Went to the Maldives on Malé the capital island for work for 3 weeks in 2010.
The first thing that amazed me (shocked me actually), was Thilafushi
, a 7 km long island at 30min by boat, WNW from Malé, sacrified for garbage storage purpose. It receives 300,000 tons of unsorted garbage every year and creates a "hill". With 3,5 kg of waste per day, tourists (600,000 per year) are the best and worst thing for the country.
So the pictures from Bracurus's first post above are not so bad actually. It represents the difference between a resort island (cleaned twice a day) and a "natural" inhabited one.
Actually before going to such a beautiful area, you don't realize how waste disposal can be a daily problem when you have no land to process it. Now I know.
A country ruled by the Charia.
Second thing that was quite bizarre were the queues of peoples at the Malé northern ferryboat station. There were queues for local people taking dedicated boats for their home island invisible/hidden on tourist maps and queues for tourists waiting to go to the airport or their island resort visible on tourist maps.
Then I learned that this had been decided by the religious authorities in order to separate the local population from the (decadent) tourists. It's pretty clever as you can't plan to visit sthg that does not exist.
So, there were 2 kinds of islands, 2 parallel worlds that would rarely mix although sharing the same docks for a few minutes everyday.
It's only during the last hour of my stay, talking to 2 polish guys in the airport waiting room, that I heard about THULUSDHOO, the Coca Cola factory island where you could find (the last) cheap/basic hotels and places to kitesurf within 30kms/20 Miles/2hrs distance by ferryboat form Malé.
As a conclusion I could add that I really enjoyed my stay with the Maldivians from Malé, some really really nice people = something you can't live if you go there as a tourist.
In the Maldives, the wind is not guaranteed so it is always a pleasure to see kitesurfers who have chosen the right time to go there
However, I experienced scuba diving and snorkeling.
I went there in July. I wished I was there in January which has the best possible wind statistics.