Shipwrecked in Paradise
Due to geographical isolation, Maldives largely became known and explored by Europeans through shipwrecked sailors who stumbled across the islands by chance after succumbing to the treacherous coral atolls.
The most famous of these early explorers was French navigator François Pyrard, who found himself and his surviving crew stuck on the island of Fulhadhoo in Baa Atoll after his ship, the Corbin, was wrecked in 1602. Spending five years on Fulhadhoo and later on Male as an effective prisoner in Maldives, Pyrard learned Dhivehi (unlike his fellow crew members) and wrote the first extensive account of Maldivian culture: The Voyage of François Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas, and Brazil. Pyrard eventually managed to escape from Male during a Bengali raid in 1611. He is still remembered as the first European to have acquired an in-depth knowledge of the country.
Hanifaru Unesco Biosphere Reserve
The entirety of Baa Atoll was made a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve in 2011, joining the illustrious ranks of places such as the Galapagos Islands, Uluru in Australia and the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil. This honour reflects the pristine nature of the atoll's astonishing biodiversity, in particular its corals and impressive whale shark and manta ray populations, which can frequently be seen in and around Hanifaru Bay. The centrepiece of the biosphere reserve, Hanifaru is one of the most famous snorkelling sites in Maldives; all resorts and guesthouses in Baa Atoll can arrange trips here. For many, this extraordinary place is a reason to choose Baa Atoll above all overs.