North South Male Atolls

At the centre of the country, the two atolls either side of Vaadhoo Kandu are the home of Maldivian tourism, where the first resorts cautiously developed in the 1970s. Today it's home to the Maldives' main international airport as well as to many of the country's most famous and best-established island resorts.

The dynamic national capital, Male', the economic and political centre of the country, lies between North and South Male' A tolls, and yet it's hard to imagine anywhere much more pristine than the islands that surround its bustle. Once you leave the area immediately around the capital and the airport, the nature of Maldivian geography means that even in the most developed part of the country there's little encroachment of the modern world on most islands.

Some excellent dive sites are found on these atolls, despite the coral bleaching caused by El Nino. Sites close to Male' have been heavily used, but in general they are in very good condition. Some of the most interesting sites are on either side of Vaadhoo Kandu, the channel that runs between North and South Male' Atolls. At the outer edge of the atolls, the dive sites are accessible from only a few resorts or by safari boat, and you'll probably have them all to yourself. Gaafaru Falhu Atoll, north of North Male' Atoll, has at least three diveable shipwrecks. Some of the Maldives' best surf breaks are also in North Male' Atoll.

This will be where many people experience the Maldives and both atolls are stunning visions of cobalt-blue water, white sand and island idyll - both worthy introductions to this most beguiling of countries.

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