Maldives. The Garland of Islands. A country nestled in the Arabian Sea. It is a chain of 26 atolls comprising 1,190 individual coral islands, some inhabited, most uninhabited, and others that have disappeared under the rising levels of the ocean. It is the world’s most geographically located country, the smallest Asian country, and the world’s “lowest” country with the highest point being four feet and eleven inches above sea level! Maldives is also one of two countries in the world with a 100% Muslim population, the other being Saudi Arabia. In fact citizen is denied to anyone who does not follow the Muslim faith.
Located between latitudes 1°S and 8°N the Equator runs through the country.
Being an island country, understandably the eco system and wildlife is water based. There are 187 species of corals, 1,100 species of fish, five species of sea turtle, 21 species of whales and dolphins, 400 species of molluscs, 83 species of echinoderms, as well as more than 145 crab and 48 shrimp species. Among the many marine families represented are Pufferfish, Fusiliers, Jackfish, Lionfish, Oriental Sweetlips, reef sharks, Groupers, Eels, Snappers, Bannerfish, Batfish, Humphead Wrasse, Spotted Eagle Rays, Scorpionfish, Lobsters, Nudibranches, Angelfish, Butterflyfish, Squirrelfish, Soldierfish, Glassfish, Surgeonfish, Unicornfish, Triggerfish, Napoleon wrasses, and Barracudas. (Source: Wikipedia)
Tourism was unknown in the country till 1972 when two resorts opened in Bandos Island and Kurumba Village changing the economy. Tourism now accounts for almost 30% of GDP and more than 60% of foreign exchange receipts. A million and a half tourists visited Maldives in 2017.
There are a lot of things Maldives has to offer, including snorkelling, scuba diving, whale and dolphin watching, one might even be lucky to spot the hammerhead shark. Then there are the famous barefoot pilots operating the seaplanes to take tourists from one island to another.
A slow boat will paddle almost 2,000 km around this gorgeous country
I will meet people, imbibe the culture, have local food, stop at some of the finest beaches, and camp in the backyard of the local people … if they graciously allow the pitching of a tent. This is a logistically challenging expedition given that almost everything required has to come from a mainland at least a thousand kilometres away. All the islands are either owned by individual resorts, or by locals. One wishes to camp out on the beaches instead of spending inordinate amounts of money staying at a resort, unless of course, the resorts graciously agree to sponsor the stay.
Except during the monsoon season, the rest of the year provides an ideal climate to conduct this journey. It is a tropical climate and is hot and humid most of the year. What else can one expect straddling the Equator.
Take a look at the tentative route that incorporates many of the finest beach resorts in the country.
For the moment, take a look at some gorgeous landscape, many of which the slow boat will experience as it paddles along the more than 1,000 islands.
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