Introducing Southern Atolls
All eyes are currently on the southern Maldives to provide the islands for the future development of tourism in the Maldives. The already-crowded central Maldives and the bad transport links to the northern atolls mean that the pristine south is, in the words of many a developer, ripe for it. There are three regional airports with daily connections to Male’ already here and the new international airport at Gan will begin taking long-haul flights from Europe and Asia, so tourism arrivals to this relatively untouched area of the country are set to dramatically increase.
Until a few years ago, the atolls south of Male’ and Ari Atolls were isolated and had scarcely seen a foreigner. The exception was Gan, in the far south of the country, where the British had established military facilities in WWII and an air-force base that operated from 1956 to 1976. Even 30 years after the British departed Gan still has an unusually British feel.
Staying at the budget Equator Village remains one of the best ways to experience real life in the Maldives, as a new road has connected Gan to three other inhabited islands that tourists are free to explore by bicycle or taxi without the usual restrictions.
Development is set to be huge over the next decade here: the tourism zone looks set to be expanded to cover all five southern atolls that are currently off-limits to non-permit-holders, safari boats are regularly exploring dive sites as far south as the Huvadhoo Kandoo (famously known as One-and-a-Half-Degree channel), and surfing trips are going to the remotest breaks of Gaaf Dhaal. Despite this, the region is almost totally pristine and a wonderful place to visit.