An unbelievably beautiful collection of atolls scattered across the sparkling waters of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives represent the epitome of barefoot luxury. It’s one of those rare destinations that actually surpasses its promo photos in terms of sheer beauty and tranquillity, making it an easy choice if you’re looking for the holiday of a lifetime – and we’ve put together a few basic facts to get you started.
The Republic of Maldives lies southwest of India and is made up of a chain of 26 atolls comprising 1192 coral islands, ranging in size from barely a dot in the ocean to the island of Gan, which although the largest in the Maldives, still only measures less than eight kilometres across at its widest point. The capital city and gateway to the other islands is Malé, which was traditionally the King’s Island from which the Maldives’ ancient dynasties ruled. Geographically, the islands are composed of coral reefs and sand bars which perch atop a vast submarine ridge, making it an ideal home for a vast and varied collection of marine life. The Maldives is the world’s most low-lying country, with an average elevation of just 1.5 metres above sea level, so you are never far from those shimmering waters.
As a tropical destination, the climate is warm and sunny year-round, but does experience dry and rainy seasons. The most settled weather occurs between December and February, but this is also the busiest time of year, when resorts are busier and rates tend to be higher – however, because each resort occupies its own diminutive island paradise, you’ll never have to contend with hordes of visitors, and you will always be able to find a quiet spot on the beach or on the water. If you visit during the wet season, you are more likely to experience rain and at times, strong winds, but this makes it a popular time for windsurf and surf enthusiasts. The shoulder season (March and April) can be a good compromise: settled weather, fewer people and the beginning of the surf season.
Depending on the location of your resort island, there are a few different options for reaching your destination once you have landed in Malé. For short hops, there is a limited ferry service available, but a far more glamorous option is to take a speedboat transfer, which will provide a thrilling introduction to the crystal-clear waters of the Maldives. If your resort is situated on one of the more far-flung atolls or you just can’t wait to reach your destination, nothing beats a seaplane or helicopter transfer for a truly rock-star arrival moment.
The Maldives is one of only two nations in the world with a 100 percent Muslim population, and you are expected to be respectful of their cultural conventions when in public or visiting a non-resort island. That means no alcohol, wearing modest clothing and avoiding public displays of affection. However, the resort islands are exempt from these requirements.
There are roughly 120 island resorts scattered throughout the Maldives, and these are the most popular options for accommodation – for good reason. Many offer great-value meal plans, water-based activities and beautiful beaches, so all you need to decide upon is the level of luxury you desire. There’s also the option to spend your holiday afloat on a selection of boats that range from bare basics to ultra-luxurious. These can be an especially wise choice if you’re visiting in pursuit of certain water-based activities such as diving, fishing or surfing – like the turtles that inhabit these waters, you can take your home base with you wherever you go and sample multiple different locations during the course of a single holiday.
The waters surrounding the Maldives are some of the best in the world for marine activities, offering everything from world-class surf breaks and coral dives to tranquil lagoons in which to practise your paddleboard yoga or snorkelling. South Ari Atoll is one of the few places in the world to have a year-round population of whale sharks, North Malé Atoll is home to vast numbers of graceful manta rays, and Rasdhoo Atoll really turns up the adrenaline with spine-tingling hammerhead shark dives.
The Maldives has been described as “Nature’s Sunken Gardens”, but if you fancy a break from the beach, you can still find other activities to keep you occupied, although practicality will be affected by the location of your resort. In Malé, explore the Fish Market for glimpses into everyday life, admire the intricate woodwork and inlays of Hukuru Miskiiy mosque and soak up the nation’s history at the National Museum. You may be able to visit a local island for a taste of authentic Maldivian food and culture, but if you can’t bear to drag yourself away from your resort, why not schedule some me-time with an indulgent massage or spa treatment.
Have you always dreamed of visiting an idyllic tropical wonderland such as the Maldives? If this is the year to start turning that dream into a reality, talk to your personal travel manager.