Are you dreaming of a tropical vacation with the perfect mix of luxury and tranquility ... someplace with crystal-clear waters, pristine white sand beaches, and perfect weather? You might just be dreaming of the Maldives.
But how much do you really know about this beautiful country beyond its reputation as a luxury travel destination? To make your next trip to the islands more enriching, here are 8 fascinating facts you should know before you go.
1. It’s the Smallest Country in Asia
Made up of 1,192 islands, the Maldives covers an area of almost 35,000 square miles. However, only about 116 of them are above water. This makes it the smallest country in Asia, AND one of the most geographically dispersed nations on Earth.
More fun facts: Only about 200 islands are inhabited. The rest are too remote or too small to sustain life.
2. The Origin of “Atoll”
First used in the 1600s in reference to the Maldives, "atoll" is defined as a ring-shaped reef, island, or chain of islands made from coral. Interestingly, it’s the only English word to originate from the Maldivian language, Dhivehi. Much later, the writings of Charles Darwin popularized the word.
3. It Straddles the Equator
The islands of the Maldives are grouped into a double chain of 26 atolls. Some sit on one side of the Equator in the Northern hemisphere while others sit in the Southern hemisphere.
Packing tip: The sun is MUCH stronger near the Equator, so bring lots of sunscreen when you visit the Maldives.
4. High Literacy Rate
According to recent statistics, virtually all teenagers in the Maldives are literate in Dhivehi, and more than 90% are literate in English.
5. The Sand Won’t Burn Your Feet
Did you know parrotfish are responsible for the gorgeous white sand you’ll find in the Maldives? That’s right. They eat and digest bits of coral, then excrete it as sand. Researchers in the Maldives discovered that a single parrotfish can produce 900 pounds of sand per year! So, yes, the sand is essentially parrotfish poop, but it’s beautiful, and it won’t burn your feet.
6. Its History Goes Back a Long Way
According to archaeological evidence, people have been living in the Maldives since the 5th century BC. Around the 3rd century BC, Buddhism was introduced to the islands and was the dominant religion for 1,400 years. Then, in the mid-1100s, the last Buddhist king converted to Islam, and the country has been Muslim ever since.
Cultural tip: On the main island of Malé, you’ll see many beautiful mosques. You’ll also notice that alcohol and pork are not available, and women dress more conservatively. However, alcohol is legal at the resorts, and beachy attire is the norm. So don’t worry, you’ll have many opportunities to enjoy delicious cuisine, cocktails, and fine wine. Just remember: When you travel away from the resorts, it's essential to respect local rules and customs.
7. The Original Sustainable Fishers
An ancient fishing technique has been passed down from generation to generation in the Maldives for centuries. While this method, called "pole and line fishing," may seem outdated and labor-intensive, many fishermen in the Maldives are committed to keeping it alive … not only for tradition's sake but because it helps prevent overfishing. Considering tuna is the country's biggest export, sustainable practices are essential to their livelihood.
8. Swim with Whale Sharks All Year
Whale sharks love the southern edge of the South Ari Atoll. When they’re young and small—well, small for whale sharks, which is between 10 and 26 feet—they come here because there’s lots of food and no predators. It’s the perfect place to eat and grow. Once they mature (at around 30 years of age!), they move on.
Now that you know more about the Maldives, we hope your next visit is more meaningful. When you are ready to explore this incredible destination, give me a call or schedule a time to chat and we'll plan an adventure of a lifetime!
About Sheyla Paz
Sheyla was born and raised in Cuba. Moved to the United States 21 years ago. She is a Journalist, Actress, Producer, and Photographer with a passion for travel. Sheyla launched the travel agency out of her desire to share her culture, music, dance, and the architecture of her homeland with others. Her agency provides travel arrangements to all Latin countries, the Caribbean islands and Europe. She has several award wining short films and was recognized as a leading media personality in the Latino community in Tennessee with the award “Beacon of Light” in 2019. Sheyla was one of the few Cuban-American journalists selected to travel to Cuba with President Barack Obama in 2016 as part of the White House Press Corp. Sheyla is an ASTA Verified travel advisor, Signature Travel Network Luxury Certified Travel advisor and several destination specialist in the Caribbean and Latin America. She is also certified in Luxury River and Ocean cruises.
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