Just off the Southern tip of India lie two of the most beautiful tropical paradises on the planet. Situated in the Indian Ocean, on one-side rests the magnificent Maldives islands and on the other Sri Lanka – an island that the great traveller Marco Polo described as ‘undoubtedly the finest of its size in the world’.
Despite being a tropical island of the coast of India, with the majority of people not Hindu but Buddhist, Sri Lanka is totally different from its neighbouring country. Once visited it is hard not to agree with Marco Polo because of its many delights. Sri Lanka offers culture, historic sites, beautiful scenery, stunning wildlife, surfing and great food. If beaches take your fancy, the coastal stretch south of Colombo offers palm-lined sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. There’s also the natural wealth for which Sri Lanka is renowned; escape to the hills where you’ll find gorgeous rolling hills often coated with tea plantations. The island is surrounded with exotic bird life and animals, most common being elephants and leopards.
About 400 miles southwest of Sri Lanka are the Maldives, a large group of islands that have become a dream destination for many holidaymakers. The 1190 unique islands spread across the Indian Ocean and circle into 26 natural atolls. They boast beautiful white beaches and breathtaking underwater scenery. Travellers can stay on only 87, which have been developed as tourist resorts. The airport is on one of the islands, its capital city Male is on another. There’s a boat taxi called a ‘dhoni’ that takes you between the two and costs about a dollar. International Tour Operators offer package holidays to the Maldives, many focusing on diving and tropical luxury.
Quite different to Sri Lanka, there are fewer independent travellers, but it is also one hundred percent Muslim and all other religious paraphernalia are confiscated at the airport. People pray up to five times a day and there is no alcohol except at the tourist resorts. Fish are still caught here by rod and line so as not to deplete stocks. Fishing used to be the country’s main source of industry but slowly it’s giving way to tourism.
The Maldives has gained a reputation for being one of the best diving destinations in the world. With hundreds of breathtaking dive sites and colorful fascinating underwater worlds, it has perfect conditions throughout the year and a visibility every photographer dreams of. It’s certainly not a place for low budget backpackers or amateur anthropologists.
Sri Lanka & the Maldives
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Diving in The Maldives
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