When I lived on Tortola for two years, there was much to love. But one aspect that drove me crazy was that if I had no big plans for the weekend, I would climb in my jeep, drive round the island slowly just to check up on what was happening at all the beaches, and I would end up back at the apartment after 2 hours, max, and would have driven along every metalled road on the island. A few islands I worked on had more room that a day trip did not mean seeing the whole island in one day. But others were so small a quick trip in a boat over, and unless you found a beach bar or a hot sandy spot to sit in all day, you ran out of things to do fairly quickly. For someone who enjoys driving over the horizon and beyond, to spend so much time on islands where the first horizon is often the end of any more landward travel, it could be limiting. In fact it could drive you up the wall.
So the idea of travelling to the Maldives where even the largest and most populated islands are barely a mile across, did leave me wondering whether I would be suffering from acute claustrophobia by the time I boarded my plane home.
How do people live on islands that barely rise from the ocean waves? Nowhere in the Maldives is more than two and a half metres above mean sea level. You can walk across most islands in ten to twenty minutes.
The archipelago is a long chain of islands, reef, sandy banks formed into twenty six atolls. These atolls are themselves in a necklace like shape draping 500 miles across the Indian Ocean. On the eastern side in the centre of this chain are the two Male atolls, north and south, and the capital, Male itself, sits on an island at the southern end of the northern atoll.