Er, could you just remind me where they are?
The Republic of Maldives (independent from Britain since 1965) is made up of a long, thin, north-south string of atolls in the Indian Ocean, south-west of Sri Lanka.
The country’s 26 atolls contain 1 190 islands. Around 200 are inhabited by Maldivians; 87 are resort islands set aside for tourists.
Atoll? That’s an odd word…
Atoll is just about the only word in English that derives from the national language of the Maldives, Divehi.
Atolls, or atholhu, are rings of small, low-lying islands around a central lagoon. From the air they look like delicate green garlands tossed casually on a turquoise sea.
They are one of the most beautiful geological formations on earth.
Atolls are created when an extinct volcano collapses on itself, creating a white-sand-and-green-palm necklace of low-lying islands surrounding a lagoon where the crater of the volcano used to be.
The whole is protected from big waves by an encircling coral reef. Since most atolls are in the middle of the vast emptiness of the Indian and Pacific oceans, they act as an essential marine oasis for species that need a bit of land or shallow waters to survive.
But does that make for a good bit o’ fun in the sun?
What that means for swimmers is clear: shallow, warm waters with easy, protected access to spectacular reefs, rife with a dense rainbow of tropical fish.
As a result, the Maldives has some of the best snorkelling and diving in the world.
Even better, the experience is relatively guilt free. The Maldivian government, under the guidance of the award-winning environmentalist and president of the nation, His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, keeps a tight control over the environmental and social impact of tourism.
The main way this mini-miracle has been accomplished is by restricting tourists to self-contained resort islands.
The resorts have to comply with strict environmental controls, such as asking visitors to take dead batteries home with them. If a resort breaks the rules, it’s broken its lease. Goodbye.
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Source URL: Google News