The Republic of the Maldives is a double chain of small tropical islands situated in the Indian Ocean-Arabian Sea area. It is composed of 1,200 scattered islands rich with coral reef barriers and rocky deposit. However, only 200 of its islands are inhabited. White sandy beaches line the shores and brilliantly-colored fish such as the poisonous scorpion fish dart among the coral reefs and in the brilliant blue lagoons. Tourism is by far the fastest-growing industry. Islanders own and develop most of the resorts. Local crafts such as shell necklaces and carved wooden fish are sold to tourists.
Here are ten top destinations that must not be missed when in the Maldives:
Malé City is the capital of the Maldives, and is located on its own island that is about 1.2 miles long and just under a mile wide, with an estimated population of more than 300,000 people. Except for prayer time, businesses are usually open until around 11 PM. Muslims pray five times a day and some stores remain closed for 15 minutes during the prayers. The Malé city center is the only asphalted road, otherwise all roads are of white sand, crushed coral, gray stone and slate.
The most common tourism activity is to find a small island and spend a few days to fully enjoy the sun, sand, sea, or personally explore what the multicolored and ever-changing underwater world has to offer.
Maldives National Museum
The Maldives National Museum tells the history of the Maldives since the time of the first inhabitants who came from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), up until the conversion to Islam in the mid-12th century. There is no Catholic church in the Maldives. The small museum has a two-story exhibition hall with Indian tour guides on hand to explain every artifact found in the Maldives. There are modest exhibits containing art, crafts, and old images showing how the Maldives looked in the old times. There is evidence of how the Maldives provided the first early trading posts for foreign merchants like Portuguese and Dutch during the 1500’s. There are lots of history books about how the British ruled the country from 1887 up to is total freedom from any colonial rule in the year 1965.
Artifacts about Islam dating back to the 6th and 12th century (read the history of the Old Friday Mosque) are also available — the Holy Quran, a collection of Quran beads made out of corals, turbans, an Imam’s garments, a Sultan leader’s belongings and other Muslim memorabilia. The building itself was donated by the People’s Republic of China, to help the country preserve the history and old culture of the island. There are labels and explanations for every display and the tour of the entire museum can be done within one hour. It is a great place for visitors who are interested in how the island came to be and want to learn more about its rich history. The museum is open from 8 am to 6 pm. You need to be prepared to pay in local currency (Maldivian Rufiyaa) as they don’t accept any other monetary unit (even US$).
Hukuru Miskiiy (Old Friday Mosque)
The Old Friday Mosque is impressive and is the oldest mosque in the Maldives. It is constructed mostly of coral stone, has a height of about 200 feet and culminates with a golden dome. It gives the impression of rising up into the sky with the crescent of Islam. A wide carpet adorns the floors — oriented toward a corner; the mosque does no0t face correctly toward Mecca since it was built on an older temple site, so the carpet indicates the direction to face during prayer. Two separate entrances divide the area frequented by men and women. Tourists are allowed quietly, obviously within the dress rules of the host country. It is located in the center of the capital city Malé and holds an important place in the history of the Maldives.
It is over 400 years old and has a designated area where the tombs of former Sultans and even mere mortals are buried. The yard allocated for the tombs and old cemetery is quite interesting because you can see the tombstones of different shapes and sizes. The guide explained that this setting depends on the age and sex of the deceased. The older or higher the age of the dead, the more prominent position and larger area it occupies on the lot. Headstones are rounded for women, pointy for men. Taking photographs is not allowed and appropriate clothing is required for all visitors. A little donation is asked at the entrance doors for the maintenance of the mosque. It is a Muslim religious edifice but you can see various sculptures, something that is very different from most other traditional mosques. It attracts tourists and locals, has a majestic presence on the island, and is a lovely place to spend the afternoon after a day of swimming in the clear waters of the Maldives.
Male Local Market
The Malé Local Market is a typical trading area and extraordinarily colorful. Here you can find fruits and vegetables that are only to be seen and tasted in the Maldives. And the Maldivian people are very happy to let you taste their specialties. The market is conveniently located in front of the harbor, where you can also find some of the local seafood, spices and sweets made with honey and coconut leaves. It is a busy place but very picturesque and neat. There are at least 5 entrance points that lead to the different sections of the market. You can see lots of bananas hanging, ripe mangoes, pineapples, coconut, watermelon and more. You can take pictures, but always ask before doing so because some sellers don’t allow it.
You can enjoy a fresh coconut milk at a cost of $ 1. Be sure also to complete the tour by checking out the fish market (fresh and live fishes). Both places are quiet and not much haggling goes on — you can see how simple and typical the life of the people in the Maldives is. You can observe how they dress and interact with every tourist by body language and gestures. Although they cannot speak fluent English, they show their appreciation of the foreigner’s presence on their island with their genuine friendliness.
Banana Reef Island
Maldives is the perfect holiday destination for lovers of deep-sea diving and snorkeling adventures. One of the ideal places to enjoy these is at the Banana Reef. You can reach this reef by a boat ride that departs from the northern part of the Malé Atoll. Drift dives are available but only in the company of certified diving instructors and one of their experienced divers. You will have a nice dive with beautiful hard corals on top, large schools of fish, stingrays, giant turtles, moray eels, sharks, manta rays, snappers, and colorful Napoleon Wrasse.
It can be possible to go quite deep in good conditions (not too much current, clear visibility); diving almost 200 feet into a chasm is also possible. This area is just a stone’s throw away from the airport and resorts, restaurants and bars lined up along the coast. Organized diving can be arranged at any of the professional diving institutes on the island, and all of them can provide the necessary gear and equipment.
Maldive Victory Island
If you are looking for a wonderful destination and a bit of tranquility do not hesitate to visit the Maldive Victory located within the Kaafu Atoll area. They have a MEAN sea reef, defined here as one that has as many fish and other forms of marine life as there are varieties of coral. Tabletop corals in all shapes and sizes can be found everywhere as well as the large quantity of incredible fish of every color. Corals are tiny underwater animals, some of which live inside the chalky skeleton like structures. These coral formations build up into a rocky deposit. This explains the natural wealth of every island you will explore in the Maldives. They were all formed because of the presence of these abundant coral deposits in their waters.
A dive or snorkeling adventure is probably the most enticing activity one can do in these clear blue seas — but the serene and paradise-like atmosphere of the island, for many people, is enough to make a perfect vacation in itself. The almost isolated ambience makes this the ideal honeymoon and romantic spot for any couple. For the more adventurous, a deep-sea exploration with guided tours lead by professional divers can even be done on the shipwreck of a cargo vessel that went down in 1981. It is best to bring an underwater camera for any dive or snorkeling experience — you won’t be able to stop using it! . Speedboats can be rented and you will be able to have clear directions to the best snorkeling areas with shallow waters around the island.
It is a beautiful reef with east-flowing currents that can be very strong depending on the monsoon and tide movements. On HP Reef, you can find a large school of silver jacks, many turtles, and in the deep part you can view the gray black-tip and white-tip reef sharks. The colored soft coral appear more on the south side of the reef. For a typical dive, jump into the current stream and drift along the side of the reef up to the back. If the current permits, you can go over the top a bit and admire a huge school of reef fishes.
This diving spot will take you to a world of colors and beauty. But the tiny reef can also be very dangerous if the current is powerful that day. Boat owners know when it is not good to see this part of the island. For your safety, asking the locals or making the trip with a serious and experienced boat captain is highly recommended.
Whether on a holiday or excursion, a tour of the Alimatha Island located along the Vaayu Atoll region will not disappoint you. The sea, sun, fun, peace, and tranquility are definitely out of this world. In this beautiful part of the island you can stay a week and soak yourself in all its natural wonders. It is perfect for a family getaway adventure as there are plenty of resorts and hotels designed for families and kids’ enjoyment. There is a huge shallow lagoon in front of these establishments, and with mask and fins you can see many colorful fish right along the shoreline together with your kids. It is very safe and educational for them at the same time.
The island is filled with resort/apartment style buildings that can accommodate 2 adults and 2 children. Some hotels provide excellent animation shows and mini-snorkeling club for children from 3 – 11 years old. If the goal is a nice family vacation to relax and enjoy the sea, this island is the definite destination.
Mulee Agee (Presidential Palace)
This building serves as the official palace and residence of the President. It is small in size and quite colorful. The Mulee Agee does not allow any visit to its interior; it can only be viewed from outside its iron gates. The most impressive thing about this place is the absence of security personnel in and around the vicinity of the palace.
Photo opportunities are allowed outside with the colorful façade as a backdrop. This small building is located in the city center of the Malé Atoll region. This pocket-sized island is the most habitable and populated island in the Maldives.
Bodu Mora Beach
Bodu Mora Beach
offers a mix of strikingly beautiful white sands, crystal turquoise waters, lush vegetation, lots of palm trees and shade, and its great reef wonders. However, it is also a masterpiece of nature being gradually destroyed by man’s indifference: the presence of trash in many places is hard to ignore. This is supposed to be a wonderful island blessed by nature, and it definitely has an incredible lagoon. Without question it is a piece of paradise in all ways — except for the plastic bottles and other types of garbage that seem to dot its 165-foot-long sandy beach areas.
Lined with tall coconut trees, the scene is actually breathtaking; along the banks you can even view baby sharks that turn yellow. It is very much worth a visit because the beauty of the sea remains unparalleled . . . but it deserve more respect and concern from the humans who come to enjoy it.