Sun, surf, and sand are the main attractions of the majestic Ari atoll, which is one of over 25 atolls that form the Republic of Maldives in the Indian Ocean. The Ari atoll is divided into North Ari and South Ari. Together, the northern and southern Ari atolls share 105 islands. Graced with clear tropical waters, white sand beaches, palm trees and marine life, the two atolls are considered to be one of the main tourism development zones in the Maldives. Along with the luxurious all-inclusive resorts on its islands, the Ari atoll is appealing to visitors because it is only a 30 minute flight away from the Maldives' capital city of Male.
Like other atolls in the Maldives, Ari has had a long, complex past of human activity. Its ownership has passed through many different hands over time. Historians believe that the first inhabitants reached the Maldives around 543 B.C. As world trade developed, its islands were prime real estate for cowrie shells, which were once used as currency in Asia and Africa. Ari atoll was an important destination for Middle Eastern traders, as it created a geographical link between the Middle East and other parts of Asia. It attracted European attention in the 1600s, when it was considered valuable land by the major colonial powers. Like the rest of the Maldives, Ari became a British protectorate in the late 1880s. It did not gain independence from Great Britain until 1965. Today, the Maldives are a self-governed territory classified as a presidential republic. The local economy is heavily dependent on tourism, primarily scuba diving, as well as fishing and coconut product exports.
Size-wise, the Ari atoll is one of the largest atolls in the Maldives. It covers a total area of about 55 by two miles. Like many tropical atolls, part of Ari's surface is formed from coral and sand. The base of the atoll is formed from an underwater mountain range that is about 600 miles long. The marine ecosystem around Ari is complex and diverse, with a combination of mangroves, shallow coastal areas, and deeper waters creating a perfect habitat for shrimp, sea turtles, over 20 species of whales, and thousands of fish species. Its climate is classified as tropical monsoon, and it is dominated by wet and windy weather during the winter months and sunnier, drier conditions in the summer.