The Maldives, a tropical haven of immaculate beaches, are an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands grouped into natural atolls, out of which only few are inhabited. Time stands still in Maldives as you lie on the white sand beaches, hearing the crystal clear waves crash against the seashore, swim with the manta rays and reef sharks and feast on a wide array of fishes with the locals. Be it adventure or leisure, Maldives is your answer.
Floating on the translucent waters, Maldives is a divine paradise for those looking for a getaway from the daily humdrum of city life, with attractions unparalleled. With its sun-kissed beaches, palm-fringed islands, crystalline lagoons and pristine waters, Maldives enthralls and draws visitors all year round. The resorts here are an entire island itself usually, including stay options like overwater bungalows. Imagine having a room on a pier jutting out from the shore with a glass floor under which tropical fish can be seen swimming! Renowned for its incredible diving opportunities, the azure waters of Maldives, are home to diverse marine life and corals of distinct hues. While the vivid blue lagoons are perfect for snorkeling, the reef walls offer a kaleidoscope of sea life for more experienced divers, making it a haven for water sports enthusiasts. The capital city of Male is both the commercial and financial capital. Seat to the executive, legislature and judiciary, this city is a tourist favourite as well. The history lovers will be satiated here, given Male houses several buildings and monuments of historical importance. Male is easily accessible by ferry boats from the airports. Travel to other islands in Maldives is also quite feasible from here. Be it island hopping, candlelight dinner by the sea, breakfast ferry to an uninhabited island (yes, this is possible), scuba diving or even dolphin watching for all you leisure lovers, this idyllic holiday will never afford you an idle moment!
The Maldives is another one of those places for which weather plays a crucial part. Although the beautiful islands of Maldives experience relatively similar temperatures throughout the year, the rainfall it receives differs largely. Choosing the best time to visit the Maldives can be derived from the activities you wish to participate in. Take a look at which activities would require calm seas and less rainfall as opposed to the ones that would require heavy rainfall.
Traditional Maldivian cuisine comprises three staple ingredients - fish, coconut and starch. The cuisine here is influenced in palates by Sri Lanka and Kerala, with its own distinct flavours. Eating in Male affords the best opportunity to try the local food and you must try the 'hotaus' or cafe which serves the traditional fare. As an island nation, fish is no doubt the source of all protein and nutrition, tuna being the favourite. Sometimes the fish is flaked or pounded to be added as a condiment for flavouring or alternatively stuffed in a dough pastry, 'short eats'. Curries prepared with coconut milk and a curry paste blended from roasted onions, chili peppers, herbs and spices are a usual fare. Mas Riha and Kukulhu Riha are the popular curries made with fish and chicken respectively, and a blend of spices. Roshi or flatbread is the common accompaniment to the Rihas. Garudiya, yet another popular dis is a fish broth made from such cured tuna, while Rihaakuru, a fish paste consumed with rice daily is made by concentrating the fish broth, while Kulhi Boakibaa is a fish cake made from tuna and coconut. Begin your day with some Maldivian breakfast, Mas Huni, for the fish eaters and Barabao Mas Huni, a pumpkin based alternative for the vegans; gorge on some curries over the day and end with Dhonkeyo Kajuru, a fried banana cake flavoured with vanilla or rose water. The locals in Maldives do not consume alcoholic beverages, however alcohol is served in the resorts. Sip on to some tender coconut water or try the Raa, which is toddy tapped from palm trees, while you bask in the sun. There is yet another irresistible dining option on this island - underwater dining, amidst the fascinating under water world. Sea Restaurant, Ithaa, Conrad are some of the popular ones. This is inevitably an expensive affair, an approximate meal for two being US $ 400. The resorts generally serve the popular global cuisines. So for all those who do not wish to venture with the local cuisine, there is no cause for worry.
The Maldivian culture and customs are an infusion of elements from India, Sri Lanka and even North Africa, owing to the footfall of traders traversing through the Indian Ocean. Although life in the island resorts is quite relaxed, certain etiquettes demand to be followed. While topless bathing and nudity are strictly prohibited for women, wearing bikinis is acceptable. You need to be a little more adequately dressed for dining. If you are visiting places inhabited by locals, like Male, bear in mind that Maldives is a devout Islamic nation. Therefore make sure you are sensitive to the local customs and dress conservatively. Lowers should cover the thighs and tops and t-shirts should cover the shoulders and not be very low cut. If you are visiting mosques, women must have their heads covered and neither men or women should wear shorts. Alcohol is not available and should not be consumed in the inhabited islands. Your resorts will be serving alcoholic beverages. Tipping is not compulsory here, but will nevertheless be expected. The 10% service charge levied is usually not paid to the staff. Tips ranging from USD 5 - USD 10 will be appreciated by your waiter, boat crew or room attendant.
The national language here is Dhivehi, with varying dialects. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family and hence quite different from English. However, being a popular tourist destination, English is also widely spoken and understood. Some common phrases in the local language are: Assalaamu Alaikum - Hello Aan - Yes Noon - No Ran'galhu - Good Shukuriyaa - Thank You
The archipelago was inhabited as early as 5th Century BC, by Buddhists believed to be from Sri Lanka and southern India. Located in the prime marine route while crossing the Indian Ocean, Maldives used to be the replenishment centre for food, water, coir and other equipment. Maldivians were followers of Buddhism, as told by the Buddhist ruins excavated from these islands. Ancient relics have also suggested traces of Hinduism and Paganism, since inception. It was in 1153 AD that Maldivians embraced Islam. Ibn Battuta, a North African traveller was known to have resided here. Maldives was not free from foreign aggressions - invaded by the Portuguese in 1558 who reigned for 15 years, followed by the Dutch of Ceylon in the 17th century and finally became a British Protectorate in 1887 after the British took over Ceylon. It was only in 1932 that a democratic regime was adopted. In 1953, the first Republic was proclaimed, but Maldives had absolute political independence from the British in 1965. Ibrahim Nasir was appointed the first President of the Second Republic of Maldives. Subsequent to this, the island nations have developed tremendously over the year, exploiting various economic opportunities and opening its doors to tourism.
Maldivian nightlife tends to be more on the calm side, with most evening entertainment taking place on resort premises. The paradise islands being heralded as primarily a destination for couples, one wouldn't expect much in the way of clubbing - however, some hotels have bars and nightclubs attached to their premises. Standouts include the chic Fifteen Below at W Retreat and Spa, the unique underwater Subsix nightclub at Per Aquum Niyama Resort and the Reethi Beach Resort, which is a socialites' magnet. Partake in beach parties, with barbeques set up against the relentless sea and limited brands of wine.
Male is the main shopping site in Maldives, with its lanes lined with boutiques selling international products. Majeedhee Magu is one of the most famous shopping destinations with clothing items, cosmetics, accessories, electronics and groceries on offer. Orchid Magu and Chaandhanee Magu are adorned with rows of souvenir shops selling varieties of local artifacts. The STO Trade Centre is also situated in Orchid Magu. Shops in the inhabited islands also sell souvenirs in the likes of authentic lacquer works, dhoni crafts (miniatures of traditional boats), wood carvings, mat weavings, coconut shell products, coir ropes and clothes. Do visit the Male local market and fish market, for more so an experience rather than making purchases. Fresh produce in vivid colours will meet your eyes, as you explore the markets on foot. Fruits, vegetables, dry fish as well as fresh fish, green coconut, spices are few things being sold and as a visitor you will be more than welcomed to stock on local ingredients. Most resorts will afford the opportunity of shopping in boutiques selling internationally acclaimed brands. Essentials like food, stationery, medicines, cosmetics are also easily available.
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