The Maldives, or Republic of Maldives, is made up of 1,190 coral islands, forming an archipelago of 26 major atolls. Only 202 of these islands are inhabited, and 87 are islands with tourist resorts. A major dive destination, the Maldives definitely offers a remote island feel. Besides diving, visitors flock here to surf, fish and watch the whales and dolphins.
Of the 20 administrative atoll groups in the Maldives, only (parts of) 10 are open to tourism. Kaafu (North and South Male Atoll) is where the capital and largest city Male and the airport is found, as well as most resorts. Alifu (Ari) to the west of Kaafu is the second-most-popular tourism group.
Most of the resorts take up their own island, giving you plenty of beach and sand to enjoy. There are many dive resorts further out on the archipelago that cater to serious divers who want to spend the majority of their time underwater. Families will find holiday resorts on Kaafu that have extended facilities including multiple restaurants and camps for kids, along with luxury. Honeymooners will love the overwater bungalow resorts.
Diving in the Maldives features excellent water clarity and underwater life that includes sharks, manta rays and some wrecks. Fotteyo Kandu off Hurahu Kanduis ranked among the top five dive sites in the world. Spot grey reef sharks, snappers and hammerhead sharks. Another popular site is Broken Rock in the South Ari Atoll, known for coral formations, sea slugs and leaf fish.
Surfers should head for Male Atoll, or one of the resorts on the eastern side of North Male Atoll. Fishing is popular for locals and visitors, including night fishing. The Maldives is one of the top five places for whale and dolphin watching. There are 20 different species here, ranging from the blue whale (the largest animal alive) to the spinner dolphin.
Most visitors eat their meals at their resorts, which typically have at least one restaurant and include breakfast. Cuisine at the resorts is usually based on the main clientele, either Asian or European. You may have the option of half-board, which also includes dinner buffet, or full board with a lunch and dinner buffet. There are small restaurants in Male for tourists or small cafes that sell local Maldivian food.
Most arrivals take place into Malé International Airport, located on Hulhulé Island, which is next to the capital Malé.
Getting around the Maldives is via boat, sea plane (air taxi) or private yacht. Boats here are like cars for locals, while planes and private yachts are mainly the way tourists get around. You are never more than 45 minutes away by plane from Male to anywhere else in the Maldives. Most visitors use air taxi service to reach the far-flung resorts. Taxi boats generally take tourists to and from the islands in the North and South Male atolls.
The weather in The Maldives is generally warm and humid, ranging from 75° to 91° F throughout the year. There is considerable rainfall during the April to October southwest monsoon season, especially from June to August.