Location: Southern Asia, group of atolls in the Indian Ocean,
south-southwest of India
Geographic coordinates: 3 15 N, 73 00 E
Map references: Asia
total: 300 sq km
land: 300 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative: about 1.7 times the size of Washington,
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 644 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; dry, northeast monsoon (November
to March); rainy, southwest monsoon (June to August)
Terrain: flat, with white sandy beaches
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Wilingili island in the
Addu Atoll 2.4 m
Natural resources: fish
arable land: 10%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 3%
forests and woodland: 3%
other: 84% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: low level of islands makes them very sensitive
to sea level rise
Environment - current issues: depletion of freshwater aquifers
threatens water supplies; global warming and sea level rise; coral
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto
Protocol, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note: 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls
(200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts); archipelago
of strategic location astride and along major sea lanes in Indian
The Maldives Republic located 500km (300 miles) southwest of the
southern tip of India consists of about 1190 low-lying coral islands.
These islands are spread over 26 atolls, ringlike coral formations
enclosing a lagoon, which gives the Maldives its unique paradis-like
appearance. No more than 200 islands are inhabited and most of them
are covered by lush tropical vegetation and palm trees. About 99%
of its territory is covered by the sea.
The Maldivian climate is tropically hot. Virtually summer all year
around, it is the perfect place for sun lovers. There are two monsoons,
the southwest from May to October and the northeast from November
to April. Generally the southwest brings more wind and rain in June
and July. The daily maximum temperature is 30.3 degrees Celsius
and it rarely goes lower than 25.3 degrees Celsius. The best time
to visit is November to (April)Easter.
Maldives is the smallest independent country
in Asia and one of the smallest in the world. It consists of about
1,000 small coral islands that form a chain 764 kilometres long
and 129 kilometres wide in the Indian Ocean.
tip of the Maldives is about 600 kilometres south of India. These
tropical islands cover a total of only 298 square kilometres. Fishing
and tourism are the country's leading economic activities.
The Maldives were long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under
British protection. They became a republic in 1968, three years
Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago.
Formal Name: Republic of Maldives.
Short Name: Maldives.
Term for Citizens: Maldivian(s).
Date of Independence: July 26, 1965 (from Britain).
Size: Approximately 298 square kilometers.
Topography: Includes some 1,200 coral islands
grouped in double chain of twenty-seven atolls. Most atolls are
ringshaped coral reefs supporting five to ten inhabited islands
and twenty to sixty uninhabited islands. Average size of islands
one to two kilometers and height of 1.5 meters above sea level.
Climate: Relatively high humidity but sea breezes
stir air. Dry season of northeast monsoon December through March;
rainy season of southwest monsoon April through October. Annual
rainfall 2,540 millimeters in north, 3,810 millimeters in south.
Data as of August 1994
Maldives consists of approximately 1,200 coral islands grouped
in a double chain of twenty-seven atolls. Composed of live coral
reefs and sand bars, these atolls are situated atop a submarine
ridge 960 kilometers long that rises abruptly from the depths of
the Indian Ocean and runs from north to south. Only near the southern
end of this natural coral barricade do two open passages permit
safe ship navigation from one side of the Indian Ocean to the other
through the territorial waters of Maldives. For administrative purposes
the Maldives government organized these atolls into nineteen administrative
Most atolls consist of a large, ring-shaped coral reef supporting
numerous small islands. Islands average only one to two square kilometers
in area, and lie between one and 1.5 meters above mean sea level.
The highest island is situated at three meters above sea level.
Maldives has no hills or rivers. Although some larger atolls are
approximately fifty kilometers long from north to south, and thirty
kilometers wide from east to west, no individual island is longer
than eight kilometers.
Each atoll has approximately five to ten inhabited islands; the
uninhabited islands of each atoll number approximately twenty to
sixty. Several atolls, however, consist of one large, isolated island
surrounded by a steep coral beach. The most notable example of this
type of atoll is the large island of Fua Mulaku situated in the
middle of the Equatorial Channel.
The tropical vegetation of Maldives comprises groves of breadfruit
trees and coconut palms towering above dense scrub, shrubs, and
flowers. The soil is sandy and highly alkaline, and a deficiency
in nitrogen, potash, and iron severely limits agricultural potential.
Ten percent of the land, or about 2,600 hectares, is cultivated
with taro, bananas, coconuts, and other fruit. Only the lush island
of Fua Mulaku produces fruits such as oranges and pineapples partly
because the terrain of Fua Mulaku is higher than most other islands,
leaving the groundwater less subject to seawater penetration. Freshwater
floats in a layer, or "lens," above the seawater that permeates
the limestone and coral sands of the islands. These lenses are shrinking
rapidly on Male and on many islands where there are resorts catering
to foreign tourists. Mango trees already have been reported dying
on Male because of salt penetration. Most residents of the atolls
depend on groundwater or rainwater for drinking purposes. Concerns
over global warming and a possible long-term rise in sea level as
a result of the melting of polar ice are important issues to the
fragile balance between the people and the environment of Maldives
in the 1990s.
Data as of August 1994
The temperature of Maldives ranges between 24°C and 33°C
throughout the year. Although the humidity is relatively high, the
constant sea breezes help to keep the air moving. Two seasons dominate
Maldives' weather: the dry season associated with the winter northeast
monsoon and the rainy season brought by the summer southwest monsoon.
The annual rainfall averages 2,540 millimeters in the north and
3,810 millimeters in the south.
The weather in Maldives is affected by the large landmass of the
Indian subcontinent to the north. The presence of this landmass
causes differential heating of land and water. Scientists also cite
other factors in the formation of monsoons, including the barrier
of the Himalayas on the northern fringe of the Indian subcontinent
and the sun's northward tilt, which shifts the jet stream north.
These factors set off a rush of moisture-rich air from the Indian
Ocean over the subcontinent, resulting in the southwest monsoon.
The hot air that rises over the subcontinent during April and May
creates low-pressure areas into which the cooler, moisture-bearing
winds from the Indian Ocean flow. In Maldives, the wet southwest
monsoon lasts from the end of April to the end of October and brings
the worst weather with strong winds and storms. In May 1991 violent
monsoon winds created tidal waves that damaged thousands of houses
and piers, flooded arable land with seawater, and uprooted thousands
of fruit trees. The damage caused was estimated at US$30 million.
The shift from the moist southwest monsoon to the dry northeast
monsoon over the Indian subcontinent occurs during October and November.
During this period, the northeast winds contribute to the formation
of the northeast monsoon, which reaches Maldives in the beginning
of December and lasts until the end of March. However, the weather
patterns of Maldives do not always conform to the monsoon patterns
of the Indian subcontinent. Rain showers over the whole country
have been known to persist for up to one week during the midst of
the dry season.
Data as of August 1994