Resorts in the Maldives woo tourists with promises of 'the last paradise on earth', and if your idea of paradise is a pristine tropical island with swaying palm trees, pure white beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons, then the Maldives will not disappoint. It's also a major destination for scuba divers, who come for the fabulous coral reefs and the wealth of marine life. But it's not a place for low budget backpackers or amateur anthropologists who want to travel independently and live as the locals do.

 
          
Tourism in the Maldives is carefully managed. The country's tourism master plan identifies both the underwater environment and `the Robinson Cruse factor' as major attractions, but these are not seen as compatible with large - scale, low budget, mass tourism. The lack of local resources makes it necessary to import virtually everything a visitor needs, from furniture to fresh vegetables, so the Maldives cannot really compete on price. The strategy has been to develop a limited number of quality resorts, each on its own uninhabited island, free from traffic, crime and crass commercialism.
          
The Maldivian tourism strategy also aims to minimize the adverse effects of tourism on traditional Muslim communities. Tourists can make short guided visits to local fishing villages, but must then return to their resort. Most are satisfied with this glimpse of local life and culture, but to stay longer or to travel to atolls outside the tourist zone requires a good reason, a special permit, and a local person to sponsor  the  visitor.  Most  tourists  come to understand the
restrictions after a short visit to an accessible island - it is difficult to imagine how isolated Maldivian communities would benefit from extended stays by an uncontrolled number of tourists.