The Maldive Islands is an island country that is situated in the Indian Ocean and composed of twenty six atolls between Minicoy Island and Chagos Archipelago. This island nation covers an area of one hundred and fifteen square miles and has a population of approximately four hundred thousand residents. The Maldives has almost twelve hundred islet, of which only about two hundred are inhabited. The largest city, and the capital, is Male with a population of one hundred thousand residents. Of all the Asian nations, the Maldives are the smallest both in terms of area and population. Since the beginning of recorded history, the Maldives have been ruled by Sultans. It was an important strategic location because it was situated in the center of major marine routes located the interweaved throughout the Indian Ocean.
The countries of India and Sri Lanka both had cultural and economic ties to the country due to their position near them. During the sixteenth century, European powers began to control trade in the Indian Ocean. Several of these powers, which included the French, Portuguese and the Dutch, began to interfere in the local politics of the area. This led the Maldives to become a territory of the British Empire in the nineteenth century. The British exerted little infludence of the Maldivian Sultans however, and they enjoyed a great deal of self governance. In 1965, the Maldives gained independence, though the British still maintained an air force base in the southernmost atoll until the 1970s.
Today, the Maldives enjoys a strong economy that is mainly based upon tourism. Over thirty percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the Maldives comes from tourism related activities. This has led to an explosion in the amount of resorts that are located in the island nation. In 1972, there were only two resorts in the Maldives. The increase in tourism has also led to a number of profitable cottage industries. Some of the more prominent ones include boat building, weaving, clothes production and souvenirs. As of 2008, there are almost one hundred resorts. And in 2009, the Maldives were visited by over eight million tourists. The majority of these visitors come to the area via Male International Airport, which is located on Hulhule Island. A popular attraction in the Maldives is the island of Hulhumale. This island was reclaimed and artificially added to to build a new mass of land that was adequate to meet the needs of future housing developments. The reclamation and construction of the island began in the fall of 1997 on Hulhule Farukolhufushi lagoon.
Some of the amenities of the island include a two hundred and eighty room apartment complex, a school, small hospital, a fifteen hundred seat mosque, six miles of asphalt roads, two hundred and thirty-two condo units, one hundred and twenty beach housing units, one hundred and seventy beach plots, one hundred terraced houses and fifteen industrial complexes. Inhabited islands of the Maldives include Hoarafushi, Berinmadhoo, Thuraakunu, Maarandhoo, Vashafaru, Ihavandhoo, Baarah, Uligamu, Utheemu, Hathifushi, Dhiddhoo, Muraidhoo, Thakandhoo, Kelaa, Filladhoo and Mulhadhoo. Uninhabited islands include Alidhuffarufinolhu, Dhigufaruhuraa, Innafinolhu, Huvahandhoo, Beenaafushi, Kudafinolhu, Gaamathikulhudhoo, Alidhoo, Maafinolhu, Medhafushi, Dhapparuhuraa, Dhonakulhi, Matheerah, Gallandhoo, Govvaafushi, Dhapparu, Manafaru, Huraa, Gaafushi, Madulu and Maafahi.
A well kept secret of the Maldives are all the premium spots that are available to divers and snorkelers. This secret was kept for many years, but now many divers from all around the world are catching on to this magnificent island nation. The Maldives have beautiful white beaches, crystal clear and warm ocean waters, a wide diversity of marine life and an abundance of coral reefs. Most of the resorts in these area have scuba diving facilities. Divers to the Maldives often get a treat when they realize that the waters are full of marine life which includes manta rays, whale sharks, moray eels, reef sharks, eagle rays and hammerhead sharks.
Since only one percent of the island nation is composed of land, there are many great areas to snorkel around the eleven hundred islets. But, some spots are better then others. One of the most prominent spots is the Ari Atoll. This atoll is located in the western part of the islands. Some of the better diving and snorkeling spots here include Broken Rock, Mushi Mas Mingili Thila, Maalhos Thila, Kudarah Thila, Kalhahandi Kandu, Gangehi Kandu and Rangali Madivaru.