Think the Maldives are just about lazing on the beach? Think again — from underwater exhibitions to sublime surfing, there’s much, much more to do on these stunning islands.
The best honeymoon spot. The most beautiful islands in the world. The greatest beaches on the planet. It seems the Maldives wins these awards so often that inhabitants greet the news with a sense of “what else is new?” as they gaze at yet another jaw-dropping sunset.
But when it comes to Maldives attractions, there is both style and substance. This destination is about so much more than just eye-candy beaches. There’s a wealth of unique, exciting things to do in the Maldives. Ready to dive in?
Rising up from beneath the waves, this world’s first tidal gallery turns the skyline, waves and seabed into a place of soulful art. It sits at the heart of the largest developed coral lagoon in the Maldives, on the island resort of Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi. Its name? The Coralarium.
To experience it yourself, it’s best to pop on your goggles: a short swim or snorkel will see you exploring an enticingly half-submerged tidal building. Its walls, made of natural coral structures, aren’t just for show. The design allows the framework to become part of the sea. In fact, within weeks of the installation, curious marine life like jackfish and rays started visiting this coral reef in the making — making this one of the most unique places you could go swimming with sharks in the Maldives.
Beaches in the Maldives are gorgeous — that’s a given. But they become something even more beautiful between May to June. Why? Because in this period, turtles undergo their most active nesting season, swimming ashore to lay eggs on the beach. A few months later, between July and August, the frenzied hatching season begins, and swarms of cute baby turtles head for the sea.
Not lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these adorable critters as they take their first steps? You can still spend some time with them at resorts like Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, which hosts daily feedings of turtles and stingrays.
Did you know? There are seven sea turtle species in the world. And five of them can be found in the Maldives!
Visiting this aquatic paradise without knowing how to dive might have you feeling like, well, a fish out of water. Not to worry. You can still get close to marine life, while remaining dry as a bone. That’s thanks to Whale Submarine, a tour experience that bills itself as the only passenger submarine in Southeast Asia. The tour, which kicks off from Male, sees you submerging to 45 metres in prime coral reefs. Once there, the sub’s exterior lights mean that you can view lion-fish, yellow box fish and turtles in all their glory. Other sites even include shipwrecks and underwater caves.
At the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, you can enjoy a gloriously kitsch tiki drink or two in a rather unusual setting. Poolside bar Onu Onu was painstakingly crafted by Balinese artisans without any man-made materials. Makes sense, when you think about it: “onu” means bamboo in the Maldivian language, hence the bamboo theme. So enjoy a refreshing rum and mango juice cocktail as you drink in the view of the nearby infinite lagoon — and raise a toast to craftsmanship.
If you find a normal dive session fun but want to inject some extra magic, go scuba diving in the Maldives — at night. The best time to dive in the Maldives is between January and April, before the wet season starts. But the best time of day to dive may just be after the sun sets. You will see a whole new side to marine life: the nocturnal side. Want to spy on nurse sharks as they feed in their dozens, or peer at coral lighting up the dark water with their fluorescence, like an aquatic disco? Then a night dive is for you.
Snorkelling in the Maldives is a perfect opportunity to interact with nature like never before. Fulfil your fantasies of becoming the host of your own wildlife show by trying to spot the local Big Five sea-life species. Wave at a wise-looking sea turtle. Gaze at the slow-moving majesty of an eagle ray. Say hi to a manta ray. Be awed by a whale shark, the biggest fish in existence. And chuckle at the antics of playful dolphins.
Note: while whale shark season in the Maldives is pretty much all year, the animals migrate to different areas. You can even download an app from the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme. If you manage to snap a photo of a particular whale shark, just upload it and the app can recognise the unique markings of the individual, and share its movements, vital stats and “name” with you.
It’s often overlooked, but the capital Male is an intriguing place to visit in the Maldives. Yes, it is quieter than what you might experience at your resort, but there are still interesting things to do here. Like the noisy spectacle of the island’s Fish Market, for one. Eyeball massive whole tuna, glistening octopus and more, pulled fresh from the turquoise waters just hours before. And if the wriggling sea life gets a bit much, walk a few blocks to the produce market, brimming with bright bananas and delicious papayas. Even a super-quick jaunt to this area is a great way to get a feel for real Maldivian life, beyond the resorts.
The best beaches in the Maldives don’t just offer gorgeous views, but beautiful memories too. And what better way to fire up romance than to treat your partner to dinner as you wiggle your toes in the sand? At the Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru resort, you can dine al fresco, with the sound of waves in your ears and the stars overhead. Or just watch the skilled chefs as they prepare a fab four-course dinner right before your eyes.
After you’ve soaked up the inspiring beauty of the Indian Ocean, don’t forget to give back to this remarkable ecosystem. Many hotels, like the Angsana Velavaru, feature their own marine lab where you can not only learn about marine biology, you can even explore coral reefs on guided snorkelling tours. You can replant coral too — your own little gesture to help the astonishing sea life thrive.
Step away from your average yoga session back in the real world: the Maldives is the perfect opportunity to take your standing tree pose up a notch or three. Many hotels, like Raffles Maldives Meradhoo resort (opening 2019) offer classes either on a beach or a platform right above the water. (Psst! This resort also boasts one of the Maldives’ best house reefs for snorkelling or diving).
Head out on a traditional dhoni fishing vessel and catch your own dinner like a local. Should you come back empty-handed after chugging around the islands of the Maldives, no worries. At resorts like Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, you can still learn how to cook up seafood under the tutelage of a skilled Maldivian master chef.
In 1999, the ship Rannamaari sank to a depth of 26 metres. In doing so, it became the only shipwreck in the Maldives that also sits on a house reef. Nowadays, the wreck is swarming with moray eels, nurse sharks and scorpion fish. Visit the Angsana Ihuru resort and you too can explore this unusual site for an unforgettable dive. In the past, the resort has even hosted a 24-hour diving event, with underwater cameras streaming one of the best dive sites in the Maldives to the world.
Want to make your stay in paradise even better? Whether you’re looking for a honeymoon destination, family stay or holiday with your friends, pick the perfect hotel in the Maldives for you.