Ten things to know about the Maldives Islands before you book a trip…
- About 1,200 islands scattered across an underwater ridge in the Indian Ocean make up the Maldives Islands.
- It takes a long time to get to there from Texas. I flew Austin to New York City to Doha, Qatar (which has a fabulous airport) and on to Malé, the capital. From there I took float planes and boats to the three islands I visited. In all, it took me about 34 hours door to door.
- Over-the-water rooms are over-rated. Some “water villas” are crowded together like tract homes and offer little privacy. Most have small pools; some have water slides, which adds a contrived, Disneyland feel. Opt for a beach bungalow tucked in the greenery along shore.
4. The outdoor bathrooms at the Sun Siyam resorts I visited were amazing. I’m a sucker for an outdoor shower, and when I discovered my bungalow had an entire outdoor bathroom, complete with shower, daybed, toilet, sink and bathtub, I swooned.
5. The Maldives are part of the seventh largest reef system in the world, and a great place for scuba diving. The islands are famous for manta rays and whale sharks, but you’ll also find plenty of other sea life and coral. The reefs are generally healthy, but they’re threatened by climate change, over tourism and coastal development.
6. Beware of day excursions, like one I took to swim with nurse sharks. Hordes of boats congregate in some areas, and not everyone respects the wildlife. I saw people chasing sharks and turtles just to snap photographs. I watched tourists take turns posing in the water while guides tossed chunks of fish around them and a drone flew overhead, snapping pictures. Nurse sharks generally are non-aggressive, but I’m opposed to feeding and harassing wildlife.
7.Look up! Huge reddish-brown, football-shaped fruit bats, sometimes called flying foxes, are everywhere in the islands. While fruit bats are considered nocturnal, we saw them out during the day, too, soaring from tree to tree and hanging upside down from branches. They eat nectar, pollen, leaves, and sap.
8. You’ll probably take a float plane to get to your resort. Trans Maldivian Airways operates one of the largest fleets of float planes in the world, and flying to the islands is an experience all its own.
9. Traditional Maldivian food is based on fish, coconut, and starches. Expect to find fish curry and rice dishes on the menu.
10. The Republic of the Maldives is Muslim. You can buy alcohol on resort islands, but not on the local ones. And while bikinis are allowed at resorts, women should dress modestly (no bikinis, covered shoulders) when visiting local islands.