The Maldives encompass a chain of more than a thousand small, low-lying coral islands. Created by the peaks of an ancient submerged volcanic mountain range, the islands are protected from the open ocean by barrier reefs that enclose crystal-clear lagoons and brilliant white beaches. The atoll stretches across the equator in a thin strip 452 miles long and 70 miles wide. There are no hills or rivers in the Maldives and none of the islands rise more than nine feet above sea level. It is feared that the whole archipelago could be submerged within 30 years because of the rising sea level caused by the greenhouse effect.
The history of the Maldives can be divided into two stages - before and after the conversion to Islam in 1153. According to a theory by Kon-Tiki explorer Thor Heyerdahl, the islands lying at the trading crossroads of several ancient maritime nations date from around 2000 BC. The first settlers are thought to have arrived from Ceylon and southern India at around 500 BC. While there is no concrete information of the pre-Muslim period, the second stage is well documented through a series of sultanic dynasties to the recent birth and rebirth of the republic. In the long history of the Maldives little interference was experienced from colonial powers except for a 15-year occupation by the Portuguese in the mid-16th century; it was a British protectorate from 1887 to 1965.
Visitors are subject to certain restrictions that limit them to the resorts and the capital, Malé. Covering only one square mile, the town is packed with over 60,000 residents. To create more space, the boundaries of the island have been extended over the past 30 years through land reclamation. Business activities are concentrated toward the north end of the island, around Marine Drive and the harbor. The reclaimed land is mainly to the south; a new harbor, inaugurated in the southeast corner of the city in late 1992, has helped to ease the load on the already over extended old port. Malé itself has no beaches, but there are over 70 resort islands surrounding the capital. Their main features include excellent facilities that are centered around the sea and its spectacular marine life. Snorkelers and divers will experience an incredible underwater world; swimmers can enjoy the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.
Please Note: Our call falls during the time of Ramadan, when Moslems fast from daybreak until sunset each day. Non-Moslems are requested to avoid eating, drinking or smoking in the presence of Moslems during this period. Some hotel restaurants remain open during this time, but will not serve alcohol except after sunset.
While in Malé, the ship will be at anchor. The ship's tenders will bring guests ashore in Malé. The town can easily be covered on foot in about 30 minutes.
Local handicrafts and imported goods are sold at competitive prices in Malé. Browse through a number of shops to compare prices before making a purchase. Souvenirs may include woven reed mats, model dhonis (boats) and sea shells. Be aware that tortoise-shell products are banned in many countries, including the U.S.A. and Britain. The local currency is the rufiyaa.
Fish and rice provide the local staple. Meat and chicken are usually reserved for festivals or special occasions. The only fruit to thrive is the coconut; almost everything else is imported. Traditional food tends to be very spicy and is rarely served to Westerners. Roshi is a flat bread eaten with soup, kurumba refers to a coconut drink, and hedhikaa is a selection of savory tidbits and sweets which are commonly placed on the table in Malé cafés.
Don't miss a walk around this compact and surprisingly sophisticated town to experience some of its local flavor. All of its attractions are within easy walking distance from the tender landing. Lightweight, moderate dress is recommended; beach wear is to be worn only at the resorts. Nude or topless sunbathing is not permitted in the Maldives. National Museum Exhibits in this former sultan's palace include a small collection of the sultan's belongings and recently discovered stone carvings from pre-Muslim civilizations found by Thor Heyerdahl. The museum is located in a park offering a pleasant oasis in the otherwise treeless island. The park is only open to the public on Fridays. Islamic Center & Grand Friday Mosque The three-story Islamic Center is Malé's most noted architectural landmark. Built in 1984 with the help of the Gulf States, the mosque's minaret is the tallest structure in Malé. Visits must be outside of scheduled prayer times. The prayer hall, with room for 6,000 worshippers, has beautiful carved wood panels and doors. Market Place Located on Marine Drive is the fish market. It is busiest in the afternoon when dozens of boats arrive with the day's catch. Nearby is the colorful fruit and vegetable market.
Diving, snorkelling, sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing, fishing, and tennis are available in the various resorts. The Maldives offers some of the world's best diving; a PADI or CMAS certificate is required.
The Resort Islands
There are over 70 resort islands in the Maldives. Each island features hotels, but the facilities vary from one resort to the next. During high season, admittance of day guests is limited. The Tour Manager will check closer to ship's arrival whether trips to some of the island's resorts may be offered. The following may be available:
Located about 30 minutes from Malé by boat, this resort features a swimming pool, scuba, snorkelling, windsurfing, and tennis.
Located on the island of Furana about 30 minutes from Malé, Full-Moon Beach offers a variety of watersports and beautiful white-sand beaches. Diving, snorkelling, sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing, fishing and tennis are available at the resorts; divers must present a PADI or CMAS certificate.
Light cotton clothing is recommended. T-shirts or blouses must be worn, and a skirt or shorts that cover the thighs is required except when staying at the resort islands. Nude or topless sunbathing is not permitted in the Maldives.
Silver Shore Privato is unavailable in Malé, due to the very limited number of qualified guides and suitable vehicles. Guests wishing to consider any private arrangements should enquire at Shoreconcierge@silversea.com for any availability, if even possible, and price.
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