Information about the Maldives Islands

The People

The Maldives has been a crossroads for sea traders for many centuries and the origin of the people of the country is mixed. Not much is known of the early history of the island people but the language and some archaeological finds of Buddhist relics indicate that the early settlers were from the southern Indian continent and the Buddhist Singalese from Sri Lanka. Now, of course, the Maldives population of 240,000 is entirely Muslim.

Today, the current President is Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who took his position in February 2012.

Maldives history
  • 1153 - Islam was adopted after the visit

    1153: Islam was adopted after the visit of a Muslim saint

  • 1513 - Male attacked by the Portuguese

    1513: Male attacked by the Portuguese from their colony in Goa, India. They built a fort in 1518. The Portuguese were thrown out shortly afterwards.

  • 1609 - Male was attacked by pirates who

    Male was attacked by pirates who killed the Sultan and caused considerable damage.

  • 1631 - The Portuguese attempted to storm

    The Portuguese attempted to storm Male but failed and were driven off with great losses.

  • 1752 - Male attacked by the Ali Raja of Malabar

    Male attacked by the Ali Raja of Malabar in a fleet of ships. After setting fire to many of the buildings and ransacking the palace, the pirates stayed for a few months until the Maldivians under the leadership of Hassan Manikufanu threw them out. The Ali Raja continued to lay siege to Male until eventually driven away with the help of a fleet of French Men O'War under the command of Monsieur Termellier. He was known with affection by the Maldivians as Moustri Mili and is buried on Male.

  • 1818-19 - A great famine occurred all over the islands

    A great famine occurred all over the islands and a massive tornado struck devastating many islands, homes and boats.

  • 1887 - The Maldives and Great Britain signed

    The Maldives and Great Britain signed an agreement which gave the country the status of a protected state.

  • 1953 - First Republic declared.

    First Republic declared.

  • 1968 - Declaration of second republic.

    Declaration of second republic.

  • 1558 - Male captured again by the Portuguese

    Male captured again by the Portuguese who remained there until they were all killed by the Maldivian Hero, Muhammad Takurufanu.

  • 1649 - Further attempt to take Male by

    Further attempt to take Male by Portuguese, driven off by heavy cannon fire from the fort.

  • 1761 - A further assault by the fleet of Ali

    A further assault by the fleet of Ali Raja which was beaten off by a brave attack using "dhonis".

  • 1835 - The first survey of the islands was

    The first survey of the islands was undertaken by the British Admiralty under the command of Robert Moresby.

  • 1932 - The first written constitution

    The first written constitution of the Maldives was proclaimed.

  • 1953 - Republic dissolved and the Sultanate

    Republic dissolved and the Sultanate re-established.

  • 1965 - End of British agreement. Independence

    End of British agreement. Independence and entry into the United Nations.

  • 1976 - British complete withdrawal of all

    British complete withdrawal of all forces from the South of the country.

The Republic of the Maldives is a chain of around 1200 islands stretching 750km across the Indian Ocean with the northernmost island at 7° 06" N and the southernmost island just crossing the Equator at 0° 42" S. The exact number of islands varies according to the season and method of classification - islands come and go with the wind, waves and currents!

The tiny islands are geographically grouped into ring shaped reefs called "atolls" and there are 26 of these atoll formations. An atoll encloses a central lagoon with a flat, sandy bottom at a relatively shallow depth of 40-100m. The outer reef, which forms many of the islands, is often broken by deep channels that allow oceanic water to flow into and out of the central lagoon. Inside the atoll there are numerous smaller ring shaped reefs and tillas.

Of the 1200 islands only 200 are inhabited by local Maldivian people, nearly 100 islands have been developed as tourist resorts and the remaining islands are uninhabited.

While there are 26 geographical atolls, most of the resorts are in North Male, South Male, Ari, Felidhu, Baa and Lhaviyani Atolls. However, all of the Atolls are now open to tourists and the government continues to encourage the development of new tourist resorts in the outer atolls.

The Climate

Being in the monsoon belt of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives experience quite a complex weather pattern although the temperature remains fairly constant. Many people think of monsoons are periods of high rainfall, but in fact the wind is the key factor.

There are two seasons in the Maldives: a dry northeast monsoon (called Iruvai by the Maldivians) and a wet southwest monsoon (hulhagu). From May to November the prevailing winds are from the southwest and bring an average of 215mm of rainfall and 208 hours of sunshine per month. Around mid December the winds veer to the northeast and, with the change in direction, bring a much drier climate. Rainfall averages 75mm (3in) per month in this season, the average monthly sunshine is 256 hours.

Maldivian days are hot and humid throughout the year, with temperatures of about 25-30º C (72-80º F) and humidities of 60-80%. There is not much difference in terms of sunshine between the seasons but a huge difference in the amount of rainfall – just as in any tropical country. When it rains in the Maldives it rains hard and usually for just a short time.

The Maldives is sometimes affected by cyclones passing through the Bay of Bengal; the most likely times for these are April/May and again in October/November. However, these storms seldom pass close to the Maldives and, when they do, the effects are generally short-lived. The area either side of the equator is well known to mariners as the Doldrums on account of its weak winds.

The weather pattern has a strong influence on the currents. During the northeast monsoon, ocean currents are driven through the atoll channels from the northeast; conversely, during the southwest monsoon, they flow into the atolls from the southwest. These patterns have enormous significance for the diving and we discuss this in the pages giving diving information.

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