The Maldives is a nation of islands in the Indian Ocean, that spans across the equator. The country is comprised of 1192 islands that stretch along a length of 871 kilometres. While the country covers an area of approximately 90,000 square kilometres, only 298 square kilometres of that is dry land. The islands are grouped into a double chain of 26 atolls.
The country’s unique geography mesmerizes the visitor. Reefs that offer bands of colour, tiny jewel-like islands rimmed with the whitest of soft sand surrounded by the clearest shallow waters that one can imagine. Only 200 of the islands are inhabited, and a select few on each of the atolls are resorts and some of the islands are used for industry and agriculture.
The beauty of the Maldives is not only above the water. The Maldives is home to about five percent of the planet’s reefs that come with an explosion of colour contributed by soft and hard corals that form them. The reefs are home to a thousand species of fish. Lured by the rich nutrients that flow in with the currents, large pelagic fishes such as manta rays and whale sharks also make the Maldives their home.
The Maldives has one of the most delicate environments anywhere on the planet. Coral reefs are the foundation of the islands. They offer protection to the tiny islands as their natural defence system, and the country’s economy depends heavily on the health of its reefs and ecosystems.
Several conservation efforts are underway to protect the valuable marine environment of Maldives. While several marine species and birds are protected by law, protected areas have been designated to ensure the conservation of specific ecosystems and the rich biodiversity of the country. This includes designated nature reserves in islands of various atolls to protect wetlands and mangroves and protect marine areas and the designation of biosphere reserves that cover coral reefs, islands, seagrass beds, and mangroves.
Several resorts too conduct their own programs. While some programs conducted by resorts focus on the protection and rehabilitation of sea turtles, others are engaged in cutting edge research on the regeneration of coral reefs. Several community education programs are also conducted by resorts for school children and the community at large. Non-governmental organizations also play an important role through their voluntary programs and conduct regular beach and reef clean up programs.
Visitors to the Maldives are advised to carry back their own non-biodegradable waste and to take care not to stand on, touch or remove coral structures while snorkelling or diving.
The Maldives is well connected with the rest of the world. Several flights from Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia operate to Velana International Airport, the main gateway to the Maldives. The highest international traffic is from Colombo, Sri Lanka, various Indian cities and Dubai, while several scheduled and charter flights bring in passengers from all major European capitals, and South-East Asian cities.
Once in the Maldives, you can travel to any of the twelve domestic and international airports to which several daily flights are operated. Scheduled ferry services also operate from Male’ to most of the atolls.
If you are travelling to a resort, your transfer will most likely be prearranged at the time of booking your accommodation. Transfers to resorts around the airport are by speedboat and transfers to resorts and islands further afield are by seaplane.
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INTERNATIONAL TELEPHONE CODE
Prepaid SIM cards are available from two mobile service providers at the airport. The SIM cards can be used for local and international calls and for data.
The Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) is the local currency. All major credit cards are accepted in the country.
All nationalities receive a 30-day visa on arrival, provided that you have a valid passport, an onward ticket to continue your journey and a reservation at a tourist facility or enough funds to cover your stay in the country.
A Tourism Goods and Service Tax (TGST) of 12% is levied on all goods and services at tourist establishments. A Green Tax of US$ 6.00 per person per day is payable for guests staying at tourist accommodation except for guest houses where the Green Tax is US$ 3.00 per person per day.
TRAVEL AND TRANSFER
Speedboat transfer is the norm in resorts close to the International Airport. The rest is covered by seaplane or domestic flight. If you are travelling to Male’ you can take a taxi from the airport. Several daily flights operate from Velana International Airport to the 12 domestic and international airports in the country. Scheduled ferries also operate from Male’ to many of the atolls.
The import of alcohol by individuals is not permitted. However, alcohol is available at all the resorts.
Year-round temperature hot tropical climate. The average high temperature is 31.5 degrees Celsius and the average low temperature is 26.4 degrees Celsius. The Southwest monsoon from May to October brings rain and the Northeast monsoon from November to April is generally sunny.
Cotton clothes suit well the hot tropical climate of the Maldives. Tourists are expected to respect local culture and dress modestly when visiting or staying on inhabited islands. Sandals are ideal, as you may often want to slip them off and go barefoot.
The main public hospital Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and private hospitals ADK and Treetop are located in Male’. Each Atoll has at least one hospital and most resorts have their own clinics and in-house doctors.