Maldives is any tourists' dream come true. Tourism in the Maldives has been carefully managed taking into consideration the demands of the environment due to the efforts by the government to minimize the adverse effects of tourism on local communities and the environment. Some of the major attractions of Maldives includes
There may not be much about Male that makes it extraordinary, but this capital city, previously known as Sultan's Island, is worth a dekko for its quaint charm. Small and densely settled, Male is not spectacular, but quite unique as a capital city. It is clean and tidy, with mosques, markets, a maze of small streets and a certain charm all its own. It may sometimes give the impression of a sleepy country town, but appearances can be deceiving.
The vast majority of visitors come to the Maldives on package tours, staying at one of the 70-plus resort islands. Most resorts are in the three atolls closest to the capital - North Malé Atoll, South Malé Atoll and Ari Atoll. There are a few other resorts on nearby atolls, and these might be further developed in the future. Judging by the brochures, all the resorts are beautiful and are blessed with white sand, blue sea and swaying palm trees, and they all promise great diving. Despite their apparent similarity, however, they differ considerably in their comfort, cuisine, clientele, character and their suitability for various excursions and activities.
The quality of accommodation and food is pretty much related to price - none of the Maldives resorts are bad, but then none are exactly cheap either. Some have modern, motel-style rooms, while others are more rustic, with thatched roofs and sand floors. The larger, cheaper resorts attract more young people, more singles, and tend to be casual in style and full of people out to have a good time. Smaller resorts are more intimate and cosy, and may appeal to couples and honeymooners. Some resorts cater more or less exclusively to certain nationalities, notably Italian, German, French and Japanese guests. All resorts offer scuba diving, but some are known as hardcore divers' destinations. Note that some resorts having better access to specific dive sites, local Maldivian villages, or to the capital city than others.
Seenu (Addu Atoll)
Seenu is the 'second city' of the Maldives, and the resort here is the best base from which to visit traditional Maldivian island communities. The Addu people are fiercely independent, speak differently from folk in the capital and at one time even tried to secede from the republic.
The biggest influence on Addu's modern history has been the British bases, first established on the island of Gan during WWII, as part of the Indian Ocean defenses. In 1956, they developed a Royal Air Force base as a strategic Cold War outpost. The base had around 600 permanent personnel, with up to 3000 during periods of peak activity. The British built a causeway connecting Feydhoo, Maradhoo and Hithadhoo islands, and employed most of the local men. In 1976 the British pulled out, but many of their employees, who spoke good English and had experience working for westerners, were well qualified for jobs in the soon-to-be-booming tourist industry.
Tourist development in Addu itself has been slower to start, but a resort has been established in the old RAF buildings on Gan and there are now reliable connections to the capital in a new Air Maldives jet. The Ocean Reef Resort is not a typical Maldives tropical paradise resort island, but the old military base is a unique feature. Gan is linked by causeways to the adjacent islands, and it's easy and pleasant to get around them by bicycle, giving unmatched opportunities to visit the local villages and see village life.
This solitary island in the middle of the Equatorial Channel is something of an exception in the Maldives. It is exceptionally fertile, producing fruits and vegetables not grown elsewhere in the country, like mangoes, oranges and pineapples. The people are said to be bigger and healthier and to live longer than other islanders.
In South Nilandhoo Atoll, the island of Kudahuvadhoo has one of the mysterious mounds known as hawittas. They are probably the ruins of Buddhist temples, but have not been thoroughly investigated by archaeologists. Thor Heyerdahl explored the island, and commented that its old mosque had some of the finest masonry he had ever seen, surpassing even the famous Inca wall in Cuzco, Peru. He was amazed to find such a masterpiece of stone-shaping art on such an isolated island, though it had a reputation in the Islamic world for finely carved tombstones.
Baa Atoll is famous for its handcrafts, which include lacquer work and finely woven cotton felis (traditional sarongs). The small, isolated atoll of Goidhoo has been a place for castaways and exiles. The French explorer François Pyrard, found himself here in 1602 after his ship, the Corbin, was wrecked.