Thought the Maldives was all sun, sea and sand? Well it is – but there’s also plenty more to it. A unique phenomenon, there’s aspects of the Indian Ocean that many guide books, travel tales and Pinterest boards often miss out, from its official no-booze status to the icky truth about the soft, white sand. Having visited its beautiful shores, we’ve compiled just a few of its elements which might not be so obvious at first sight – so consider yourself well-researched after this read.
1. There are 105 hotels inhabiting some of its 1100 islands
The Maldives are made up from over 1100 coral islands, grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls. The largest island is 6km wide, so effectively each resort is located in an island of its own, adding to the secluded and secure feeling. Most resorts are luxury hotels, but you can also find good quality three-star resorts for around £140 a night full board.
2. It’s a dry country
As an Islamic country, it’s banned, but we’d quickly like to add that resorts are treated as an exception and do serve alcohol. Everywhere else, it’s a no no. Anyone coming into the country with alcohol in their luggage – even duty-free – will have it whipped away before they can say ‘but it’s Grey Goose’. It’s also not possible to buy alcohol in Male; we were told by a Maldivian that if you’re in possession of some, locals will get fined and tourists will be politely asked to leave the country. Which is a really, really mean punishment.
3. Most of the fun stuff happens under water
There’s a saying that if you don’t look underwater, you’ve only seen half the country. And we couldn’t agree more. Their famous coral reefs attract one of the world’s most diverse marine populations – everything from manta rays to reef sharks are abundant enough to see in a typical visit. The second you wear a snorkel mask and submerge yourself, it’s like Finding Nemo. You’ll see neon fish chase after each other, sea turtles lazily swim about, triggerfish guarding their territory, clams the size of microwaves, black tip sharks swim right by, eels hidden within the corals. Back to the Future had a point – there’s total enchantment under the sea.
4. The lovely white sand is actually parrot fish poop
Sorry to break it to you. The fine, sugary beaches that holiday brochures display in all their pristine glory and become the longing of our holiday fantasies? Fish shite.
Parrot fish nibble away at the algae on coral in the waters, and the sediment that they can’t digest, they poop out.
Remember that next time you bury yourself in the sand.
5. The political situation is contained in Male
TLE’s visit coinicided with a state of emergency being called in the Maldives. The first we heard about it was via a concerned text as we were breakfasting while watching dolphins somersaults in the turquoise-blue waters in Kurumba.
The truth is, while the young democracy in Maldives is a tense situation, ethically questionable and precarious, it doesn’t affect the tourist islands – it’s in no one’s interest to affect the country’s main source of income. And because the airport itself is on another island, chances are you won’t even set foot in Male.
6. Yes, the water really is that colour
There’s absolutely no need to apply an Instagram filter when snapping around the Maldives – the water is every bit as clear and vibrant as the brochures make out. A mix of the clarity of water, particles suspended and the white sandbed cause the most vibrant turquoise and blues that not even Tiffany & Co can rival. Best of all, it retains its colour when it’s grey. So even if the sky looks like London, a glance at the sea will remind you you’re in paradise.
7. No, it’s not just honeymooners
Okay, it’s mostly honeymooners. But amongst the amorous vibes on the islands, the Maldives attracts gal pals, families and water enthusiasts, especially as it houses some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling spots.