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Republic of Maldives

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago ©Laurence Poh

Situated in the Indian Ocean between 72 degrees 33 40 East to 73 degrees 45 20 East and 7 degrees 06 38 North to 0 degrees 42 31 South, this is one of the smallest countries in Southern Asia, and is roughly situated south-Southwest of India. The total area including land and sea is about 90,000-sq km. of which about 2% is land. The length of the archipelago is 823km while it is 130km at its greatest width. The population is 310,764 (July 2001 est.); and the capital is Malè, situated in the North-Malè-Atoll, the capital city has a population of 70,000 and is 1.5 sq. km., and is probably the smallest capital city in the world.

The Maldives is a chain of coral atolls formed upon minor elevations on the Chagos-Lacadive submarine plateau, which ascends from the deep Indian Ocean. The plateau has provided a base for the reef building corals, from where they have risen to the surface. There are a total of approximately 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts); with an average elevation of about 1.6 meters above mean sea level. All of them are surrounded by natural reefs, which serve as the only protection against rough seas. The islands are generally flat with very few mounds. There are no hills, mountains or rivers. Some of the larger islands have small fresh-water lakes while others have brackish water with mangroves along the edges. The lowest point is the Indian Ocean 0m and the highest point is an unnamed location on Wilingili island in the Addu Atoll this is 2.4m high.

Threats for the island are depletion of freshwater aquifers which threatens water supplies, global warming and sea level rise (80% of the area is one meter or less above sea level) and coral reef bleaching.

The language spoken is Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic); English is spoken by most government officials, and the Rufiyaa is the currency there. Tourism, Maldives largest industry, accounts for 20% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives` foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Almost 400,000 tourists visited the islands in 1998. Fishing is a second leading sector.

The Maldives were long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection. The Maldives became a republic in 1968, three years after independence (26 July 1965). A visa is not required for the Maldives. During 1999, vaccination against yellow fever, cholera and tetanus was not necessary but it could not harm to take it. The Climate is tropical; hot, humid; dry, and has a Northeast monsoon from November to March and from the Southwest monsoon from June to August. Take care for the sun because it is almost right above when shining, because you are very close to the equator.

Transportation and accommodation - There are few ways to get to these island. Most people book either a trip to the Maldives alone or a combined trip with Sri Lanka. When you book to the Maldives you can only book it with hotels etc. This booking includes transportation to the island, accommodation, breakfast and supper. Notice that drinks and food other than breakfast and supper are not for free, and prices are fairly high. On the island where you are staying you have chances to get on snorkelling trips or sightseeing trips, these are not expensive and can bring you some nice species.

Avifauna - The Internet and various other sources have few if any bird reports from the Maldives. The following information can be found in several chapters of The Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp. They satet a total of 144 species ever recorded, and most of these species are shorebirds and vagrants. Few birds breed here but Crab-plover, Lesser Frigatebird, White Tern and Audubon`s Shearwater are the most spectacular breeders. There are no known endemics on the island. However, it cannot be doubted that some islands are still unexploited for their birding potential.

Our correspondent saw 2 new species for the Maldives: Rain Quail and Citrine Wagtail.


Justin Jansen

Blitterswijckseweg 3, 5871 CD Broekhuizenvorst, The Netherlands


Number of Species

Number of bird species: 144


iGoTerra Checklist

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Useful Reading

* Field Guides & Bird Song

* Field Guides & Bird Song For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering Asia as a whole - please see the Asia page of Fatbirder - for guides covering the Indian sub-continent please see the India page

A Photographic Guide to Birds of India

[Including Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh & Bhutan] Bikram Grewal, Bill Harvey and Otto Pfister 512 pages, 850 col photos, 800 maps. Christopher Helm

ISBN: 0713664037

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Helm Identification Guides: Birds of the Indian Subcontinent

by Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp
Hardcover - 888 pages 1998 Christopher Helm

ISBN: 0713640049

Buy this book from NHBS.com

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Trip Reports

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Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2008 [03 March] - Neil Arnold


…Later in the morning we were watching another pod of Risso’s Dolphin when, in the distance, we could see Lesser Frigatebirds and Sooty Terns feeding over a shoal of fish…

2009 [04 April] - Neil Arnold


…Wedge-tailed Shearwaters skimmed the surface while Bridled terns and Common Noddies wheeled overhead. At one stage they were joined by a lone Tropical Shearwater and an Arctic Skua….

2010 [01 January] - Chas Anderson

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…The day started with a short sail to the Finolau island – a sandbank in the middle of a coral reef. The bird-watching was interesting; Black-naped Terns and Brown Noddies were noted as was a flock of eight small terns which were probably Saunders’s Terns…

2011 [01 January] - Chas and Susan Anderson

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…Birds had been totally absent in the vicinity of Malé, but as we moved further away, we did start to spot more and more. Lesser Noddies were by far the commonest, and most people also got good views of Lesser Crested Tern….

2014 [02 February] - David Karr - Gan Island & Addu Atoll


…Also on my hit list were White-tailed Tropicbird and the Crab Plover. I scored two out of three and also four other (unexpected) lifers: Curlew Sandpiper, Saunders’ Tern, Montagu’s Harrier and a Shearwater…

2014 [02 February] - WildWings

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...Out in the ocean, things seemed quiet at first. But we were drawn towards some distant fishing boats. As we got closer we could see that there was plenty of action. There were hundreds of Spotted and Spinner Dolphins, plus Yellowfin Tunas and several species of seabird: Tropical Shearwater, Great Crested Terns, Brown Noddies and a single Great Frigatebird. We spend 1½ hours here, taking in all the activity and in particular enjoying the presence of many baby Spotted Dolphins, before moving on....

2015 [03 March] - Cruise

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We all met as scheduled at the airport, and after a short delay our dhoni arrived to transfer us to the main boat. The delay was fortuitous because on the way we encountered a small school of Spinner Dolphins

2015 [05 May] - Cruise

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...There were a few nice birds too, with an Asian Koel calling and on show, an Indian Pond Heron in breeding plumage, and two Maldivian Little Herons on the harbour wall.

Other Links

List of birds of the Maldives


The following is a list of birds recorded in the Maldives. The small size and isolation of this Indian Ocean republic means that its avifauna is extremely restricted. Most of the species are characteristic of Eurasian migratory birds, only a few being typically associated with the Indian sub-continent…