Living in the Maldives

Iyna Bort Caruso

Life in the Maldives is about slow living. White sand beaches, dive-friendly waters and astonishing marine life make this nation of islands a refuge of laid-back barefoot luxury.

The Maldives is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka and India. It’s made up of 26 atolls and some 1,190 islands and uncharted sandbanks.

The population of less than a half million is spread out across fewer than 200 pocket-sized islands.

As an important stop in the ancient trade route, the Maldives was greatly influenced by the outside world. Sri Lankan, Arab and North African traders contributed to the country’s customs, culture and, ultimately, religion. In the 12th century, Islam was introduced and adopted by Maldivians.

Centuries later, in 1796, the country became a British protectorate. The Maldives achieved independence in 1965, and its tourism industry began developing shortly thereafter.

The country is served by four international airports. More than 30 international cities are within a five-hour flight of Males, the densely populated capital. Travel by ferry, speedboat, six regional airports and one of the biggest seaplane fleets in the world make island-hopping a breeze.

The outlying islands are where high tiered vacation homes and resort developments are located. These days, the focus is on sustainability--and a dash of Robinson Crusoe private-island fantasy. While buildings in the capital of Male are more likely to be built of stone, brick and concrete, vacation residences on the islands tend to capture the spirit of traditional architecture but with modern construction techniques, technology and materials. Many are overwater villas built on stilts since much of this low-lying country is only about three feet above sea level. In an effort to encourage outside investment, the government has relaxed international ownership laws in recent years.