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The Maldives: a country of islands

MALÉ — We set foot on the Republic of Maldives on yet another gorgeous day in this place, which sees summer weather all year round. By the time we emerge from the airport, it is evening, and we get straight onto a ferryboat and head for the capital. Some people get from island to island in the Maldives by ferryboat, others by water taxi and still others by speed boat. The next morning we awaken in MalĂ©, the capital of the Maldives in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The moment we wake up, we set out to see the sights.

The Republic of Maldives is set in the middle of the Indian Ocean and is made up of an archipelago of islands. The average altitude in the Maldives is just one meter above sea level. The total land mass of the country is around 300 square kilometers. The population of this island country is 350,000, and its people are statistically 100 percent Muslim. The country has no standing army.

With there being so many islands making up the Maldives, there are also many air taxis, giving people a quick way to get from island to island. The largest island in the Maldives is 13 square kilometers. The highest point in the country is two-and-a-half meters above sea level. The Maldives, formerly a British colony, achieved independence in 1965, becoming a republic in 1968. The distance from the north to the south of the archipelago is 820 kilometers. From east to west, however, it is a much smaller 220 kilometers.

The population of Malé, the most developed city in the country, is 80,000. But the capital is just one island out of the 1,200 islands that make up this republic. Interestingly, though, only 202 of these islands are inhabited by people. With this excess of islands, one whole island has been set aside as a prison, while another is used simply for storing gasoline.

The largest square in Malé is the Republic Square. The national flag is red and green with a crescent in the center.

You can rent a motorboat to travel along the shoreline of the capital and take in the gorgeous view of the blue water that surrounds it. Touring the waters here, you get a strong sense of just how many large and small islands there are here, each looking quite beautiful on its own.

Life is quite active in Malé, with fish being eaten everywhere, as you might guess. Fishing represents the most important source of income for the Maldives, after tourism, of course. Fish are at the top of the list of Maldivian exports, with the bulk of fish caught here heading for Japan and European countries. Malé is filled with fish sellers providing fresh catches for customers, morning and evening. Fruits and vegetables are largely imported into the Maldives, as there is not much space for agriculture. The most common vehicle that you will see in the Maldives is the motorcycle. The motorcycle paths stretch for kilometers here.

We leave the capital and head by motorboat to the seaside town of Kurumba. A man named Muhammad is at the steering wheel of the boat. Before getting off at Kurumba, we tour the seaside. It is a stunning island, with gorgeous sand and palm trees. It looks like the perfect spot for a vacation.

Tradition dictates that people setting foot on the island for the first time have a wreath of flowers placed around their necks. Throughout the year, the summery weather here ranges between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius. There are tourists everywhere, here to take in the breathtaking vistas, perfect beaches and general beauty of the country. The water is warm –around 26 degrees Celsius — year round, so you can always go swimming. The cheapest time to visit the Maldives, by the way, is in May, June and July.

The name of Kurumba actually means unripe coconut. This island is covered in coconut trees and visitors arriving here are first offered a sip of milk from an unripe coconut.

We begin riding around Kurumba in an electric car, and it doesn’t take us very long, as this island is quite small. It is interesting to see just how many beautiful places there are for tourists to stay. And the landscaping here is also quite beautiful. The water of the ocean is clear and perfect. The island of Kurumba produces its own electricity and orchids.

The bulk of the tourists who visit the Maldives are from Europe. Lately, though, Russians have started to come in greater numbers, too. We saw many of them when we were there.

Tourists are drawn to the Maldives for its wide offering of water sports, including its great diving possibilities. During the height of the tourist season, one single tourist pays between $400 and $3,000 for his or her stay on Kurumba. All visiting state and government officials stay in Kurumba. We depart from Kurumba, heading out into the ocean for another island and leaving this little holiday paradise behind us.

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