The North Central Province of the Maldives is composed of the Alif Alif Atoll, the Kaafu Atoll, the Alifu Dhaalu Atoll and the Vaavu Atoll.
The Alif Alif Atoll is also known as the Northern Ari Atoll or Ari Atholhu Uthuruburi and is an administrative division of the Maldives that was created in 1984 by combining the northern section of the Ari Atoll, the small Rasdhu Atoll, and the isolated island of Thoddoo. The inhabited islands of the atoll are: Bodufolhudhoo, Feridhoo, Himandhoo, Maalhos, Mathiveri, Rasdhoo which is the capital of the Atoll, Thoddoo, Ukulhas, and Fesdhoo.
Many of the islands in this atoll have been inhabited since ancient times as evidenced by the archaeological remains from the Maldivian Buddhist period that have been found here. The island of Maalhos is geographically the westernmost island of the Atoll and Buddhist remains have also been found here.
One of the uninhabited islands of the Atoll, Veligandu Island covers 22 acres and is now a holiday resort with an excellent snorkelling reef. Guests travel to the island from Malé using seaplane services.
The Kaafu Atoll is a region of the Maldives that encompasses the North Malé Atoll, the South Malé Atoll and the islands of Kaashidhoo and Gaafaru. The inhabited islands of the Atoll are: Dhiffushi, Gaafaru, Gulhi, Guraidhoo, Himmafushi, Huraa, Kaashidhoo, Malé Maafushi, and Thulusdhoo which is the capital of the Kaafu Atoll.
North and South Malé have seen the most substantial amount of tourist development in the country. The Kaafu Atoll, comprising the archipelago’s capital Malé and the international airport is the site of many Maldivian resorts. Virtually all visitors fly into Malé Airport, from where all resorts in the Atoll are easily accessible within an hour by speedboat or 15 minutes by air taxi.
The Alifu Dhaalu Atoll, also known as the Southern Ari Atoll or Ari Atholhu Dhekunuburi is an administrative division of the Maldives that encompasses the southern section of the Ari Atoll. Its inhabited islands are: Dhangethi, Dhiddhoo, Dhigurah, Fenfushi, Haggnaameedhoo, Kunburudhoo, Maamingili, Mahibadhoo, which is the capital of the Atoll, Mandhoo, and Omadhoo.
The Alifu Dhaalu Atoll is situated south of the line between the channels of Himendhoo Dhekunukandu and Genburugau Kandu. Attractions of the Atoll include: the beautiful ancient mosque on Fenfushi Island that features wooden decorated ceilings and lacquerwork panels; and the Buddhist remains, including a stupa that have been found on Ariadhoo Island. The area is also known as a habitat for Whale Sharks all year round.
The Vaavu Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives that comprises the natural atolls of Felidhu Atoll and the Vattaru Reef, which has only one little islet, Vattaru. It is located 40 miles from the capital Malé, 60 minutes away by speedboat. Vaavu is the smallest administrative atoll in terms of population.
The Maldives generally has a tropical monsoon climate that is affected by the large landmass of South Asia to the north. There are generally two seasons that dominate the weather in the archipelago: the dry season related to the winter north-eastern monsoon and the rainy season which is associated with strong winds and storms. The monsoonal influence is generally greater towards the north of the Maldives than in the south.
Dhiffushi is an island of the Kaafu Atoll, located next to Meerufenfushi. The island has the usual local amenities including a hospital, a mosque, local cafés, restaurants, several local shops, and tourist guesthouses. The island is well known for its hospitality and friendliness and its low crime rate means there is no police station on the island. The island is 40 minutes away from the Ibrahim Nasir international airport via speed boat, and there are daily transfers to Malé everyday except Friday, with the public ferry taking an additional two hours.
Himmafushi is an island of the Kaafu Atoll, about 18 kilometres from the airport – and is only reacheable by boat. Transfers to the island from the airport are available via public ferry or chartered speedboat, everyday except Friday.
Himmafushi is less than one kilometre long and wide. There is a harbour restaurant with a relaxed ambience, but no alcohol is available on the island. Himmafushi is ideal for travellers on a budget looking for a relaxing holiday with some local life thrown in. The island is famous for its surfing and world class diving spots. Snorkelling tours can be booked, with equipment available for hire, but you should bring some reef shoes or water socks with you. The semi-legal bikini beach is shallow and warm making it family friendly. There are a few shops selling basic necessities as well as a few larger souvenir shops catering to tourists. Wildlife on the island consists of mainly birds and bats.
Gahaafaru is a large elliptical reef, that is part of the Kaafu Atoll, with only a small inhabited island at its eastern end, which has proved hazardous to many sea faring vessels. It is separated from Kagi, which is the northern most island of the North Malé Atoll, by a narrow but cavernous channel known as the Gaafaru Kandu. Its lagoon has an average depth of 30 metres and has no coral patches or shoals at its heart. Guest house accommodation is available on the island.
Thulusdhoo is the capital of Kaafu Atoll. The residents of the Dhaalu Atoll Rinbudhoo migrated here following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Maafushi is one of the inhabited islands of the Kaafu Atoll that was severely damaged by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but international organisations have contributed to the rebuilding of this now thriving island. Maafushi is a popular destination with tourists with over 50 guest houses having been opened since 2010. These guest houses provide various excursions that include: fishing, snorkelling and other water sports, as well as picnic island excursions. There are also three dive centers in Maafushi. There are also several souvenir shops that are popular with island hoppers. The public ferry connects Maafushi to Malé, in a journey that takes approximately 90 minutes and is available everyday except Friday.
Kaashidhoo is located at the northern tip of Malé atoll but administratively is part of the Kaafu Atoll. It is also the fifth biggest island in the entire Maldivian archipelago. Kaashidhoo is famous for its abundance of coconut trees. The island is situated roughly in the middle of the Kaashidu Kandu, also known as 'Kardiva Channel', which is the wide channel separating some of the central atolls of Maldives. One of the attractions here are the remains of ancient Buddhist temples from the pre-Islamic era on the island.
Bodufolhudhoo is one of the inhabited islands of the Alif Alif Atoll, and it is surrounded by several famous tourist resorts, including Nika Island Resort, Velidoo and Gangehi. There are a few tourist shops on the island that cater to guests who are island hopping from nearby resorts. There are also several guest houses established, with many under development which has led to the creation of a private beach, known as Sunset Beach that tourists can enjoy in bikinis.
Himandhoo is one of the inhabited islands of Alif Alif Atoll that has long been popular with tourists, attracted by the white sandy beaches and excellent dive spots. The island is blessed with its own reef that is fabulous for snorkellers. The lagoon is popular with kite and wind surfers. The native islanders are famous for their friendliness and hospitality.
Maalhos belongs to the Alif Alif Atoll and is the westernmost island of the Maldives. Buddhist remains have been found here as well as a small porites stupa known locally as 'Mudu', and a Porites urn with Vajrayana inscriptions.
Rasdhoo is an island of the Alif Alif Atoll and its capital. There are several guest houses here and the public ferry is available on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and the journey takes over 3 hours.
Ukulhas, an island of the Alif Alif Atoll, is famous for being environmentally friendly. It is known for its cleanliness, well-maintained waste management system and also known as first systematically waste managed island in the history of the archipelago. Ukulhas carries out several cleaning and planting programs every year and organises several awareness programmes on waste management, marine ecosystems, and biodiversity.
The cafés and restaurants of the island offer diverse cuisines that include western, eastern, Indian, Thai, continental and Maldivian. Ukulhas is famous for fishing, so fish and other seafood are an important element of the island’s cuisine.
Thoddoo is an island of the Alif Alif Atoll and known for being the largest producer of watermelon in the Maldives. Attractions on the island include important Buddhist ruins which include a Buddha statue that was respectfully buried after Islam became the official religion. Unfortunately the Buddhist sites were not protected after the excavation and in recent times have been subject to vandalism.
Dhangethi is the third most populated island of the Alif Dhaal Atoll. There are several guest houses on the island offering excursions and restaurant facilities. Water sports are popular on the island and there is a scuba diving centre and a speed boat rental service on Dhangethi.
Mahibadhoo is the capital of Alif Dhaal Atoll and measures 1.5 miles in length and 0.75 miles in width. While many of the 2,000 strong population work in nearby tourist resorts, other residents are still involved in fishing, handicrafts, construction, and boat building.
Maamigili is the largest and most populated island of the Alif Dhaal Atoll. The island borders the South Ari Marine Protected Area (MPA). Distinct from all the other islands in this chain, it is naturally round in shape. The main habitated area is towards the eastern half of the island. A deep water access harbour leads towards the vast main street that runs east to west straight through the centre of the island. This busy street contains a wide variety of shops, with tourist souvenir shops dominating the eastern end. The traditional harbour has been expanded exponentially and can now accommodate liveaboard vessels that are over 20 metres in size.
Fulidhoo is one of the inhabited islands of the Vaavu Atoll that is famous for Maldivian cultural events like Langiri, a traditional dance with drums and Thaara.