North Malé Atoll, Maldives
Tourism is well developed in North Male Atoll, and as well as having lots of resorts, there are several guesthouses on inhabited islands here too. Male itself isn’t the atoll capital, as it’s considered to be its own administrative district. Instead, the atoll capital is Thulusdhoo, on the eastern edge of North Male Atoll, with a population of about 1200. Thulusdhoo is an industrious island, known for manufacturing of bodu beru (big drums), for its nascent surfer scene and for its salted-fish warehouse. It is also unique for its Coca-Cola factory, the only one in the world where the drink is made from desalinated water.
The island of Huraa (population 750) is well used to tourists visiting from nearby resorts, but it retains its small-island feel. It is now home to several guesthouses, so the tourist presence extends beyond day-trippers. Huraa’s dynasty of sultans, founded in 1759 by Sultan Al-Ghaazi Hassan Izzaddeen, built a mosque on the island.
Many tourists visit Himmafushi (population 855) on excursions arranged from nearby resorts. The main street has two long rows of shops, where you can pick up some of the least expensive souvenirs in the country. Carved rosewood manta rays, sharks and dolphins are made locally. If you wander into the back streets, you quickly get away from the tourist strip to find an attractive, well-kept village and an attractive cemetery with coral headstones. A sand spit has joined Himmafushi to the once separate island of Gaamaadhoo, where there used to be a prison. The surf break here, aptly called Jailbreaks, is a great right-hander.
Further north, Dhiffushi is an appealing local island, with around 900 inhabitants, three mosques and two schools. Mainly a fishing island, it has lots of greenery, grows tropical fruit, and is home to a couple of guesthouses.
Unrivalled luxury, stunning white-sand beaches and an amazing underwater world make the Maldives an obvious choice for a true holiday of a lifetime.
The Maldives is home to perhaps the best beaches in the world; they’re on almost every one of the country’s nearly 1200 islands and are so consistently perfect that it’s hard not to become blasé about them. While some beaches may boast softer granules than others, the basic fact remains: you’ll find consistently whiter-than-white powder sand and luminous cyan-blue water like this almost nowhere else on earth. This fact alone is enough to bring over a million people a year to this tiny, remote and otherwise little-known Indian Ocean paradise.
Resorts for Everyone
Every resort in the Maldives is its own private island, and with over 100 to choose from the only problem is selecting where you want to stay. At the top end, the world’s most exclusive hotel brands compete with each other to attain ever-greater heights of luxury, from personal butlers and private lap pools to in-room massages and pillow menus. It’s not surprising that honeymooners and those seeking a glamorous tropical getaway have long had the country at the top of their wish lists. But there’s choice beyond the five- and six-star resorts. Other islands cater for families, for divers, for those on a (relative) budget, and anyone wanting a tranquil back-to-nature experience.
With some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world, the clear waters of the Maldives are a magnet for anyone with an interest in marine life. The richness and variety is astonishing; dazzling coral walls, magnificent caves and schools of brightly coloured tropical fish await you when you get down to the reef. In deeper waters lurk manta rays, turtles, sharks and even the world’s largest fish, the whale shark. The best bit? The water is so warm many people don’t even wear a wetsuit.
In the last few years, these incredible islands have finally started to open to independent travellers, meaning you no longer have to stay in resorts and remain separate from the local population, something that has kept backpackers away for decades. Intrepid individuals can now make their own itineraries and travel from island to island by public ferry, staying among the devout but friendly local population. With a fast-growing number of privately run guesthouses on inhabited islands, the Maldives and its people are now more accessible than ever.