A mere mention of The Maldives floods the mind with paradisiacal imagery of crystal clear seas gently lapping pristine white sands. If your idea of bliss is basking in the coastal sun with a cocktail in hand then welcome to heaven. But what is there to do in The Maldives if topping up your tan isn’t high on the agenda?
Often dismissed as either a picturesque haven for a romantic honeymoon or a retreat for stressed souls, the best things to do in The Maldives can often be overlooked. Here at Exoticca we’ve compiled a list of what to do while visiting one of these 1,200 islands of the Maldives to give you an excuse to leave the sunlounger – only if you really want to that is.
Visit the fish market
If tropical beaches are the face of The Maldives then the Malé fish market is its soul. Bursting with locals bargaining for the best deal on massive skipjack, yellowfin tuna, groupers, sea bass, red snappers, dolphin fish, and barracuda – a stroll round the market is a sensory overload after being immersed in coastal tranquility. Over 30 percent of the population is actively involved in fishing, making it the second biggest industry after tourism. Located on the north side of the island and a stone’s throw away from the harbour, one of the main attractions is watching local fisherman sail right up to the market to unload their daily spoils.
Visit the Grand Friday Mosque
This striking mosque juts out of the Malé skyline with its golden domes and immaculate white walls. Constructed in 1984 with a helping hand from Pakistan and the Arab states of the Gulf, this impressive structure is an icon of the capital. Situated close to the main square, the biggest temple of worship in The Maldives can be visited outside of prayer times: 9am – 5pm. Hoards of inadequately dressed camera-happy tourist are not encouraged, but if you dress appropriately and ask at the gates the staff will be more than happy to let you in. Men must wear long trousers and women a long skirt or dress.
Marvel at Malé
Literally packed to the edges with colourful buildings shooting skywards and locals buzzing to and fro, the contrast from easygoing island life is plain to see. On first impressions the sheer density of the capital is somewhat overwhelming, but if you’re looking to unearth more about the country’s beating heart then look no further. Traipse the bustling streets, enter Its raucous markets and sip a coffee in the quirky alcohol-free cafes to get a true taste of Maldivian city life.
Snorkel or dive
Due to its mixture of warm shallows and staggering depths of over 4,000 metres, the Maldives’ share of the Indian Ocean is home to an abundant mix of marine life. The crystal clear waters and stunning coral reefs inhibited by dolphins, manta rays, giant turtles, sharks, richly coloured tapestries of exotic fish, and whale sharks visible all year round, ensure that its place as one of the frontrunners for diving and snorkeling. Most hotels have equipment available for hire or provide it free of charge. For those who want to delve even deeper into this underwater wonderland there are a multitude of diving centres. Not only do they provide services for amateur divers, but courses to become PADI qualified are also on offer.
Hop on a seaplane
Why not appreciate the archipelago’s tranquil allure from the air? Seaplanes aren’t for the faint of heart, but a generous dose of adrenaline and unbeatable photo opportunities are assured. Don’t forget the camera and maybe a stiff drink for the nerves on this unique tour in the skies.
Dive into the glowing waters of Island Vaadhoo
The spotless beaches and leafy palm trees swaying in the tropical heat fool you into thinking that nothing is amiss. The island of Vaadhoo, however, keeps a secret until the sun sinks into the Indian Ocean: bioluminescence. Nighttime bathing in a sea of sparkling aquatic stars is as unique as it is mystifying. Only visible under the cloak of darkness, this natural wonder occurs when plankton enters in contact with the warm air, producing a light show of mesmerising blue and green hues on the water’s surface.
All of the hotels pride themselves on having access to an array of watersports including kayaking, paddle boarding or even surfing, if there are enough waves. For a different spin on yoga sign up for a class, grab a paddle board and stretch out on the ocean. There’s no excuse to shake off that beach sand and be a tad more adventurous than only exploring the beach bar cocktail list.
Disconnect on an uninhabited island
Become a real life castaway, albeit with a scheduled return time, on one of the many uninhabited islands. What could be a better remedy for stress or the burdens of information overload than having an island to yourself? Trips can be organised with your hotel or through one of the many travel agencies. Beware: the idea of staying overnight may seem a tantalising idea, but sometimes the changing tides would mean that your exclusive paradise would be shared with a few aquatic neighbours.
Go fishing on a dhoni
Fishing is a polarising subject to say the least, but fishing on a traditional Maldivian dhoni, well that’s a different matter. A dhoni is a charming multipurpose sailboat typical to these islands. Embark on one of the organised trips to learn more, and gain first-hand experience, of islander life. Letting a band of fishermen show you the ropes while shuttling along the Indian Ocean on a quest to find the catch of the day, is as Maldivian as it gets.
Enjoy a relaxing Spa
After all that action spoil that weary body by indulging yourself with a well deserved spa day. Sitting on bamboo stilts above the invitingly vivid sea or nestled in the middle of a deep blue lagoon – The Maldives’ take on extravagant spa centres can stand toe-to-toe with any luxury heavy hitters the world has to offer. With their extensive range of therapies including hydro pools, steam rooms, saunas, herbal spas and beautifully serene views – soothe your body and soul in one of these unforgettable escapes.