25 interesting facts about the Maldives

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The most interesting facts about the Maldives, from the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting to the Earth’s lowest high point.

Interesting facts about the Maldives include its spectacular islands
Interesting facts about the Maldives include its beautiful islands (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Maldives
Population: 390,669
Area: 298 sq km
Capital city: Male
Major languages: Dhivehi, English
Major religions: Sunni Muslim
Time zone: UTC+5 (Maldives Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about the Maldives

1. The Maldives is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean of South Asia.
– Source: Britannica

2. The Maldives consists of around 1,190 coral islands, of which around 200 are inhabited. The islands are grouped into 26 clusters known as atolls.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

3. The Maldives has been inhabited since at least the 5th century BC by Buddhist peoples, presumably from Sri Lanka and southern India.
– Source: Britannica

A map of the Maldives showing Sri Lanka and Southern India
A map of the Maldives (Shutterstock)

4. The Maldives were occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century, then the Dutch in the 17th century and then later by the British after they took control of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1796.
– Source: BBC News

5. The Maldives became a British protectorate in 1887, then a republic within the Commonwealth in 1953 before finally gaining complete independence in 1965.
– Source: BBC News

6. The flag of the Maldives is a white crescent on a green panel surrounded by a red background. The white crescent and green colour represent the national religion, Islam, as well as progress, prosperity, and peace. The red represents the “heroes who sacrificed themselves for the nation”.
– Source: Britannica

The flag of the Maldives
The flag of the Maldives (Shutterstock)

7. Over 80% of the Maldives’ islands are less than one metre (3.3ft) above sea level. As such, the low-lying Maldives is under threat from rising sea levels caused by climate change.
– Source: The Independent

8. With a mean elevation of just two meters (6.6ft), the Maldives have one of the world’s lowest average elevations.
– Source: CIA World Fact BookThe Telegraph

9. The highest point in the Maldives is the eighth tee of a golf course on Villingi Island. At just 5m (16.4ft), it is the world’s lowest high point.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book, National Geographic

A sandy beach in the Maldives
The Maldives is a low-lying country (Shutterstock)

10. The Maldives is one of 27 countries that do not have a single UNESCO World Heritage Site. They do have one property on the Tentative List of sites intended to be submitted for nomination.
– Source: UNESCOThe Telegraph

11. It is believed that Islam was first adopted in the Maldives 1153 when the last Buddhist king of Maldives Dhovemi converted and adopted the Muslim title and name of Sultan Muhammad al Adil
– Source: Metz, Helen Chapin. (1995) Indian Ocean: five island countries. Library of Congress: Washington DC

12. In 2009, the Maldives government held the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting as a symbolic appeal for help over rising sea levels threatening the country.
– Source: Reuters

Members of the government underwater signing papers at a desk
The world’s first underwater cabinet meeting (350.org/CC:2.0)

13. The Maldives’ economy is centred around tourism with many (around 80) of the islands developed as resorts for the high-end tourism industry.
– Source: BBC News, CIA World Fact Book

14. The Maldives is thought to be named after the main island and capital, Male. The term “Maldives” means “the islands (dives) of Male”. Another suggestion is that the name could come from the Sanskrit word “maladvipa” meaning “garland of islands”.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

15. The name of the capital, Male, comes from the Sanskrit word “mahaalay” meaning “big house”.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

An aerial view of Male
The Maldives’ capital city Male (Shutterstock)

16. Cowrie shells (Cypraea moneta) used to be currency in the Maldives. The shells have also been used as currency by by the Chinese, Hawaiians, West Africans and the Ojibwa Indians of North America.
– Source: New York Times

17. The Maldives is home to the UNESCO-designated Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve. The reserve is made up of 75 islands, supports one of the largest collections of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean and is a vital feeding and breeding ground for manta rays and whale sharks.
– Source: UNESCO, Lonely Planet

18. The Maldives is a great place to spot Hammerhead sharks and it’s possible to dive with them. The most famous spot is a site called Hammerhead Point (also known as Rasdhoo Madivaru) in Rasdhoo Atoll.
– Source: Lonely Planet

A Hammerhead shark
Hammerhead sharks can be found in the Maldives (Shutterstock)

19. Measured by surface area, the Maldives is the world’s ninth-smallest sovereign nation.
– Source: World Bank

20. The Maldives is also the smallest country in South Asia by both land area and population.
– Source: World Bank1, World Bank2

21. The Maldives is also the world’s smallest Muslim nation.
– Source: Pew Research Center

22. The Maldives is home to five of the world’s seven species of marine turtles the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and the olive ridley turtle(Lepidochelys olivacea). The most common nesting species in the Maldives are the green and hawksbill species.
– Source: Maldives Marine Research Centre, WWF
– Source:

A Hawksbill Turtle underwater
A hawksbill turtle in the Maldives (Shutterstock)

23. The national symbols of the Maldives are the coconut palm and yellowfin tuna.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

24. The Maldives was severly affected by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami which saw waves travelling at over 700km/h. In the Maldives, the Tsunami killed 83 people with 25 missing and presumed dead, injured at least 1,300 people and caused widespread destruction.
– Source: Relief Web

25. Whale sharks – the world’s largest known fish – are year-round residents of the waters of the Maldives, making the country a prime spot for swimming with whale sharks.
– Source: Lonely Planet


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