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A Tropical Vacation

The Maldive Islands feature deep blue seas, turquoise reefs, beautiful white sandy beaches and scores of palm trees. It is also a place full of character, where its people have long spent their days languishing in the very essence of idyll living. While it is the perfect place to sit on a beach and watch a sunset with an umbrealla drink carefully balanced in your hand, it is also a geographical marvel. One is highly aware of the thousands of fish swimming around the vivid corals just a few feet away from where you sit.
The environment has a direct affect on all facets of a Maldivian’s life.  The islands are protected by thousands  of reefs that need to be alive for this unique archipelago to exist in future. The corals on the reefs need its countless inhabitants to feed on them for the corals to re-grow. Locals need the fish in the water for livelihood and they depend on the beauty of its reefs and islands to sustain the tourism industry. Most importantly, the Maldives need its citizens and visitors to take care of its wonderful natural environment in order to survive as one of the most magical places on earth.
The Maldives lie in two rows of atolls (a circular group of coral islets, synonymous with lagoon-island) just south of the equator in the Indian Ocean. The country is made up of 1,190 coral islands formed around 26 natural ring-like atolls, spread over 90,000 square kilometers (just under 56,000 miles).  These unique structures are formed on a sharp ridge rising from the ocean, creating their own uniqueness.

Each atoll in the Maldives is made of a coral reef encircling a lagoon, with deep channels dividing the reef ring. A string of islands take their places among this atoll ring; each island has its own reef encircling the island lagoon. The reefs of the islands, alive with countless types of underwater creatures and vibrant corals, protect the islands from wind and wave action of the surrounding vast oceans. This unique structure of reefs and channels makes navigation almost impossible for the passer-by without sufficient information about these waters.

Ninety-nine percent of the Maldives is made up of sea. The people of the islands are widely dispersed across the atolls, with approximately 200 inhabited islands. About 90 islands are developed as tourist resorts and the rest are uninhabited or used for agriculture and other livelihood purposes.

Several government regulations have been set up to enable a system to provide natural protection for the otherwise fragile 1,190 islands of the Maldives. Important marine areas are selected as protected regions, starting from 1995. Endangered marine species like the whale shark, turtles, dolphins as well as corals are also protected by law. Hanifaru, a bay like lagoon in the Baa atoll of the Maldives, is among the most recently protected marine areas.  This area is home to rays from around the Maldives that gather here to feast on the masses of plankton brought into the lagoon by water currents.

The weather in the Maldives is usually picture perfect featuring sunlit days, breezy nights, balmy mornings, and iridescent sunsets. The temperature hardly ever changes - which makes packing for a vacation here an easy problem to solve. With the average temperature at about 80 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year, the sun is a constant on most days, shining through treetops, creating lacy patterns on your feet. 
The Maldives has two seasons: dry season which is January through March, and wet season mid-May to November.  The rare thunderstorm can be a welcome respite from the sun.  Cloudy skies, slate grey seas, and crashing thunder makes for lovely reading weather.  The warm temperatures allows one to take a walk in the rain, a thoroughly enjoyable experience, or swim in the rain making the sea feel extra warm.

For Maldivians, who love a good story, it is somehow fitting that the early history of the country is enshrined in myth and legend. There are two stories that prevail.  The first is the story of Rannamaari, a tale about a sea monster than demands a virgin sacrifice every full moon, until a brave man from Morocco, Abdul Barakaath-Ul Barbary, decides to confront the monster and prohibit him from coming into the Maldives.

There second tale is of Bodu Thakurufaanu, who was a great captain, environmentalist and a military strategist. He is one of the most celebrated Maldivian heroes who saved Maldives from the Portuguese invaders.  These stories, while very much anecdotal, are based on the real facts that form the history of the country.

The islands of Maldives appear in-between the trading routes of the Indian Ocean. Thus settlers, and visitors from neighbouring regions and around the world have come in contact with the islands for as long as history has been recorded.  A unique melting of people and their cultures, have left a marked effect on the Maldivian people, in their language, beliefs, arts, and attitudes.

The look of the Maldivian people may differ from one atoll to the other, and can be attributed to the genes passed on by South and Southeast Asians, Africans, and Arabians. The language, Dhivehi, differs in dialect in some regions in the south of the Maldives, due to the secluded nature of island life. Maldivian beliefs have been very much based around religion and superstition, often used together in matters of significance but given separate positions in society. In matters of faith, Islam dominates, but influence of the supernatural still continues to play a major role in most island communities, possibly giving credit to the folklores and Buddhist traditions of the islands’ first settlers.

The mixing of cultures is very much seen in Maldivian arts. The music played with the local bodu-beru (big-drum) resembles African drumming. The dhoni (a unique Maldivian sailboat) is an art form itself built through skilled craftsmanship, with significant similarities to the Arabian dows. The fine artistry of Maldivians is seen in the intricate details on wooden beams in antique mosques and represents what they have gained from Southeast Asian architecture. The undefined and distinct geometric designs used in mats woven from local materials, the embroidered neckline of women’s traditional dresses and their hair ornaments are most unique.

Maldivians are very open to adaptation and are generally welcoming to outside inspiration. The culture has always continued to evolve with the times. Locals continue to eat fish and fishermen still spend days out at sea, but tourism now takes a standing prominence. Most Maldivians still want to believe in upholding unity and oneness in faith, but recent waves of reform in the country have created a whole new culture of new ideas and attitudes. The effects of the modern world are now embraced, while still striving to uphold the people’s identity, traditions and beliefs.

The Maldives was described by a 14th century Moroccan traveler as “one of the wonders of the world”, and today is said to be second to none for sun lovers, beach wanderers, scuba divers, surfers and those who seek peace in its simplest form.

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