Dear traveller, what comes to mind when you think of the Maldives and its myriad of things to do? Overwater villas worthy of being called the epitome of luxurious getaways? Five-star resorts that boast their own virgin island for holiday goers’ endless exploration? Or perhaps it’s the ocean’s mesmerising deep, clear blue — as far as the eye can see from the comfort of your own plush suite.
Time and time again, the Maldives has won the hearts of globe-trotters all over for being South Asia’s quintessential tropical dream. While that is every bit true, there’s certainly more to this stunning island nation… and these unique things to do in the Maldives will prove just that.
Just when you think you know all there is to know about the Maldives, this list of unique things to do surfaces!
1. Visit the Maldives’ very own “Galapagos”
With about 1,200 islands, 26 coral atolls, and over 150 resorts that dot the Maldives’ oceanside ecosystems, you can only imagine the natural beauty that abounds under and above its waters. It’s not surprising that some of the Maldives’ paradises have earned catchy monikers — such as the Fuvahmulah Atoll, the Maldives’ own version of the Galapagos!
As avid nature explorers might know by heart, the Galapagos archipelago is a wellspring of wildlife activity, so much so that it inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. That said, the Maldives may be home to diverse wildlife but only one has earned the nickname, “the Maldives’ Galapagos!” To experience this sanctuary for Maldivian critters on land and at sea, plan a trip to Fuvahmulah Atoll.
Fun fact: They say the Fuvahmulah Atoll lies closer to the equator than any other island in the Maldives, which means you’re assured of breathtaking daylight perfect for Instagram; ready your cameras!
Unique things to do in the Maldives’ Fuvahmulah Atoll include flitting from one awe-inspiring ecosystem to the next. Fuvahmulah translates to “island of the Areca nut palms,” which is proof of its fertile lands. Surrounding the main island are pristine waters that are home to a variety of marine animals: tiger sharks, thresher sharks, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, coral reef dwellers, and even larger species such as whale sharks. Within the mainland are lakes, Bandaara Kilh and Dhadimagi Kilhi, worthy of day trips to the wetlands.
To make your Fuvamulah adventure stand out even more, aim for a liveaboard trip that will allow you to wake up to the ocean daily. Or, take some serious diving lessons and learn more about responsible marine life encounters at the Fuvahmulah Dive School.
2. Marvel at a glow-in-the-dark beach
With many islands to choose from, you can rest easy knowing that you won’t run out of unique things to do in the Maldives. But one particular beach stands out from the rest, thanks to its marvelously bioluminescent waters. Picture this: Cruising to the Raa Atoll around sunset — wind in your hair and the Maldives’ fiery purple sunsets in the background — to settle by the beach and enjoy dinner at moonrise. Once clear skies are dark enough to make out the night’s starry spectacle above, the waters of Vaadhoo Island, also known as Mudhdhoo Island, mirror the sparkly heavens as they glow an otherworldly neon blue.
Did you know that the Maldives had such an attraction? You have better chances of witnessing this phenomenon from July to December, but every chartered trip does not guarantee a sighting; so you’re better off availing assisted tours carried out by local companies who have more accurate estimates of bioluminescent activity in Vaadhoo.
Fun fact: While other bioluminescent beaches glow because of the presence of microscopic algae called phytoplankton, Vaadhoo’s waters are home to bioluminescent ostracod crustaceans. Much like phytoplankton, ostracod crustaceans (also called seed shrimp) emit a blue glow when waters they’re in are disturbed. It’s either that, or it’s the seed shrimp’s mating season! They say ostracods’ bioluminescence also lasts longer than that of phytoplankton, giving you more chances of capturing the phenomenon on camera.
Either way, being in the same waters as these tiny sea critters is completely safe for us humans. Just make sure you don’t disturb them for too long! Oftentimes, even the splish-splashing of ocean water against big rocks, driftwood, or your boat is enough to trigger ostracods’ bioluminescence, so you might not even need to make a ruckus in Vaadhoo’s clear waters.
This unique to-do is extra special, so if you’re lucky enough to experience it, tag us on Instagram at @tripzillamag!
3. Go for active fun in or out of the water, at your own pace
While in this sunny archipelago, you can also be as active as you want. Unique things to do in the Maldives include activities that will help you stay fit even while on holiday, whatever frequency your body will be running on.
Water sports? No problem. Any Maldives resort will have you covered. You can easily rent equipment any time of the day and get active in the ocean. If you’re staying longer, might we suggest taking on some gnarly waves? When travellers think of the Maldives, they seldom picture surfing, but the conditions here are actually perfect for the sport most of the year.
Fun fact: There are two prime seasons for surfing in the Maldives, and the area will differ depending on the time of year. If you’ll be staying in the Maldives from March to April, head to Southern Atolls for some surfing. Later in the year, around May to October, your best bet for some awesome waves would be in the Central or Northern Atolls. Choose to bring your own board, or go with a rental!
Alternatively, why not sign up for a yoga retreat? There are many to choose from in the Maldives, and most of them include meals and accommodations! Yes, yoga is calmer in comparison to surfing, but don’t let all that zen-centred mindfulness fool you! There’s a reason why yogis have chiselled physiques and stronger bones; those poses actually challenge your body’s flexibility and often focus on neglected muscle groups. A yoga retreat in the Maldives sounds heavenly post-pandemic, don’t you think?
Better yet, sign up for yoga and surfing in the Maldives, and get the best of both worlds!
4. Save the species by observing ecosystems
Scientific experts say that by the end of the 21st century, rising sea levels could take over most of the Maldives’ stunning islands. Add to that the fact that its coral islands and pristine waters are home to sea creatures big and small, migratory and otherwise. That said, sustainability and saving ecosystems have long been priorities of organisations headquartered in the Maldives. As Uncle Ben once told Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In the Maldives’ case, living amid such natural beauty and rich biodiversity automatically places locals and tourists alike as custodians of the environment.
Tick off this unique thing to do in the Maldives: Holiday with a purpose. Maldivian islands brim with organisations that offer eco-forward activities and educational tours. Take a crash course on ethical diving and learn how to better respect the natural habitats you’ll be visiting in the Maldives. In the process, learn about animal conservation efforts in the different atolls and how a singular respect for wildlife has shaped the way locals harmoniously coexist with native species.
Volunteer. Swim with the dolphins and the whale sharks. Watch turtle eggs hatch from a distance. Participate in a beach clean-up. Snorkel or freedive at some of the world’s most vibrant coral atolls. Support Parley Ocean School in their mission to make an impact in the lives of the next generation of ocean guardians. Whatever it is you choose to do in the Maldives that’s a step towards cleaner oceans and happier wildlife habitats, make sure you bring the learnings home with you.
5. Take a guided walking tour of Malé
Most of you might be picturing your epic Maldivian getaway in lush resort islands — always within a stone’s throw away from your Instagrammable overwater accommodations. But as far as unique things to do in the Maldives go, don’t miss the chance to explore the capital, Malé. Here, you’ll get an authentic glimpse of local living in a day or even a few hours!
While you might be tempted to ride a hired car around town, we highly recommend a guided walking tour. This way, you don’t miss overlooked alleyways filled with curioshops and open markets that might just lead you to your next gastronomic adventure! Talk to locals and chow down on Maldivian specialities such as Mas Huni (shredded smoked tuna), Garudiya (fish stew), and Saagu Bondi Bai (sago pudding) for dessert! Also, taste the best catch of the day when you pass by markets selling fresh seafood like lobsters and fish cutlets. You’re so close to the ocean’s bounty; you might as well get your belly filled with it.
In between munching on Maldivian delights, visit historical sites and mosques. Make sure to dress modestly for your cultural immersion, and pay attention to all the fun facts you’ll learn from your guides! If you can, drop by the National Museum to get a rundown of the Maldives’ history.
6. Plant a tree to commemorate your stay
We bet you didn’t see this coming! Who would have thought you’d be including tree planting on your list of things to do in the Maldives? But yes, you certainly can!
By planting a tree in the Maldives, you can commemorate your stay and leave behind a very green imprint. There are resorts that offer this unique initiative; here are a few: Hideaway Beach Maldives, Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa, and Lily Beach Resort & Spa. Think of it this way: If in Paris or South Korea, you can leave behind a padlock and wish for lasting love, in the Maldives, you can plant a tree and look out for Mother Earth’s longevity.
Drop by the Visit Maldives website to know more about your next sustainable holiday in South Asia.
7. Tie the knot in the Maldives
Speaking of lasting love and memories you’ll be keeping for life, why not do something that might not automatically come to mind for most adventurers: Get married in the Maldives!
The Maldives is quite the popular place to go on a honeymoon or get engaged, but it’s perfect for weddings, too. Imagine saying your vows to the love of your life against the Maldives’ romantic charm and calm waters. The best part? Most Maldives resorts can actually help arrange your ceremony and celebration for you so you won’t have to worry about DIY-ing everything.
Plus, with the Maldives’ “one-island-one-resort” policy, you can have a safe and dreamy beach wedding with health protocols in place for your entire party, regardless of headcount.
Say yes to all these unique things to do in the Maldives
So, how about it? If you aren’t in that stage of your life just yet, you can always say “I do” to the Maldives and all the unique activities it offers instead. Meet us in the Maldives? We’ll be waiting!
Brought to you by Visit Maldives.