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Updated by Joanna James on Apr 15, 2020
Headline for The Coral Reef in the Maldives – Hidden secrets of the world under the waves
Joanna James Joanna James
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The Coral Reef in the Maldives – Hidden secrets of the world under the waves

The Maldives is home to one of the most beautiful reefs in the world. Though many visitors travel all the way to these islands to see these reefs not many know too much about them.



The Maldives is made up of an assortment of thousands of islands in the Indian Ocean just southwest off the coast of Sri Lanka. The estimate for the number of islands varies and most believe it is around 1190 of which only 119 are inhabited. The Maldives is the lowest-lying nation in the world; its highest peak being only 4m above sea level. Islands are usually being washed away while new ones are being created hence it is hard to keep an exact count but to make it easier the islands are grouped into 19 different atolls.



Coral reefs are actually formed by a type of tiny animal known as the polyps. These creatures secrete a hard limestone skeleton which creates the frame for the coral to grow. Corals that branch usually grow very fast, even up to 20-30cm a day while large boulder-like corals only grow a few millimetres per year. The way corals grow, depend largely on the ocean currents and the shape and depth of the ocean floor. Modern reefs are actually a result of newer corals building upon eroded away corals that were left dry after the sea-level drop during the ice age.



The word atoll is the only word in the English language that has a Dhivehi origin; it derives from the word 'atholu'. The Oxford definition of an atoll is 'a ring-shaped coral reef enclosing a lagoon'. Different maps have a different name for the atolls and their names are confusing as it is. However, there are shorter abbreviations the locals use which you will probably quickly get the hang of if you ever visit. The popular destination islands have changed their names since tourism began to boom.



A noticeable fact about the outer reef slopes is the greater depths and the amazing clarity of the water. After a depth of 20m, the surging of waves is non-existent. This makes perfect conditions for the reef to grow extensively even up to 50m in some cases. The upper parts of the corals which are soft are usually damaged by the waves and a single freak storm can wipe out a whole swathe of growing coral though when safe from the waves Acropora can grow dominantly supporting a vast number of fish species.


Protected Marine Areas

For many years now the government of the Maldives has taken measures to extensively protect the reef and the species that call it home. Nearly 15 selected areas which see a lot of tourism are amongst the most heavily protected regions. If you are staying in one of the luxury overwater bungalows in Maldives on a resort island it is likely you're staying amongst one of the marine reserves. But when you do visit be mindful of the reefs and environment; leave it better than you found it if you can. The Maldives has many beautiful places to offer but try to get the whole experience and stay at one of their renowned resorts like Anantara Veli Maldives Resort.