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Maldives Travel Guide

Author: David Pettitt

The Maldives, a tropical paradise located in the Indian Ocean to the west of Sri Lanka and southern India, offers sun-kissed beaches, crystal-clear waters and a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Comprising 26 atolls which in turn contain over 1,000 coral islands, the Maldives boasts a rich history, unique geography and rich marine life but is best known as one of the world’s ultimate holiday destinations. Our Maldives travel guide explains the reasons to visit, the best time to do so and the different things to do when you are there.

History of the Maldives

Officially the Republic of the Maldives, the history of the islands of the Maldives dates back over 2,500 years and, over the centuries, has been heavily influenced by Indian, Arab and European cultures. It is believed that the original settlers were either Gujarati or Dravidian peoples, with the Maldives converting to Islam in the 12th century AD – a move which has indelibly shaped its modern culture. Today, the Maldives is a presidential republic, with Male as its capital.

Geography of the Maldives

The smallest country in Asia and also one of the world's most geographically dispersed nations, the Maldives is divided into 26 atolls each, in turn, comprising of multiple coral islands. These atolls are scattered across the equator stretching from Ihavandhippolhu Atoll in the north to Addu Atoll in the south. Exclusively low-lying, the Maldives is renowned for its coral reefs, lagoons and sandy beaches.

Marine life of the Maldives

The Maldives is noted for its vast array of marine life which benefits from a range of different habitats including from deep sea and reef ecosystems to mangroves and wetland areas. This in turn supports an incredible diversity of life beneath the sea including over 1,000 fish species such as parrotfish, triggerfish, angelfish barracuda and manta ray, reef shark, nurse shark, and elusive whale shark, five species of sea turtle, dolphin and whale.

Why visit the Maldives?

The Maldives is rightly known as a pristine paradise with some of the world's most beautiful white-sand beaches and awe-inspiring underwater landscapes. All resorts are surrounded by beautiful lagoons, with crystal clear waters and colourful coral reefs and so the emphasis is on pure relaxation and rejuvenation. Aside from recharging and escaping the pressures of modern everyday life, another key draw for visitors to the Maldives is its incredible marine life. Vibrant coral reefs teem with exotic marine species, making it a paradise for snorkellers and divers. For those particularly interested in cetaceans, there are also few specialist wildlife cruises in the company of a professional marine biologist that takes place two or three times a year.

The best time to visit the Maldives

With a tropical climate and location astride the equator, it is possible to visit the Maldives throughout the year. Temperatures remain stable with little divergence year-round but the best time to visit the Maldives is generally considered to be during what is known as the dry season which runs from November to April. Between May and October there is an increased risk of rainfall with showers sometimes heavy but short-lived.

Visa requirements for travel to the Maldives

British nationals can obtain a tourist visa for up to 30 days on arrival in the Maldives. You should ensure that your passport is valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into the Maldives. Non-UK nationals should check with their local Maldivian embassy or consulate before travel in case different entry rules apply.

How to reach the Maldives

In most cases travelling by air is the only way to reach the Maldives and there are a vast number of flight options available from the UK. Direct flights to Male, capital of the Maldives, from UK have a typical duration of approximately 10 to 11 hours. There are also multiple indirect flights between the UK and the Maldives – most of which stop en-route in the Middle East and, depending on the connection, usually take around 12 to 15 hours.

How to reach your resort

Depending on your resort, on arrival at Male International Airport, you will need to take either a domestic flight or a speedboat to your resort. Speedboats are used for resorts closer to Male with pre-arranged speedboats located at the jetty across the road from the terminal. For resorts located in more remote locations, transfer by seaplane is the quickest and most convenient option and offer breathtaking views of the atolls, islands, lagoons and miles of clear blue waters. It is also worth noting that seaplane transfers are only made during daylight hours. Transfers must be arranged in conjunction with the resort prior to arrival in the Maldives.

Resort facilities and activities

There is wide choice of hotels available in the Maldives – larger resorts, smaller barefoot properties, ones that cater to families and ones which are better focused to adults or couples. Although it depends on the specific property, Maldivian resorts are renowned for their world-class amenities and services with nearly all offering overwater bungalows or beachfront villas, a range of restaurants and spa facilities. Resorts also offer a huge range of different activities from snorkelling and diving to island hopping and sunset cruises.

Popular Maldives two-centre combinations

Although the Maldives is well-known as a standalone holiday destination, it is also easily and popularly combined with neighbouring countries. The Maldives is very close to Sri Lanka, Kerala, Rajasthan and the north of India with regular airlinks between Male, Colombo, Kerala and Northern India making it the perfect place to relax after a cultural tour of either of these countries.

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