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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > April 2015 > INDIAN OCEAN ISLANDS

INDIAN OCEAN ISLANDS

Whether your passion is for spicy food, unique wildlife, jungle treks or pristine beaches, this vast ocean is home to your dream remote getaway

Whether your passion is for spicy food, unique wildlife, jungle treks or pristine beaches, this vast ocean is home to your dream remote getaway

FIND YOUR PERFECT ISLAND

The Raa Atoll consists of 88 islands in the northern reaches of the Maldives
COMPILED BY OLIVER SMITH AND RORY GOULDING. PHOTOGRAPH: SAKIS PAPADOPOULUS/SUPERSTOCK

The Maldives: for diving and desert islands

WHAT ARE THE ISLANDS LIKE? Seen on a map, the Maldives is a nation like no other on Earth: a string of 26 atolls and some 1,192 microscopic islands – none higher than a metre or two above sea level. Seen in real life, it delivers the archetypal sandy banks of daydreams and glossy holiday brochures, with perhaps the best diving in the Indian Ocean.

WHO WILL IT APPEAL TO? Traditionally the only way to visit the Maldives was to check in at a resort – most of which occupy their own private islands. These vary from £100 a night at the budget end, to some of the most expensive lodgings on the planet. Independent travel has only recently been permitted in the Maldives – it’s a small-scale enterprise, but visitors get around with an expanding network of ferries and stay in simple guesthouses.

WHAT EXPERIENCES WILL I HAVE? Underwater encounters are the abiding memory of any Maldives visit: head to the Ari Atoll to go diving with whale sharks – the world’s largest fish (fortunately content with their diet of plankton) – and Raa Atoll to see manta rays. Snorkellers meanwhile should make for Addu Atoll in the south, which is home to the most pristine coral in the archipelago.

WHERE’S THE BEST BEACH? Each resort has its own private beach – they’re broadly similar, but among the finest are those at Kuredu Island, Soneva Fushi, Rihiveli Beach and Vilu Reef, all with the requisite white sands and blue waters.

WHEN SHOULD I GO? Low season in the Maldives lasts from May–November: rain and storms are more likely, but prices are cheaper and marine life can be more plentiful, particularly around the western shores of the country.

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