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A string of pearls scattered over the deep blue Indian Ocean. From the air they look like a thousand shimmering jewels in a sea of velvet; an artist's fantasy or a photographer's dream. The Maldives, meaning 'garland of islands' has occupied a special place in the hearts of its visitors, reflected even in the very first writings about it. Marco Polo called it 'flowers of the Indies' others believed it was 'one of the wonders of the world'.

The Maldives consists of 1190 island grouped into 26 natural atolls. The atolls and islands of the Maldives are scattered over an area of 90,000 sq km in the Indian Ocean, straddling the equator between latitudes 7 6" North and 041" South and longitudes 72 32" and 73 45" East.No more than 200 islands are inhabited, the rest includes the 87 tourist resorts and uninhabited islands, some of which are used for drying fish or other agricultural activities.

The capital Malé, the seat of government and the centre of trade, commerce, business, health and education, is located in the middle of the atoll chain, a small island buzzing with the sounds and activities of about 75.000 people which is about one third of the population.
Today the country is better known as an exotic tourist destination. Over few decades Maldives has gained tremendous growth in Tourism industry with over 500,000 (five hundred thousand) tourists to Maldives every year

 

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Maldives Geography
         
 

From the first glimpse itself, Maldives proves to be a tropical paradise. A string of islands form fascinating patterns as they lie scattered across the equator to the South West of Sri Lanka. Formed over the 2000 kms Laccadives - Chagos ridge, the Maldivian islands stretch from the North to South for over 820 kms and from East to West for over 120 kms. In total Maldives covers an area of approximately 90,000km2. Only 1% of this is land with the rest being water.

An archipelago of 1190 islands, formed in a collection of 26 beautiful atolls constitutes Maldives. An atoll is best described as a series of concentric layers, with a strong reef constituting the outermost layer.

This reef is composed of coral debris and living coral. This strong reef acts as a natural barrier against rough seas. The Islands set at a distance and parallel to this reef, have their own protective fringe of reef. A break in this coral fringe allows you access to the calmer waters which form the lagoons

The storms and high waves of the Indian Ocean are not visible here, near any coral fringed island. Though the Indian Ocean doesn't create any havoc here with its storms, it does affect the climate of the country. Acting as a heat buffer, the ocean absorbs stores and gives out the heat much slowly. A cool breeze blows in from the sea throughout.

A six inches deep layer of humus forms the initial layers of the soil in the islands. Below this, two feet of sandstone is found followed by sand and fresh water. Due to excessive salt in the soil down the beach, vegetation is limited to a few plants like shrubs, flowering plants and small hedges. In the interiors of the island, more vegetation like mangroves, banyan etc prevails. Only the coconut palms are able to grow just about anywhere and are a major contributing factor to the lifestyle of the natives. The coconut palms are considered so significant that it has been classified as the national tree.

The limited vegetation is supplemented by the abundance of coral reefs and marine life

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