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Maldives Islands Diving Holidays

Travel and Tourist Information

Looking for some information to make your dive trip run smoothly?

Traditional-style longtail boat - photo courtesy of ScubaZoo

The Maldives lie studded like gems in the vast Indian Ocean and are spread over approximately 90,000 km². There are 26 atolls which means 1,190 coral islands - enough to make any scuba diver excited. The country has become synonymous with white sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons and a romantic, peaceful atmosphere. Nowadays the 2 main types of holiday visitors to the Maldives are divers and honeymooners.

Although the islands are remote and give the perfect 'in middle of nowhere' feeling, they are very well connected with flights and it is little wonder that people from all over the world come to the Maldives in search of peace, tranquility and underwater adventure.

The Maldivian currency is called Rufiyaa and it is divided into 100 Laari but it is rarely used in tourist resorts. You will probably not see any rufiyaa since most transactions for tourists in resorts or on liveaboards take place in US dollars. Most resorts will cash travellers cheques and will accept major credit cards.

The rest of this page contains information about the Maldive Islands:

Tourist Security and Safety

Crime rates are very low in the Maldives and there are not many causes for feelings of insecurity among visiting tourists. Unlike many other destinations, tourists generally stay in their resorts or on their liveaboards so opportunities for criminals are restricted.

Aside from taking the usual precautions with your belongings and valuable items you are unlikely to encounter any potential security issues and the only place where there really exists any such possibility is in Male at night. Even then, being street-smart by staying in well-lit areas and not flashing your new Tag-Heuer around should be enough to avoid trouble.

There are a number of reasons why the Maldive crime rate is low. One is that being a Muslim country, social ills like alcohol and drug dependence are low. Another is that tourism is such a major economic factor that maintaining its image of a safe paradise is of great importance.

If you still feel uncomfortable, we can recommend that you take out insurance to cover diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive quote.

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How to Get There

Male International Airport on Hulhule Island, 10 minutes by boat from the capital city Male, is where most arrivals first set foot on Maldivian soil.

Quintessential Maldives holiday scene - photo courtesy of Spa Water Villa

The Maldives are 4 hours flight from Singapore, around 13 hours from London, and 3 hours from Dubai. Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka is some 45 minutes flight away.

The major airlines that fly to Male include Air Emirates, Sri Lankan Airlines, Qatar Air and Thomson (all from UK), Air Italy, Edelweiss, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, MEGA Maldives, Austrian Airlines and Air Berlin which together service Asia and Europe. If coming from the U.S. of A it is most convenient to fly via Singapore and take the 4 hour flight from there. There are also regular flights from New York and Los Angeles via Dubai with Air Emirates.

With effect from 1st January 2012, there is an Airport Development Charge for all passengers above 2 years of age departing from the Male airport, collected at the check-in counters.

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Where to Stay

If you need an overnight stay on your way in or out of the Maldives, or just want to take a few days extra holiday in addition to your liveaboard, then check out our affiliated hotel reservation agents Agoda.com and their accommodation options. If you have a few hours to kill in Male before or after your liveaboard trip, then you may wish to book a day room at a hotel in Male, or on Hulhule Island where the airport is located. You can shower, store your luggage and be free to explore the area.

Browse their website choices, use their on-line chat to ask your questions, or simply use your credit card to make your booking:

Visit Agoda.com and review details, prices and make a reservation for Maldives and worldwide hotels (opens in a new window)

All their options are backed up with their 'Low Price Guarantee' to ensure you get top-dollar value for money.

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General Information

This section contains information about:

Climate

There are 2 monsoon seasons which dominate the climate here - the northeast monsoon (dry) and the southwest monsoon (wet). Due to its equatorial location, the Maldives do not experience major cyclones.

Generally speaking the drier months of the year are between November and April (March and April being the hottest months). The wetter season, runs from May to early November. June, July and August often see the most rain, although most of the rain is experienced in the Southern atolls (not the ones Dive The World recommends).

The temperatures range between 24 and 33°C throughout the year and it is possible to dive the Maldives throughout the year.

You should pack appropriate clothing such as light cotton garments and sandals and otherwise as you normally would for visiting somewhere in the tropics.

The Beaches of the Maldive Islands

There are a lot of glorious beaches in the Maldives. Some of the best ones are those that you will visit as part of your liveaboard trip. Many cruises involve island barbecues, often on completely deserted islands so you can find that "away from it all" feeling as you take a stroll on fine white sand unmarked by the footprints of others. The remoteness of this island chain and its coral heritage means the beaches here are among the finest and cleanest you will encounter anywhere.

Despite its incredible beaches dotted throughout the atoll chain, The Maldivian capital Male, where all the commercial activities are carried out, is unfortunately not blessed with much in the way of sandy shorelines. However, there is an artificial beach which is very popular meeting point for locals, especially in the late afternoon.

Maldivians and tourists come here to swim, sunbathe or just stroll around but there are also water sports to be enjoyed, as well as entertainment including live music, carnivals and parades which use the artificial beach as their focal point.

Sightseeing and Things to do

Consistent swells from the southern Indian Ocean make the Maldives one of the planet's most consistent and safest surf zones. There are principally 2 major surfing areas - the North Male Atoll, and the outer atolls 450km to the south. The surfing season runs from mid-February to November, coinciding with the south-west monsoon. March and April provide a combination of excellent diving, surfing and weather conditions.

If you are like most divers, the majority of your time will be taken up diving, visiting islands and enjoying the scenery on your liveaboard cruise. However there are some interesting things to do in Male Town if you have the time.

The National Museum, located in the old Sultan's palace in the Sultan's Park, is a popular spot for those wishing to immerse themselves in the nation's history and culture. Here you can learn all about colonial and pre-colonial times and admire antiquities such as thrones, statues and other accoutrements of former Sultans. It also showcases Thor Heyerdahl's archaeological discoveries and beautiful stone carvings. The museum is open Saturday to Thursday (excluding public holidays).

Constructed in 1906, by Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddeen III, the Mulee-aage Palace is now the office of the president and one of the most famous landmark buildings in Male. It also houses tombs of many of the Maldivian saints and is well worth a visit.

The Friday Mosque (also known as Masjid-al-Sultan Mohammed Thakurufaanu-al-Azzam) is the biggest in the Maldive Islands, housing some 5,000 people, and features beautiful minarets and decorative domes as well as tombs of many of the country's national heroes.

These and the many other monuments are essential viewing for anyone with an interest in exploring the unique Maldivian culture and art of the country. For a more modern take on the country you should check out all the sensory delights of the local fish market, firewood market and fruit bazaars. The fish market is on the waterfront of Male and is a riot of colour, chatter and odour - some enchanting, others overwhelming!

Entertainment & Shopping

Male has plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and local attractions which cater to locals and tourists. Mercifully free of the worst excesses of globalisation, the eateries and shops are more local than chain-store style so you can be sure that your purchases are the genuine article.

Shops and local stalls sell local handicrafts such as traditional mats and wooden curios. You can pick up a nice wooden carved dhoni as a memento of your liveaboard holiday. There are a lot of jewellery shops selling silver, gold and mother-of-pearl. Unfortunately these shops also sell non-'PC' items such as turtle shell and coral, so it is a good opportunity for you, as a responsible tourist, to register you displeasure at the sale of such items. Chaandanee Magu is possibly the best place for souvenir shopping.

Be warned that shops in the Maldives close 5 times for 15 minutes every day during the Muslim prayer time, so you might be half way through your haggle when the shopkeeper calls time off to dash away and worship his almighty.

For those who must find goods with labels, there is a designer boutique or shopping arcade where you can find leather goods, cotton, polyester and silk wear, jackets, sweaters and sports wear, many of which seem to be genuine brands. Watches, cameras and other electronic good are also plentiful.

In terms of nightlife, there are discos and bars in several of the hotels in Male which also feature live bands and cultural shows every now and then.

Dining Out

Restaurants include both tourist style outlets selling seafood and international cuisine, as well as food stalls, popular with the locals, selling just about everything. Maldivian cuisine is strongly influenced by Sri Lankan and Indian cooking styles so you can expect plenty of curries with a range of flavours and spices. Fish and seafood feature heavily as you would expect from an island chain.

Some of the popular dishes worth trying out include snacks made of rice, tuna, coconut, lentils and spices. Coconut water is available in these eating outlets and serves as a popular refreshing drink. There are also myriad tropical fruits, plus local and imported wines to savour.

The better hotels have their own restaurants serving plenty of international dishes, as well as local food. But for the authentic cuisine of the Maldives, there is no substitute for tasting what the locals enjoy in the more simple eateries. Some of the more popular places for tourists to eat out in include Aquatic Residency, City Motel, Extra Heaven and Classic Inn.

History

A short rainfall brings out a rainbow over the Maldive islands - photo courtesy of Geogff Spiby, Ocean Divine

Geologically the Maldive Islands were formed by volcanic islands breaking the surface around 65 million years ago and then subsiding leaving what were their fringing coral reefs at the surface to develop into the atolls we see today. In terms of human history it is believed that the islands were first settled over 4,000 years ago by seafarers of the Indian Ocean.

The islands were populated by a mix of Indians and Sri Lankans observing the Buddhist religion until conversion to Islam occurred in the 12th century. European colonialism came along from the 16th century, first in the form of the Portuguese, and then followed by the Dutch and the British, from whom independence was granted in 1965.

Recent politics have been dominated by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who continues to serve as president (despite attempts to have him overthrown).

The Local Maldivian People

The Maldives has a population slightly over 300,000, with the highest density being in the capital Male, with around 70,000 inhabitants.

The official language is Dhivehi which is a dialect of Sinhalese (spoken in Sri Lanka) with influences from other local languages. The script is derived from Arabic but do not worry since English is widely spoken, particularly by officials and those in tourism.

Fishing, tourism and agriculture are the 3 greatest sources of employment. Maldivians are Sunni Muslims and although they observe prayer 5 times a day (when everything closes down) they are generally very understanding of the different cultures and practices of visiting tourists. However you should not attempt to bring items of other religions into the country such as crucifixes or Buddha statues. Also be wary of having books, magazines or DVDs which might be deemed (by them) as inappropriate. These will be confiscated.

Given its location as a crossroads in the Indian Ocean it is not surprising that Maldivians are of Sri Lankan and Southern Indian origin, with elements of Arabian, African, and Indonesian origin also. Although they are Muslims this influence of cultures means that there is a strong belief in the spirit world. To protect against the evil spirits known as 'Jinns', locals will often use various charms and spells, although you are unlikely to encounter any such activity in the resorts or other tourist areas.

Health

The Maldives has no serious problems with diseases. The resorts and liveaboards are self sufficient in terms of water and electricity. In some cases the water is drinkable though not wonderful tasting, and many of the liveaboards will charge for bottled water on top of a 'one bottle a day' allowance.

Diving or sun related injuries account for most of the health problems encountered by tourists. To keep safe avoid overheating, drink lots of water, get into the shade and dive within your limits.

Many resorts have their own doctor or nurse and most are within reasonably easy reach of a decompression chamber. There are 2 hospitals in Male: the government-owned Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGM) and the privately-owned Abduarahman Don Kaleyfan Hospital (ADK). ADK accepts some insurance plans, but IGM does not. As always medical insurance and or diving insurance is strongly recommended. Try to avoid a med-evac because the Maldive Islands are a long way from anywhere.

As for vaccinations and other health precautions, we recommend you consult your local doctor when planning your Maldives diving holiday.

Tourist Visas

No prior visa arrangements are required to enter the Republic of Maldives. A 30 days Entry Permit will be granted to visitors on arrival at designated ports of entry, based on the immigration requirements.

Time Zones

Standard time here is 5 hours ahead Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+5).

Business Hours

From Sunday to Thursday 7.30 - 14.30 hrs in the government sector, and generally from 9.00 to 5.00 hrs in the private sector, although most offices in the private sector open for a half day on Saturday. Weekends here fall on Friday and Saturday.

Electricity

Most resort islands use 220/240 volt AC at 50 cycles but there is no standard socket types and it is worth carrying an international adapter. Plugs are usually either the 3 square pin - 13 amp British type or they are the 2-pin European style. If you are used to a 110 volt supply you will need a small transformer to convert from 240V to 110V.

Photographic Facilities

It is recommended to bring all spare materials, films and batteries etc with you. Locally, you may have difficulty finding these items.

Communications

The Maldive telephone system is very efficient with international telephone communications available from all the resort islands. Mail can be sent from the resorts and will usually reach its destination within 7-10 days.

A GSM cellular network with international roaming is now functioning in most of the tourist areas. You can also purchase 'Pay as you Go' SIM cards at the airport.

Fixed line internet connectivity is not readily available in the islands, and even in Male internet prices can reach up to US$ 3 per hour. However, the wireless internet network is quite extensive. Dhiraagu has announced the introduction of GPRS data roaming service for visitors and has a prepaid broadband hotspot internet service called the Wireless Zone service on the main atolls. Wataniya Telecom Maldives also has a network offering high speed internet access based on 3G technologies in the city area of Male and GPRS/EDGE technologies serving other areas of the country.

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Codes of Behaviour

Tipping and bargaining

The practice of tipping is a Maldivian custom. Allow for about US$ 10 for staff members who look after you well throughout your stay e.g. in a resort you may have the same waiter for your entire holiday. Local boat crew on a liveaboard will also expect a tip at the end of your trip. For small acts like luggage carrying US$ 1 is normal. Note you should keep a few dollars aside for departure tax. Currently US$ 12, departure tax is included in most flights, but not all.

Clothing

Although you may feel like you are in a remote paradise ,the locals may not take too kindly to you stripping off. Nudity is forbidden. Swimwear should be decent and you would be advised to cover up reasonably well for dining. If paying a visit to inhabited islands you should be covered from torso to knee.

Criminality

You should take the usual precautions such as not leaving money and valuables lying around so as to not invite theft. Upon entry you are not allowed to import several things including alcohol, pork products, idols of worship, spearguns or machine guns. If you do have any alcohol with you, then you can declare it at Customs. They will give you a receipt and you can claim it back when you leave. They usually x-ray all incoming luggage, so any undeclared bottles are likely to be found!

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Interested?

If you're keen to discover these popular and remote atolls, then click below to check your options for:

Be sure to book up in plenty of time to avoid limited choice! The best scuba diving holidays are booked by repeat customers who book well in advance to ensure their reservation!


 
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