7 reasons to visit the magnificent Maldives
Mention the Maldives and the images of starched white beaches, impossibly turquoise seas and swaying palm trees immediately spring to mind. The hype is more than justified in a destination that, if anything, I find even more spectacular than it looks in the glossy brochures.
The Maldives is an independent nation that spreads its tentacles out across the Indian Ocean in a necklace of over 1,000 islands that are housed within a series of 26 atolls (coral reef rings). They are oases of warmth, perfect white sand beaches, unpolluted seas and serious luxury. Book your Maldives break with TUI, and you'll find that there's a resort to suit everyone, from families through to honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries.
A network of boats and seaplanes allow travel between the various islands in what is one of the world's most geographically dispersed countries. The public ferries and traditional dhonis (a type of wooden dhow), though, are more geared towards transporting locals between the capital of Malé and the populated islands, rather than the resort islands. Many people find that they are content to just chill on one island in the Maldives with a few day trips sprinkled in. There are so many reasons to visit the Maldives, and you'll find seven of the best below.
Sometimes beaches don't live up to the hype. There is no danger of that in the Maldives. The beaches are normally spotless with ultra clear, warm water too. If you've ever dreamt of escaping to the sort of beach that fulfils your fantasies and makes your family and friends back home green with envy then the Maldives is the place for you.
2. World class diving and snorkelling
With warm, clear waters and bountiful reefs that are alive with all manner of colourful marine life, the Maldives is brilliant whether you're an experienced scuba diver, want to take your PADI qualifications, or just fancy easing along on the surface of the water snorkelling. The Maldives boast some truly world class dive sites. The MV Maldives Victory wreck, Guraidhoo Corner and Banana Reef are easily accessible from Malé itself. Your hotel can line you up with snorkelling or diving on site and/or set up a boat trip for you.
3. Wonderful watersports
The Maldives may be one of the world's top snorkelling and scuba diving destinations, but there's plenty of water-based fun to be had for those looking for something else. You can choose from the likes of waterskiing and canoeing, or try your hand at windsurfing or surfing. If you want to let someone else do all the work, how about easing along in a hammock sailing aboard a catamaran? If you fancy catching your own dinner then deep sea fishing awaits. Whatever you do, you can look out for everything from spinner dolphins and rays, through to reef sharks and the mighty whale shark.
4. Capital charmer
Malé the capital of the Maldives is a fascinating place to visit and a great day trip option from the island hotels. Worth noting that it's a totally 'dry' capital city with the Islamic ban on alcohol enforced here unlike at the resorts. The streets have a real buzz with mopeds zipping around, and the most frenetic action is found around the fish market. Malé is also handy if you're looking to pick up authentic souvenirs. Look out for traditional handicrafts, like hand-woven rugs and various lacquered items. Don't be tempted to buy anything made from coral though as it's illegal to take it out of the country.
5. Islamic culture
A rich Islamic culture runs through the veins of the Maldives. The epicentre of Muslim culture is around the Grand Friday Mosque in Malé (the largest in the country), which sports an impressive and unmistakable massive gold dome. The Islamic Centre is located here too, on a site that once belonged to the local sultan. It's worth exploring the centre to learn more about the local culture and also to check out the collection of antiques.
6. Top hotels
There is a Maldivian hotel experience to suit everyone spread across the various atolls. TUI has incredible hotels and resorts sprinkled across no fewer than seven of the atolls. North Malé and South Malé are very handy for day trips to Malé. Meanwhile, Meemu Atoll boasts one of the largest stretches of reef in the Maldives and is famous for its whale sharks and hammerheads, making it ideal for snorkelling and diving.
At North Ari Atoll we're talking about over 100 dive sites within an hour's boat ride and overwater bungalows that come with their own Jacuzzis. Its neighbour South Ari Atoll lies a seaplane trip away from North Malé and South Malé, and is also good for day trips to Malé. Then there's Lhaviyani Atoll with its superb diving backed up by overwater bungalows and palm forest spas. Last but certainly not least is Gaafu Alifu Atoll, ideal for would-be Robinson Crusoes, lying 400km south of Malé.
A waiter in Malé once joked with me about the local obsession with seafood: "We eat a lot of different things here - we enjoy fish for breakfast, then vary things with fish for lunch, and then on to fish for dinner." He was more than half joking as fresh fish and shellfish are everywhere. Malé Fish Market is the place to head to see people frantically haggling over prices for the best of the catch. This hubbub of fresh fish, gutting, and bargaining is a real sight and provides a dash of local colour. The most popular local dish is the spicy garudhiya fish soup with lime and fiery local chillies. It's got quite a kick, so beware!
Do you think the Maldives would float your boat? Check out the latest deals on great value holidays to the Maldives with TUI in 2018. You can also see what the weather in the Maldives is like, and we think is the very best time to go to enjoy all that this archipelago nation has to offer.
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