Stretches of white, powdery beaches surrounding crystalline waters, shallow atolls surrounded by the ocean, coral reefs perfect for snorkelling and diving, there’s no end to the must-do sights or attractions in the Maldives. An archipelago that includes over 1,150 islands and sandbanks, the Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 km southwest of Sri Lanka. The archipelago extends more than 820 km from north to south, and 130 km from east to west. The country is widely dispersed but it has less than 400,000 permanent inhabitants, making it one of the world’s 25 least inhabited countries.
Made up of low-lying coral islands, which are divided into 26 different atolls (ring-shaped island chains encircling a lagoon, either partially or completely), the Maldives is the world’s lowest-lying country, with an average height of just three feet above sea level. However, what’s good about it is that you can tackle it without an agenda. You can choose to snorkel directly from your over-water villa, tootle along coral sands or wander aimlessly through tropical jungle vegetation and feel rewarded by simply getting lost.
Surf the Waves
The Maldives is famous across the world for extreme surfing, with Malé Atoll being the most convenient because of its proximity to Malé Airport. The biggest waves hit Maldivian shores between April and October, proving great surfing opportunities, lasting a couple of days. Commonly two-metre high, there are waves everywhere. There are few other places in the far south too, like the Laamu and Gaafu Alifu/Gaafu Dhaalu Atolls, that offer superb opportunities for surfers to have great fun.
Snorkelling and Diving
Taking the plunge into the deep blue is one of the most fun things to do and the rewards are massive, especially in Maldives. Rightly called as a world-class scuba-diving destination, the Maldivian waters boasts of an enormous variety of fish life, and there’s a good chance you’ll see some of the biggest marine creatures. There are hundreds of famous dive sites, with dozens accessible from nearly every resort. British Loyalty Wreck, Dhidhdhoo Beyru, Fish Head and Hammerhead Point are counted among the best dive sites in the Maldives.
The Maldives is home to 21 species of whale and dolphin that can be frequently sighted as they cross in the channels from one side of an atoll to another. Many resorts organise cruises to the sea-lanes that dolphins regularly use, and independent dolphin watching cruises can be arranged by the accommodation provider. Muli Channel in the Meemu Atoll is one of the best spots to watch dolphins in the Maldives and the best time to find them is in the afternoon, between 1530 to 1700 hrs.
Probably one of the most outstanding attractions in the Maldives, the Whale Submarine is a chance for the young and old to visit the underwater world without getting wet, while enjoying the experience of diving in a real submarine. Blue or yellow-striped snappers and common lionfish, yellow boxfish and turtles can be seen on most dives. The submarine also dives to some historical sites such as a shipwreck or a shark feeding area, but it depends on the time of the day, water pressure, etc. It is fully air-conditioned, has a normal atmospheric pressure and superb safety features. The whole tour takes about three hours and is an amazing experience, especially for children and non-divers.