The Republic of Maldives is comprised of 1,192 small low-lying coral islands in the Indian Ocean. The capital city, Male', with a population of over 75,000 is about 2 sq km in area. The Maldives are a chain of 26 natural coral atolls extending 860 kilometers from north to south. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 20 administrative regions. The archipelago is 120 kilometers wide at its widest point. The southern tip of the Maldives is about 644 kilometers from Diego Garcia.
The atolls vary in shape and size and 80% of the islands are less than one meter above mean sea level. Tropical vegetation varies from grass and scrub to dense groves of fruit trees and coconut palms. The climate is equatorial, hot and humid, with little daily variation. The average temperature is 28°C, with a relative humidity of 80%. Annual rainfall averages 2000 mm in the north and 2300 mm in the southern atolls.
About 200 islands are inhabited. The population is scattered throughout the country, with about 25% residing on the capital island where most of the economic and commercial development activities take place.
In the 12th century, sailors from Arab countries and East Africa came to the Maldives. Originally Buddhists, Maldivians were converted to Islam in the mid-12th century. The official language is Dhivehi and is written from right to left. Fishing and Tourism are the major economic activities. Tourism was introduced to Maldives in the early 70's and today there are over 90 resorts with a total bed capacity of more than 16,400.
The government has recently announced plans to develope tourism in all the 20 administrative atolls of Maldives. This means an additional 1650 beds in 11 islands in 9 new atolls. The total investment is expected at around US$ 157 million. Details here. | Tsunami Update | Zoomable Map of Maldives | Capital - zoomable map