We visited the Island of Bi-ya-doo in the South Male Atoll in December 1999, for a week of snorkelling. We discovered a beautiful resort, lovely local people and an underwater paradise that exceeded our every expectation. We snorkelled nearly 30 hours, identified over 100 species of fish and swam with sharks, turtles and rays. This feature includes over 60 of our underwater photographs, a full review of the holiday, and links to other relevant web-resources about the Maldives, tropical fish and coral-bleaching.
The Maldive Republic is a country of around 250,000 people scattered across 1192 islands (someone had to count them!) in the Indian Ocean, southeast of Sri Lanka and India. They stretch for some 500 miles just north of the Equator, and comprise small (mostly) islands clustered around 26 Atolls. There is no point in the Maldives which is more than 1.5m above sea-level! Additionally, less than 0.4% of the country is dry land.
The Maldives has a tropical climate, with temperatures varying little - usually around 25 degrees C at night and 30 degrees C by day. Water temperature varies between 27 and 30 degrees C. Because it is close to the equator, it is not threatened by typhoons (which is just as well, given the flatness of the country - indeed it is the world's flattest country!).
The islands are typically no more than a few hundred metres across, and are fringed in coral reefs, with white-coral sand beaches, shallow lagoons and have little vegetation beyond coconut palms. The resorts in the Maldives are mostly limited to a few of the Atolls near the capital (Male), and each resort typically occupies one island. There are under 100 resorts These picture perfect islands attract two types of visitor: the sun-worshiper and the underwater fanatic.
The location and type (Atoll) of the islands has produced the most wonderful coral-reef environment in the world. It is the sheer quantity and diversity of the marine wildlife, and the unmatched water visibility (which can reach 230 ft) that distinguishes it from other great reefs. Some two thirds of all known reef fish are found in the Maldives, and the reefs are easily accessible. A typical resort reef (house reef) might be only 10 m from the beach, and might drop-off to 30m. The vast majority of the fish can be seen by snorkelling out from your room, without ever having to go on a boat (except to get to the resort in the first place, of course).
In 1998, the El Nino Southern Oscillation was attributed to a rise in water temperature in the Indian Ocean that caused the well-publicised death (bleaching) of a large proportion of the shallow-water coral in the Maldives and other countries. This environmental disaster is a tragedy for the "rain forests of the seas", and was of much concern to us before our visit (see our links to coral reef and Maldives resources on the Internet, and also our Bi-Ya-Doo holiday review for first-hand information on the state of the corals).
Clownfish and Tang
Parrotfish and Angelfish
Shoals and Ensembles
Butterflyfish and the like...
Even bigger things!!!
Bi-Ya-Doo: A Touch of Paradise in the Maldives - Review of a perfect holiday!
Links to Coral Reef and Maldives web-resources
High Resolution Images
800 x 600 images for wallpaper and screen savers
1024 x 768 images for wallpaper and screen savers
Coral Reef and Maldives Resources on the Internet