Scatters across the equator in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the gem like islands of the Maldives depict the rare vision of a tropical paradise. Palm fringed islands with sparkling white beaches, turquoise lagoons, clear warm waters and coral reefs teeming with abundant varieties of marine flora and fauna, continue to fascinate visitors, as it has fascinated others in the past, for thousands of years. Marco Polo referred to the Maldives as the ".......flowers of the Indies", and Ibn Batuta called her in his chronicles "One of the wonders of the world:
Truly a natural wonder, the height of the
islands rarely reach above 2 meters. It
is said that nobody could exactly say the
number of islands in Maldives. When one
counts the smaller islets and sandbanks;
the commonly agreed figure is 1,190 coral
islands, consisting of 26 Atoll formations
which are spread over an area of 90,000
square kilometers. The Maldivian Atolls
are a classic discovery in its own right:
the word "Atoll" has been derived
from "Dhivehi" (our own language)
the word "Atholhu".
Each of the islands itself started the life
as a little sandbank on a coral reef. And
by the action of wind, waves, currents,
rain and tides they gradually expand and
evolved into islands. At this same manner,
as a result of storms, changing tides; it
disappear once more beneath the sea. Together
these islands which have evolved from circular
coral reefs are known by the Maldivians
as "Atholhu". So, could this be
the largest reef formation in the world!
Thus, a low lying island is naturally formed.
Coconuts are washed ashore, palm trees and
hardy bushes grow and their roots stabilizes
the sand on the coral. Sea birds and hermit
crabs are the first known inhabitants. These
islands are surrounded by shallow crystal
clear lagoons enclosed by coral reefs. Further,
these islands provide visitors with one
of the most breathtaking views of underwater
life in the world. Formed above peaks emerging
from the depths of the ocean, upon layers
of both living and dead coral, and remnants
of other marine life, the islands are generally
covered with dense tropical vegetation.
Coconut palms towering above dense shrubs
and hardy plants protecting the shores from
erosion are natural features in most islands.
The smaller islands and sand banks under
formation are also wonders in themselves.
These islands together embody living entities
in various stages of formation, as interdependent
elements in an ecology. In a food chain
where birds, fish, and other marine life
co-exist, with humans at its apex as caretakers
Maldives is the smallest independent country
in Asia and one of the smallest in the world.
It consists of about 1,000 small coral islands
that form a chain 764 kilometres long and
129 kilometres wide in the Indian Ocean
The northern tip of the Maldives is about
600 kilometres south of India. These tropical
islands cover a total of only 298 square
kilometres. Fishing and tourism are the
country's leading economic activities.