Probably everyone in the world has a clear image of the Maldives in their minds. White sandy beaches, light blue water, overwater bungalows and palm trees everywhere – clearly the definition of paradise. I can tell you – the Maldives definitely meet those expectations. However, there is much more to this beautiful country than lying on the beach, enjoying the stunning view of turquoise water and drinking cocktails at this paradise in the Indian Ocean. The real treasures are hidden not only above but also below the water surface.
The Maldives is a country located in the Indian Ocean, 1000 kilometres south from Sri Lanka. More than 99% of the country is situated below the water surface, while just 1% is a land, divided into 26 atolls and 1200 islands. Only about 200 of those islands are inhabited. All those islands are on average only 1 meter above the water surface, making the country extremely threatened by climate change and rising sea levels. Situated close to the equator, you can be sure to have temperatures around 30° Celsius all year round.
We all know the pictures of luxury resorts providing stunning views of white sand and turquoise water. For nearly 40 years, staying on a resort island was the only way to enjoy your holidays in the Maldives. Not too long ago, in 2009, the country allowed its habitants to open guesthouses on local islands, making it possible for tourists to experience not only affordable holidays but also the local culture of the Maldives and its people. The most popular island with extensive tourism infrastructure and various guesthouses and diving schools is Maafushi in Kaafu Atoll.
As the official religion of the Maldives is Islam, all citizens are Muslims. Also, the law is closely connected to religion. This means that it is forbidden to import, offer or drink alcohol anywhere in the Maldives – the only exception are tourist resorts. Maldivians are also encouraged to cover their body in public, so you will always see them bathing with their clothes on. Every local island that offers guesthouses has a bikini beach where tourists are allowed to wear swimwear.
Some typical characteristics of Maldivians are that they are courteous, friendly, curious and open-minded but never pushy. You will never feel like on a bazar where traders try to persuade you to buy their stuff, and you never have to negotiate for any souvenirs and tours. If you need help, Maldivians are always open-minded and happy to help, but they will not take the first step. The official language is Dhivehi with its own characters, however, communicating is easy as Maldivians learn English at school.
If you like eating fish, the Maldives will seem even more like paradise to you. On the menu of a typical Maldivian restaurant, you will find all kinds of fish like fried reef fish, baked fish with garlic sauce, fish steak, grilled fish and tuna fried rice or noodles. Besides that, you will always find Western and other Asian food like pizza, burger, spaghetti and a big choice of different curries and noodle dishes.
On the islands, you can basically only find palm trees and no mentionable animals. But the diversity of the Maldives clearly lies below the water surface. With just one snorkelling trip you will experience stunning views of coral gardens, swim with manta rays, sea turtles, reef sharks, dolphins and even the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark. Some of these creatures can even be seen from the house reef of your chosen island, and every resort and guesthouse offers free snorkelling equipment to explore the wildlife by yourself.
While the marine life is definitely one of the highlights, snorkelling and diving are clearly not the only things you can do. If you prefer staying above the water surface, why not try one of the many other experiences the country has to offer? Have you ever considered catching your own dinner and enjoy it during the sunset on a secluded island with just you and your loved one? If you want to stay on your island, why not book a table at your favourite restaurant and ask them to prepare a romantic dinner on the beach for you? Many islands offer different kinds of water sports like jet skiing, kayaking or parasailing. And of course, don’t forget to just relax on a sunbed in the shadow of a palm tree with a glass of fresh lime juice in your hand.
The Maldives is definitely a unique island country, offering stunning views of sand, beaches and palm trees above the water surface and a rich marine life with corals, sea turtles, dolphins and many more below the water surface. With accommodation for every budget and year-round warm weather, the Maldives offer something for everyone. Immerse in the culture and get lost in adapting to the island life while enjoying some fresh fish on your private table at the beach.
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