The Maldives is a Southeast Asian country, composed of thousands of islands and atolls (200 inhabited) in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka. When most people think of the Maldives, overwater bungalows come to mind, as that is a major draw for visiting the Maldives. Well-known as a honeymoon destination, most visitors come here to relax on the beach with a fruity drink in hand. However, that’s not all there is to do in the Maldives. Upon arrival at the Maldives airport, you will likely meet someone from your resort, who will escort you to the island where you are staying, likely via ferry or seaplane. No visa is required for entry, although you may wish to research recommended immunizations.
Rent an overwater bungalow
Let’s start with the obvious. The Maldives (along with Fiji, Bora Bora and Tahiti) are best known for the overwater bungalows that you’ve seen on countless screensavers. So, if you’re coming to the Maldives, you have to rent an overwater bungalow! Contrary to what you might believe, these bungalows aren’t just for the uber-rich travelers. There are over 80 private island resorts with overwater bungalows in the Maldives, ranging from 3-star to 5-star and up. Many are part of an all-inclusive resort, so be sure to factor that in when comparing prices!
Things to do in Male
The capital city of the Maldives is Male, which is only 1 square mile, so very walkable. Male is known for its mosques and colorful buildings. Unlike the private, secluded resort islands, Male is very densely populated, and is a good place to see how the locals live. The Maldives are largely a Muslim country, so outside of your resort, keep this in mind when choosing your apparel as conservative attire is the norm. Likewise, alcohol is not widely served outside the resorts. For some cultural and historical perspective, you can visit the National Museum and the Grand Friday Mosque, with its gold dome. (Not to be confused with the Old Friday mosque, which non-Muslims must gain permission to enter ahead of time.) The Fish Market in Male is the commercial hub for the island’s fishing industry. From mid-morning to late afternoon, fishing boats dock at the market and sell their catch of the day. Tuna is the most common fish here, but you’ll also find snapper, sea bass, grouper and others. Consider signing up for a walking tour of Male, or spending 1 night of your trip in town for the experience. There are a few hotels in Male, as well as at the airport nearby.
The Indian Ocean surrounding the Maldives is a scuba diver’s paradise. Here you’ll find clear, blue waters combined with colorful coral reefs and endless lagoons to explore. The shallow reefs have also caused many shipwrecks, so there are several underwater wrecks to explore. One of the most famous, is the Maldives Victory, a Singaporean cargo ship that crashed in 1981. Another famous dive spot is the Fesdu wreck, which is a former fishing trawler that was purposefully sunk to create an artificial reef. If you are really into diving and want to base your entire Maldives trip around scuba diving, there are several liveaboard options in the area.
If scuba diving is a little too intense for you, there are also plenty of snorkeling options in the Maldives. As with diving, there are liveaboard options, but many resorts also cater to snorkelers with coral reefs situated right off the beach of the resort. You don’t have to go below the surface to experience the beautiful coral and plentiful sealife of the Maldives. If you’re lucky, you might even swim with turtles, eagle rays or hammerhead sharks!
Many resorts and outfitters offer a dolphin watching cruise, or a sunset dolphin cruise. Watching dolphins play in their natural habitat is much preferred over playing with dolphins in captivity. Spinner dolphins are the most commonly spotted dolphins in the Maldives, and also the most playful. They love to follow along the boats and almost seem to put on a show for the passengers!
If sport fishing is more your style, you won’t be disappointed in the Maldives. The variety of aquatic life here makes Maldives famous for their fishing opportunities. After tourism, fishing is the largest industry for the Maldives, but of course tourists are also welcome to partake in fishing excursions. Fishing in the Maldives is best done from a charter boat as you have more flexibility to follow the fish. With a charter, you can also rely on your boat captain to keep you in line with the law and the limits of what can be caught and when, as there are certain species you will be prohibited from catching.
The Maldives are an excellent destination for surfers. Beginners and more intermediate will all find good waves to play in off the shores of the Maldives islands. Many hotels and resorts offer surf instruction and rental on-site, or you can also book a charter to some of the uninhabited islands where you can catch some waves without the crowds. Waves vary by season, so if surfing in the Maldives is on your wishlist, research when the waves will be good for beginners, or when the pros come out to catch the big swells.
The laid-back vibe of the Maldives is perfect for paddle-boarding. As with surfing, this is something you will most likely do right from the shores of your resort. Paddle boarding is more relaxing than surfing as you can float around the local lagoons, paddling when you want to and coasting the rest of the time. See if you can rent snorkel gear along with your paddle-board to double your fun for the day!
Your resort may include a short flight from the airport upon arrival, but either way, you’ll want to see the Maldives from the air on a scenic flight. There is no better way to get a sense for the sheer number of islands and atolls, as well as an aerial view of the reefs and wrecks. A seaplane excursion is not inexpensive, but well worth it, especially for photography buffs who want to capture the stunning scenery from above.
After all of this activity, you deserve to enjoy some down time in the Maldives. Your resort will most likely have a spa on-site, with many offering beach-side massages. You’ve come this far, you may as well treat yourself before returning back to the real world!
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