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  :: home > travel guide > country introduction

Maldive Islands - Country Introduction

The Maldives is a nation of coral islands scattered across the Indian Ocean. Geographically, it is located between 72o 32' 30" E 73o 45' 54" E and 7o 06' 30" N to 0o 41' 48" S, which puts her just north of the Equator and southwest of the Indian peninsular. |click here to see a map|

The Maldivian archipelago consists of about 1190 small low-lying coral islands of which few of them are, just a meter above sea level. These islands stretch more than 800 km from north to south covering a total area of about 90,000 square km of which about 99% is water. 200 islands are inhabited while 87 islands are developed as resort islands. The fragile house reefs of these islands act as a barrier of protection from tides and waves. These reefs also contribute to the formation of sand and continuation of the life cycle of the marine species. It also acts as a habitat to thousands of tiny and large organisms.

Virgin Island in the Maldives
Virgin Island in the Maldives - Photo by © Muha

The former British protectorate that gained independence in 1965 is famous for its splendid white beaches, crystal clear lagoons and peaceful tranquillity of nature's blessing. This unique creation of nature naturally forms 26 atolls, which for administrative purposes are made into 20 by the government. This small republic was a kingdom before it was declared a republic. The population is estimated 265,000 in 1999. The ethnic origin of the natives is still in debate among scholars and researchers, but it is evident that there is a close resemblance with the South Asian, Southeast Asian, Arabic and African cultures and influence. Maldivians speak in a unique language called dhivehi and have their own transcript thaana for writing.

Maldivian economy was traditionally based on fisheries till the emergence of tourism as its foreign currency generator in the late 20th century. The introduction of tourism to the small island nation transformed the economy from a primary to a tertiary industry-driven economy, making tourism the most dependable industry of the country. Tourism being a service industry has direct and indirect links to all other major and minor industries of the economy. During the last two and half decades the Maldivian way of life has been changing in all aspects keeping pace with economic development. But still the lifeline depends on the sea, which supplies fish as food, sand and coral for housing and land for limited needs and the warm tropical underwater garden as a tourist attraction, which generates the much needed foreign currency.

The tropical climate, white beaches and rich marine environment have made the country a tourist magnet for the past 32 years. The Maldives as the 14th century Moroccan traveller described as "one of the wonders of the world" today is said to be second to none for sun lovers, beach wanderers, scuba divers and those who seek peace in its simplest form.



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