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The Maldives: The Ultimate Guide

These beautiful islands regularly top the list of Forbes’ Dream Destinations. Perhaps it is because of the Maldives’ unique, away-from-it-all isolation and the fact that this edge-of-the-world archipelago resembles most people’s idea of paradise: beaches of white sand perfection, luminescent turquoise waters and dazzling coral reefs.

Where are the Maldives?

The Maldives are a collection of 1192 islands located southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. The islands are grouped in atolls; the northern atolls are more traditional, the southern atolls give a greater feeling of isolation. From the northern Raa Atoll which is one of the deepest in the Maldives with overhangs, drop-offs and underwater caves – a scuba divers delight – to the more southerly Laamu, one of the most beautiful and untouched atolls. Each resort is its own private island and there’s one suitable for every type of holidaymaker: couples, honeymooners, families, and groups of like-minded friends and every type of holiday: adventure, adrenalin, romance and relaxation.

With so many atolls from which to choose, where do you begin? While it might be crucial for marine biologists to be able to distinguish the myriad minute differences between each atoll, for most holidaymakers matters are a little more straightforward.

Broadly speaking the more closely grouped islands of the northern atolls offer a more traditional Maldivian experience as they are the least developed region of the Maldives. Although there are fewer island resorts there is still huge diving and snorkelling potential, with shipwrecks to discover alongside manta ray feeding areas, diverse marine life, and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The southern atolls are less closely grouped together and give a greater feeling of isolation. Pristine dive sites are a major attraction. Many of the newer resorts have opened here and although they may be further from the capital there are good air links via several new airports.

Why choose the Maldives?

Some resorts offer peerless luxury, others focus on charm, character and authenticity, but even the more modest properties will feature multiple dining options and spa facilities, and all-inclusive facilities and meal plans allow full control of the budget. Wherever you choose to stay customer service is universally excellent. Personalised greetings are delivered in beautifully spoken English from staff who, owing to high staff to guest ratios, regularly outnumber guests.

The resorts superb water clarity affords some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling. Coral walls dazzle, underwater caves delight, and you can mingle with brightly coloured tropical fish in waters so warm no wetsuit is required. There’s no better place on earth to discover turtles, manta rays, and many species of shark including the magnificent whale shark. With so much natural beauty to observe, indolence can feel remarkably guilt-free. This is a destination that specialises in extraordinary escapism and unrivalled relaxation. The best thing to do is just go with it and enjoy a uniquely unforgettable holiday of a lifetime.

When to visit

For hot, dry, sunny days the best time to visit the Maldives is from January to April. Daytime temperatures are consistently between 30 and 32 degrees. Sun can be expected for between 8 and 10 hours a day. Water clarity for diving and snorkelling is excellent and the surfing season begins in March. Any showers should be short-lived. As this is peak season it’s best to book early.

May to October are months when rain is more likely and there is a risk of storms, but the temperatures are still warm and there are usually long spells of bright sunshine. Plankton in the water may reduce visibility for divers, but it does attract manta rays and whale sharks from June to October.

September and October are invariably the wettest months, which is reflected in hotel prices, but are a good time to make the most of the resort facilities. November brings the wet season to a close and December is a popular choice for almost guaranteed winter sun, but this is reflected in the hotel prices.

When it comes to hotel prices the peak season is Christmas and New Year and the months from November to April. For more affordable hotel rates consider travelling in the off-peak shoulder season which runs from early May to late September, with May and June being the least expensive. Travelling in the shoulder season could mean more inclement weather but you can still catch some beautiful sunshine, and given the unpredictable nature of weather, might just prove to be a masterstroke.

Maldives’ logistics: helping you to plan carefully

Images of Maldives may be very familiar, but there are important finer details about this South Asian island nation that will be helpful to you at the planning stage of a holiday.

At a glance Flying time: from London 11½ hours Main arrival airport: Velana International Airport, Male Time difference: GMT+5 hours, but this may vary from resort to resort Currency: Maldivian Rufiyaa although US Dollars, Sterling and Euros are widely accepted Language: Dhivehi is the native language but English is very widely spoken Visas: Not required for UK passport holders, unless stay exceeds 30 days Telephone code: +960 followed by the local number Electricity: 240 volts, many resorts feature standard 3 pin UK sockets but do take a universal adaptor and maybe pack an extension lead for extra plug points Taxes: An ecological tax of $6 US per person per day is charged at resort accommodation (this is being checked at the moment as it might be included in our prices)

Getting there

Between November and April British Airways will fly you direct to Malé from London, or enjoy regional departures with one stop from Birmingham, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle flying with the following airlines: Emirates, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, SriLankan Airways or Turkish Airlines.Book Business Class with Emirates and chauffeur service in the UK is provided.

To minimise jet lag set watches to Maldives’ time on boarding the plane, drink plenty of water and make sure a spa treatment for your first or second day in resort has been pre-booked. On arrival in Malé, and once you have cleared customs, our local team will be there to welcome and assist you. On departure they will help you with your luggage and guide you to the airline check-in desks.

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