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Blog > Maldives > Beyond the resorts: discover the local islands of the Maldives

Beyond the resorts: discover the local islands of the Maldives

by Caroline King-Malone
Locals in the Maldives

When you think of the Maldives, images of pristine white beaches, warm turquoise waters, and luxury resorts typically spring to mind, and whilst these elements undeniably form part of the charm, there's a richer, more authentic side waiting to be explored too. Venture beyond the resorts and immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes of the local Maldivian islands, where you can experience the vibrant culture for yourself. 

With a melting pot of influences from around the world, the Maldives has a unique cultural tapestry evident in their traditional music, dance, crafts, and cuisine. From the rhythmic beats of bodu beru, to the intricate lacquer work and dhoni boat building, this island nation boasts a rich heritage that’s as captivating as its natural beauty.

Boat on beach in the Maldives

What to expect from a stay on a local island

Traditional cuisine

Maldivian cuisine is a delectable blend of Indian, Sri Lankan, and Arabic flavors, heavily focused around fresh fish, coconut, and spices. On local islands, you can savor dishes like Mas Huni (shredded smoked fish with coconut), Garudhiya (fish soup), and Fihunu Mas (grilled fish). Participating in a cooking class is a wonderful way to learn more about the culinary traditions of the Maldives, and have a tasty meal to boot! 

Food in the MaldivesLocal customs

While exploring the local islands, it’s important to respect local customs and traditions. The Maldives is a Muslim country, and modest clothing is appreciated when visiting local islands. It’s also important to respect prayer times and the local way of life, which may differ from a resort experience. On most local islands there are dedicated ‘bikini’ or tourist beaches where you can take a dip or sunbathe in your swimwear. Local and tourists in the Maldives drinking from coconuts

Community and environmental focus

The Maldives' local islands are a hub of innovative conservation and community projects aimed at preserving the region's delicate ecosystem while enhancing the well-being of its inhabitants. On Villimale, the Save the Beach NGO focuses on maintaining marine ecosystems through reef monitoring, beach clean-ups, and educational programs.

Community efforts are geared towards waste management and the reduction of plastic pollution, promoting recycling and eco-friendly practices among residents and visitors alike. Awareness campaigns and training programs are designed to empower locals, ensuring they can actively participate in and benefit from conservation efforts. These projects take a collaborative approach, intertwining ecological preservation with community development.

Tourist and local women in the Maldives

Local accommodation

Staying on local islands in the Maldives provides a distinctive and authentic experience, blending comfort with cultural immersion. Unlike the secluded luxury resorts, local island accommodation offers travellers the chance to stay in welcoming guesthouses and boutique hotels that reflect the island's unique charm and character. These accommodations often feature traditional Maldivian architecture and design, whilst being just steps away from the vibrant daily life of local communities. Staying on local island hotels also supports sustainable tourism efforts by benefiting the island directly, ensuring the economic impact of tourism remains within the community.

Local island accommodation in the Maldives

Activities beyond the beach

While the beaches are undeniably a major pull of the Maldives holiday, a stay on a local island offers a variety of activities that go beyond the expected sunbathing and snorkelling. Wander through vibrant markets, where the aroma of fresh produce fills the air, and artisans craft intricate souvenirs from local materials. 

Out on the water kayak through mangrove forests to gain an insight into the delicate ecosystems and the efforts to safeguard them. Learn about community and conservation efforts that preserve the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the archipelago whilst participating in beach cleans or coral reef restoration projects, contributing directly to environmental preservation.

Kayaking in the Maldives

Speak to one of our Destination Specialists on +44 (0)1273 670 001, or send us your enquiry.

by Caroline King-Malone on 27th June 2024

Blog > Maldives > Beyond the resorts: discover the local islands of the Maldives