Maldivian resorts are in a class of their own. Each resort is housed on a separate island by itself offers a unique blend of modern luxury and isolated serenity. With no exception, all resorts have soft sandy beaches, translucent clear lagoons enclosed by house reefs inhabited by a variety of marine flora and fauna and everything else you would expect on a tropical holiday within a few minute’s walking distance the most. However, each resort island has its individual charm, character and ambience that can best be appreciated through personal experience.
The sea plane companies operating in the Maldives offers spectacular flights over the atolls – perfect for photo trips, sight seeing or just plain enjoyment.
These flights provide a range for service flights such as airport-to-resort shuttles, island-hopping and short sight-seeing trips which provide breathtaking views of the coral reefs, islands and the crystalline lagoons.
The flight companies also offer their seaplanes for aerial photography that allows one the chance to capture the natural beauty of the Maldives as seen from above; the view of the small islands dotting the vast ocean at regular intervals like gems on a necklace – the perfect souvenir.
An ‘island-hopping’ excursion would take you to another resort, an uninhabited island and an inhabited island all in a day-tour designed to give you a taste of the country. You would also get the opportunity to snorkel in the clear waters of a desert island and experience a barbecue on the beach. Some resorts take this a step further by conducting the excursion by sea plane.
For those who would love to see the underwater but hesitate to take the deep plunge, snorkeling is a wonderful alternative. Since the lagoons of Maldives are so clear that with just a snorkel mask and fin you can be witness to the activities of the many different species of fish and fauna on the unique Maldivian reefs. You are guaranteed to encounter playful fish and rare corals even on the resorts’ house reefs and perhaps a turtle or some other curious creatures too if you are lucky.
Though surfing is relatively new in the Maldives, compared to activities such as diving and snorkeling, the Maldives is now acknowledged for some world recognized surf spots and has been host to the renowned O’Neil Deep Blue competition for two consecutive years.
The best time to surf in the Maldives is from April to October, with the biggest swells likely to occur in June-September. Due to the monsoonal winds from the Indian subcontinent and the swell generated from the south, the conditions during these months are predominantly off-shore all day. The surf generally ranges in size from 3 – 8 feet although bigger ones are experienced occasionally. A great variety of breaks can be found in the Maldives ranging in intensity from the quite mellow shreddable walls to gnarlier hollow pits.
There are two major surf areas in the Maldives – the North Malé Atoll (April – October) and the Outer Atolls (February – April). The North Malé Atoll sports the most popular breaks and the outer atolls’ breaks (approximately 300 miles to the south of the capital Malé) contain at least a dozen potential world class breaks that are rarely surfed.
It is not without good reason that the Maldives has acquired a reputation as one of the most enchanting dive destinations in the world. The unique beauty of the Maldivian underwater world is doubly appreciated by divers world over due to the high visibility (sometimes even at depths of 50 meters), the multitude of exotic marine fauna and flora and the warm temperatures (25 – 30 degrees Celsius) throughout the year.
All resorts and most cruise boats operating in the Maldives have well equipped dive centers, staffed by multilingual, experienced professionals. Also, all resorts have dive schools where, although the facilities may vary depending of the resort’s size, location and clientele; a variety of dive courses ranging from beginners’ to expert PADI certification are offered. In terms of equipment, all have the basics such as compressors, tanks, BCDs, wetsuits, weights and weight belts in addition to (a limited number of) other accessories such as lamps and dive computers. Underwater cameras and video processing facilities are also available in some of the bigger dive schools. All resorts conduct daily dive boat trips to dive sites around the island throughout the year and sometimes even to famous sites further away. Furthermore, although specialized dives (including night dives) are not daily events, many resorts arrange these also on a frequent basis.
Given that the Maldives comprises small islands scattered across the ocean, perhaps the best way to experience this unique archipelago is on a cruise boat. Cruising will allow the opportunity to explore many of the 1190 islands and also the chance to dive at some of the greatest sites in the world.
The many liveaboard cruise boats registered and operating in the country vary in size from 3 cabin sailing boats to much larger ones and offer facilities and services ranging from modest to exclusive. However, one thing common to all these vessels is that they are staffed by highly experienced professionals who know the Maldivian waters like the backs of their hands.
In addition to taking you to some world renowned dive sites, these cruise boats also offer you activities such as fishing trips and excursions to uninhabited islands as well as inhabited ones to see the local ways of life.
All resorts without exception have water sports centers that provide a range of water sports and fun activities. The most popular among these are snorkeling, windsurfing and catamaran sailing. The water sports centers are equipped with boards and sails of different sizes and some offer courses for beginners and advanced windsurfers and sailors.
Among other popular water sports activities are parasailing, kayaking, kite-surfing, water-skiing and jet skiing. Some resorts even offer you the opportunity to try out your sailing skills on a local dhoni.
Visit to Malé – the capital
Visit to the small but busy capital is a must as it allows a glimpse into Maldivian urban life which is very different from the lifestyles in the resorts or the other inhabited islands.
Islamic CentreThe Islamic Centre is not only the most famous architectural landmark in Malé, but also houses one of the biggest and finest mosques in the Southeast Asian region. The grand mosque that accommodates more than 5,000 worshippers; its golden dome and minaret are standouts that can be seen before reaching the shores of Malé and the ornate woodcarvings and Arabic calligraphy inside are magnificent tributes to the talents of Maldivians.
Hukuru MiskiyThe Hukuru Miskiy (Friday Mosque) built in 1656 is another fascinating monument that is an essential stop on any tour of Malé. All the walls in the mosque are built with coral stones intricately carved with Arabic calligraphy and ornamental patterns; the roof, window frames and doors made of different kinds of wood such as teak, sandalwood and redwood. This mosque also displays breathtakingly beautiful coral carvings and expert lacquerwork done by Maldivians. There are also a number of ancient tombstones erected in memory of past sultans, heroes and nobles, in the mosques compound.
Mulee-aageMulee-aage next to the Medhu Ziyaaraiy was originally built by Sultan Shamsudheen III for his son just before the First World War. The building was declared a government property when the sultan and his were banished in May 1936. Since then it has been used as an office complex by subsequent governments and when the country became a republic in 1953, Mulee-aage became the Presidential Palace. The present government also used it as such until the current Presidential Palace was completed in 1994.
Medhu ZiyaaraiyMedhu Ziyaaraiy is the shrine of Abu-al Barakath Yusuf al Barbaree – the Moroccan scholar believed to be responsible for the advent of Islam in the Maldives in 1153 AD; and is also a must-see monument.
Maldives National Museum, Male’
The US$7.8 million Maldives National Museum, built and financed by the Chinese government and presented to Maldives on 10 July 2010, was officially opened two weeks later by President Mohamed Nasheed on Independence Day 26 July.
The museum complex consists of two large buildings separated by Sultan’s Park in the old palace grounds across Medhu Ziyaarai Magu (street) inland from the gold-domed Islamic Centre (Grand Friday Mosque).
The entrance to the main exhibition building is through high gates off Chandanee Magu, near the Lily Magu corner.
Opening Times and Admission Prices:
9am – 5pm, Sunday-Thursday (closed Friday and Saturday)
Admission tickets available at Museum entrance 9am – 4pm
Tourists – Rf50 adults, Rf15 children
Maldivians – Rf20 adults, Rf5 children