Maldives, the republic of a thousand islands, millions of coconut palms, white sandy beaches, endless sandbanks, azure lagoons, colourful coral reefs filled with thousands of fish species, barefoot seaplane pilots, beach and water villas and residences. But the Maldives is not just that, it is also the everyday life of the locals with their joys and worries, rich culture and traditions. The Maldives is a holiday paradise you will definitely want to return to.
The north of the Maldives is influenced by India, the people are friendly and unspoilt by tourism, the centre by Sri Lanka with a fairly well-developed tourism industry, and the south by the UK. Most Maldivians work in tourism, and businessmen, politicians and thugs come from the south of the Maldives, specially from Addu Atoll or also Seenu or Fuvahmulah Island. Every part of the Maldives is different and so is every island, whether by its natural or artificial beauty, or by the different natures of the locals.
Each season offers different activities and is distinct in some way. Until December 2009, there were only two ways to spend a holiday in the Maldives, in a resort in beach villas, or at sea on a boat. But in January 2010, the government allowed travel to the inhabited islands, adding another way to experience the Maldives differently, and cheaper than what was known until 2009.
The most affordable way, and the one that will enrich you the most with new experiences, knowledge and insights, is to stay and explore the inhabited local islands. You can experience perfect relaxation and pampering at affordable or luxury resorts, and for avid divers, fishermen, surfers or boat lovers, there are different length cruises with different itineraries between the atolls. The best holidays are a combination of inhabited islands and resorts, and the ultimate holiday is one where you explore, experience and relax.
The inhabited islands are inhabited by locals along with other nationalities such as Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Indians. These are mostly fishing or farming islands, where it is possible to stay in guesthouses or hotels. On an inhabited island you will come into contact with the daily life of the locals, without the glitz. Here you can encounter disorder, noise, for example someone building a house, grinding his small boat or cutting wood, and other inconveniences associated with everyday life. But all these negatives are balanced by the wide, genuine smiles of the locals and the experience of the truly "real" Maldives, which you will definitely not encounter at a resort. You will certainly remember fishing, football or volleyball with the locals fondly. Also, the nature on selected local islands is no worse than on resorts, on the contrary, it can be even more pristine.
As the Maldives is a Muslim country, the distribution and consumption of alcohol, including its importation, is prohibited on the inhabited local islands. For tourists, special bikini beaches are reserved on the islands, where it is possible to move around in a regular swimsuit. On other beaches, it is necessary to wear at least knee-length shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. By the way, it is not a bad idea to bring a long-sleeved snorkelling or surf shirt to the Maldives, even to resorts or boats. As the Maldives is on the equator, the sun really does burn here. If moving around the village or town, it is essential to have appropriate clothing, which means anything at least knee length, with at least short sleeves and no low necklines.
The Maldives has a total of 199 inhabited islands and around 160 resorts, which open and close as renovations are needed. But not all inhabited islands and resorts are beautiful and worth a stay. There are really only a handful of the most beautiful inhabited islands, less built-up and with very attractive nature or beaches. The perfect resorts, whether it's nature or service you are looking for, are similar.
The warming planet and rising ocean levels are having a huge negative impact on the Maldives. In 2016, sea temperatures reached as high as 33 °C, beginning a widespread coral bleaching that has not affected more than a few select atolls. New corals only started to grow in the affected areas in 2018, when ocean temperatures dropped back down to 26 and 27 °C. Corals grow faster in places where the seabed of lagoons is covered with seagrass, which oxygenates the water. Constant weather fluctuations and an unusually rough ocean in 2019 have brought with them tremendous erosion of the islands. On the inhabited islands, erosion is being fought with concrete and sandbags, while on the resorts, techniques are being used to replenish the beaches with sand dredged from the seabed and to build breakwaters out of rocks. It should be mentioned that the current construction of artificial islands with resorts is also not helping the coral reefs.
If you dive under the ocean, diving and snorkelling aside, you must try at least one of the underwater experiences. If you're a foodie, you'll appreciate the luxury resorts and the culinary skills of local chefs. The most discerning should try breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of the aforementioned underwater restaurants. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at the Conrad Rangali Resort opened in April 2005, becoming the first underwater restaurant in the Maldives and the world. It was subsequently joined by Subsix Restaurant and Club at Niyama Private Islands Resort, SEA Underwater Restaurant at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas Resort, 5.8 Undersea Restaurant at Hurawalhi Island Resort, M6m at Ozen by Atmosphere Resort and H2O at You & Me by Cocoon Resort. Another underwater restaurant is at Centara Grand Muthaafushi Resort.
And if you'd like to try an overnight stay under the sea, that too can come true. Conrad Rangali Resort in November 2018 inaugurated The Muraka, the first and largest underwater residence in the Maldives and also in the world. In January 2020, two more underwater villas (Aqua Villas) opened at the Pullman Maamutaa resort.
When visiting the Maldives, you will also 100% encounter wild dolphins and their relatives. Definitely don't miss a trip to an uninhabited island or a sandbank, which is a sandy island or shoal, often combined with a picnic or barbecue on the beach. Romance lovers can take a romantic sunset cruise, followed by a candlelit dinner on the beach. In December and January, sometimes longer, you won't just see the beautiful stars in the sky – believe us, the night sky at the equator is a real spectacle – but also in the sand on the beach around midnight. This is the peak season, when the sea washes up plankton on the beach at night, which glows in the dark.
Now all that's left to do is to break the piggy bank, pick the right island, buy a ticket and off to paradise, to the Maldives, the republic of a thousand islands, a million coconut palms!