Diving in Maldives
The Maldives are made up of 26 individual atolls LINK-1 that together hold more than 1,100 islands, Most are small and uninhabited, and surrounded by fringing reefs formations that create sheltered shallow lagoons near the islands, along with more expansive bodies of confined water within the ring-like atoll. Points around the ring are cut by channels, known locally as kandus. Tidal water exchanges create brisk currents in the kandus, and the narrower the channel, the stronger the flow. Within each atoll's ring of islands, numerous rock pinnacles rise from the sea bottom almost to the surface. These formations are essentially islands that did not quite make it to the surface, and they are known as thilas. LINK-2 They are washed by nutrient-rich upwellings that feed sponges and soft corals, and sustain a wide range of marine life, from resident crustaceans and reef fish to blue-water visitors. The tidal waters that ebb and flow through the kandus and wash over the thilas account for the abundance of marine life and big animals that are the hallmark of diving in the Maldives. When the currents are running, sharks, tunas and mantas gather in the passes, and Napoleon wrasse, parrotfish, snappers, jacks and sweetlips swarm pinnacle walls. Many dives are performed as drifts, allowing participants to go with the flow rather than fight the current. At some sites where currents flow around an underwater headland, the plan may call for divers to anchor themselves in place to watch the passing show. In years past, this involved holding on to rocks on the sea floor, but most operators now employ reef hooks. LINK-3 These devices consist of a length of line attached to a metal graphing hook line that a diver places into a crevice in the reef then clips the other end to their BC harness.
Currents around thilas can range from mild to strong, and dive plans are formulated to match conditions. On larger thilas, eddies form on the down-current side of the pinnacles, giving divers a respite from the flow. The walls of thilas are often carved into canyons and caverns that create hiding places for reef dwellers such as octopus, moray eels and scorpion fish. LINK-4 The vertical faces hold resident schooling fish such as blue striped snappers, big eyed jack and fusiliers, and attract passing tuna, eagle rays sharks and manta rays. There are a number of dive resorts scattered across the archipelagos of the Maldives. Most sit on small or private islands, and often feature idyllic over-water accommodations, Equally popular are the first-class liveaboards that give passengers access to a broader range of sites on multiple atolls.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
A valid passport, along with an onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds for the time you are staying, is required for entry. A no-cost visitor visa valid for thirty days is issued upon arrival. The Department of Immigration and Emigration routinely approves requests for extension of stays up to ninety days for travelers who present evidence of sufficient funds and who stay in a resort or hotel or present a letter from a local sponsor. Anyone staying over sixty days without proper authorization faces heavy fines and deportation.
EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All visitors departing the Republic of the Maldives (except diplomats and certain exempted travelers) must pay an airport departure tax, which is usually included in the price of an airline ticket.
Travelers need a yellow fever immunization if they are arriving from an infected area. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel to Maldives at Traveler's Health CDC
Culture and Customs
The country of the Maldives is 99 percent water and one percent land. This nation of islands has long been a maritime crossroads along the trading routes of the Indian Ocean. Traders and sailors from North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, India and the Far East brought elements of their own cultures that linger, but the Maldivians have long maintained their unique cultural identity. Family and community are of upmost importance to a way of life that is understandably shaped by the sea and the need for self-sufficiency within small island communities. So too is a tradition of hospitality, forged through centuries of interaction with maritime visitors. Maldivians are known for their inventiveness and intricate craftsmanship, LINK-5 which can be seen in handicrafts such as lacquer works, mat weaving, coir rope making and calligraphy. An iconic symbol of the Maldives is the traditional dhoni, a hand-crafted wooden boat similar to an Arab dhow. For centuries, these vessels served as the only connection between island communities, and carried home bountiful catches. The Maldives also boasts a rich culture of music and dance, with influences drawn from three continents, but made their own. A traditional performance that is often staged for visitors is the Bodu Beru, LINK-6 where sarong-garbed dancers sway to rhythmic drumbeats and chants. Tourism has brought the modern world to the Maldives, but these changes are seen primarily at resorts, and in the capital city of Male, where shops and homes envelop every inch of the island with a vibrant pulse.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity in Maldives is 230 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to Maldives with a device that does not accept 230 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter.
The international access code for the Maldives is +960. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United States). No city/area codes are required. IDD facilities are available at all resorts and card phones are available on all inhabited islands. The major islands are covered by the mobile network; the local operators use a GSM 900 network, which is compatible with many international cell phone operators, but it is best to check whether your network has roaming agreements with the Maldives. Dhiraagu, the Maldives Telecommunications Company provides mobile telephones for daily rental. Internet access is available in hotels and main tourist resorts.
It is advised to boil all drinking water or to drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes.
Language & Currency
Dhivehi is the spoken language throughout the Maldives. It has its roots in old South Asian languages, intermingling with Arabic, Hindi and English words. English was introduced as the medium of instruction in most schools in the 1960s, while Dhivehi is still the language used for the overall administration.
Maldives currency is called Rufiyaa [Rf], which is divided into 100 Larees. Maldives Rufiyaa comes in different denominations of notes and coins. The notes come in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 while the coins are available in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25 and 50 Larees.
Major currencies can be exchanged at banks, tourist resort islands, hotels and leading shops. Payments in hotels can be made in most hard currencies (particularly US Dollars) in cash, traveller's cheques or credit cards. Most major island resorts, local and souvenir shops will accept American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. Arrangements vary from island to island.
Maldives Standard Time is 5 hours ahead Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+5). Maldives does not observe Daylight Saving Time.
Location and Size
Maldives is located south of India in the Indian Ocean.
Area: 298 sq. km. (115 sq. mi.), over 1,100 islands; twice the size of Washington, DC.
The total population of the Maldives is approximately 390,000.