My last vacation was to the beautiful Maldives. I had heard so much about the great marine life there, and being a keen diver decided that this would have to be a place to visit.
As a flight attendant and being entitled to 90% rebate tickets, this allowed me to get there at a really reasonable rate. Landing in Male was in itself an experience as the runway is surrounded by water.
The Maldives is an independent republic located in the Indian Ocean, south-west of the Indian sub-continent. Geographically, the Maldives is a unique collection of 26 coral atolls, containing almost 1200 coral islands and hundreds of small sandbanks.
The Maldives was formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, leaving behind coral reefs as the volcanic cones subsided. All the islands are low lying, on average less than 2 metres above sea level, making them vulnerable to long-term changes in sea level. The islands are scattered over more than 800 kilometres from north to south and 130 kilometres from east to west. This makes transfer to the tourist resorts a logistical problem.
The climate is hot and humid, with a rainy season between May and October and sea temperatures between 25 and 29° C, perfect for beach tourism, diving and the marine life.
The islanders are strict Muslims and no alcohol is allowed except in the resorts. Mosques are found on many islands and visitors are expected to respect the traditions of Islam in terms of modest dress when visiting the capital, Male. English is the second language to the local Dhivehi tongue.
Apart from tourism, the Maldives also have an important fishing industry. However, tourism is the driving force in the economy.
The Maldives receive around 300 000 international visitors annually, predominantly from Europe (Germany, Italy and the UK), but other important source markets are Japan, Australia, India and South Africa. The North American market is in its infancy for the Maldives but holds considerable potential.
The prime tourism resource of the islands is the pristine marine environment where the quality of the coral reefs and marine life is unrivalled anywhere in the world. The majority of visitors arrive in the Maldives to experience this marine environment. It is imperative that tourism development in the Maldives does not threaten the marine environment. Although global warming and rising sea temperatures have affected the coral, these events are outside the control of the islands themselves.
The capital, Male, is a small town with a few shops and restaurants, but little to attract the visitor, although it contains two-thirds of the population of the Maldives. Moreover, it is the gateway to the islands through Hulhule International Airport.
The Ministry of Tourism oversees tourism development and regulates the resorts. In the late 1990s the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board was created to market the islands internationally.
This is definitely an idyllic destination that should not be missed.