pinterest verify Globerovers Travel Photography: Atolls of the Maldives Islands

Atolls of the Maldives Islands


For more of the Maldives, see the July 2014 issue of Globerovers Magazine
The Republic of the Maldives (better known as the Maldive Islands) is a chain of twenty-six atolls situated in the Indian Ocean about 700 kilometres (430 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka and 400 kilometres (250 mi) south-west of India’s Kerala State. With a population of about 400,000 people, about 25% live on the small island capital of Malé. 

What is an atoll, you may ask...  Wikipedia describes an atoll as "a ring-shaped coral reef including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon partially or completely. There may be coral islands/cays on the coral rim".  But, to better understand it, you should go see it! Reminiscent of other nearby nations such as Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh, the Maldivian people are known for their hospitality and big smiles. The locals are friendly, highly respectful of foreign visitors, and some speak English quite well. Note that there are many Bangladeshi's employed across the islands.

While most people around the world who have seen photos of the Maldives will think of luxurious resorts consisting of rows of wooden huts and lodges fit for a king and perched on turquoise smooth waters, this is not the way Globerovers explores the world! Our way is the non-luxurious way to spend time with the locals on a far-away island void of any (rich and grumpy) tourists, as well as islands free of any kind of human settlements. This is the better way to explore the Maldives!

Arrive by your favourite airline on the island of Hulhule where the international airport is located. A bit tired and outdated facility but in minutes you will be on your way via a private
 pickup (car or minivan) arranged for free by your modest hotel located on nearby island of Hulhumale which is connected to the airport island by causeway. Alternatively, and highly recommended, is to take the 10-minute ($1) frequent ferry from immediately outside the arrivals hall to the island where the capital city, Malé, is located. From the airport ferry pier on Malé island you likely can walk to your hotel anywhere on the island, or if sadly you are lugging around a barrel with beautiful clothes, then catch one of the many small taxis (or little pick-up truck) which will have you at your hotel for a standard fee of $2. 

It certainly is worth staying a few days in this packed, yet friendly and quaint city. There are several mosques to visit, the presidential office building, modest presidential residence, a couple of nice restaurants, and the very interesting green market and lively fish market. On your way leaving the Maldives buy up some dried tuna and as much freshly caught Yellow Fin Tuna as you can pack into your bags (or can legally bring into your home country). At a price of $2 per kg, it sure is a very tasty bargain. You will be happy to fry or bake a nice thick piece of tuna when back at home, served with your favourite white wine which you were deprived of in the strict islamic country of the Maldives. 

Now you didn't come for a city-holiday so head out soon to your selected atoll and the island of your dreams. There are so many islands to choose from. As Globerovers is not at all interested in luxurious all-inclusive resort accommodation, the choice was clear: An island with only one small guesthouse surrounded by a ring of uninhabited islands and sandbanks. The choice was Baa Atoll and the island of Fulhadhoo as base. Fulhadhoo is a long island with sandbanks at the far edges while the rest of this skinny island is covered with lush trees such as Palms, Coconut, Banana, Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), Indian Mulberry (Morinda citrifolia), Country Almond (Terminalia catappa), Banyan trees and tons of other lush vegetation. 

The small village (pop 300) is located at the far eastern side of the island. Only two small convenience stores provide this community with their household necessities. Food seems to be quite scarce with limited frozen foods and not much in terms of fruit and vegetables. The community grow some fruits (star fruit, bananas, water apples, etc) and limited veggies in their gardens. Irrigation is a challenge as rain is limited to only a few months of the year when every drop possible is collected into large drums to serve as drinking water for the dry months. No water can be "wasted" on irrigation. There are limited and shallow hand dug wells around the village but the water is brackish and not fit for human consumption. This source is mainly used for washing and cleaning. Its a lot of fun spending time with the local islanders. However, these people are quite introverted and keep to themselves. 

As expected in a Muslim society, alcohol is officially banned and clothing is very conservative. The odd tourist on the island is also expected (its mandatory) to dress respectfully and don't show any sexual behaviour (i.e. hugging and kissing, etc.) of any kind while walking around the village. Half the western side of the island has been dedicated to "free behaviour by the odd tourist". Skinny dipping is fine as you most likely won't see anybody while you enjoy the white beaches and sandbanks, not to mention the amazing snorkelling!

Now you certainly did not come to the Maldives to only visit one island, and especially not an inhabited island. No problem. Ask the lonely guesthouse to arrange ($$$) the one and only local speedboat to take you to one of the nearby uninhabited islands such as Innafushi Island. Now this little paradise island has been renamed as Globerovers Island, so please don't forget to use the right name. Here you can relax under the sun for a few days without seeing another soul. From 8am to 5pm the sun is scorching hot so bring lots of SPF80 and spend time under the palm trees. the snorkelling is good though far from perfect. This is not Zamami Island in Japan's southern Okinawa Island. Regardless, there are some lovely reef fish, small black-tip reef sharks, stingrays, octopus, and some colourful smaller creatures. 

Around Baa Atoll are many white sandbanks which stay above water all the time. Now this is really paradise as the waters around these sandbanks are truly heaven sent. Just relax, roll in the crystal clear turquoise waters, roll on the sandbank, roll from the sandbank into the crystal clear waters, and remember, no clothes are mandatory. 

After a few days in paradise you may want to go home. If you stayed in a guesthouse, you may want to leave as even guesthouses are not cheap by international standards. However, if you brought your own tent and camped out, you may want to head back to civilization to get a non-salty shower and charge the batteries. Head back to capital city, Malé. Enjoy the many tree-covered lanes, old historical buildings, and of course the friendly locals with their tasty cuisine. While most restaurants of international standards have "special English menu" for tourists with highly inflated prices, you should insist on the local menu which will save you at least 50%. Some great lunch buffets ($8 including all taxes) with local curries are served up along the waterfront (Pier 4 to the fish market).  You should not fear and try one of the very local restaurants. Pick one with many locals so you know its a winner among them. Here a spicy and tasty meal with three curry dishes, dal, and rice will cost about $2.50 per person. 

Done with Malé but still a day or two left before you fly out?  Head over by short ferry ride to the very tranquil island of Villingili. Not to be confused with a further away island of the same name with a big resort. The small island of Villingili is just 10 minutes by ferry from Malé and similar to Malé it is 90% covered with residential buildings. There are a few nice beaches where the locals cool off. You may spend a day here and see very few tourists. 

Time to head out of the Maldives.... get up early in the morning and head for the fish market to buy a few kilos of freshly caught tuna and other fish, squid and cuttle fish. Have a safe flight and don't tell everybody to go visit my secret islands. 


How to get there:
Fly into Malé with one of many international airlines. From Malé you can take either a small seaplane, a fast speedboat, or a slow ferry to your island of choice. Slow ferries are very cheap as you pay what locals pay, but they are slowwww. Seaplanes are quite expensive but nice and fast with stunning views (I can imagine).

Where to stay:
Go for the all inclusive resorts if you want but that is just not the Globerovers Way. Rather head out to one of the small islands with only one guesthouse and no resorts which attracts too many tourists. Then take a local boat to an uninhabited island and enjoy the peace. 

How much to pay:
At resorts the sky is the limit. At guesthouse a half board or full board are about $140 to $170 per night for two people sharing. However, if you go during the fringe season, its best to arrive in Malé and ask around for much better rates. On Goidhoo Island in Baa Atoll is a really nice and new and comfy guesthouse at only $50 per night per double room including breakfast only. Many good deals are available if you search locally. Diving should be only $25 for two dives. Camping is free though I have not seen any tent but was told by locals that tens are more than welcome as "we love visitors". 

When to go:
Weather is good all year round though May to October can have more clouds, some rain, and some choppy waters with limited visibility. Peak season such as December and January is best avoided. 

What to buy:
Globerovers recommend responsible buying so no corals or shells please. Only buy and eat fish that you feel comfortable killing :)   Please don't eat the beautiful rays, octopus, and other beautiful creatures. Tuna is ok, because the meat is sooo good. 

Enjoy the Maldives!