Many people love to travel, to experience different cultures, places, cuisines, and sights. Many of them also fantasize about discovering an island paradise where they can jump into clear blue seas straight from their bungalow and be greeted and feted by friendly locals.
A chain of 26 atolls and over 1,000 islands in the Indian Ocean, the Republic of Maldives is one of the most sought-after tropical destinations in the world. With world-renowned diving sites and resorts that are the definition of luxury, the country offers the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure. Add to that a true left-the-real-world-behind feeling, and you have yourself the vacation dreams are made of. Here are a few reasons why the Maldives needs to be added to your travel bucket list before it’s too late.
First, a little about the Maldives – One of the smallest countries in the world, and the smallest in Asia, the Maldives is comprised of 1,192 islands over 90,000 square kilometers. Its waters are home to several marine ecosystems, and its white-sand beaches are world-famous. Unfortunately, due to climate change and rising sea levels, the Maldives are at risk of disappearing into the sea. Although this will not be happening anytime soon, the impact of this slow encroachment is not yet fully understood. So, the sooner you visit, might prove to be better.
The local culture is influenced by its proximity to India and its conversion to Islam in the 12th century. Mainly a fishing economy, the Maldivians discovered a major new revenue stream in tourism in the 1970s. Since then, they have developed into an enticing tropical island destination. Once thought of only as a honeymoon destination for couples, the Maldives has embraced its position as a once in a lifetime island destination for all, for play and even for work.
Until recently, visitors to the Maldives could only stay at one of the resorts, isolated and separated from the local population. Now, the rules have been relaxed, opening the local villages to foreigners and a booming guesthouse and homestay economy.
So, it does not matter if you stay at a guesthouse on Maafushior or at the five-star resort Soneva Fushi on Kunfunadhoo, the breadth of experiences available during a visit to the Maldives has grown. Here are some activity ideas to add to your itinerary for when you do visit this fascinating destination:
Scuba diving or snorkeling
No visit to the Maldives would be complete without an exploration of the local sea life. Considered one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world, there are countless types of environments, from shallow coral reefs to deeper explorations of caverns and channels. This variety also means that any level of diver will have an unforgettable experience. For those that choose to stay closer to the surface, there is plenty to see while snorkeling. Anyone venturing into the water will be sure to witness an amazing collection from the thousand species that make the Maldives their home.
Swimming with Whale sharks or Manta rays
This deserves a separate mention because the Maldives’ South Ari Atoll is a year-round home to these lovely giants. These large fish species are considered endangered. There are also a few sites where you can swim with manta rays. These are rare opportunities that you should take advantage of. To swim alongside these magnificent creatures is a truly awesome experience.
Explore the capital
Most visitors to the Maldives will transit through the capital of Malé on their way to and from their accommodations, but the capital city is worthwhile to spend some time in and explore. The most urbanized of all its islands, Malé has a number of historic sites that should be visited, such as the Friday Mosque. Built in the early 18th century, it is one of the oldest in the country and an amazing example of an edifice built entirely from coral blocks.
Visit a local village
Now that visitors can venture beyond their all-inclusive resorts, you can enjoy the company of lovely locals in nearby villages. As long as you remember that this is a Muslim country and act appropriately (women should cover up and no one should even think of asking for or trying to share a beer), you will find your respect appreciated by a friendly, open people who will be happy to share their culture and traditions. You may even be invited to join a fishing trip.
Relax on a dhoni
The traditional fishing vessel for Maldivian fisherman, the dhoni, started as a sailboat, but many now are outfitted with motors as well. Constructed from coconut trees or more modern fiberglass, there are many available for leisurely day trips or overnights for visitors to discover the islands from a different aspect.
Try the cuisine
It may be stating the obvious, but the main ingredient of local Maldivian dishes is fish, like tuna and mackerel. Coconut, breadfruit, taro, and other root vegetables are locally grown and are also featured. Curries may seem to dominate, and there are various cooking styles employed. You might find savory fish cakes and sweetened rice among your choices to dine from.
Discover a new water sport
In addition to the incredible sights awaiting underwater, you can enjoy thrills on the water. Water skiing, parasailing, kite surfing, kayaking, and so much more are available at multiple resorts and many local guesthouses.
Or you can just relax away on the beach, soak in the sun, and enjoy the tranquil surroundings of your little slice of exotic paradise. Make sure to share your holiday experiences with us in the comments below!