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The Maldives make up a total of twenty six atolls, with many (otherwise uninhabited) islands being occupied by a single resort hotel. Vacationers usually spend much of their time on hotel premises, so picking the right island is a matter of relative importance. Staying at upscale resorts, however, isn't the only option available to visitors. Since recently, the Maldives have appeared on the radars of budget travelers - a few inns and guest houses have opened up on the larger, inhabited islands (Guraidhoo and Maafushi, to name a couple). This has given start to breaking down the age-old conception of Maldives as an exclusive, luxury destination solely for honeymooners and the world's rich and famous. Global warming, and - consequently - rising sea levels have brought about alarming news and heated discussions about the future of these pristine islands, and whether the nation is doomed to go underwater in a few decades' time. Do try and take advantage of the islands' beauty and marine riches now, while tourism in the area is booming like never before, and the Maldives are becoming economically accessible to an an increasing number of travelers.
Travelers flock to the Maldives in search of pristine waters and crisp white sands, and most activities available revolve in and around the two. At sea, diving and snorkeling top the list of sought-after pastimes - marine life here is incredibly vibrant, and the colorful reefs and corals, as well as unique diving spots (such as the Banana Reef or the remains of a ship sunken in the 20th century) continuously attract marine explorers to the area. On land, exclusive golf courses, beaches, high-end restaurants and spas provide plenty for water-shy guests to indulge in, while the capital city of Male holds a variety of shopping opportunities and a few cultural haunts.
Seafood (tuna fish in particular), coconut and rice constitute the bulk of Maldivian dishes, many of which are heavily influenced by Indian and Sri Lankan flavors. Much like Indian cuisine, Maldivian food may prove a bit too fiery for some, so make sure to request the desired level of spiciness prior to ordering. As a rule, island resorts house a number of cafes and eateries, offering guests plenty of dining options to choose from. To explore further possibilities, travelers may opt for a boat ride (or even a short seaplane flight) to a nearby island (the Niyama Per Aquum Resort, with its themed restaurants, could be an interesting choice), or plan for a meal out at one of the unique Maldivian underwater restaurants.
Cafe culture is present in Male, where small eateries and coffee shops dot the city center and harbor areas. Outside of the capital city, travelers' will most likely find a pleasant location on their resort island of choice, with seating available on an outdoor hovering deck or even directly on the beach, with tables and chairs set right on the crisp white sand.
Maldivian nightlife tends to be on the calm side, with most evening entertainment taking place on resort premises. With the paradise islands being heralded as primarily a destination for couples, one wouldn't expect much in the way of clubbing - however, some hotels have a number of bars and nightclubs on their premises. Standouts include the chic Fifteen Below at W Retreat and Spa, the unique underwater Subsix nightclub at Per Aquum Niyama Resort and the Reethi Beach Resort, which enjoys a reputation of a socialites' magnet.
The Maldives do not offer much in the way of large malls or shopping centers; however, visiting some of the local inhabited islands may prove useful for souvenirs or necessities (resort-owned shops tend to overcharge customers, with prices being up to 80% lower elsewhere). For substantial shopping opportunities, make a day for Male and explore Majeedhee Magu and Orchid Magu - the two streets a savvy shopper wouldn't miss for the world in the capital city.
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