Photo by Sarah Ackerman
Imagine a country occupying a blue piece of the Indian Ocean larger than the size of Maine (35,000 square miles), but with only 115 square miles of land mass spread across 26 tiny coral atolls.
Welcome to the Maldives - the lowest country on earth.
Unlike the volcanic islands rising up throughout Asia, the land in the Maldives is actually deposited on the tops of coral reefs. Unlike Railay, Thailand, you won't find much climbing; the highest point in the Maldives is less than 8 feet above sea level!
But apparently size doesn't matter. The tiny island nation located just southwest of Sri Lanka has managed to attract over 8 million tourists since 2007, even despite some political instability.
A majority of those 8 million tourists end up on tiny islands constructed by the luxury resorts that occupy them. If you've ever wanted to sleep in a bungalow on stilts with water below you, the Maldives is the place to do so.
Living basically on level with the Indian Ocean comes with some advantages. The world-class diving and snorkeling literally outside of your bungalow door are a pleasant distraction from the near-private beaches.
So aside from the cost for staying in paradise, which isn't too terrible, what's the catch?
The Maldives are disappearing. As climate change makes sea levels rise, the country is literally sinking into the sea and precious land mass is consumed yearly. A dire role indeed, the Maldives serve as a benchmark for monitoring the Indian Ocean. The government was even desperate enough to look into purchasing land in India, Sri Lanka, and Australia to potentially relocate their country one day.
Fortunately, we still have a little time left to visit one of the world's most unique destinations.
- See more about Maldives travel and what to expect there.