The Maldives are made up of 26 atolls that have built up over thousands of years to form this beautiful tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean. What could be a better destination for diving enthusiasts than an island nation made up of coral and coral reefs?

Comprised of several ecosystems, the Maldivian coral reefs are home to 1,100 species of fish, 5 species of sea turtles, and 21 species of whales and dolphins. The waters also welcome 145 crab and 48 shrimp species.

Among the many marine families you’re likely to see are pufferfish, lionfish, spotted eagle rays, angelfish, and barracuda. Even the sponges have gained some importance as five species found here have displayed anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.

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Most visitors arrive at Male’ International Airport on Hulhule Island, adjacent to the capitol city of Male’. The airport is served by flights to and from India, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Singapore, Istanbul, and most major airports in southeast Asia. Once you’re here most travel is via sea plane or boat.

Island visitors can live a Robinson Crusoe experience, relaxing amid the swaying palm trees and gazing out at azure seas. There are enough island resorts to find just what suits you, from upscale hotels to thatched-roof bungalows right on the sand, some with privacy as their main draw and others geared to active water sports catering to thrill-seekers.

Whatever experience calls you, two activities no visitor should miss are the excellent diving and snorkeling literally steps away from most accommodations.

The Banyon Tree Resort features 48 traditional thatched-roof rondavels with ceiling fans, mini-bars, and private gardens in an intimate setting. Guests can dine at indoor and outdoor resort restaurants or relax at the bar soaking up the sunset. The PADI dive school will teach the inexperienced the joys of underwater exploration, and there are plenty of other water-oriented activities including windsurfing, water skiing, night fishing, deep sea fishing, sailing and excursions on a glass-bottom boat. Rates here start at about $385.

Soneva Fushi is a newer high-end luxury resort situated on the largest island in the Baa atoll and offers ocean views and lush greenery. Bungalows are scattered along the beach or tucked into greenery to provide an environment of privacy for each guest. The resort has several fine restaurants and bars. There is a dive school close to the diving sites – many of which are new discoveries, and the resort will also arrange island-hopping trips and excursions. You might choose to bask in the sun near the shallow crystal-blue lagoon, sipping a frosty beverage and savoring the scenery. A seven-day stay is $1095 per person with each additional week at $600.