About Maldives

Geography & Location

The Maldives lies in two rows of atolls in the Indian Ocean, just across the equator. The country is made up of about 1,190 coral islands formed around 26 natural ring-like atolls, spread over 90,000 square kilometers. These atoll structures are formed upon a sharp ridge rising from the ocean, thereby creating their world-wide uniqueness.

The island nation is located in a strategic area with access to major international sea routes in the Indian Ocean.

Each atoll in the Maldives is made of a coral reef encircling a lagoon, with deep channels dividing the reef ring. A string of islands take their places among this atoll ring; each island has its own reef encircling the island lagoon. The reefs of the islands, alive with countless underwater creatures and vibrant corals, protect the islands from wind and the ocean waves. This unique structure of reefs and channels makes navigation almost impossible for anybody without sufficient local knowledge of the waters.

The islands stretch like a garland for 822km from 7 degrees north of the Equator to just south of it, with the greatest width from west to east being 130km. The territory embraces a total area of 90,000 sq km but that includes the sea, which forms 99.6% of the Maldives. The land area of all the islands amounts to 298 sq km.

The Maldives has no hills, but some islands have dunes which can reach 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) above sea level, like the NW coast of Hithadhoo (Seenu Atoll) in Addu Atoll. Islands are too small to have rivers, but small lakes and marshes can be found in some of them.

The islands are protected by a reef structure, housing one of the most exclusive and spectacular underwater life.

The people of the islands are widely dispersed across the atolls, with about 200 inhabited islands. Around 112 islands are developed as tourist resorts and the rest are uninhabited or used for agriculture and other livelihood purposes. Male’ the capital city, lies to the north of the center of the atoll chain and is heavily populated with about 140,000 people.

The nearest neighbors are India, 600km distant to the north, and Sri Lanka, 670km to the east.


Strategic Action Plan 2019-2023

Rapid Livelihood Assessment: Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis in the Maldives