A total of 24 natural islands of various sizes lie on a heart shaped coral rim. The islands on the western side of the Atoll have been linked by a man-made causeway that links the islands of Hithadho, Maradhoo, Maradhoofeydhoo, Feydhoo and Gan, an extent of 14km. On the eastern side of the atoll, lie the islands of Hulhudhoo and Meedhoo and the tourist resorts Herathera and Shangri-la’s Villingilli Resort & Spa. At the Southern tip of the Atoll is Gan International Airport. Gan marks the most southern point in the Maldives as well as the most southern point in South Asia.
The Maldives has a tropical climate distinguished by two seasons: dry from December to March, and wet from May to November with moderate winds and rain. March is the usual month noted for clear water with temperature remarkably consistent at around 30°C.
The dialect spoken in this atoll (Addu bas) is quite different from the official form of Dhivehi language. It has some similarities with the dialect of Fua Mulaku (Mulaku bas).
Traditionally all educated islanders from the three different atolls of the south adopted the Addu Bas as lingua franca. Hence, when for example an islander of Huvadhu met with another from Fua Mulaku, they would use the Addu bas to talk to each other. Addu bas is the most widespread and popular dialect in the southern region of Maldives.
Gan International Airport is connected by SriLankan Airlines via Colombo at the moment. More international airlines are expected to begin operations in the near future.
Addu is a 75 minute flight south of Velana International Airport, Male’. The city has an international airport on Gan which caters to both domestic and international airlines and private jets.
There are numerous daily flights between Male’ and Addu by local airline–Maldivian. Sailing yachts and boats can directly visit Addu since Addu Atoll is among the 3 clearing points in Maldives for international yachts.
A cheaper and more adventurous way of getting here would be to hop on a cargo boat from Male’ and sail through the atolls anchoring at some islands along the way. Although this may take 2-3 days, it definitely lets you enjoy the beauty and interact with lively locals.
There are no exact records of when the first settlers arrived in Addu Atoll, but several historians and researchers have concluded that people were living on these islands for more than 2000 years. It is believed the first settlers originated from Sri Lanka and India. The Maldives was previously a Buddhist nation until it embraced Islam 800 years ago. The people of Meedhoo island in Addu were amongst the first to convert to Islam in the Maldives.
Despite its isolation, Adduans have always been energetic, creative and self-reliant. The community has always thrived on fishing, farming, weaving, toddy tapping, but the most significant of all the community’s achievements was its trade vessels. Addu is well known for its able sea navigators and vessels. The Addu-built wooden sailing vessels would regularly travel to Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, and even as far as China for trade, carrying local produce such as coconuts and sweet savories made from toddy. The traders would then return with goods like grains, fabrics, medicinal herbs, spices, perfumes, etc. There were also annual trips to Arabia for the pilgrimage in Mecca.
The biggest influence on Addu’s modern history has been the British bases, first established on Gan during WWII as part of the Indian Ocean defenses. In 1956, when the British could no longer use Sri Lanka, they developed a Royal Air Force base on Addu as a strategic Cold War outpost. The base had around 600 personnel permanently stationed there, with up to 3000 during periods of peak activity. The British built a series of causeways connecting Feydhoo, Maradhoo and Hithadhoo islands and employed most of the population on or around the base.
Tensions between the southern atolls and the central government in Male’ peaked in the 1960s under the leadership of Abdulla Afif Didi, who was elected president of the ‘United Suvadive Republic, comprising Addu, Fuvahmulah and Huvadhoo. Afif declared independence from the Maldives, but an armed fleet sent south by Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir quashed the short-lived southern rebellion. In 1976 the British pulled out, leaving an airport, some large industrial buildings, barracks and a lot of unemployed people, trained and skilled, who spoke good English and had experience working for Westerners. When the tourism industry took off in the late 1970s, many of the men of Addu went to Male seeking work in resorts and tourist shops. They have never lost their head start in the tourism business to this date. Even today in any resort, visitors find a large number of key staff hailed from Addu. Gan is now a commercial island with Equator Village tourist resort, business offices, shops and the airstrip now being used as Gan International Airport.
Lying just a few degrees south of the equator, the islands are filled with lush green tropical forests, marshlands, fresh water mangroves. These habitats are home to a various species of seabirds, fish and crustaceans. In addition, there is a huge population of fruit-bats and wild ducks, fowls and cats in the wild.
The symbolic bird of Addu, white-tern, is only found in Addu. The presence of white terns is known to deter small eagles and crows from the islands made the Atoll free from crows completely.
There are many types of indigenous tropical fruits and vegetables which is the basis of the local cuisine in the early days. Plantain, breadfruit, taro, yam, tapioca, cassava, mango, banana, guava, papaya, watermelon are some of the common locally grown produce.
The economy is mainly based on Fisheries and tourism. Three tourist resorts, together with Gan international Airport and Hithadhoo Regional Port, operate in Addu City. Small scale agricultural farming exists and most people are employed by state and government institutions. Comparatively Addu City has a strong economy and businesses thrive.
The Addu Atoll is the southernmost atoll in the Maldives. Scuba diving at the Addu Atoll is a truly unforgettable experience that stands out from the rest in the Maldives.
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