MALDIVES FACT SHEETS
(Everything you need to know about a holiday in Maldives)
1.PRONUNCIATION: The word Maldives is normally pronounced in English with a short ‘o’ and long ‘e’ as in ‘Molldeeves’.
2. LOCATION: Maldives is in the Indian Ocean 450 miles south west of Sri Lanka. It is 4 hours on a jet plane from Dubai, 1 hour from Colombo, 45 minutes from Trivandrum in south west India and 3 hours from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.
3. GEOGRAPHY: Maldives consists of 1190 tiny coral islands strung in a line running north / south of the equator for 500 miles. A volcanic mountain range, now submerged, lies beneath the surface of the ocean. Corals forming on it and reaching for the sunshine have created the tiny islands. The corals are weathered into fine white sand and topped with coconut trees, each island ringed naturally with a coral reef. On 200 of these islands Maldivian communities live and work much as they have for a thousand years, mainly catching fish. On one island is the capital, Male, and on another is Male International Airport. Of the 988 uninhabited islands, the Government of Maldives has leased 110 for tourist development.
4. TOURIST ISLANDS: Each island designated for tourist development becomes one hotel. You can walk around most holiday islands in 15 minutes or less. They are all built chalet style, mainly single storied, some on stilts over the water (water bungalows or villas) and some on the beach or in the shade of the trees.Each island will have central dining, bar and sports facilities, accessed by sandy paths through the trees from the chalets. There are no roads or motor cars on the tourist islands, (though some may have electric cars or a small van for room service etc).The islands generate their own power, make their own water and control their own waste.
Maldives is an independent sovereign republic with a Presidential system of Government. It has been independent for most of the 2500 years of its life. The population is approx 350, 000 – in population terms, the size of a modest town in UK. Of these 150,000 live on one island – the capital island of Male’. The country was colonized by the Portuguese for 15 years in the 16th century and was a British protectorate, though with its own government, from 1887 to 1965. It was famous to a generation of British people for the RAF airfield at Gan on the southernmost tip which was active from 1956 to 1976.
6. HISTORY AND CULTURE
Maldives lies on the shipping routes between the major ancient civilizations of the world – Indus Valley, Persia, North East Africa and China. It has benefited by many travelers settling in the islands, either by design or misadventure enriching the culture and the language. Maldivians are a great mixture of races and pride themselves on this fact with a history of welcoming strangers who come in peace and dispatching quickly those who do not.
They have their own language called Dhivehi and their own script.
Islam, in its gentlest form. Women have equal opportunities in education and at work; many are businesswomen or Government Ministers. Severe Black Muslim female dress is very rare. Some girls wear a “barug” head scarf, usually in pretty colors but often wear jeans to accompany but most wear “western” type clothes. Drinking alcohol is forbidden in local communities and the annual fast is followed diligently.
The economy was traditionally dominated by catching and trading fish and Maldives remains one of the world’s great exporters of rod-caught, environmentally friendly tuna fish.
In 1972 tourism came to Maldives – initially in the form of adventurous diving club expeditions. Since then tourism and the infrastructure to support it has grown phenomenally. It is now the dominant wealth creator in Maldives and a highly sophisticated industry. Maldives is now a relatively rich country.
Maldives has a good all year round climate for holiday makers. Late Dec to April is the High Season when the sun shines almost every day and the winds blow gently from the North East off the Indian land mass. The temperatures are between 28C to 32C on average with very little rainfall.
In the months from May to early Dec the weather remains good but it is the time of the south west monsoon which blows a little harder than the north east and comes over the ocean gathering moisture as it does so. The temperatures remain about the same but conditions are less predictable with more occasional rain storms. Humidity is high throughout the year.
11. TYPES OF HOTELS / RESORTS
The word resort is sometimes used instead of hotel. It refers to one hotel on one island (unless it is in Male, the capital city, when it is a hotel in a street in the normally accepted sense).
The original Maldivian resorts were simple and designed mainly for diving enthusiasts who were more interested in being underwater than caring much about their accommodation. Things have changed dramatically since those days with a wide range of resorts available now to suit every pocket, every taste and every layer of luxury. The best of the diving heritage still remains. Protecting the underwater environment remains a priority both with the Government and with resort owners and every resort, to this day, will support a fully equipped dive base and diving school.
Many big brand name hotels are now in Maldives – Hilton , Four Seasons, Ban Yan Tree, Sun International (Kerzner), Six Senses,Taj, “W”, Sheraton, Constance, Marriot, Shangrilah, Viceroy, Chevel Blanc, One & Only, Taj, Dusit Thani – and more on the way. The remainder of the resorts is in the hands of very experienced Maldivian hoteliers. Even on the most expensive and luxurious resorts you are still close to nature and even while being pampered and spoiled you can fool yourself that you are playing at Robinson Crusoe.
There are good 4 star properties and cheep and cheerful 3 star properties as well as the famous 5 stars. The variation will be in the design and finish of the chalets, the staff guest ratio, the range of restaurant outlets, the variety and sophistication of the food and the quality of the spa.
12. HOUSE REEF
Most islands are surrounded by a ring of coral called the house reef. Between the beach and the reef the water is protected, quite shallow and very safe for swimming. The reef is the best place to snorkel where most of the fish life occurs. Beyond the reef is deep blue water where the bigger fish live, sharks, manta rays, sail fish etc. Some islands do not have a house reef being in sandy lagoons. If you are a keen snorkeler it is always a good question to ask – does the island have a house reef and how far from the shore is it? Resort islands without a house reef run boats out to neighboring reefs for snorkeling.
Spas. Most islands boast a spa now but the quality varies from one room and a masseuse to a whole delicious smelling complex, swarming with Thai girls and equipped with therapeutic plunge pools.
Pools, Most islands also have swimming pools which are very popular despite the island being surrounded by ocean.
Restaurants, All islands will have the main restaurant plus a coffee shop. The more expensive ones will have 5 or more choices of food outlets – the Conrad has 9 including one under water – ranging through Italian, Indian and Chinese to Japanese and specialist sea food restaurants.
Water Sports, All islands will have a water sports centre with sailing and windsurfing and most will have a speed launch for water skiing, parasailing etc. Instruction is available at all levels from qualified instructors.
Diving, All islands have a fully equipped dive base with qualified (normally PADI) instructors and equipment available for rent. They take out 2 dives daily for both beginners and the highly experienced and at least once a week they run a night dive. Beginners can achieve an Open Water Certificate in 5 days from scratch. No pre booking is necessary but you can sometimes get cheaper diving rates by booking ahead if you know what you want.
Tennis, Some resorts have tennis courts. If they do, they will also rent out rackets and balls or offer them free of charge. Some charge for the use of the courts and especially if flood lighting is used in the evenings. On sunny days it is too hot to play serious tennis between about 9am and 5pm.
Badminton, Some resorts have indoor badminton courts.
Beach Volley Ball is very popular and every resort will have a net on the beach. Some fierce competitions can develop between guests and staff.
Football, Most resorts will have a staff football pitch and guests often join in the staff games.
Golf, Maldives is not the place to come for serious golf but some islands (Kuredhu & Shagri-la) has created a 9 hole golf course.
Indoor Games, Table tennis and pool/snooker/billiards are available on almost all islands as well as a range of board games and well thumbed books in many languages.
Shops, Every island has at least one shop with souvenirs and toiletries on sale but some have shopping ‘arcades’. It is wise to stock up on simple items like toothpaste and sun cream before you leave home because such items are necessarily quite expensive in the resort shops.
Night Clubs, All islands will have a place where they hold discos and have live band shows and this can vary from the bar area to especially designated night club buildings or as in the case of the W resort – underground.
Time Zones, Maldives is GMT plus 5 hours or British Summer Time plus 4 hours. The resorts, however, choose their own times so do not be surprised if your resort is at Maldives plus 1 or 2 hours. They do it, mainly, so you can lie in, in the morning and still feel you are getting up as the day wakes and you can have a full day and still settle down to watch the sun set late in the evening. It helps to support the illusion of total timelessness of life in Maldives.
Internet, Most resorts will offer internet access at a dedicated place on the island and many now offer wifi or cable connection the rooms.
Electric Plugs and Supply. Maldives uses 3 pin square plugs and a 220-240 volt electricity supply as in UK.
14. SAFARI BOATS – LIVE ABOARD VESSELS
In Maldives live aboard vessels are called safari boats. They are a truly excellent way of holidaying in Maldives. They are available at all prices for diving, surfing or simply cruising.
There are cheap boats with simple cabins and shared bathrooms suitable for dive clubs or families who know each other well, or more expensive vessels with air conditioned cabins and en suite bathrooms, bars, sun decks and restaurants. Equator Link has vessels at all standards on its books at highly competitive prices. The crews are all Maldivian and very experienced. The atmosphere is very informal and the itinerary highly flexible depending on the mood of the passengers. You can move around Maldives with your house on your back and see many different Maldivian communities, resorts and uninhabited islands and travel fast or slow as the mood takes you. The vessels vary in size from 6 to 20 cabins
15. ACTIVITIES & EXCURSIONS
Maldives is not just for divers and honeymooners. As well as the activities referred to under FACILITIES, all islands run excursions and organize evening entertainment. Excursions can include visits to Maldivian fishing islands, picnics on uninhabited islands, trips to the capital city of Male, night fishing etc.
It is important to know that there is no public transport system in Maldives. Once on your resort island it is not easy to move off it. You can charter a speed boat or dhoni (native fishing boat) but they are relatively expensive.
There are speed launches for shorter transfers up to 20 miles from the airport, seaplane transfers to islands between 20 and 100 miles from the airport and domestic air services for resorts over 100 miles away). Some resorts offer both and give clients an option. The transfers are handled by the resorts which sign contracts with the competing seaplane and launch companies. Transfers are, therefore, an integral part of booking a room and are booked by the resort at the same time as the room.
The hotel will arrange the arrival and departure transfer around the scheduled timings of the long haul flight. It will not always coincide exactly and guests should be prepared for a wait sometimes for their transfer on arrival and sometimes for time in hand before check in on departure day.
Seaplanes can only fly in daylight and many launch journeys at night are also unsafe due to unlit coral reefs.
18. TRANSIT IN MALE
Guests arriving or departing on night flights or departing on early morning flights should think about making special arrangements. If the flight arrives at night and no night transfer is available, then overnight accommodation at or near the airport needs to be arranged. This also applies to early departures if the latest check in time is before 6.30.am. Equator Link offices can always advise on this. Guests departing on night flights may be brought to Male in the afternoon and have several hours to wait before check in opens. They may choose to take a day room at one of the hotels near to the airport.
It is best to make day room or overnight stay arrangements at time of booking and Equator Link can advise and holds rates for all the available options. The best and most expensive is Hulhule Island Hotel which is on the airport island. The cheaper options are in Male & Hulhumale’ which is a 10 minute ferry ride from the airport to Male’ and 15 minutes by a vehicle to Hulhumale. Equator Link staff will supervise the arrangements whatever the selection and can accompany guests to Male & Hulhumale’ and organize city tours or show them the restaurants, shops etc.
19. AIRLINE ARRIVALS & VOUCHERS
Airlines, The major scheduled airlines flying to Maldives are British Airways, Emirates, Sri Lankan Airlines, Qatar Airline, Fly Dhubai, Turkish Airline, Ethihad, Mega Maldives, Bangkok Airways, Japan Airlines, Oman Air, Sichuan Airline, China Eastern, Shanghai Airline, Tiger Air, Cathay Pacific, Dragon Air, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Austrian, Aeroflot, Condor, Silk Air and many more.
Accommodation Vouchers, Most guests will arrive with a voucher from their agent or tour operator outlining the facilities they have paid for. This voucher is collected by the Equator Link representative on arrival. Guests will be given a Equator Link voucher confirming these details. This is important because the booking will have been made locally by Equator Link and the resort may not acknowledge vouchers from organizations they are not contracted to.
20. BANNED ITEMS
The list of banned items is as for most countries – drugs, pornographic material etc but in particular alcohol, spear guns and dogs are not allowed.
All the normally expected kinds of alcoholic drinks are available for sale in the bars and restaurants of the resort islands but alcohol is not allowed on Maldivian community islands or in Male. Hence the ban on importing liquor so that strict controls can be maintained outside the resort islands. If guests bring alcohol to Maldives it will be taken off them at customs on arrival (all baggage is screened by customs on arrival). A receipt will be given and it is available for collection on departure.
All visitors from whatever country are issued with an immediate 30 day tourist visa on arrival.
23. VACCINATIONS AND DISEASE
No vaccinations are required for visiting Maldives. Maldives is an exceptionally clean place and free of all endemic disease. There cannot be many cities in the world where you have to take your shoes off to enter the public toilets in case you bring in any dirt from the street. Water supplies are carefully controlled (tap water can be safely drunk in Male) and so are all food outlets in the city and on resort islands.
24. MOSQUITOES AND BUGS
Maldives is entirely Malaria free and there have been no known cases in recent years of Malaria carrying mosquitoes in Maldives. There are other types of mosquitoes but not in any great numbers. It is definitely worth taking mosquito repellent. There are also a few other tropical bugs which can make you itch but not much more than on a summer’s day in UK. If a cockroach appears on your deck please do not berate the management. Contrary to popular belief they exist in the cleanest of places but are rare anyway in Maldives. They are quite harmless though they look fearsome. The friendly lizards (geckos) that live behind your curtains and on your picture rails are eating the mosquitoes so they are doing you a good turn – better not to disturb them.
US$ dollars are acceptable currency all over Maldives. The local currency is the Maldivian Rufiyaa (approx 15.42 to $1). All normal credit cards are accepted on resorts and in shops in Male. There is an HSBC branch in Male with ATM. While on the resort the chances are you will not actually need any currency. You will normally sign for everything and pay by credit card on departure.
There is a very sophisticated micro wave telephone system in Maldives with 2 competing providers of mobile services. IDD facilities are available on all resorts, sometimes in the rooms and on most live aboard vessels. Fax and internet access is available on all resorts. GSM phones work well on resorts close to a micro wave mast and there is a very efficient local mobile phone network. But beware – calls using the Maldivian system can be expensive.
- ENVIRONMENTMaldives is very aware that its environment is its livelihood. Great care is taken to protect the ocean life and to control waste. Visitors are asked to join Maldivians in protecting their environment by not depositing cans or plastics or any other litter in the ocean. Fish can be caught but fishing is not allowed within the house reefs of the resorts. Spear guns of all sorts are banned in Maldives. Fishing for shark is banned and also for turtle. The buying or selling of shark and turtle products is also prohibited. Guests are asked not handle or to stand on the corals. A coral which has taken many years to grow can be killed with a single touch. Hand feeding of shark and other fish is not encouraged since it upsets their natural habits and the general harmony of the ocean. Sharks in Maldives are friendly – or it is more accurate to say that they are arrogantly indifferent – to humans (there are tastier things to eat than people) and there has been no known harm come to any tourist through swimming in Maldives waters. The Maldivian Tourist Ministry regulations require resort developers to build on not more than 20% of the land mass of the island and not to build above the height of thetallest palm tree. They are also required to use natural and traditional materials where possible and to install waste control systems that ensure no damage can be done to the ocean or its creatures. One glance under water reveals the full richness of the Maldivian ocean environment. It is teeming with fish of all shapes, sizes and colours living among glistening corals. Each depends on the other and any upset to the harmony of the ocean threatens the happy balance that naturally exists28. MEAL PLANSSelection of the best meal plan for clients is very important in Maldives. In a mainland hotel you can eat out of the hotel or buy snacks or drinks in a supermarket to offset your hotel costs. On a Maldivian resort island you are committed to using only the hotel food and drink outlets. If the island has many restaurants then a bed and breakfast option may be best though usually in Maldives half board (breakfast and dinner) is a good choice. Most breakfasts finish at 0930 (though some go on to 10 or 1030) but if you breakfast late, you can snack beside the pool or in the coffee shop at lunch time and then be ready for dinner in the evening. Full Board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) is also offered but mainly on resorts with only one restaurant.All Inclusive is now offered on many resorts and is very popular. Each island will define it differently so read the fine print but it usually includes all drinks at the bar or at table taken by the glass (normally excluding champagne) plus non motorized water sports plus 3 meals a day. Meals on the all inclusive tariff must normally be taken in the main restaurant but some resorts offer discount in their other outlets if the guests book out of the main dining room in good time. There are now some that offer dine around options when guests are free to eat anywhere up to certain value and top up if necessary.29. MEDICALMost islands have a first aid room, sometimes with a nurse or even a doctor. Otherwise the best medical expertise is usually found at the dive base where first aid skills are mandatory for diving instructors. In the event of a serious problem requiring hospitalisation guests can be evacuated by seaplane (daylight only) or by boat to Male. The Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital (government owned) or the ADK Hospital (private) both are extremely well equipped and run, with operating theatres and with physicians in all major disciplines. If suitable treatment is not available in Male then evacuation to Singapore or Dubai or direct to UK is recommended. It is important to have good medical insurance in place. Even the costs of evacuation to Male can be considerable.30. RESORT STAFFThe staff on the resorts are normally Maldivian boys who guests will find to be charming and very friendly. They are mainly resident on the resort though some resorts run staff boats to local islands for those that live close by. Some resorts with appropriate staff quarters now employ girls. There are still some Sri Lankan boys to be found as barmen and most of the accountants are Indian or Sri Lankan. The big brand hotels will normally employ expatriate managers and chefs but there are also Maldivian managed resorts. Spas employ mainly Thai, Indonesian, Phillipino and Indian staff.31. NATIONALITIES OF GUESTSGuests from all over the world arrives Maldives;- British, Italians, Germans, Japanese, Swiss, French, Scandinavians, Russians, Chinese, Spanish etc. Guests should be prepared for a mixture of nationalities on their resorts. Equator Link tries not to send guests to resorts dominated by one particular nationality.32. CONVERSINGEnglish is widely spoken in Maldives but the local language is Dhivehi. It is wise to remember that most waiters and room boys will be trying to speak in many languages to please all tourists. They will manage to speak to you in English but their vocabulary is likely to be limited. It is best to keep the words in your replies, requests and conversation as simple as possible. Long words, idioms or slang may not to be in their repertoire.33. WHO SHOULD COME
Maldives is attractive for an increasingly large range of people. It is for anyone seeking tropical sunshine and total peace of mind surrounded by the most beautiful and bountiful ocean in the world.
It can be an active or inactive holiday depending on your mood. Activities include anything to do with the ocean – swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing, fishing, water skiing etc plus visits to other islands, a game of tennis in the evening or a challenge to the staff at a game of beach volley ball. Inactivity can be sunbathing, reading all the books you have not had time for at home, chatting at the bar, rediscovering the art of conversation with someone you love, wallowing in the ocean or snoozing in the shade.
Anyone who wants to be relieved of the pressure of life for a few precious days should come to Maldives. There are no decisions to be made and an opportunity to suspend real life for as long as you can afford. Anyone who wants to spend private time with a special companion in beautiful and friendly surroundings should come to Maldives. There is no place better.
Any lover of water sports and especially diving must come to Maldives.
Gourmets also can now come to Maldives. Food is often simple and geared around the fresh fish but, increasingly, gourmet food is now also available with sophisticated and ingenious variations.
Night life is quite simple. Most resorts will offer a disco once a week and a live band on another night. There will be crab racing to bet on and other simple pastimes. If you go out in the evening and catch a fish some resorts will set up a barbecue on the beach for you and you can cook your own fish and eat it out of a banana leaf. They might even send a boy up a tree to fetch you a coconut to go with it while one of his friends strums a guitar with some familiar tunes. Food does not come fresher nor the entertainment more spontaneous.
On the whole the smaller and less famous the resort the more informal and relaxed they are likely to be. On the bigger and better known resorts you will find more sophistication and, often now, dedicated night clubs.
Children We are often asked which islands are best for children. The real answer is that they all are. Maldives is a perfect playground for children of all ages. Inside the reef, the ocean is as safe as it could be for all ages with no waves and gentle shallow water. Children can roam and play on the island unsupervised in perfect safety. They cannot get lost and they can come to no harm. For older or more adventurous children there is so much to do with or without parents that time will run out before they have tried everything. Dress is informal and bare feet the most normal footwear. This is a children’s paradise but more importantly it allows the parents a worry free time while their children are having fun. Maldivians love children. They mostly come from large families and are a bit homesick on the resort. If a child wanders into the staff quarters they will be welcomed like one of their own brothers or sisters. Parents may find it difficult to get them out! Baby sitting may not be offered formally in the resort prospectus but any Maldivian room boy or waiter will baby sit, any time for a few rufiyaas or just for the love of it.
Old Folks Who is classified as old these days? In simple terms Maldives will suit all age groups if they are mobile. It is not suitable for wheel chairs or for the very infirm. So long as you can step on and off a boat with as many helping hands as you need and walk the 50 meters to the bar you can enjoy Maldives.
Maldives is very informal. Shorts, T shirt and flip flops are all you really need. Most people dress up a little bit for dinner, mainly for their own pleasure. Many will not bother. Sleeveless singlets and Speedo briefs are a little offensive to other guests at mealtimes but otherwise almost anything goes. Nakedness is forbidden under Maldivian law so nude or topless bathing is not allowed and if guests visit Male or a Maldivian island, they should respect the Islamic customs and be covered to the knee and cover their shoulders.
Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is a modern airport with a recently extended runway which can take all large passenger jet airliners. It has modern, sophisticated navigation aids and plans for a second parallel runway. The terminals are simple but air conditioned with all normal facilities including computer dispatch systems, duty free shops, banking, restaurants, business class lounge etc.
The airport is itself an island so all arriving passengers transfer to their resorts from the airport by boat or by domestic flight. The transfer boat jetty and domestic air terminal is close to the international the arrivals departure terminals. The seaplane base is a courtesy bus ride across the main runway to the other side of the airport. There is one hotel on the airport island. It is the Hulhule Island Hotel geared mainly for passengers in transit. It is extremely well equipped with comfortable rooms, swimming pool, bars, dining rooms etc. They provide courtesy buses to and from the terminals and a free ferry to Male. As well as overnight rooms and day rooms they offer a lower tariff for use of a shower and left luggage rooms and also access to the pool. It is the only place except the resort islands and safari boats where alcohol is served.
36. DRINKING WATER
Water on the resort islands and in Male is desalinated and purified and can be drunk from the tap. It sometimes has a strong taste because of the processing it has received and most guests prefer to drink bottled water. Some resorts offer a bottle of water free each day, the more enlightened put bottles of chilled desalinated drinking water in the room (some even offer it in sparkling form). There are still some resorts, unfortunately, who give no free water and ask you to buy bottled water. They will also tell you that the desalinated water is not drinkable even if it is!
37. CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR
Christmas and New Year are celebrated in style on all resort islands. Among other things they will have a special lunch or dinner on Christmas Day and on New Year’s Eve. They charge a supplement for these and it is a mandatory supplement for all guests in the resort at that time. The supplement rate is contained in Equator Link rate sheets.
38. GIFTS FOR ANNIVERSARIES/ HONEYMOONERS etc
All resorts will offer something special for honeymooners or for occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries. Please notify Equator Link at time of booking to be sure the guests receive their gifts. The gift will vary from resort to resort but usually consists of a bottle of wine and fruit basket or a birthday cake and some special handling. Room boys will normally decorate the beds with flowers and waiters will carry in flaming cakes etc.
All resorts operate a policy of charging for cancellations. This is outlined on the Equator Link rate sheet. Be sure to receive a written confirmation of cancellation if outside the period to ensure that charges are not applied.
40. MALE, THE CAPITAL ISLAND
Male is the capital of Maldives and is on an island approx 1mile long and half a mile wide. It is a 10 minute ferry ride from the airport island. The ferries run every 15 minutes and cost $1 each way or 10 Maldivian Rufiyaa. Male has a shopping district for tourists and an ever growing number of good restaurants and outdoor cafes. It has hotels offering day rooms or overnight rooms for guests awaiting flights or transfers. The fishing quay and fish market are worth a visit when the fish are coming in, in the late afternoon and evening. It has roads and cars and commercial traffic. There is an easy to use taxi service with simple tariff. Taxi drivers do not expect tips. There is also an especially designed sea water swimming pool on the beach in Male with showers and changing rooms. There is a branch of HSBC bank and ATM facilities.
It is not possible to get married formally in Maldives but many resorts offer very charming blessing ceremonies with the couple processing through the island to the cheers of staff and other guests then being enthroned and garlanded with flowers with blessings intoned by a priest this is normally followed by a sumptuous feast..
If a problem arises guests should contact Equator Link in Maldives in the first instance. Contact numbers as below:
phone; +960 6893997
Fax; +960 6893998
Call us Now; +960 7782454