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Maldives Travel

Equally fascinating but slightly more suspect were Stingrays. Like underwater bats, these relatives of sharks with their flat, fan-shaped bodies, slithered silently and gracefully on the ocean floor. Stingrays, true to their name, have venomous Y-shaped barbs at the end of their whip-like tails, and I couldn’t help remembering that the TV presenter Steve Irwin had met his end at the wrong end of one. Yet, from a distance, I felt safe watching them. A scuba-diver later reassured me that these fascinating creatures are quite harmless if left alone.

The Maldives in happier times

January 1, 1970

The Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago of 1,192 coral atolls (of which 200 are inhabited), is the smallest Asian nation. These islands, barely a few meters above sea level, are a magnet for wealthy tourists and scuba-divers: the former flock to their pristine beaches, the latter come to experience their wealth of stunningly beautiful coral reefs and marine wildlife. Over the last week, the Maldives, an Islamic nation, made international headlines for violent street protests culminating in a coup d’état that overthrew its elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, who has held office since 2008. The political situation is worrying for the Maldives’ economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism. Not long ago, the Maldives were the happy isles of the Indian Ocean. Reminiscing on a visit he made to the Maldives in 2010, Yahoo! India’s Travel Editor BIJOY VENUGOPAL presents a dramatic photo-essay of a happy-go-lucky yet strangely troubled island nation