MALDIVES

The Maldives is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, 250 miles south-west of India. The country is divided into a double chain of twenty-six atolls; these atolls include 1,192 coral islands spread over nearly 35,000 square miles. With an average elevation of just under 5 feet above sea level, it is the planet's lowest country. Forecasts predict that rising sea levels will ultimately submerge the entire country. Maldivian waters are noted for their spectacular coral reefs (187 different species) which are home to an estimated 1100 species of fish, 5 species of sea turtles, 21 species of whales and dolphins, and 400 species of mollusks. Numerous protected areas have been established to protect these marine ecosystems. We visited the Maldives in September, 2010, diving in North Ari and North Male Atoll from the Ark Royal.