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Maldives Planning Tips and Fast Facts

Revel in the Sunny Side of Life in these Islands of Natural Wonder,

Our Expert Opinion

The Maldives are all about the underwater world and magnificent beaches. If you’re not a certified diver, become one before you go. Swimming with manta rays and whale sharks is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once you leave Male, there are no hotels or funky beach bars, just a medley of luxury resorts offering 5-star dining and spas. Nightlife is minimal – unless, of course, your superyacht crew surprises you with a themed evening of onboard revelry.

What is Destination Known For?

Uninhabited Islands, Untouched Coral Reefs, Thriving Marine Life, Exclusive Island Resorts and World-renowned Dive Sites.

Location and Size

The Maldives is located 248.5 miles (400 kilometers) to the south west of the coast of India, in the midst of the Indian Ocean, in the continent of Asia. It is composed of 1190 coral islands, 200 of them inhabited. It covers a total land area of around 116 square miles (300 square kilometers). The islands are divided into 26 atolls. Each atoll is formed on the rim of an inactive super volcano, and thus circular in shape.

History

The Aryans were the first settlers on these islands around 500 BC. In ancient times this region produced cowrie shells for use as a currency in Asia and some regions of East Africa. According to legend, the son and daughter-in-law of a king of the present day's Sri Lanka stopped by at the Raa Atoll and stayed there as rulers on the request of the locals. This marked the beginning of Buddhist governance on the islands, which later converted to Islam in 1153.

Another interesting legend narrates this story of the region's religious inclination. An Islamic scholar – Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary is said to have visited the islands when the locals were tormented by 'Rannamaari'. This sea monster supposedly came out of the sea once a month to accept the sacrifice of a virgin; failing which, it would ravage the entire island. The girl's turn was determined by mass verdict. Al Barbary, in a bid to save the ill-fated lady, disguised himself as a girl and prepared himself to be taken by the monster. When the locals arrived in the morning to witness the consequences, they were amazed to find the visitor still alive and reciting the Holy Quran. The King attributed this enchantment to the power of the Holy Quran and converted to Islam. Following suit, the entire island embraced Islam.

The Portuguese established a colony in Maldives in 1558. But after a stay of 15 years, during which they tried to impose Christianity, were evacuated following a revolt headed by Muhammad Thaakurufaanu Al Azam and his two brothers. That day marks the celebration of National Day on the islands.

The Dutch too tried to establish a dominance in the region in the mid-17th century, but were overthrown by the British in 1796. The country was then under the rulership of 93 Sultans and Sultanas until 1887, when it voluntarily accepted British protectorate, though the Sultan still remained as the head of the state.

In April 1968, backing a public referendum, the sultanate was abolished and Maldives became a republic. Ibrahim Nasir became the president of the state. In 1988, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom with the help of Indian troops, foiled an attempted coup and brought about many reforms in the island-nation.

The first resort was opened in 1972, and the country has since become a major tourism hub with the industry contributing over 30% of its GDP and over 60% of its foreign exchange receipts.

Getting There

By Air: Maldives' gateway to the world is the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (MLE) located at Male on the island of Hulhule. It connects the region with direct flights from major Indian, Sri Lankan and Chinese cities, Singapore, Dubai and London. Connecting flights are also available from Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the USA.

Best Time to Go

The Maldives are considered a year-round destination with the best weather during the dry season of December to April when the weather is the warmest and the seas are the clearest. The rainy season runs from May to October, peaking around June. Although you might encounter some torrential rains in the “monsoon” season, you’ll also find this time best for surfing, and the underwater world is more vibrant then as well. And the water and air are still warm.

Local Customs to Observe

Maldives is a devout Muslim nation and thus quite conservative. 'Assalaam Alaikum', meaning 'Hello' besides a handshake are the common forms of greeting. Beachwear should be restricted only to the beaches and while visiting places like mosques, shorts must be avoided and the head and shoulders must be covered with a piece of cloth. Alcoholic drinks are only available on the resort islands.

Helpful Fast Facts

Currency: Maldivian Rufiyaa

Time Zone: UTC + 05:00

Local language: Dhivehi is the local language; however, many people in the tourism industry are fluent in English

Population: 367,971 as of March 15, 2016

Airport: Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (MLE) at Male is the country's premier international airport.

Entry Requirements: Pre-arrival visa is not required to enter the Maldives and instead, a free 30-day visa is issued to all nationals upon arrival, provided the traveler is in possession of a valid passport. The person traveling to the islands must also have a valid return ticket and appropriate funds for his accommodation or a confirmed reservation in a resort/hotel.

Departure tax: US$25 per person

Legal Drinking Age: 18 years (for tourists). It is illegal for the locals.

Smoking Regulations: Smoking is banned in all public areas in the Maldives.

Staying in touch: Mobile coverage is good in most parts of the Maldives. International roaming agreements exist with major telecom operators. Internet services are also available at most of the places.

Medical Information: Every capital island of each atoll has a government hospital or a health center. For more specialized services, the country's premier hospital – Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital at Male is a decent option. The ADK Private Hospital at Male offers world-class facilities. Medevac is readily available too.

Public Holidays: (* Date determined by Islamic calendar) - New Year's Day (1st January); Rabi'-al-Thani*; National Day (24th January); Beginning of Ramadan*; Eid-al-Fitr*; Independence Day (26th July); Hajj Day*; Eid-al-Adha*; Islamic New Year Day*; Victory Day (3rd November); Republic Day (11th November); Milad-un-Nabi*

Tourist Office: The official website: http://www.visitmaldives.com/en provides detailed information on accommodation and sight-seeing, along with upcoming events and more.

Shopping Information: Majeedhee Magu at Male is the most famous shopping destination in the region. Fancy dresses, cosmetics, accessories, electronics and groceries are abundant here. The STO Trade Centre in Orchid Magu comprises a number of souvenir shops. Local artefacts and international items are also available at Orchid Magu and Chaandhanee Magu. The resorts on the islands have shopping centers that sell garments, jewelry and much more. Duty-free shopping outlets are available at the Male airport too.

Top Ten "Must Do's"

  • Unleash your spiritual side at the Hukuru Miskiiy Mosque, the oldest in the Maldives; visit the home of Sultan Mohammad Thankurufaan, the greatest hero of Maldives at Utheemu Ganduvaru
  • Swim through an 80’ chimney, caves and soft, blue coral at the HP Reef
  • Enjoy a Bodu Beru performance of local singing and dancing
  • Go back into history at National Museum, Chaandhanee Magu
  • Snorkel with Manta Rays and Whale Sharks – one of the few places on earth to swim with these gentle giants
  • Enjoy a hot black stone massage as the angelfish swim past at the world’s first underwater spa at Per Aquum
  • Be a castaway – your superyacht crew sets up your own private cabana on a deserted beach
  • Visit a traditional Maldivian village and get to know the locals – your captain knows a special spot
  • Cast off on your yacht’s towed tender for world class fishing – haul in that marlin.
  • Enjoy a six-course dinner at Ithaa, an intimate underwater restaurant with panoramic views
  • Get married, renew your vows or just profess your love; romance is palpable in the Maldives

Major Local and Regional Events

  • THE PROPHET'S BIRTHDAY – held on the 12th day of Rabee-ul-Awwal (3rd month of the Islamic calendar)
  • RAMADAN – it is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and considered holy. This is a festival of celebration, complemented with the fasting ritual of Roza
  • EID FESTIVAL – a 3-day feast festival at the conclusion of Ramadan. This is an ideal time to explore the country's cultural splendors and culinary versatility
  • WHALE SHARK FESTIVAL (August) – an annual event celebrating the marine diversity of the region with educative drives promoting environmental conservation
  • HURAVEE (December) – a day of celebration involving local food, music and dance as a tribute to Sultan Hassan Izzudin, whose heroics liberated Maldives from South Indian invaders

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