|The Maldives is a nation of coral islands scattered
across the Indian Ocean. Geographically, it is located between 72o
32’ 30” E 73o 45’ 54” E and 7o 06’ 30”
N to 0o 41’ 48” S, which puts her just north of the Equator
and southwest of the Indian peninsular. |SHOW
The Maldivian archipelago consists of about 1190 small low-lying coral
islands of which few of them are, just a meter above sea level. These
islands stretch more than 800 km from north to south covering a total
area of about 90,000 square km of which about 99% is water. 200 islands
are inhabited while 87 islands are developed as resort islands. The
fragile house reefs of these islands act as a barrier of protection
from tides and waves. These reefs also contribute to the formation
of sand and continuation of the life cycle of the marine species.
It also acts as a habitat to thousands of tiny and large organisms.
The former British protectorate that gained independence in 1965 is
famous for its splendid white beaches, crystal clear lagoons and peaceful
tranquillity of nature’s blessing. This unique creation of nature
naturally forms 26 atolls, which for administrative purposes are made
into 20 by the government. This small republic was a kingdom before
it was declared a republic. The population is estimated 265,000 in
1999. The ethnic origin of the natives is still in debate among scholars
and researchers, but it is evident that there is a close resemblance
with the South Asian, Southeast Asian, Arabic and African cultures
and influence. Maldivians speak in a unique language called dhivehi
and have their own transcript thaana for writing.
Maldivian economy was traditionally based on fisheries till the emergence
of tourism as its foreign currency generator in the late 20th century.
The introduction of tourism to the small island nation transformed
the economy from a primary to a tertiary industry-driven economy,
making tourism the most dependable industry of the country. Tourism
being a service industry has direct and indirect links to all other
major and minor industries of the economy. During the last two and
half decades the Maldivian way of life has been changing in all aspects
keeping pace with economic development. But still the lifeline depends
on the sea, which supplies fish as food, sand and coral for housing
and land for limited needs and the warm tropical underwater garden
as a tourist attraction, which generates the much needed foreign currency.
The tropical climate, white beaches and rich marine environment have
made the country a tourist magnet for the past 32 years. The Maldives
as the 14th century Moroccan traveller described as “one of
the wonders of the world” today is said to be second to none
for sun lovers, beach wanderers, scuba divers and those who seek peace
in its simplest form.