With its palm-fringed white sand beaches and endless turquoise waters, the Maldives is most people’s idea of paradise. The picture-perfect archipelago is made up of 1200 islands, but only around 200 of them are inhabited. Some of those are little more than a strip of sand, home to one idyllic diving resort or a handful of Maldivian-owned restaurants. Surprisingly, the Maldives only opened up as a tourist destination around 40 years ago. Before then, it was really only diving enthusiasts and surfers who knew about it. Want to know more about this tropical island getaway? Here are some interesting facts about the Maldives you may not know about.
Interesting Facts about the Maldives
1. The Maldives is lowest and flattest country in the world
On average, the Maldives’ 1200 islands sit around two-metres above sea level. Even at its highest point, the Maldives still only reaches heights of 2.5 meters.
Unfortunately, that also means that global warming is having a devastating impact on the islands and the Maldives has become a poster-child for the impact of climate change. Several islands have disappeared due to natural erosion and natural disasters. By 2100, rising sea levels are predicted to swallow up most of the country.
2. It hosted the first ever underwater cabinet meeting
Back in 2009, the Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed decided a stuffy boardroom didn’t seem like quite the right place for a cabinet meeting about global change. Instead, he decided to take his ministers to the bottom of the sea.
11 ministers swapped their suits for scuba gear to ratify a document calling for global cuts to carbon emissions. The president hoped the stunt raise the profile of rising sea levels that threaten to submerge many islands in the Maldives.
3. It’s one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world – but it also has the highest divorce rates
The Maldives holds the Guinness World Record for the highest divorce rates in the world. According to the UN, 10.97 in 1000 inhabitants get divorced in the Maldives every year. That’s twice as many as in the United States. Research also estimates that the average Maldivian woman has divorced three times by the time she reaches the age of 30.
4. Rent in the capital costs almost as much as it does in L.A.
Who wouldn’t want to live in paradise? Turns out, not a lot of people. 133,000 residents live in Malé, the 2.2-square-mile island capital city. The Maldives is one of the most densely populated countries in the world – and this inevitably bumps up the prices. An average room in the capital city costs around $800 per month.
5. You can swim with the world’s biggest fish
It’s not just people who like the sound of island life. The Whale Shark – the world’s biggest fish – settled on the Maldives as its home. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can swim alongside the huge sharks, which can grow up to 20-foot long.
The South Ari Atoll is the best place for year-long sightings, as well as The Rangali Island and the uninhabited Hanifaru Bay. Despite their size, they’re a friendly bunch that feed on plankton.
6. The beaches are special
As one of the world’s best-loved beach destinations, this may seem like an obvious point. But there’s an interesting fact behind the sparkling white sand. Most sand beaches are made of quartz, but in the Maldives a coral beach is made from dried and sub-bleached algae. Coralline beaches only make up around 5% of the world’s beaches – so they’re pretty special.
It’s also one of the few places in the world boasting a bio-luminescent bay.
7. It’s one of the safest places to travel in the world
Trouble in paradise? Not in the Maldives. The archipelago is consistently ranked as one of the safest places to travel on the planet, with very low levels of crime even in the island capital.