Tourism in Maldives
FACTS & FIGURES
|Area || 298 sq km |
|Capital ||MalÚ |
|Languages || Dhivehi, English |
|Currency || Rufiya
The famous explorer Marco Polo referred to the Maldives as the 'flower of the Indies,' while the great traveler Ibn Batuta called her 'one of the wonders of the world.' The archipelago of Maldives has been a constant source of attraction to many tourists all over the globe. Its golden beaches, washed by the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, are enticing to one who loves to venture into the sea.
Maldives is a group of coral islands that stretch along the 73rd meridian between latitudes 0░42' south and 8░10' north. The shortest distance from the mainland of India is 350 km and from Sri Lanka 740 km. The islands lie in the northern Indian Ocean and the sea area is approximately 107,500 sq km. There are some 1,200 islands in the country, 202 of which are inhabited. The archipelago is 823 km long and 130 km at its greatest width. The islands are formed into 26 natural atolls but they are divided into 19 administrative regions, also known as "atolls."
Each atoll is enclosed by a fringing coral reef that has a few deep, natural channels serving as entry points. Likewise, a protective coral reef surrounds each island. Most islands have a shallow lagoon, known in Maldivian as a villu.
The islands are very small and low-lying, many of which are no more than two meters above sea level. Common features include white sandy beaches and clear lagoons. The protective coral reef surrounding each island is also home to hundreds of species of tropical fish, countless shapes and sizes of coral seashells and all forms of marine life.
The islands are formed from the growth of coral over long-submerged mountain ranges. These are true coral islands, with no other forms of rocks or minerals visible or within easy reach. As a result, beaches are covered with white coral sand with no trace of yellow or black as seen anywhere else in the world. There are no hills, mountains or rivers in the Maldives. The islands are small, and the coral-based soil is poor in essential nutrients.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Generally, the year is divided into two monsoon periods: the northeast monsoon or Iruvai lasts from December to March, which are the drier months; the southwest monsoon or Hulhangu lasts from April to November, which are wetter, with more storms and occasional strong winds. Daytime temperatures are about 28░C throughout the year. The humidity is slightly lower in the dry season but on most days, there is a cool sea breeze.
Since Maldives was strategically located along the ancient marine trade routes from the West to the East, it was inevitable that early explorers and traders found themselves stopping either willingly (for supplies) or unwillingly (as a result of shipwrecks on the many reefs), and their influence can be seen to this day. Their records serve as a useful guide to the history of these islands. Among these travelers were the Chinese historian, Ma Huan and the famous Arab traveler, Ibn Batuta.
Maldives became an important stop for Arab traders on the way to the Far East, and along with these traders came the influence of Islam. The legend of the conversion to Islam remains a matter of controversy. It is believed that a Moroccan traveler, Abu Barakaat Yusuf al-Barbary was responsible for this conversion, but another version credits Sheikh Yusuf Shamsuddin of Tabriz, a renowned scholar.
From very early times, these islands were famous for two products, the money cowrie (cyprea moneta) and Maldive fish. The cowrie was prized as a form of currency in many areas of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, and the Maldives was the mint of the region. Large quantities of the cowrie were exported all over the world, and traders would call over to collect shiploads in exchange for rice, spices and luxury items.
Pirates and other powerful invaders of the day often disturbed the tranquility of the islands. A Portuguese invasion resulted in their capture of the Maldives for a period of fifteen years after which they were overthrown by a mixture of early guerilla tactics and the difficulty of logistical support for the occupying forces. With the growth of British influence, the Maldives became a British protectorate-an odd arrangement where the British ensured the defense of the islands, yet were not involved in any way with the running of the country. The close relationships with the British ensured a period of peace and freedom from foreign interference. The Maldives became a fully independent nation on July 26, 1965, and a Republic on November 11, 1968.
FAIRS & FESTIVALS
Most Maldivian holidays are based on the Islamic lunar calendar and the dates vary from year to year. The most important religious event is Ramadan (known locally as rorda mas), the Islamic month of fasting. Other notable festivals are Kuda Id, the sighting of the new moon (celebrated at the end of Ramadan), and the Prophet's Birthday, which commemorates the birthday of the founder. The National Day is observed on the first day of the third month of the lunar calendar and marks the day Mohammed Thakurufaan and his men overthrew the Portuguese from MalÚ in 1573, while the Republic Day is celebrated on 11 November, commemorating the formation of the current Republic in 1968. The Victory Day marks the victory over Sri Lankan mercenaries who tried to overthrow the Maldivian government on 3 November 1988.
MalÚ, the capital of the Maldives, is the commercial center, seat of government and the location of many important historical and religious landmarks. It was known as the Sultan's Island in the past. The Grand Friday Mosque, Masjid-al-Sultan Mohammed Thakurufaan-al-Azzam is the biggest mosque in the Maldives. It also includes the Islamic Center. This grand mosque with its dominant golden dome decorates the fašade of MalÚ. It can accommodate over five thousand worshippers at a time. 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 exclusive and priceless. Other important sites in MalÚ include the tombs of legendary saints, the Presidential Palace, the National Museum in the Sultan Park, which shows the glories of a different era, and the Singapore Bazaar. All these are within a ten-minute stroll.
A few locations worth visiting in the Maldives are Seenu or Addu Atoll, Fuamulaku, Kuahuvadhoo, and Baa Atoll.
ADVENTURE SPORTS - For amateurs and experts, the Maldives rank among the best diving destinations in the world. The combination of the diversity of marine life and the clean, clear water are the best succors for enthusiastic explorers of the sea. Diving and snorkeling in the Maldives are a specialty common to all the resorts. All have diving bases and experienced, fully qualified instructors. All equipment required for diving is available at the resort. With a teeming variety of marine life at depths starting from one-meter onwards, there is a sight for everyone, from waders on the beach to snorkelers on the reef to scuba divers below. With very few exceptions, almost all resort islands have a "house reef" which is literally a stone's throw away, allowing 24 hours dives all year round.
While divers make up the bulk of visitors to the Maldives, opportunities abound for activity on the surface as well. Most water sports activities are conducted by the resort's windsurfing center, which is often run by the diving base operator.
The protected waters around the islands are a good site for beginners for windsurfing, and most resorts have a continuous program of instruction for beginners. The shallow lagoons are more suited for the adventurous, as they are more exposed to the prevailing wind. All these areas are free of underwater obstructions.
Most of the larger resorts have an assortment of kayaks and canoes that can be used for a leisurely paddle across a lagoon or to visit a nearby sandbank. Rowing enthusiasts should try out the locally made small boat, called a bokkuraa, which is a miniaturized dhoni powered by oars.
All the windsurfing centers have various sizes of sailing catamarans, which are ideal for both amateurs and experienced sailors who would like to explore the nearby uninhabited islands or sandbanks.
Once a popular pursuit among tourists to the Maldives, most resorts tend to discourage water skiing these days. There have been many complaints that heavy and regular use of fast boats near the reef is detrimental to the environment, as well as a risk to people in the water. The prohibitive cost of petrol and high maintenance costs make water-skiing an expensive sport in the Maldives.
Parasailing is also being discouraged nowadays. The large numbers of helicopter and seaplane movements are causes for concern, albeit the operators are experienced and take all precautions. For those who are lucky and still venture out, the spectacular display of the islands and of the various shades of turquoise lagoons is an ample reward.
HOW TO REACH
BY AIR - Almost all visitors to the Maldives arrive by air. MalÚ International Airport, situated in Hulhule Island, is just over a kilometer or about ten minutes by boat from MalÚ, the capital. There are regular flights to Colombo (Sri Lanka), Thiruvananthapuram (southwest India), Dubai, and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), as well as many chartered flights from European centers.
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 seaplane to the resort island of their choice. Transport and communication services provided for tourists are generally of a high standard. There is no regular inter-island transportation system between inhabited islands. The ad hoc transportation system is serviced mainly by the local boats, which average a speed of about 8 miles per hour. A larger number of dhonis ply between the MalÚ International Airport and MalÚ route as ferries. Dhonis and even modern speedboats are also available for hire. Air Maldives, the national carrier, operates regular flights to the domestic airports at Hanimaadhoo, Kadhdhoo, Kaadedhdhoo and Gan.
BY WATER - Cruising among the islands may be an exciting alternative. Yachts and yacht-dhonis with bunk beds or private cabins are available for hire. These boats can accommodate between eight to twenty passengers on cruises that sail for ten to fifteen days. Some of the larger vessels have scuba diving and windsurfing facilities with qualified instructors on board. Food prepared by the crew using the day's fresh catch of fish may be modest, but a tourist is never too far to stop for a sumptuous meal or a drink. On a cruise, dining under a clear sky in the Maldives can be an experience in itself. With the equator running through the Maldives, it is an astronomer's dream too.
WHERE TO STAY
We offer excellent accommodation facilities in and around Maldives.
Tourism-of-India.com provides complete information on tourism in Maldives. Tourism-of-India.com offers package tours in order to make your visit to Maldives Pleasant.
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