A string of pearls scattered over the deep blue Indian Ocean – The first glimpse you get of this fascinating atoll- formation confirms two unique aspects of the Republic of Maldives. Not only does it consist of the most beautiful tropical islands, but 99% of its 90.000 km² is covered by the sea. 1190 islands are spread over 26 atolls, ringlike coral formations enclosing a lagoon, which gives the Maldives its unique paradise-like appearance. They stretch for about 820 km from North to South, 130 km at the widest point and do not exceed a length of 4.5 miles or an altitude of 6 feet above sea level.
No more than 200 islands are inhabited, the rest includes over 100 tourist resorts and uninhabited islands, some of which are used fisheries and agricultural activities.
The capital Malé, the seat of government and the center of trade, commerce, business, health and education, is located in the middle of the atoll chain, a small island buzzing with the sounds and activities of about 150,000 people which is about one third of the population.
The Maldives has 26 naturally occurring atolls which are divided into 20 administrative ones:
1. Haa Alifu Atoll – (Thiladhunmathee Uthuruburi)
2. Haa Dhaalu Atoll – (Thiladhunmathee Dhekunuburi)
3. Shaviyani Atoll – (Miladhunmadulu Uthuruburi)
4. Noonu Atoll – (Miladhunmadulu Dhekunuburi)
5. Raa Atoll – (Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi)
6. Baa Atoll – (Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi)
7. Lhaviyani Atoll – (Faadhippolhu)
8. Kaafu Atoll – (Malé Atholhu)
9. Alif Alif Atoll – (Ari Atholhu Uthuruburi)
10. Alif Dhaalu Atoll – (Ari Atholhu Dhekunuburi)
11. Vaavu Atoll – (Felidhe Atholhu)
12. Meemu Atoll – (Mulaku Atholhu)
13. Faafu Atoll – (Nilandhe Atholhu Uthuruburi)
14. Dhaalu Atoll – (Nilandhe Atholhu Dhekunuburi)
15. Thaa Atoll – (Kolhumadulu Atholhu)
16. Laamu Atoll – (Hadhdhummathi Atholhu)
17. Gaafu Alif Atoll – (Huvadhu Atholhu Uthuruburi)
18. Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll – (Huvadhu Atholhu Dhekunuburi)
19. Gnaviyani Atoll – (Foahmulah)
20. Seenu Atoll – (Addu Atholhu)
An atoll is a group of islands with a reef that nearly or entirely encloses a ring-like lagoon. The English word ‘atoll’ originated from the Dhivehi (official language of Maldives) word ‘Atholhu’.