The Maldives. An idyllic, peaceful heaven. A dream holiday destination. A romantic island honeymoon. Explore gleaming white beaches scented with the heady fragrance of blooming frangipani and hibiscus. Take to the ocean on a traditional dhoni sailboat, or discover the unparalleled underwater wildlife of one of the world's most celebrated diving destinations. Above or below the waterline, the Maldives present a kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, nature and activities that never fails to delight.
The Maldives is made up of more than 1800 "Robinson Crusoe" like coral islands surrounded by vast shimmering blue lagoons and endless azure sea. This scattered garland of a country has 90% water compared to 10% land and is proud to boast that its tourism industry is based on QUALITY and not quantity. With over 1,000 uninhabited islands, only 73 are holiday resorts. Each individual hotel is a resort developed on a single unique island; each resort sports its own image, apprealling to a particular kind of guest. Resorts on the Maldives cater to all tastes, from Grand Hotel extravagant luxury to beachcomber simplicity. While some resorts host international conferences, others offer guests an entire island for the day for a private party. There are resorts ideal for honeymooners and others more suited to the diving enthusiast.
THINGS TO DO
Adventure awaits you in the Maldives. All of the resorts offer diving, submarining, snorkeling, surfing, and fishing.
Every resort in the Maldives has a dive school, offering courses and certification catering to the beginner and more advanced scuba diver. Diving is conducted daily all year around and it is only rarely that a dive has to be cancelled. Most resorts have access to a protected reef on the leeward side of the island that enables them to dive even during times of rough seas and strong winds.
You can also experience the Maldives' magical underwater world through the air-conditioned comfort of a Whale Submarine. Divers and non-divers alike can enjoy the enchanting coral reefs and magnificent tropical fish from a submarine with friends, family or loved ones. This incredible adventure takes place aboard the world’s largest deep diving passenger submarine! Descend to 100 feet below the ocean surface and witness ocean life and other treasures, sights once only seen by scuba divers. This is a must-do experience for every visitor, an excursion only available in a few parts of the world.
Snorkeling over the shallow reefs of the islands is an ideal way to explore the underwater world. The house reefs of most of the islands are just a few steps away from the beach. Even if the reefs are quite shallow, one may simply walk up to the reef to enjoy its beauty. Snorkeling equipment is available at all the resorts. Some organize regular snorkeling excursions to give visitors a chance to experience the diversity of marine life and reef structures in the Maldives.
The Maldives is fast establishing itself as a destination for surfers. Surfing is relatively new to the Maldives, especially compared to more established activities such as scuba diving. However, the recent O'Neil Deep Blue Contest held this year has placed Maldives firmly on the world surf map. While most of the recognized surf breaks are in Male Atoll, there is certainly more to be discovered. For resort based surfing, it is advisable to choose one of the resorts on the eastern side of North Male Atoll where there is access to a number of excellent breaks.
Fishing is not only the lifeblood of the Maldivian economy, it is also a popular pastime among locals as well as visitors. Maldivians enjoy a variety of different types of fishing: night fishing, morning fishing and big game fishing. Almost all the resorts organize night fishing trips at least once a week, it being the most popular choice. The boat leaves the island and anchors at a reef before the sun sets and darkness sets in. Lines are tethered with hooks and sinkers and dropped overboard from both sides of the dhoni. It's a win-win for all: if the fishing is good, excitement abounds, otherwise consider it an excellent opportunity to relax under the night sky as the boat gently rocks with the waves. Morning fishing or big game fishing involves trolling, usually outside the atoll along the reef. Big game fishing or morning fishing, if not included in the resorts' weekly program, may be organized on request.
MUSIC AND DANCE
The people of Maldives have enjoyed their own forms of song and dance for centuries.
The most popular form, as all Maldivians would agree, is ‘Boduberu’, widely enjoyed by both the young and old alike. According to some historians, this popular form of music was introduced to the country in the early 19th century by African slaves. During the reign of King Mueenuddeen I these slaves were liberated and sent to Feridhoo in Alif-Alif Atoll. It is believed that Boduberu spread out from there to become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the country.
The Boduberu, in the form of small barrels, are made from hollowed coconut wood with both ends sealed with goat hide or manta ray skin. The Boduberu troupe consists of a lead singer, background singers and a number of members who play an assortment of percussion instruments. The Boduberu is played across all the islands of the Maldives in almost all events worthy of celebrating.
Bandiyaa’ are the amphora type metal pots used by women to carry water. In ‘Bandiyaa jehun’, women use these pots and sway in colourful garments while tapping the rhythm on the pots with rings that adorn their fingers. This unique dance is very popular among the locals and an entertaining sight as the young women sing and dance to melodious tunes, swinging with their pots.
‘Dhandi jehun’ is another form of entertainment during festive events such as Eid. This type of dance is performed and enjoyed by both sexes. ‘Dhandi’ are the two pieces of sticks roughly the length of drumsticks, which are colorfully decorated and used in the dance. As the dancers sing, the two sticks are brought together according to the beat. Women performers use shorter sticks and move to faster beats, moving in patterns in colorful costumes.
Thaara is also a very traditional form of music, believed to have been introduced from the Middle East in the seventeenth century, performed by men. The men are attired in white in long-sleeved shirts and sarongs, wearing white turbans. These performers sit on the ground in two rows and sway to a slow song, beating the ‘thaara’ which is a tambourine-like instrument minus the bells. Some dancers dance between the rows, turning slowly with the slow lyrics chanted in unison.
Bodu Beru is similar to some of the songs and dances found in East Africa. It is likely that the music was introduced to The Maldives by sailors from the Indian Ocean region. Bodu Beru is performed by about 15 people, including three drummers and a lead singer. They are accompanied by a small bell and an "Onugandu" - a small piece of bamboo with horizontal grooves, from which raspy sounds are produced by scrapping. The songs may be of heroism, romance or satire.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
Maldivians are renowned for their skillfulness and creativity in a wide range of crafts. Perhaps the most distinctive type of Maldivian handicraft is the production of wooden lacquer work, which is the process of shaping and hollowing out pieces of wood to form beautifully crafted boxes, containers and other ornamental objects. The objects are made from the abundantly growing Alexandrian Laurel or ‘Funa’ as locally known.
The hollowed out oval lidded dishes, vases and jewellery boxes come in an assortment of shapes and sizes and are beautifully lacquered in strands of red, black and yellow resin and delicately carved with unique flowery patterns. These valuable ornamental objects are almost exclusively produced in the island of Thulhaadhoo located in Baa Atoll.
Mat-weaving is another traditional craft mostly undertaken by women. The women of Gadhdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll weave the most beautiful red mats known as "Thundukunaa". The mats are hand-woven on a loom from reeds which are dried in the sun and stained with natural dyes ranging from fawn to black. The patterns and the inter-woven abstract designs vary according to the weavers'imagination and skill.
Traditional Maldivian handicraft includes mat weaving, embroidery for traditional dresses, coir making and lacquer work. Each of these skills is usually confined to certain atolls or islands. The island Gadhdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll is renowned for its fine hand-woven mats made of dried hau used for prayer mats and decoration. The finest lacquer work is said to be found on Thulaadhoo, in Baa Atoll. Wooden pots, boxes and vases of all shapes and sizes display beautiful abstract patterns in red, black and yellow. Ribudhoo in Dhaalu Atoll is famous for its goldsmiths while Hulhudeli in the same Atoll is well known for its silversmiths. The arrival of Tourism has increased the collection and sale of "sea jewellery", such as coral, mother-of-pearl, black coral, seashell and turtle-shell. Due to their endangered status and environmental considerations, sea turtle and black coral products have been made illegal for export.