ibn Batuta called her in his chronicles ‘One of the wonders of the world’.
The Maldivian archipelago located 300miles southwest of the southern tip of India and 450 Miles west of Sri Lanka is a beautiful string of 1,190 low lying coral islands scattered across the equator in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, giving us a rare glimpse of what is aptly described as a tropical paradise. Considering this sparkling white sun-kissed beaches; crystal -clear lagoons studded with profusely coloured corals; azure warm seas with an undisturbed, exotic marine life; palm-fringed island; the pervading serenity; all of it summarized by famous Moroccan traveler “Ibn Battuta” on describing Maldives as “One of the wonders of the world”.
The sun, sand and the sea are just the three simple realities beckoning tourist from far and wide to these little islets, giving as a result, a glorious sense of happiness and providing to be a heavenly getaway from the world and its worries. The Maldives teaches the visitors the pleasurable art of doing nothing, simply lazing around and enjoying some of the most spectacular and colourful vistas offered by nature. No wonder the tourist flock in large numbers to the self contained island resorts provided with all the comforts and warmth exuded by traditional Maldivian hospitality which is why Maldives is considered to be the ultimate destination , the future world for holiday-makers!
Area : 90,000sq.kms (1,190 Islands)
Geographical Location : Indian Ocean
Immediate Neighbours :India & Sri Lanka
Latitude : 07degree 06’30” N to 00 degree 41’48″S
Longitude : 72degree 32’30” E to 73degree 45’54″E
Status : Republic
Population : Approximately 270,000
Capital : Male'(1.77sq.kms)
Airport : Male’ International Airport on Hulhule Island
Maldives Standard Time : +5hrs GMT
Religion : 100% Sunni Muslim
Languages : Dhivehi (National language) & English
Literacy Rate : 98.2% (Age Group 10 – 45 Years)
30.4 degree C (Mean Max) / 25.4 degree C ( Mean Min)
South – West: May – Oct ~ North – East: Nov – Apr
Average Annual Rainfall : 1948.2mm
Currency : Maldivian Rufiyaa (1US$ = Mrf 12.85)
Economy : Fishing & Tourism
National Tree : Coconut Palm (cocos nucifera)
National flower : Pink Rose ( Rosa pdyantha)
Clothing : Light weight cottons and linens.
Truly a natural wonder, the height of the islands rarely reach above two metres. The 1,190 islands, consisting of 26 atoll formations, are spread over an area of 90,000 square kilometres. The Maldivian atolls are a classic discovery in its own right. The word atoll has been derived from Dhivehi, the Maldivian language, from the word atholhu.
The islands are surrounded by shallow crystal clear lagoons enclosed by coral reefs. The unique 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.
Measuring 820 kilometres north to south and 120 kilometres east to west at its greatest width, the closest neighbours are India and Shri Lanka. With a population of 244,644 (1995 official estimate), only 199 islands are inhabited.
Another 74 islands are set aside exclusively for tourist resort development.
The origins of the Maldivians are lost in ancient history. There are historical and archeological records which indicate the islands to have been inhabited more than 5,000 years. There are also indications that the Maldives, being on an important trade route, was settled by people from all over the world. This leaves the origins of people enshrined in mystery. However, the main stock of the Maldivian people, as seen from physical features and supported by historical evidence of migration, are predominantly Aryan or Dravidian.
Throughout the Maldives, a language which belongs to the Indo-Iranian group, Dhivehi, is spoken. It shows a strong Arabic influence. Dhivehi written from right to left is the official language of the country. As a second working language, English is widely used in Government offices. Other foreign languages, however, are widely used within the tourism industry. Foreign languages, mainly English, are also frequently used in commerce.
The Maldives has been an independent country, except for a brief period of 15 years and 6 months of Portuguese rule in the middle of the 16th century. Between 1887 and 1965, the Maldives was a British protectorate though Britain did not interfere with the internal affairs of the country.
Maldives regained her full sovereignty in 1965. The newly independent country changed from a Sultanate to a Republic on 11 November 1968.
The climate of Maldives is warm year round determined by the monsoons. However, being on the equator, the monsoons are mild and not as defined as in neighbouring countries. Of the two monsoons, the southwest monsoon from May to October brings more rain and wind. The northeast monsoon from November to April is the dry season with very little wind. The temperature varies little with an annual average daily maximum of 30.4 degrees Celsius and the minimum at 25.4 degrees Celsius. The annual rainfall stood at just over 2,000 millimetres in 1994. In the same year, the country with the equator running through had over 500 hours of sunshine.
Almost all visitors to the Maldives arrive by air. Male International Airport situated in Hulhule island is just over a kilometre or about ten minutes by boat from Male, the capital. All visitors must have a valid passport. For visitors coming from yellow fever infected areas, an international certificate of inoculation is required. No visa is required in advance. A tourist visa of 30 days will be granted to all visitors with valid travel documents.
During the period from December to March when most of the resort islands are full, it is advised that all visitors have confirmed hotel reservations before arrival. However, for the convenience of visitors without advance bookings, a Tourist Information Counter is provided at the arrival hall through which a booking may be made.
Hotel information is also required for immigration clearance. All visitors who enter the Maldives should be in possession of a return air-ticket and at least US$25 per intended day of stay in the Maldives.
Things to Know
The tourist resort islands have their own transfer boats to carry their clients. Visitors with confirmed reservations are normally met on arrival at the airport and transferred by boat, helicopter or sea-plane to the resort island of their choice. Transport and communication services provided for tourists are generally of a high standard. Minimum standards of service and safety also apply.
There is no regular inter-island transportation system between inhabited islands. The ad hoc transportation system is serviced mainly by local boats called Dhoni or Baththeli average a speed of about 8 miles per hour.
A large number of dhonis plow the Male International Airport and Male route as ferries. Dhonis and even modern speed boats are also available for hire. Air Maldives the national carrier, operaters regular flights to the domestic airport at Hanimaadhoo, Kadhdhoo, Kaadedhdhoo and Gan.
An essential part of the visitor ‘s experience is taking part in the many excursions on offer. Visiting a fishing village to experience the Maldivian way of life or a trip to Male makes a visit to the Maldives more consummate. There are other excursions available: diving and sailing, safaris fishing trips by dawn and dusk and island hopping to fishing villages, resort islands and uninhabited islands. There are also aerial excursions by helicopter or sea-plane to experience the glittering shades of blue that is the Maldives. Moonlight excursions may also be available depending on the resort of your choice.
CURRENCY AND PAYMENT
The Maldivian currency, Rufiyaa comes in notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500. A rufiyaa is divided into 100 Larees. Coins in use are 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, Larees and one and two Rufiyaa.
Major currencies are converted to local currency at the banks, tourist resort islands hotels and leading shops. The American Dollar is the most common foreign currency. Payments in the hotels can be made in most hard currencies, in cash traveler’s cheques or credit cards. Personal cheques may be accepted if they are supported by an internationally recognised bank guarantee card. The most commonly used credit cards are American Express Visa Master Card Diners Club JCB and Euro Card.
Light cotton clothing is recommended. Except on special occasions such as important business meetings, casual clothing is the norm. Nudism is an offense. When visiting an inhabited island. shorts and T-shirts for men and blouse or T-shirt and skirt or shorts that cover the thighs for women made of non-dlaphanous material is a minimum requirement.