Ari Atoll

Second only to North Male' Atoll as the centre of the Maldivian tourist industry, Ari Atoll sits to the west of the capital, a vast oval lagoon dotted with reefs and as sumptuously inviting as anywhere else in the country. Like Male' Atoll, Ari is known universally by its traditional name rather than its official name of Alif, a usage we have followed here.

To the east, Ari Atoll is separated from South Male' Atoll by a 40km-wide channel, perhaps 500m deep; to the west, the sea floor drops precipitously to over 2000m. Abundant marine life in the atoll creates nutrient-rich water that flows out through channels, attracting large creatures from the open sea and divers from all over the world.

Despite its importance for the tourism industry, Ari Atoll is not a particularly developed part of the country. The regional capital, Mahibadhoo, has a population of just 1750 and there are only 18 inhabited islands in the entire atoll. The Indian Ocean tsunami did not massively affect the atoll, due to North and South Male' Atolls bearing the brunt of the wave. All resorts that were affected here have long since been up and running again.

The 28 resorts here are some of the best-established in the country and include the Hilton Maldives, frequently winner of various 'best hotels in the world' accolades, as well as Dhoni Mighili, one of the most extraordinary resorts in the whole country, where guests stay aboard their own customised luxury dhoni. Whatever you seek from the Maldives you'll find it in Ari Atoll.

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