Official name: Republic of Maldives
Area: 300 square kilometers (116 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Unnamed location on Wilingili Island in the Addu Atoll (2.4 meters/7.9 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Eastern, Northern, and Southern
Time zone: 5 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 823 kilometers (510 miles) from north to south; 133 kilometers (82 miles) from east to west
Land boundaries: None
Coastline: 644 kilometers (400 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
The reh2blic of Maldives is located on the equator, south of India. It is the smallest country in Asia, and is about one-and-a-half times the size of Washington, D.C. Maldives has nineteen atolhu, or administrative divisions.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Maldives has no territories or dependencies.
Maldives's climate is equatorial—usually hot and humid, with an average temperature of about 27°C (81°F). During the northeast monsoon season from November to March, the weather is mild and comfortable; the weather during the southwest monsoon season from June to August, on the other hand, is extremely rainy and violent. In the south, annual rainfall averages approximately 380 centimeters (150 inches), and in the north it averages 250 centimeters (100 inches).
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Maldives consists of an archipelago of almost twelve hundred coral islands and sandy banks in the Indian Ocean. The level and low-lying islands are gradually washing away into the ocean; others are still forming, and these are constantly growing in size. Most islands have freshwater lagoons, and all have coastal reefs. The largest atoll group is the Malé Atoll, where the capital city, Malé is located.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Seacoast and Undersea Features
Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean, about 645 kilometers (400 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka. A protective, fringing coral reef surrounds each individual island. Small patch reefs and faroes (unusual ring-shaped reefs) are located in Malé Atoll's lagoon.
Sea Inlets and Straits
Four ocean channels cross through the archipelago from east to west. These are the Kardiva Channel, Veimandu Channel, One and a Half Degree Channel, and Equatorial Channel.
Islands and Archipelagos
Maldives is an archipelago made up of several atoll groups. From north to south, these groups are: Ihavandiffulu Atoll; Tiladummati Atoll; Miladummadulu Atoll; North Malosmadulu and South Malosmadulu Atolls; and Fadiffolu Atoll. Next, the Kardiva Channel separates these atolls from the following groups: Malé Atoll, South Malé Atoll, Ari Atoll, Felidu Atoll, Nilandu Atoll, Mulaku Atoll, and Kolumadulu Atoll. Even farther south are the Veimandu Channel and Haddummati Atoll; the One and a Half Degree Channel and the Suvadiva Atoll; and finally, the Equatorial Channel and the most southerly atoll, Addu Atoll.
All the islands of Maldives are small. The island of Malé, location of the capital city of the same name, is the most densely populated and developed. It is only 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) long and just over one kilometer (0.6 miles) wide. Sea walls surrounded the island on all sides.
To the far south in Maldives lies Addu Atoll, where the town of Seenu is located.
White coral sand covers Maldives's flat beaches. Unlike other beaches in the world, there is no trace of yellow or black coloring in the sand.
6 INLAND LAKES
The islands of Maldives are too small to support inland lakes of any significant size.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The islands of Maldives are too small to support rivers of any significant size.
There are no significant deserts on Maldives.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
Dense scrub covers the islands. The central islands are less fertile than the northern and southern groups, and the western islands are less fertile than the eastern ones.
There are no thick jungles on the islands because of the poor soil, but small areas of rainforest exist on the larger islands that experience more precipitation. Coconut, plantain, banyan, and mango trees thrive in the tropical climate, along with flowers and shrubs.
The Maldives islands are almost completely flat and have no significant hills or valleys.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
Maldives's coral islands are almost completely flat.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
Maldives has no significant canyons or caves.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
Maldives does not have any notable plateaus.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
There are no significant man-made features affecting the geography of Maldives.
14 FURTHER READING
Balla, Mark, and Robert Willox. Maldives & Islands of the East Indian Ocean . 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: Lonely Planet, 1993.
Heyerdahl, Thor. The Maldives Mystery . Bethesda, MD: Adler & Adler, 1986.
NgCheong-Lum, Roseline. Maldives . New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2001.