Country profile: Maldives
The Maldives lie in Asia’s south-west corner, running in a north – south line across the equator, just off the south-west coasts of India and Sri Lanka. The Maldives is made up of a chain of nearly 1,200 islands, most of them uninhabited, which lie off the Indian sub-continent. None of the coral islands measures more than 1.8 metres (six feet) above sea level, making the country vulnerable to a rise in sea levels associated with global warming. There is a fear that as sea levels rise, island countries such as the Maldives, and some Pacific territories, will simply be swamped and disappear.
The lagoons are mostly a beautiful turquoise blue and there are amazing coral reefs. These provide an impressive backdrop for scuba-diving and snorkelling. The underwater wildlife is exceptional with many species such as the butterfly fish and the bluestripe snapper to be seen and for those feeling brave, sharks and stingrays can be observed alongside dolphins. This very aquatic environment also means there is plenty of provision for visitors to enjoy other pastimes such as surfing, sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing, parasailing, jet skiing, big game and night fishing. Tourism has not been allowed to have a big impact on the islands traditional Muslim communities, or the natural environment. This has been achieved by most tourist destinations being located on individual islands, away from day to day traffic and crime.
The people of the Maldives are increasingly exposed to foreign influences that make an impression on their culture, but they maintain traditional elements in particular through music and dance especially for public occasions and celebrations. The Divehi culture that is considered quite contemporary is well advertised in songs of rock bands and in much architecture. Local laws and customs are strongly against drugs and alcohol, penalties are harsh and alcohol is only licensed in a few exclusive resorts, religion is also considered very precious and public observance of any religion except Islam is an offence.
|Population||309,000 (UN, 2009)|
|Language||Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English|
|Life expectancy||M: 72 years F: 73 years|
|No. doctors||302 (9 per 10,000 population)|