'Eat a coconut while you still have teeth.'
Endless shades of blue surround the 1,200 islands of the Maldives, where unwinding in, under and near the water are the most popular activities. One of the world's premier diving destinations, the reefs of the Maldives offer a huge variety of marine life from manta rays and whale sharks to shoals of tiny colourful fish. Fishing, sailing and snorkeling are other major attractions on a holiday in the Maldives, but don't forget to put some time aside to get to know the local culture. Take a tour with a local guide around the capital or stay on a local residential island to see a different side to the archipelago. The Maldives aren't just for honeymooners - there is enough culture, adventure, wildlife and pampering to make your tailor made Maldives holiday as varied as you want it to be.
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Best things to do in the Maldives
The Maldives are perhaps the world's most famous and idolised resort islands, but what are the key things to look forward to when you come here?
Snorkelling and diving of dreams
Because there is access to hundreds of coral islands, a diving holiday in the Maldives is paradise for anyone with an appreciation of the beauty of the underwater world. Snorkelers too are spoilt for choice, and due to the proximity of reefs to the shore, it's often possible to snorkel from the beach, or even your own jetty, rather than take a boat to reach the reef. North Malé Atoll has everything from cliffs and caves to underwater peaks and even shipwrecks to explore, but if it's whale sharks you're after, South Ari Atoll is hard to beat. It's the only area in the Maldives where the sharks can be spotted year-round. Head to Dhigurah Island or Dhangethi Island (both of which are residential islands) where there are plenty of dive sites to explore. While you're there, you're likely to also spot turtles, dolphins and masses of colourful fish - and manta rays if you visit the South Ari Atoll between January and May.
Meet the manta rays
Declared a protected biosphere reserve in 2009, Baa Atoll is a particularly rich zone for marine biodiversity, counting 1200 species plus 250 different types of coral. As well as its untouched natural beauty, the atoll is known for the unique surroundings of Hanifaru Bay, where abundant plankton attracts a rich diversity of sea creatures annually for the "gathering". From June to November every year, large numbers of giant manta rays come to feed, whilst whale sharks come to find a mate. It's worth nothing that there is no diving allowed in Hanifaru - only snorkelling.
What could be more romantic than spending an intimate date with your other half on a stunning swathe of white sand surrounded by the lapping waters of the Indian ocean? This is the epitome of what makes holidays in the Maldives so irresistible - unique experiences full of memorable moments. Imagine dining in style on your own sandbank, immersed in natural beauty and with every wish catered for! Truly divine...
Unwind at the spa
The intoxicating colours and relaxing pace of life are already a calming influence, but for true pampering and wellness you are in the right place. Considered one of the finest spa destinations in the world, the Maldives is a great place to lay back and listen to the lapping of the waves while you enjoy some indulgent spa treatments or a dreamy massage. To find the spa which best meets your needs, our local experts have the lowdown.
Traditional Maldivian cuisine relies heavily on the two most readily available local ingredients - fish and coconut. Many dishes include these two staples, and combine them with aromatic spices allowing the Sri Lankan influence to shine through. Fish and seafood are always fresh and delicious and the cuisine of the Maldives comes highly recommended. Specialities to look out for include Mas Hani, a tuna and coconut salad served with hot chapatti bread, and Garudhiya, the classic spicy Maldivian fish soup that makes the mouth water with flavours of chilli and lime.
Lesser-known highlights of the Maldives
You may not know it, but there's a little more to the Maldives than just beach relaxation and snorkelling. Here are some of the lesser-known draws to this stunning archipelago.
Meander the Maldivian capital: Malé
If you want a bit of a buzzing contrast to the peace and relaxation of the resorts, then come here. The capital of the Maldives offers a great introduction to the national culture and history, adding a layer of understanding of local life to your Maldives holiday. Malé is a lively, friendly city and holds many of the important Maldivian landmarks such as the Hukuru Miskiiy or Old Friday Mosque, the National Museum and the buzzing markets. Enjoy watching the comings and goings at the harbour and sample a classic black tea at a bustling local café.
Discover local life
On the whole, holiday-makers flock to the Maldives for the beautiful resorts, but there is a fascinating side to the islands that can only be discovered by staying on a local residential island. Enjoy the best of both worlds by having a holiday that combines time spent in a luxury resort with time on a residential island, where you can discover the local culture, sample the cuisine, and relax on Bikini Beach (which is reserved solely for tourists - the rest of the Maldives being strictly Muslim). Whilst there, you can also enjoy snorkelling, diving and sand bank trips at a fraction of the cost you would spend at a luxury resort.
By staying on a local island, not only will you get an authentic feel for this stunning destination, but you will also be assisting the local economy to a far greater extent as the businesses that provide for travellers on these islands are locally owned (rather than owned by big resort businesses). Speak to our partner company about which island would be right for you - some are more set up for tourism, whilst others are more remote, secluded and authentic.
The most widely performed of the various traditional Maldivian dances is the Bodu Beru, which translates as 'Big Drum.' Beginning slowly, the drummers perform an intense rhythm, building up the tempo and the intensity as dancers join the drummers. The dancers improvise their movements and become almost hypnotised or entranced by the beat. A performance of Bodu Beru is typical of Maldivian festivities and if you get the chance to see one, don't miss it.
Harness the wind
The many islands of the Maldives all have different draws - some are smaller and perfect for people who want to arrive and just flop by a gently lapping seashore, while others are bigger and invite exploration. And despite the balmy, peaceful shores, some are actually great for windsports! Between May and October there are southwesterly winds that can provide great, if gentle conditions for learning a windsport. If you're a rookie sailor, or kite or windsurfer, then speak to our local experts who will know the islands with the best, biggest unobstructed lagoons, perfect for harnessing the sea breeze.
Things to know before you go to the Maldives
The Maldives are a truly unique destination, and as such there are some things that you should know when planning your holiday. Our local partners are of course experts, and can help if you have any questions and will be sure to plan your holiday in a way that makes it slick and stress-free. But nevertheless, here are some pointers to bear in mind when you're looking into the destination as an option.
The Maldives are a resort based destination.
Every island in the Maldives is different - and with thousands of them to choose from it can be hard to know which one's for you! Luckily our local partners can help you there, just make sure that you let them know when you're enquiring what kind of holiday you are after. For example, do you want to just eat, sleep and relax on the beach? Or would you like to spend your days windsurfing? Are you a family, so do you need plenty of activities for the children? Or do you want to go to an adults only resort? Do you love a buffet? Or would you prefer a range of a la carte restaurants? Whatever you're after there will be an island for you, and our local partners will make sure you find your perfect match.
Transfers between islands should be taken into consideration
When you arrive in the Maldives, your plane lands into Malé International Airport, and your chosen resort will then usually arrange your transfer from there. Depending on how far away your island is, this will probably be on a boat, by seaplane or even short domestic flight to another airport. Be aware that there will be luggage allowances to abide by because of these onward transfers that may not be as generous as your international flight to the archipelago. Again, our partners will be sure to inform you of this, as well as any options to purchase additional luggage space.
Resorts situated far away from the airport at Malé are often connected to by scheduled domestic flights to the nearest airport island. You would then get onto a slow or speed boat transfer to get to your final destination. Most of these distant island airports are served two to four times a day by the main international airport in Malé, so bear these times in mind when planning your international flight.
If your transfer is going to be by seaplane, remember that they only operate during the daylight (6am - 6pm) so try to plan your international arrival and departure to coordinate with this. For example, if your international flight arrives into Malé at 5pm, you will have to book into a hotel to stay a night in Malé before transferring to your final destination. Similarly the last seaplane leaves from the resort islands at 4pm, so to minimise waiting times (particularly if you have young children), try to ensure you're not booking your flight home to leave Malé at 2am.
Stay near to Malé to reduce transfer time and cost
If a slightly tight budget is a factor in planning your holiday to the Maldives, then take transfer time and distance into consideration. If your resort or island destination is nearer to Malé International Airport, then your transfer will not only be faster (more time on holiday!) but it will also be cheaper because it can probably be done by speedboat, rather than plane. This is also generally more convenient as speedboates operate throughout the day and night, whilst flight times are limited and usually only during daylight hours.
Best time to go to the Maldives
For clear skies and low humidity aim for the dry season which runs from November to April and is traditionally the best time to visit the Maldives. However, temperatures remain more or less constant all year round, with maximum daytime highs never veering far from the 30°C mark. However, to be precise, the dry season is the best time to visit the islands of the Maldives.
From May to November expect similar temperatures but a higher chance of rainfall or even the odd storm. Much of the rainy season is still characterised by spells of clear sunny skies, so an off-season Maldives holiday can offer great value and plenty of beach weather.
Another bonus of visiting between May and October is that this is Whale Shark season, and it is easy to arrange a trip to see these gentle giants in action. If you are keen to spend a lot of your Maldives holiday underwater, a little extra rain shouldn't interfere with your plans too significantly.
Interesting facts about the Maldives
Did you know any of these interesting facts about the Maldives?
- The shapes of some of the islands in the Maldives chain are ever-changing. Many islands are surrounded by stunning white sand beaches and sandbanks, and these sands shift with the passing of time, variations in tides and currents, and following big storms.
- A holiday in the Maldives means you will never be far from the sea. No individual island is longer than 8 kilometres and the largest island, Gan's, highest point above sea level is 1.8 metres.
- The population of the Maldives are largely Muslim and outside resorts alcohol is not available.
- The archipelago is believed to be the remnants of a chain of sunken volcanoes which over millennia have been built up by coral reefs into atolls, sandbanks and islands.
- Historically the Maldives has always been an important maritime crossroads and as such it has ethnic heritage originating from Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, China, Indonesia and Madagascar.
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