The Maldives – The beautiful archipelago of around 1,190 tiny islands in 26 naturally occurring atolls that is the Maldives straddles the equator to the South West of Sri Lanka. The atolls are divided into 20 administrative ones, with the capital Male’ established as an entity of its own forming the 21st division.
The perfection of the Maldivian atolls is attested to by the fact that that the word ‘atoll’ in the English Language – meaning ‘ring-shaped coral reef enclosing a lagoon’, is a borrowing from the Maldivian language – Dhivehi.
Only 202 of the islands that stretches 820 kilometers north to south and 120 kilometres east to west are inhabited; 990 uninhabited and 93 are exclusive resort islands. Of her total 298 km2 (34, 750 square miles) area, 99 percent of the Maldives is sea and only 0.331 percent, 298 km2 (115 square miles) is land.
The exact number of islands in the archipelago remains an unsolved mystery to this day. The British Admiralty chart lists some 1,100 islands, while a recent government count records 1,196. If sand bars and coral outcrops were included the figure would be closer to 2,000. Obtaining an accurate figure is further impeded by the fact that islands form while others disappear. Some islands are known to have combined, as others have split in to two and occasionally new islets have been known to form over coral reefs.
These small, picturesque islands with dense tropical vegetation including shrubs, flowering plants and tall coconut palms surrounded by blindingly white beaches, crystalline lagoons that exhibit all shades of blue is the combination that has acclaimed Maldives as paradise on Earth.
Most of the islands can be walked across in no more than ten minutes; only a few are bigger than two square kilometers. Although most islands are less than a mile long, the merging of beaches, crystal waters, and crisp blue skies create a sense of infinite vastness – a natural openness that is rare; spelling a beckoning tranquility.