Haa Dhaalu is an administrative district spread over 14 inhabited islands and made up of South Thiladhunmathee Atoll and the far smaller Maamakunudhoo Atoll. The atoll capital, Kulhuduffushi, is the most populous island, home to around 8200 people. It’s also the most important island in the northern Maldives, with a hospital, secondary school and plenty of shops, although as it lacks sufficient space for an airport, planes land on nearby Hanimaadhoo.
The area around Haa Dhaalu suffers severe storms, and quite a few vessels have gone down in these waters. Maamakunudhoo Atoll is the graveyard of several ships, including the English ships Persia Merchant, wrecked here in 1658, and the Hayston, which ran onto a reef in 1819. In each instance, survivors were rescued by local people and treated with kindness, a source of great local pride.