Raa is one of nearly 30 atolls, or islands, that make up the Republic of Maldives. The Maldives, which are a long chain of islands in the Indian Ocean, are one of the world's most stunning natural areas. The island nation is also a place for some of the world's best scuba diving and snorkeling. The Raa atoll contains a larger, northern atoll called Raa and the separate island of Alifushi. The main city on Raa is Ungoofaaru, which is located on the island of Raa. Raa's surface is dominated by exotic plants, broad-leafed palm trees and sprawling vegetation, while its shorelines are dominated by soft white sand and offshore coral reefs. This diverse atoll's economy is driven largely by tourism, while commercial fishing and business are other economic drivers.
The same beautiful coral reefs that form Raa's shorelines today have historically made it a difficult place for sailing. Nevertheless, the atoll has been an important strategic pass-through point along Middle Eastern and Asian trade routes for centuries. Cowrie shells and coconut fibers, which were once used as currency, were extracted from Raa's shores in the 10th through 12th centuries. European explorers paid frequent visits to Raa and the other Maldives atolls from the 16th century onward. The Maldives drew interest from European colonial powers in the 1880s, and they were seized by Britain in the late 1800s. Today, the island nation is independent from foreign rule. About 1,575 permanent residents live in Ungoofaru, which is also home to the island's largest hospital.
Spectacular tropical fish, sea turtles, whales, and dolphins swim in the waters around Raa, which adds to its appeal as a scuba diving destination. Joining Raa's marine wildlife are sea anemones, brightly colored coral, seaweed, and other underwater plant life. This atoll is one of several in the Maldives that are open for tourism and development. As such, all-inclusive resorts and hotels form its urban landscape. The atoll is also home to elite spas, as well as premier Asian fusion restaurants and tropical bars. Diving packages are offered in many resorts in Raa, as the atoll has some of the most renowned offshore diving grounds on the planet. Along with supporting aquatic activities, the atoll is a popular place for destination weddings and getaways.