I recently attended the storyteller’s conference in the Maldives and witnessed the real essence of the Maldivian culture that was nothing like I expected.

I always thought of the Maldives as this ultra-expensive destination that was totally out of reach for me and my family, but I knew there had to be more.

I decided to apply to be a part of the event so that I could find out firsthand about this mysterious destination.

What I learned through my experiences, not only changed my perspective, but also touched my heart!

My experience was nothing short of incredible and I’m so grateful for the opportunity, thanks to Visit Maldives and their incredible team!

During the conference we attended engaging speeches, fun breakout sessions and once-in-a lifetime sideline experiences. All of them designed to teach us more and more about the Maldivian culture, history, and way of life.

My absolute favorite part of the entire conference was my sideline experience in the beautiful Addu Atoll.

An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef, island, or series of islets surrounding a body of water called a lagoon.

The Maldives are formed by 26 natural atolls, along with some islands and isolated reefs. This chain of islands and reefs stretches from 7 degrees 10′ North to 0 degrees 45′ South in the Indian Ocean all the way across the equator.

The Addu Atoll, is the southernmost atoll of the Maldives with 5 inhabited islands. Addu Atoll, together with Fuvahmulah, extend the Maldives into the Southern Hemisphere.

It was there in Addu Atoll that I started to fall deeply in love with the Maldivian culture, cuisine and its people. Adduans in particular are friendly, hospitable and peace loving people.

The Maldivian culture is a mix of all who have set foot there over centuries. Influences of India, Sri Lanka, Arabia, Persia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Africa are all part of their unique culture that now makes up the Maldives.

Hospitality in the Maldives

My greatest experience all started with one of the warmest greetings I’ve ever received. The Maldivian’s are such kind and polite people and they really enjoy greeting you with open arms and lots of smiles.

I will be forever changed by the heartwarming speech by one of the gentlemen at the Equator Village, who spoke about how much love is behind every interaction he and the Adduans have with their guests. It definitely had an impact on how I view my day to day interactions going forward.

Traditional Music of the Maldives

Part of our welcome included one of the most popular forms of folk music and dance found in the inhabited islands of Maldives, called Bodu Beru. The dance form paired with the music is known as Bandiyaa Jehun. This performance art is typically performed by young women dancing while using metal water pots as musical instruments. 

Unique Landscape of the Southern Atoll

After being welcomed to Addu, we were then introduced to the natural beauty of the island by exploring it both above and below. 

The Maldives is made up of 1,190 coral islands that create an archipelago of 26 major atolls. Only 202 islands are inhabited, while 107 are actually private resort islands.

Addu Nature Park

We got a chance to explore the Addu Nature Park and it was absolutely stunning! Along with the Eydhigali Kilhi wetlands and the protected area of the Hithadhoo Island, it’s so breathtaking in person. 

Snorkeling/ Scuba Diving in Addu

The Maldives as a whole is known as one of the best diving destinations in the world. The unique beauty of the Maldivian underwater world is like nowhere else. The southern Atolls are especially known for their beautiful coral reefs and they should be!

Coral Reefs in the Maldives

These colorful reefs have endless marine life to observe while snorkeling or scuba diving. In just an hour’s time,  I saw angelfish, surgeonfish, parrotfish and something called oriental sweetlips, among many other species. Others got to see baby reef sharks in the shallow resort lagoons, which was a special treat.

Cuisine of the Maldives

Another highlight of my sideline experience was when one of the local families welcomed us into their home and showered us with generosity and love. They presented us with the most delicious meal that they had spent hours preparing in anticipation of our arrival. They even carved out some extra time to teach us about their recipes and customs, so that we could appreciate what it means to be Maldivian.

There’s an obvious South Asian influence in the traditional food of the Maldives. This is wildly apparent from the spicy curries using coconut milk and fish.

Did you know that Maldivians consume more fish than any other people? Fishing is a huge part of their culture and they use fish in breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Language of the Maldives

While we enjoyed our special meal in Addu, we were all given the opportunity to learn how to speak the native language. The coolest part was when they taught us how to spell our own names in Dhivehi.

The Dhivehi language is spoken in all parts of the Maldives, although English is also spoken by Maldivians and many of its visitors. It was interesting to learn that they are taught both languages early on in school, which is why so many are fluent in both.

This trip to the Maldives had such an impact on me. It taught me so much about this amazing destination and its culture.

I was so wrong in thinking that the Maldives was only about overwater villas and clear water. I got to see the heart of the Maldives and it caused me to fall in love.

If you are considering a trip to the Maldives, I really hope that you will consider visiting more than just the resorts. I hope you will take the time to taste the amazing Maldivian cuisine, explore destinations a bit off the beaten path, and make friends with some of the most kind and loving people.

I hope one day you will get to experience the true Maldives, because that is what makes it a truly unforgettable destination.

I love so much about the Maldives and my special trip to the local islands will always have a special place in my heart.

Want more tips on how you can visit the Maldives and experience more of the culture on a budget?

Want to learn about the resorts I visited on my trip? Check out my most recent article!