The country of Maldives has been called “the last paradise on earth” for its stunning tropical beauty that seems to have been untouched by modern man. It is made up of 1190 coral islands which form archipelagos consisting of 26 atolls. Atolls are rings of islands that form lagoons, and these are what set Maldives apart from other tropical islands. Located on the equator, to the southwest of the country of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, it is a destination for the discerning and typically wealthy, traveler.
The string of islands that make up Maldives stretches over 500 miles (820 km) from its southern point to its northern tip, and is no more than 80 miles (130 km) at its widest. Of the 1190 islands, only 202 are populated, and an additional 87 are private resort islands. The average temperature throughout the year is 84 to 90° F (29-32° C), and the best time to visit is during the dry season, which runs from December to April.
Maldives was first settled approximately 3,000 years ago. Although it is unknown exactly who the first settlers were, it is generally known that the Giraavaru tribe is the oldest tribe on the islands. The Aryans, originating from Sri Lanka and India most likely came to the area around the 1500s. Its culture and people have been influenced by the fact that the country lies directly on historical trade routes, and its wares have been found throughout the world, dating to antiquity. On 16 December 1887, Maldives became a British Protectorate by the hand of the Sultan of Maldives.
On 26 July 1965, Maldives became an independent nation. It became a republic in 1968 when Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasu was chosen as its first president. It remains a democratic republic, and belongs to several international organizations such as the United Nations. Maldives is extremely environmentally conscious, due to the fragile nature of the islands, reefs and lagoons. Its motto is “Independent Maldives, Clean Maldives,” and many of its governmental programs focus on maintaining its natural beauty. Maldives has also taken part in many international environmental conferences and summits.
The economy of Maldives continues to grow at a healthy pace due to its booming tourism trade which makes up approximately 20% of the country’s GDP, with fishing close behind. Visitors will find Maldives easy to navigate — although the official language is Dhivehi, English is widely spoken by many Maldivians. The inhabited portions of the country are all accessible from the country's capitol, Malé. Most tourists come to snorkel or scuba dive in the pristine waters and coral reefs, and many more come for its out-of-the-way exclusiveness.