Things to do in the Maldives


Stay on a local island

Basing yourself on one of the Maldives’ 200 or so local islands for part or all of your vacation gives you the chance to enjoy not only the trappings of tropical paradise but also invites an authentic, first-hand glimpse into the day-to-day lifestyles of indigenous islanders. This is still a relatively new concept, but once you arrive on islands such as Guraidhoo, Thoddoo and Dhigurah, you'll discover a world away from the expensive alternatives as well as placing your hard-earned vacation money where it’s needed most.

Diving & snorkelling

There are dive centers virtually everywhere in the Maldives. Mathiveri in North Ari Atoll, Dhigurah and Dhangethi in South Ari Atoll, and Gan in Laamu Atoll, are just some of the dive centers from where to gain your water wings, as they offer fully accredited PADI courses and feature knowledgeable expert instructors and a great variety of dive sites. Boat dives, drift dives and shipwrecks add to the abundance of coral reefs and marine animals, including manta rays and whale sharks.
Alternatively, liveaboard cruises give you the chance to discover many of the dive sites in the northern atolls that are out of reach of most daytrippers. These types of eco-cruise ships come without the bubble baths and noisy jet-skis and opt for more sustainable standards, making the most of solar energy and low-consumption mechanics. Snorkelling, straight off the beach or from a boat, is another activity to try, with coral reefs teeming with fish to be found just a short distance from the shore. Boat trips for snorkelling offer a fantastic means of discovering what can be found below the glass-clear surface with mantas, turtles and groupers just some of the local marine creatures to prompt fishy tales around the smoky swirls of evening beach barbecues.

Spa & yoga retreats

Wellbeing retreats are situated in gorgeous natural settings, with the dense forests and banana groves of Hanimadhoo in the Haa Dhaalu Atoll, for example, offering a real treat for all the senses. The marriage of meditation, yoga and warm ocean waves is perfect for keeping happy and healthy on vacation, while helping your body regain its natural balance. Therapeutic treatments and traditional remedies are also available at the spa on Hanimadhoo, inviting you to unwind over herbal tea as you chat to an expert about what scrubs, facials and massages you'd like to exfoliate yourself into sublime submission.

Cooking & cultural experiences

The Maldives are renowned for their fairly simple yet always delicious selection of traditional dishes with tuna, coconuts, rice, sweet potatoes and chilies usually featured in one form or another. Curries are a Maldivian mainstay and the chance to learn how to create the national dish of garudhiya is just a joy, especially when combined with trips to the agricultural landscapes of Fuvahmulah or Thoddoo. Combining cooking and culture is as natural as grilling fish on the beach, with cultural tours offering a contrast to the usual round of watersports, exploring and sinking into the sand at sunset. As a Muslim country, alcohol and pork are both off limits on local islands, but mocktails, fresh fruit juices and afternoon hedika (sweet or savoury nibbles with black tea) more than make up for the lack of booze and also allow you to return home refreshed and rejuvenated rather than hungover and sluggish. Guided walking tours and public ferry rides let you learn more as you explore, with local island volunteer schemes and chances to enjoy an evening meal in a family setting certain to create an authentic cultural experience that's extremely hard to beat.
Photo credits: [Stay on a local island: Alessandro Caproni] [Diving & snorkelling: Ed Ralph] [Turtle: Ahmed Abdul Rahman] [Spa & yoga retreats:] [Cooking & cultural experiences:]
Written by Chris Owen
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