The Maldives is a chain of 26 coral atolls south-west of Sri Lanka, extending across the equator in a north-south strip 754km (468 miles) long and 118km (73 miles) wide. The 1192 low-lying coral islands are so small that dry land makes up less than 4% of the country’s total territory. Some islands are uninhabited sandbars while others are several km across and well vegetated.
Most of the time the lagoons are a brilliant blue, with amazing coral reefs and abundant marine life. Strict local regulation of fishing and commercial exploitation has kept the marine environment in a near-pristine state.
The reefs are a scuba diving and snorkeling wonder world. Anyone with a mask and snorkel will see butterfly fish, angel fish, parrot fish, rock cod, unicorn fish, trumpet fish, blue stripe snapper, Moorish idols, oriental sweet lips and more.
Larger life forms, eagerly sought by scuba divers, include sharks, stingrays, manta rays, turtles and dolphins.
Many of the bigger islands look like the picture-perfect, palm-fringed tropical fantasy. The larger, wetter islands have small areas of rainforest.
The main crops are limited to sweet potatoes, yams, taro, millet and watermelon, though a few more fertile islands have citrus fruits and pineapples. Daytime temperatures are about 28°C (82°F) all year.
The humidity is slightly lower in the dry season but most days there’s a cooling sea breeze. The Maldives has a tropical climate with warm temperatures year round and a great deal of sunshine. With an average temperature of 31°C and an average minimum temperature of 26°C. The hottest month on an average is April and the coolest December. February is the driest with December to April being relatively dry. The Maldives being on the equilateral belt severe storms are rare.