Geography of the Maldives

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Maldives is a country of South Asia, situated in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India. It consists of approximately 1,190 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometers, making this one of the most disparate countries in the world. Composed of live coral reefs and sand bars, the atolls are situated atop a submarine ridge 960 kilometers long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean and runs from north to south. Only near the southern end of this natural coral barricade do two open passages permit safe ship navigation from one side of the Indian Ocean to the other through the territorial waters of Maldives. For administrative purposes the Maldives government organized these atolls into nineteen administrative divisions.

The largest island of Maldives is Gan, which belongs to Laamu Atoll or Hahdhummathi Maldives. In Addu Atoll the westernmost islands are connected by roads over the reef and the total length of the road is 14 km.

Geographic coordinates: 3°15′N 73°00′E / 3.25°N 73°E / 3.25; 73

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Physical Geography

Most Atolls of the Maldives consist of a large, ring-shaped coral reef supporting numerous small islands. Islands average only one to two square kilometers in area, and lie between one and 1.5 meters above mean sea level. Although some of the larger atolls are approximately 50 kilometers long from north to south, and 30 kilometers wide from east to west, no individual island is longer than eight kilometers. Maldives has no hills, but some islands have dunes which can reach 2.4 meters / 8 feet above sea level, like the NW coast of Hithadhoo (Seenu Atoll) in Addu Atoll. Islands are too small to have rivers, but small lakes and marshes can be found in some islands.

On average, each atoll has approximately 5 to 10 inhabited islands; the uninhabited islands of each atoll number approximately 20 to 60. Some atolls, however, consist of one large, isolated island surrounded by a steep coral beach. The most notable example of this type of atoll is the large island of Fuvahmulah situated in the the Equatorial Channel.

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