The Maldives is a collection of 1190 Indian Ocean islands, consisting of 26 atoll (a word from Maldivian origin) formations. Only about 200 islands are inhabited and another 80 have been developed as exclusive tourist resorts.The Maldives is a major diving destination due to its magnificent coral reefs and wealth of marine life with its atolls believed to have been formed about 65 to 200 million years ago. All resorts are fully geared for the active traveller, who can enjoy sailing or diving safaris, island hopping, whale and dolphin watching, big game fishing and photo flights.However, the Maldives is also ideal for couples in search of a romantic getaway, those looking at rejuvenating body and mind by indulging in spa treatments, or those planning to elevate doing nothing to an art. ‘Idyllic’ is the word that comes to mind when you consider the palm-fringed white beaches, clear blue-green sea, bright tropical fish and flowers and picture-perfect sunsets…CAPITAL:MaléCLIMATE:The Maldives is Hot, tropical weather all year round with monsoons. Nov-Mar is mild and pleasant with northeast monsoons. Jun-Aug is rainy with violent storms and southwest monsoons. Daytime showers are usually short-lived, with most heavy downpours occurring at night. Temperatures vary very little.CURRENCY:1 Rufiyaa = 100 Larees. Payments to hotels and resorts must be made in foreign hard currencies – the USD (traveller’s cheques or notes) is the most popular. Credit cards are also accepted at some hotels: Amex, Master, Visa and Diners Club. There is little need for Rufiyaa, except when shopping for souvenirs on local islands.ELECTRICITY:230 volts, 50Hz. Plugs are 3-pin round.HEALTH:A yellow fever certificate is an official requirement for travellers coming from infected areas. Visitors are advised to take pre-arrival precautions against hepatitis, polio and typhoid. Other health concerns include cholera and other food- and water-borne diseases (bottled water is recommended and available at resorts); influenza (risk extends throughout the year); sunburn (can be severe); and limited medical facilities and medicines.LANGUAGE:The national language is Dhivehi, but English is widely used as a business language. In tourist areas, other languages are also spoken.PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:New Year’s Day (1 Jan); Hajj Day (1 Feb); Eid al Adha (2 Feb); Islamic New Year (22 Feb); National Day (21 Apr); Mouloud (2 May); Huravee Day (20 Jul); Independance Day (26 Jul); Martyr’s Day (16 Sep); Start of Ramadan (15 Oct); Victory Day (3 Nov); Republic Day (11 Nov); Kuda Eid (14 Nov);SHOPPING:sea shells (must be bought, not picked up); lacquered wooden boxes; reed mats.SOCIAL CONVENTIONS:Religion is Sunni Muslim, so clothing requirements in town and other inhabited areas mean the minimum dress is shorts and a T-shirt for men and skirts or longer shorts and a T-shirt for women. At the resorts, clothes are very casual, there’s no need for cocktail dresses, jackets or suits; swimwear is fine by day and shorts and T-shirts or blouses for night time. Take note that nudism is prohibited on all islands and alcohol is not available in town (locals don’t drink, but there are bars on the resort islands).TIME DIFFERENCE:GMT +5TIPPING:Officially discouraged.TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS DESCRIPTION:Malé:The capital where most Maldivians live; a number of sights to see as listed below; tourists normally stay on the island resorts and visit Malé for shopping and sightseeing.Island resorts:The major attraction in the Maldives, there are over 80 exclusive tourist resorts; some of the most popular include Meeru, Kuredu and Kurumathi, which attracts serious divers especially; Nakatchafushi is one of the most photographed and has the country’s largest lagoon; resorts range from ultra-luxurious to simple; each resort has its own amenities and sport and leisure facilities; many have air-conditioning and desalination plants to provide tap water; different islands tend to attract different nationalities.Fishing villages:One of the main attractions in the Maldives, normally visited as part of an excursion; night fishing trips are also a possibility.National Museum:Sultan’s Park in Malé is home to this museum that has a superb collection of artefacts including Sultanese thrones and palanquins; some of Thor Heyerdahl’s archaeological discoveries can be found.Mosques:Over 20 mosques are scattered around Malé; Hukuru (Friday) mosque dates back to the 17th century and is famed for its intricate stone carvings ; Grand Mosque ********.Diving sites:In Moroni, elaborate 2-storey buildings with arcades, balustrades and meticulously carved wooden latticework doors and shutters; easy to get around.Uninhabited islands:Most of the islands in the country are uninhabited and you can take an excursion to visit them, either as part of an island-hopping tour group or privately by hired traditional or speed boat; in tours, a beach barbecue is often served; options include to spend one day and one night alone on an uninhabited island; Kudahuvadhoo has a hawitta which is probably the ruins of a Buddhist temple and an old mosque.Islamic Centre:In Malé, imposing white building with a magnificent golden dome.Mulee-aage:A former palace in Malé.Markets:Fish, fruit and vegetable markets; mostly in Malé; the Singapore Bazaar is a collection of stores selling handicrafts and a selection of traditional and imported tourist knick-knacks; Baa Atoll is famous for its handicrafts, incl. lacquer work and finely woven cotton ‘felis’ (traditional sarongs).