The North Province of the Maldives consists of the Atolls of Baa, Lhaviyani, Noonu and Raa.
The Baa Atoll is also known as the Southern Maalhosmadulu Atoll or Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi, and is an administrative division of the Maldives that is composed of three separate natural atolls: the southern Maalhosmadulu Atoll, the Fasdūtherē Atoll and the smaller natural atoll, Goifulhafehendhu Atoll. The Atoll is located on the west of the Maldives atoll chain, and consists of 75 islands, only 13 of which are inhabited with a population of over 11,000 people. The inhabited islands are: Dharavandhoo, Dhonfanu, Eydhafushi – the capital of Baa Atoll, Fehendhoo, Fulhadhoo, Goidhoo, Hithaadhoo, Kamadhoo, Kendhoo, Kihaadhoo, Kudarikilu, Maalhos, and Thulhaadhoo.
Of the remaining 57 uninhabited islands, there are eight islands being developed as resorts. The Baa Atoll is one of the best examples of the rich biodiversity of the Maldives, and includes large mangroves and a unique variety of fauna, such as the benthic fauna. Baa Atoll’s ring shaped reef structure is unique in the archipelago and in 2001, the Atoll was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
The Baa Atoll biosphere reserve harbours globally significant biodiversity in its numerous reefs that cover approximately 139,700 hectares of coastal and marine areas. The area is an example of the great diversity of reef animals, stony and soft corals, reef associated fish species, marine turtles, manta rays and whale sharks that exist in the Maldives.
Hanifaru Bay in Dharavandhoo is thought to be one of the few places in the world where whale sharks congregate to mate, however recent research suggests that the vast majority of the whale sharks seen here are young males. The bay does regularly see some of the largest gatherings of manta rays worldwide however, with up to a hundred crowding in the small inlet when the tide pushes plankton into the bay.
The Lhaviyani Atoll, also known as Faadhippolhu Atoll, is an administrative division of the Maldives that comprises 54 islands, 5 of which are inhabited, namely Naifaru – which is the capital of the Atoll, Hinnavaru, Kurendhoo, Olhuvelifushi and Maafilaafushi. Four uninhabited islands in the Atoll are home to the resorts of Kuredhu, Komandoo, Kanuhuraa and Palmbeach.
Noonu Atoll, also known as Southern Miladhunmadulu Atoll or Miladhunmadulu Dhekunuburi, is an administrative division of the Maldives. Its inhabited islands are: Foddhoo, Henbandhoo, Holhudhoo, Kendhikolhudhoo, Kudafaree, Landhoo, Lhohi, Maafaru, Maalhendhoo, Magoodhoo, Manadhoo – the capital of the Atoll, Miladhoo, and Velidhoo.
Raa Atoll also known as Northern Maalhosmadulu Atoll or Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi is an administrative division from the Maldives that includes the Northern Maalhosmadulu Atoll and the island of Alifushi. The inhabited islands of the Atoll are: Alifushi, Angolhitheemu, Fainu, Hulhudhuffaaru, Inguraidhoo, Innamaadhoo, Dhuvaafaru, Kinolhas, Maakurathu, Maduvvaree, Meedhoo, Rasgetheemu, Rasmaadhoo, Ungoofaaru – the capital of the Atoll, and Vaadhoo.
Alifushi, situated at the northern end of the Atoll, is traditionally famous for its skilled boatbuilding carpenters. It is now a base for shipyards. Previously Raa Atoll was off-limits for tourists, but a change in government policy in the late 1990s reversed the policy. The main tourist resort islands of the Atoll are Loama Maamigili and Meedhupparu.
Dharavandhoo is an island of the Baa Atoll, surrounded by clear waters known as 'Dharavandhoo Thila' and Hanifaru Bay. This area is famous amongst divers around the world, as it provides a sanctuary for a variety of marine life, including manta rays and whale sharks. This globally renowned eco-life zone is now a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Kendhoo is an island of the Baa Atoll, located in the northern part of the Atoll.
Kendhoo is famous as a site of historical and cultural significance. It is believed that the island was visited by the Arabian scholar, Abdul Barakaath Yoosuf-al Barbari, also known as Thabreyzgefaanu, who is thought to have been responsible for introducing Islam to the Maldives in 1153.
Thulhaadhoo is an island of the Baa Atoll. The island has been recently reclaimed by the government. The island is known as the only island in the Maldives producing lacquer work. Thulhaadhoo used to supply the noble families of the country, but now most of their lacquer work is sold to tourists.
Naifaru is an island of the Lhaviyani Atoll and its capital, around 142 kilometres north of the capital, Malé. It is the most populated island of the atoll with over 5,000 residents. Naifaru is famous in the Maldives for its unique dialect. The island is 55.5 hectares in size which includes part of the island that was reclaimed in 2004 from the surrounding lagoon. Fishing is still the major industry here but tourism is growning with at least two guest houses in operation and more planned. There are two passenger boats operating between Naifaru and Malé. They both travel between the two islands twice a week, however the journey takes 9 hours!
Kendhikulhudhoo is an island of the Noonu Atoll and the 10th biggest in the entire archipelago. The island measures 2 square kilometres and is nearly 5 kilometres in length and half a kilometre wide. The geography of Kendhikulhudhoo is unique as it contains six mangrove areas locally known as "kulhi". Unfortunately they are under threat from waste disposal by islanders and recently, an aquaculture project carried out in the largest mangrove area destroyed part of the mangrove ecosystem. There is a lack of proper transportation from the island to connect to major transport hubs in the country which has limited the opportunity for tourism. The main mode of transportation from the island to Malé is by boat which can take approximately 10 to 12 hours. A scheduled speed boat also operates from Noonu Atoll to the capital twice a week.
Landhoo is an island of the Noonu Atoll. The main attractions here are the large ruins from the historical Maldivian Buddhist era. To the north-west of the island there is an ancient mound known by the locals as "Maabadhige Haitha". These are the ruins of a Buddhist Stupa, measuring 292 feet in diameter and 28 feet in height. These remains are probably the most significant Buddhist ruins in the northern region of the Maldives.
Velidhoo is an island of the Noonu Atoll. The island is known for its historic monuments that include a tree, the Velidhu bodu nikagas, which has been there for more than five centuries. The island is also famous as one of the greatest fishing areas in the Maldives.
Kinolhas is an island of the Raa Atoll, with a rich history. There is said to be a special tomb of a king here who used to rule the Maldives and people would visit it to make wishes to the king which they believed would come true.
Vaadhoo is an island of the Raa Atoll. Vaadhoo is famous for the 'sea of stars’, which is a marine bioluminescence generated by phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates. A special channel in the dinoflagellate cell membrane was identified that responds to electrical signals which offered a potential mechanism for how the algae create their unique illumination.