Meemu Atoll Maldives
Dream holidays and diving in the Maldives
Dream holidays? Diving holidays? The Maldives are perfectly suited for that. No matter if you are diving or snorkelling – you will find the cream of diving holidays on one of our Maldivian islands or on our safari boat. You have the choice: Medhufushi, Filitheyo, Bathala, Kuda-Funafaru, Dholhiyadhoo or liveaboard with our safari boat MY Sheena.
The Maldives in the Indian Ocean offer palm trees, sandy white beaches, peace and the sound of the sea.
Underwater they offer manta rays, whale sharks, dolphins and nearly every other kind of big fish. Drift diving and diving with the underwater scooter at one of our fantastic reefs or tilas is just as feasible as doing a diving course on the house reef. Of course, Nitrox is for free. The Maldives is our home for almost 30 years and diving there is our passion.
Millions of years ago, in a tumult of geological change, a great range of volcanoes rose from the floor of the Indian Ocean. Over the years the volcanoes sank back leaving only coral reefs in the expanse of the sea.
They finally transformed into tiny islands, and adventurous sailors in search of wealth, drifted upon them.
A string of pearls scattered over the deep blue Indian Ocean - The first glimpse you get of this fascinating atoll- formation confirms two unique aspects of the Republic of Maldives:
Not only does it consist of the most beautiful tropical islands, but 99% of its 90.000 km² is covered by the sea. 1190 islands are spread over 26 the natural atolls, ringlike coral formations enclosing a lagoon, which gives the Maldives its unique paradise-like appearance.
No more than 200 islands are inhabited, the rest includes the 89 tourist islands (92 resorts) and uninhabited islands, some of which are used for drying fish or other agricultural activities.
The islands are approximatly no more than six feet above sea level. The islands are grouped into 26 natural (nineteen administrative) 'atolls', and vary in size and character.
Some are sandbanks, while others are tropical islands, with lush vegetation, ringed with coral reefs, turquoise lagoons full of marine life, and white sandy beaches.
Only an hour's flight away from India or Sri Lanka, the Maldives today is best known for its white sandy beaches, crystalline lagoons and azure blue skies - a holiday maker's dream.
It is about 10 hours flying from London via Dubai, or 4 hours from Karachi, 1 hour from Colombo and 4 hours from Singapore.
Southwest of India and Sri Lanka, Indian Ocean.
Latitude : 07° 06'30" N to 00° 41'48" S.
Longitude : 72° 32'30" E to 73° 45'54" E.
The shortest distance from the mainland of India is 217 miles (350 km) and from Sri Lanka 460 miles (740 km).
1.190 Coral islands, grouped into atolls, stretch along the 73rd meridian between latitudes 0 42' south and 8 10' north, for a distance of 468.3 miles (753.6 km), with a width of 73.4 (118.1 km) from east to west.
200 Islands are inhabited, 89 are exclusive resort islands.
Land Area : 1.190 islands with a land area of 115 square miles (298 sq. km)
Sea Area : Approx. 41.500 square miles (107.500 sq. km)
LEGEND: has it that a prince and his wife, the daughter of the King of today's Sri Lanka, stopped at Raa Atoll during a voyage and were invited to stay as rulers. Later King Koimala and his wife settled in Malé with permission of the Giraavaru tribe, the aboriginal tribe of Kaafu atoll. Nowadays Giraavaru people are still easily recognisable through their clothes and hairstyle, but only a few hundred of them are left and were resettled in Malé in 1978. Their island, Giraavaru has been transformed into a tourist resort.
FACT: Early settlers were travellers on the Silk Route and from the Indus Valley Civilisation. Inherently warm, friendly and hospitable by nature, it is easy to feel comfortable and relaxed with a Maldivian. Aryans from India and Sri Lanka are believed to have settled in the Maldives from 1500 BC onwards - according to latest archaeological findings. ''Elu'', an archaic form of Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka) shows great similarities to Dhivehi. As a favourite stop-over on the busy trade routes, the Maldives have had many visitors and influences, trading with Arabia, China and India with coconut, dried fish and above all the precious cowry shell, a small white shell found on the beach, used as currency in countries near the Indian Ocean. These shells were found as far away as Norway or West Africa showing the extent of the trade relations of the Maldives.
Conversion to Islam
Mohamed Ibn Batuta, a Moroccan traveller who visited the Maldives in the 14th century recorded an interesting legend on how the country converted to Islam. Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary, an Islamic scholar, visited the Maldives during a time when people lived in fear of the ''Rannamaari'', a sea-demon, who came out of the sea once a month threatening to destroy everything unless a virgin was sacrificed. The unfortunate young girls were chosen by lot, had to stay in a temple near the seashore and were found raped and dead in the morning. The daughter of the house he was staying at had been selected to be the victim and he decided to save her. Disguised as a girl he spent the night in the temple reciting continuously from the Holy Koran. In the morning when people went to find out the fate of the chosen girl they were amazed to find him alive and still reciting the Koran. When the King found out that the demon had been defeated through the power of the Holy Koran he embraced Islam and ordered all the subjects to follow him.
The Portuguese had a keen interest in the Maldives due to the availability of cowry shells, and ambergris, an important ingredient in perfumes, and had been approached by the formerly expelled Sultan, Hassan IX to help him regain his throne. Three attempts were repelled mainly due to Ali Rasgefaanu, who proved to be a brave and tough fighter. He became Sultan Ali VI but only for a few months as he was killed during another Portuguese attack, dying a martyr's death. His tomb, built at the very spot where he died in the sea is now on dry land due to the reclamation of land in Malé. Martyr's day, a public holiday, has been devoted to him. The next 15 years saw the darkest period in Maldivian history, when the Portuguese tried to enforce Christianity upon the islanders. Mohamed Thakurufaanu and his two brothers from the island of Utheemu, used a form of guerilla warfare for eight long years, during which one of the brothers was caught and beheaded. Their strategy was to land on an island at night, kill the Portuguese in a surprise attack and sail off before dawn. Thakurufaanu sought the help of the Malabari, killed the Portuguese leader Andreas Andre, locally known as Andiri Andirin, and recaptured Malé. He was made Sultan and reigned for 12 years forming a trained standing army, introducing coins, improving trade and religious observance and founding a dynasty that lasted for 132 years.
The British Protectorate
On December 16, 1887 the Sultan of the Maldives signed a contract with the British Governor of Ceylon turning the Maldives into a British protectorate. The British government promised the Maldives military protection and non-interference in local administration in exchange for an annual tribute paid by the Maldives. In 1957 the British established a RAF base in the strategic southernmost atoll of Addu for £2000 a year, where hundreds of locals were employed. 19 years later the British government decided to give up the base, as it was too expensive to maintain.
The Maldives gained independence on July 26, 1965.Three years later a republic was declared with Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir as the first president. In 1978 President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom became president and has been re-elected thrice since then. A coup attempt in 1988 by Sri Lankan mercenaries was successfully repelled. Small as it is the Maldives has always maintained independence and a strong unity despite influences and threats from outside. They are now an internationally renowned country, a member of the UN, WHO, SAARC, Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement and others and play an important role in advocating the security of small nations and the protection of the environment.
The country has a long and eventful history and has been an independent sovereign state except for a brief occupation by the Portuguese during the 16th century. Maldives became a British Protectorate in the mid-fifties and gained full independence in July 26, 1965. That same year it also became a member of the United Nations. The country has a Republican government with an elected president as the head of the state. It was converted to Islam in the 12th century AD. Maldives has been a100% Muslim State for more than 800 years. Although official Maldivian History only begins in the twelfth century, literary works and archeological remains provide clues to earlier pre-Islamic eras. Maldives was a port of call for many great sea faring civilizations that roamed the high seas, long before European Maritime History began. A roman coin dated 90 BC has been discovered in the Maldives, and since it was the Egyptians who taught the Romans how to cross the Indian Ocean, it may not be fanciful to imagine the great Egyptian papyrus boats with their colorful square sails sailing towards the Maldives. Perhaps the Maldivians modeled the elegant curved bows of their boats from the Egyptians, and the Women, the beautifully embroidered collar pieces of their dresses.
The first reference to Maldives is in the second century writings of the Greek astronomer, mathematician and geographer, Ptolemy, who refers to it as "1378 little Islands west of Taprobane (Sri Lanka). Since then, many travelers have referred to it: Pappus Alexandria who lived at the end of the 4th century mentions Taprobane and the 1370 adjacent islands. Scholasticus, the Theban who visited the Malabar Coasts mentions "a thousand islands and their treacherous nature since they had loadstone rocks which attracted iron-bound vessels to their destruction". The Persian Merchant Suleiman (9th Century) who crossed the Indian Ocean, wrote: " in the sea known as the sea of Herkend, there are nearly 1900 islands and the ruler is a woman, and that their wealth consisted of cowries". Ma Huan who traveled with Cheng Ho's great expedition to east Africa in 1433, identifies some of the islands and tells how foreign ships travel from afar to purchase ropes, in his Overall Survey of the Ocean's Shores. At the time of the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese were familiar with the islands and called it the submerged mountain chain (Liu Shan), and wrote aboute the climate, geography, and customs of these islands.
500 BC Possibly the first settles arrive on the islands.
1152 AD Conversion to Islam; start of the sultanate.
1558 The Maldivian nation enters a dark era under the Portuguese that lasts for approximately 15 years.
1573 Portuguese rule comes to an end after a successful Maldivian uprising.
1752 The Ali Rajas attack the archipelago, kidnap the sultan and take over the islands. Their victory is short-lived and after a few weeks the Maldivians gain their independence again.
1887 Maldives becomes a British protectorate.
1932 The first constitution is drawn but discarded in 1939.
1953 Maldives becomes a republic after abolishing the sultanate, but the country reverts back to the sultanate shortly afterwards.
1956 The British lease the island of Gan in the southern-most atoll of Seenu (Addu).
1957 Ibrahim Nasir is elected prime minister. He changes the conditions of the lease on Gan and demands that the British stop employing local labour.
1959 Objecting to Nasir's changes, the inhabitants of the three southernmost atolls protest against the government. They form the United Suvadive Islands and elect a president, Abdulla Afif Didi.
1962 Nasir dispatches gunboats to end the rebellion in the southern atolls. Afif Didi other leaders are banished to different islands.
1965 The British relinquish protectorate status. Maldives becomes independent.
1968 The second republic is formed with Ibrahim Nasir as president.
1972 The country is opened to tourism.
1974 On 24th June a crowd gathers to protest against the rising food prices. Nasir orders the police to open fire.
1978 Fearing for his life, Nasir retires to Singapore. Abdul Gayyoom is elected the new president. He denounces Nasir's regime and banishes its corrupt members.
1980 An attempted coup against coup Gayyoom fails and more people are banished including foreign mercenaries.
1988 Gayyoom is re-elected for his third term of office. A few months later local businessmen, aided by Sri Lankan mercenaries, try to overthrow the government. The National Security Service manages to apprehend the perpetrators.
1993 President Abdul Gayyoom is re-elected for the fourth term.
1998 President Abdul Gayyoom is re-elected for the fifth term.
Dhivehi and English.
Dhivehi, an indigenous language is spoken in all parts of the Maldives. Divehi is a language with roots in old South Asian languages, mixed with Arabic, Hindi and English words. English is the main taught language at schools while Dhivehi is still the language used for the overall administration.
Most people in Male and tourist resorts speak English.
In the resorts, a variety of languages are spoken by the staff including English, German, French, Italian and Japanese.
Due to the widespread distribution of the islands, differences in pronunciation and vocabulary have developed, especially between the north and south atolls. People in Malé cannot understand for example the dialect used by the people of Seenu Atoll (Addu).
The class- system in Dhivehi Inherent in the Dhivehi language is a form of class distinction expressed through three levels:
The first level, the ''reethi bas'' or nice language, was and is still used to address members of the upper class, but is now more often used on national radio and TV.
To show respect for elders, officials and strangers the second level is used.
Most people use the more informal last level in every day life.
Peculiarities of Dhivehi
It's interesting to hear how English words have been ''Dhivehinized'' by adding the ending-u; e.g. computer becomes computaru. Recently committees have been established to reintroduce Dhivehi words and to add new ones.
''Hello'' and ''Good bye'' are not used in Dhivehi, instead someone might greet you with a smile or the raising of the eyebrow and just ask ''kihineh?'' (how are you?). Or they might just ask you where you are going, ''kon thaakah dhanee?'', since they already know how you are, as is often the case in such close communities.
Goodbyes are usually expressed by announcing ''dhanee!'' (I'm going). Last but not least the often-overused word ''Thank you'' is not really part of the language, but has been introduced recently through the Indian word ''Shukriyya''. Maldivians are naturally hospitable and generous people and consider a ''Thank you'' unnecessary.