Is The Maldives Safe?

The Maldives is one of the most peaceful, unspoiled, and all around gorgeous places I’ve ever been. There’s something special about so many of the resorts being on private islands, which gives you a level of privacy you don’t find in many other places.

The New York Times ran an article a few days ago about the Maldives, entitled “Maldives, Tourist Haven, Casts Wary Eye on Growing Islamic Radicalism.” It’s about a liberal blogger who was killed in April, and also makes reference to how a few years back a secular journalist was abducted, and he still hasn’t been found.

But there’s a bigger theme to the article. It references how the Maldives supplies the world’s highest per capita number of foreign fighters to extremist outfits in Syria and Iraq. Now, admittedly this is largely due to how small the population of the Maldives is — there are only roughly 400,000 residents.

But for me the takeaway is something that has crossed my mind every time I’ve visited the Maldives. Due to the layout of the Maldives, it’s highly susceptible to terrorism. Per the article:

Last year, two resorts were robbed by groups of masked intruders, and security guards were tied up. Robberies at resorts are rare. But Ismail Ali, a police spokesman, said in an interview with The Maldives Independent that when they do happen, they are often inside jobs. Gaining access to most of the islands, he added, is relatively simple.

“Most of the resorts have one official access point. There are security posts set up to monitor who comes on and off the island,” he said. “But like any island, it’s fairly easy to enter from other sides as well.”

The tourism industry has mostly remained off limits as a target for terrorism, but security experts say many resorts are ill equipped to fend off an attack on par with those that have occurred in places like Tunisia and Bali, Indonesia.

I’d like to think I’m not someone who travels in fear (well, other than my perfectly rational fear of monsters under my hotel bed). When my time comes my time comes, and that’s that. However, in the back of my mind I can’t help but think how easy it would be to take over one of these islands, and what a symbolic target this could be for terrorist groups, given how luxurious of a destination the Maldives is. I can’t think of many places that are more exposed and less prepared for such a situation.

The Maldives is such a special place, and I hope nothing like this ever happens. So while I think this is a very real possibility (as is an attack happening in New York, London, Paris, etc.), personally I’ll keep living my life, and would have no qualms traveling to the Maldives.

I’m curious what you guys think — are you at all concerned about how well the Maldives is set up to handle any sort of a terrorist attack?

Comments

  1. ACK! We just booked a super luxurious stay in the Maldives. I read on numerous reports that at various hotels “inside job” thefts were quite the norm. I can imagine robberies and other violent crimes taking place just as easily. Afterall, even the authorities would find it difficult to come onto an island say in the middle of the night when seaplanes dont operate. God i hope it never comes to this.

  2. I don’t think the Maldives is particularly unsafe, I read this post and reached out to our travel safety consultants and they have reported the area as a benign security risk.

    There are 50-100 Maldives natives reported to be fighting for IS, but there is no known indication to demonstrate or prove that any faction of IS is providing funding to any cells or individuals within the Maldives.

    Personally I’d continue to travel there, reaching out to the FCO or other service to get more data on security and safety precautions that I should take. 🙂

  3. Just got back from a 10 night trip to the Maldives. Beautiful place and I never felt unsafe, even in Male where I stayed for a night first.

  4. Hey Lucky hate to nitpick but I think the title and rest of the text should have the use of “are” not “is” since The Maldives are plural. “Are the Maldives Safe?”

  5. Hmm, I think “is” is accurate. The country’s name is the Republic of Maldives. So the title could be, “Is the Republic of Maldives safe?” or for short, “Is the Maldives safe?”

    My opinion is that the risk is obviously there for terrorism, but it’s always interesting how there are so many injuries that stem from traffic accidents, but we don’t usually give that a second thought. The vision of terrorists taking on an island is much more dramatic and scary, like a monster under the bed, compared with the (more realistic) fear of getting injured driving to or from the flight to the Maldives.

  6. Terrorist tactics and island-takeovers don’t seem very compatible. Even if they had the boats and the supply chain to overtake the island, they would have nowhere to run when the counter-offensive inevitably comes.

  7. @Michael in American English, collective nouns are considered singular in most grammatical senses. The Maldives is a safe place, The group is working on the project, The team is fighting, etc.

  8. I went to NYC a few months after 9/11. I went to Paris last summer, a few months after the Bataclan massacre and 10 days after the Nice terrorist attack. The Normandy church attack happened while I was in Paris. In late July 2017 I will be in Berlin for vacation, close to the Breitscheidplatz, location of the Christmas market terrorist attack. I haven’t been to the Maldives but no terrorist threat will stop me from going if I choose to go, and the people I love aren’t afraid to go with me. We refuse to be intimidated by radical Islamic terrorism anywhere, at any time. So there.

  9. @Ben – right, but “group” and “team” are both singular nouns. You wouldn’t say “The groups is working on the project.” That’s why it’s odd to hear “Is the Maldives safe?” – it sounds like good old G W Bush: “Is our children learning?”

  10. @Charlie McMillan: So if you were fascinated by, say, Raqqa, you wouldn’t let the fact that it’s an ISIS stronghold stop you from visiting? Of course it’s a war zone now, but there are parts of the world controlled by ISIS and similar groups, where the vast majority of Westerners simply would not visit because it’s too dangerous. I, too, am not going to be prevented from visiting places like the Maldives, Bali, Berlin, Paris, Nice, Brussels and Istanbul – but there’s also a limit.

  11. Well, even terrorist attacked London. Home of james bond, MI6, NATO founder, etc. And a case of shooting is not uncommon in US lands. So what’s the difference?

  12. I think the Maldives is unsafe for a Maldivian who disagrees with the policies or politics of the current ruler and is especially dangerous for gay/lesbian/etc. Maldivians. However, for those who go there for tourism, I don’t think it’s any less safe than other major tourist destinations. Sure terrorists could rampage across your resort island killing indiscriminately. They could also blow up the Eiffel Tower while you ride up to the observation deck.

  13. “Is the Maldives?” “Is the United States?” Both are collective nouns which have become a single entity. Case settled.

    Incidentally, nothing burns my American ears more than hearing some bloke on the Beeb discussing football (sic) and talking about how England ‘are’ struggling, France ‘are’ strong, etc. Grrrr!!!

  14. I think it’s more likely (and inevitable) that a terrorist group in The Maldives will target a luxury resort not for an attack but to kidnap travelers and raise money for their operations by ransoming them off- Not unlike what happened on Sipadan Island in Malaysia in 2000 and 2014. And I don’t think resorts will provide adequate resources to fend them until it happens. Of course this makes it less safe than many destinations but I agree that you really shouldn’t let this put you off living your life and traveling where you want to travel (within reason). I suppose the thing to do is to prepare, at least mentally, for every contingency.

  15. @Lack, I was thinking the exact same thing.

    I have 3 personal travel rules for our family trips:
    1) No countries with political stability/unrest issues (Claire Danes ruined it for me with that movie Brokedown Palace 20 yrs ago)

    2) No 100% muslim countries (With my family’s whiter than white skin, I feel like we would be wearing signs around our necks that say “sever here.”)

    and 3) No countries that are so far away from civilization that modern emergency medical care is hours away. (Even though we are young and healthy, anyone can have a horseback/jetski/boating/traffic accident or take a bad fall)

    Unfortunately, Maldives ticks all 3 of these boxes for me, even though the political unrest isn’t as severe as it was in recent history. I realize you can’t live in fear, and that accidents can happen anytime and anywhere, but Hawaii is a nice place too.

  16. LMAO @ Rob I agree with you, you should travel only in ‘Murca. The world is a dangerous place, people get killed outside the USA. They really do. Trust me, I have super pasty white skin, and I get my head cut off every time I visit one of dem there Muslim countries. LOL

  17. @snic – very true, even I have limits. I meant “normal” destinations that have a risk of terrorist attacks. No full on war zones for me. I have no desire to be the star of an ISIS execution video.

  18. Not worried. I believe the media blows the issue out of proportion. I live in LA and it’s far more dangerous in LA than in the Maldives or any of the other alleged hot spots around the world. I was in the Maldives two years ago and saw and felt nothing remotely sinister. I stayed at the Gili Lankanfushi, which was lovely.

    I must add that I’ve visited Syria, Iran, Uganda, and many of the other countries that are poorly portrayed in the media and have never had an issue or felt unsafe. Bad things happen everywhere in the world, but those in foreign countries seem to get a much worse rap than the everyday shootings in the U.S.

  19. I visited the Maldives about 5 years ago. At the time I didn’t find it to be unsafe, but in light of the growing threat from ISIS, I would not travel to the Maldives. I feel the same way about parts of the Philippines now. We were recently in Palawan and the hotel had armed patrol boats that intercepted any approaching vessels, but I’m sure their training was lackluster.

  20. This the the quintessential problem with terrorism:

    Should an individual be worried about their trip to the Maldives? Definitely not. They are much much much more at risk during the drive to the airport or during a scuba diving trip.

    Should the government of the Maldives or the companies that operate hotels in the Maldives be concerned? Absolutely! There are enough danger signs that an attack could happen some day, at some resort and affect a small subset of people who visit every year. If I were a Western hotel operating these, I would have a security plan in place, with communication to the law enforcement/military authorities and safe rooms where guests could shelter safely for some period of time and some response or weapons training for hotel staff. The risk to their brands if an attack were to occur is just too high.

    I also wonder whether Maldives hotels have Tsunami response plans.

  21. Empirical fact: you are way, way, way more likely to be hurt while traveling in an auto accident than anything else (terrorism, plane crashes, violent robbery, etc.). If you really want to be “careful” when traveling, you would avoid getting in a car in much of the world.

    Of course, even the car isn’t very dangerous. I just don’t understand the “I care a lot about my safety/my family/etc.” type of argument when, objectively, the level of danger is very limited.

    (Personally, Venezuela and Guatemala are the only places I’ve ever felt uncomfortable as a traveler – no problems or even worries in Somalia, Syria, Brazil, Yemen, Chicago’s South Side, North Korea, Johannesburg, etc., despite their reputations.

  22. The US State Department has no alerts or warnings of any kind for the Maldives and I find them to be overly cautious. There’s your answer.

  23. I have my 4th Maldives trip planned for late November. Male feels as though there are “eyes” watching you, but the islands are fantastic. Never have I felt unsafe. Its pure heaven on earth! There really is no need to visit Male though.

  24. I find it kind of funny that the over-water bungalows have sharp reefs under them and you can’t just “dive in and stand up in the water”. For the insane costs to travel there, I’ll pass. I’ll stick with Maui.

  25. Robberies can happen anywhere, but I would think the local government would go out of their way to combat the perception of crime given tourism is their most valuable industry.

    On a side note, I once stayed at the Parker Palm Springs in a Bungelow Suite. We were burgled when out for dinner, and it was clearly an inside job. “Oddly”, management didn’t seem to care much and somehow none of their video cameras picked up anything useful.

  26. @TravelwithLeo: You should live in fear of the prices at the Conrad Maldives.

    Biggest problem with the Maldives, including the Conrad, is the reefs are dead.
    There’s also the $380 per hour jet ski, $8.42 small diet coke, $1400 dinner for 3 at the underwater restaurant, $550 seaplane ride, etc.
    The least I spent on a meal was $120.

    My pick for avoiding terrorists is the underwater villas being built.

  27. Before the Bali bombings, people were dismissing the security warnings. I have been back to Bali 3 times since then, but I’m careful about where I reside. Since then, the Indonesian security services have provided adequate security for areas and hotels where foreign tourists reside. The situation is different in the Maldives, and most security experts agree that the threat situation could “tip” at any moment. Here’s an excerpt from the State department site:

    Concerns have significantly increased about a small number of violent Maldivian extremists who advocate for attacks against secular Maldivians and are involved with transnational terrorist groups. For more information, travelers may consult the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism.

    U.S. citizens traveling to Maldives should be aware of violent attacks and threats made against local media, political parties, and civil society. Since 2012 there have been several killings and violent attacks against secular bloggers and activists. For more information, travelers may consult the State Department’s 2016 Human Rights Report.

    Maldives has a history of political protests. Gangs of young men frequently stage spontaneous protests throughout Malé, often at night. Some of these protests have involved use of anti-Western rhetoric.

  28. Think I might book myself a holiday at one of the Maldivian island resorts, it should be a nice peaceful holiday with everyone boycotting such a paradise.

  29. I will not live in fear. Im not dumb enough to venture to a place like Syria, Iran, or Uganda, but Im also not gonna get scared away by a little threat to visit places like the Maldives or Paris.

    Life is short. Pray to God for protection and enjoy life!

  30. Love the Maldives, but gotta be honest…it’s only a matter of time. The country is way to extreme. My fear is that a resort will be taken over where help is hours away (wouldn’t be by seaplane insofar as that could easily be destroyed upon landing by small arms). Once the ISIS thing settles down or once I see positive steps by the government to allow free speech, I’ll be back. What a shame!!!

  31. LOL no one is saying you have to visit “Syria, Iran, or Uganda”, though I’ve done so and will again (hell Iran was one of the more friendlier countries I was in and I am unmistakably an obvious westerner). But to rule out most countries as “so very scary and dangerous” as some here have done. That’s just laughable.
    Of course, I learn about the local culture, a few key phrases of the local languages, and actually interact with the local nationals, the brains to avoid looking for trouble, and generally don’t act like an arrogant pretentious foreigner, which probably goes far to explain why I’ve had a few incidents in those countries and even had pleasant memorable experiences.

  32. Well, I’m pretty sure that the local government will do everything they can to protect their most valuable tourism industry and I will definitely go there again. I should rather be worried about a car accident which is far more likely to take place IMO.

  33. Owing to blowback for Western meddling in the Middle East, travel everywhere is a bit riskier. Yes, Maldives may be a bit risky today but far, far worse would be the UK, France, Turkey, and New York. Yet it doesn’t cross anyone’s mind to avoid those places! Why?

  34. In other news today, an American from Alabama was shot and robbed in Turks and Caicos, a NON-MUSLIM country.
    Guess it’s better to stay safe and sound in good ole Murca lol.

  35. @San Marino
    There were nearly twice as many murders in just NYC in 2016 than there were in the whole of the UK in the same year.

    On average, 20 times as many people in the US are murdered each year with guns, than are murdered in the whole of the UK by every means (the US is just over 4 times more populous than the UK).

    Around 30,000 people are slaughtered in car accidents on US roads each year (the UK figure is about 3,000).

    Murica is a scarily dangerous place by the standards of most Western Europeans.

  36. Interesting to see the NYTimes (and Lucky) published a piece like that. Happy to see both articles. I wrote a post around months ago on the Maldives and the looming presence of radical islam and other struggles in the country. That can be found at http://millionmileguy.com/maldives-heaven-hell/. When I wrote my piece, I wasn’t aware of the journalists that had issues in the Maldives in the past. Anyway, nice post Lucky

  37. @Paul,

    Firstly, your stats are materially off.

    Secondly, statistics viewed without lens of relevance only obfuscate a rationale discussion. There were 335 murders in NYC last year – how many were in areas frequented by any tourists? How many were tourists. On the other hand, terrorists in London (as well as various other parts of Europe) are specifically targeting areas with a high density of tourists. But apparently that doesn’t matter to you.

    Secondly, your insinuation a higher statistical likelihood of crime in the U.S. impacts tourism is completely unfounded.

    Thirdly, your concluding sentence is preposterous and comical.

  38. @ PAK

    You’re talking out of your arse (that would be “ass” to you).

    You think the World Trade Center was not in an area of NYC frequented by tourists? How many people were killed there? And compare that to the *total* number of people killed in terrorism attacks in *all* European cities since 9/11…

    Your second sentence beginning “secondly” (I think it’s clear that you have numeracy problems…) is grammatically impenetrable. If you think some visitors aren’t put off the US by your horrendous crime stats, you’re living in a fantasy world.

    Though I see you haven’t got any smart-ass comment about the horrific road death stats, though.

    Statistics are wonderful things.

  39. @Paul,

    You are truly a fool. I am wholly confident in this statement.

    You quoted 2016 crime statistics, not events going back to 2011. You were then drawing conclusions based on both absolute and proportional data. I refuted each. your reply was completely idiotic. Why don’t we start bringing war into the equation and then counting how many murders occurred per continent over the past 100 years?? Maybe people should take into account war risk when they make travel decisions (actually not irrelevant for many countries / regions).

    In addition, visitors to the U.S. increased in each year from 2010-2015, and essentially the same trend with visitors from Western Europe. So I guess these tourists were knowingly and increasingly living on the edge? And any decrease in tourism in 2016 had to do with stronger USD and not anything to do with perception of security.

    I did not bother commenting on your absurd reference to road accidents because it is so irrelevant that anyone with a shred of intelligence would just gloss over the drivel. Your use of “slaughtered” only shows your bias and attempt at confrontation. But lets see – you compared absolute number of road deaths; but how many vehicles in the U.S. vs UK? How many road miles driven? Wouldn’t you need to compare this information to ascertain relevancy of conclusions?? Presume you have not bothered to find this information as may not suite your angry rhetoric.

    You don’t need to bother responding. Nobody wants to read your nonsense.

  40. @ PAK

    Oh, but it would be too discourteous not to reply, after you’ve gone to such trouble (though feel free to observe silence after reading my reply).

    I know you have trouble with numbers (hence the appearance of two “secondly”s in your original reply, but I’ll try to keep it really, really simple for you.

    I quoted murders in the US and the UK in a single year. I weighted the numbers in favour of the US by only quoting gun murders there, but all murders in the UK. I pointed out the US is around four times more populous than the UK so, all other things being equal, you’d expect four or five times as many murders in the US. That’d make them the same, per person. But the actual murder rate in the US is vastly higher – about 10 times higher, in fact. So, how would you explain that, while maintaining the US is safer than Western Europe?

    You threw in something about all the US murders happening in places where tourists don’t go. Er… That can’t be true, can it? Because there are instances of tourists actually being the murder victims. Which kind of absolutely disproves your, er … shall we be kind and call it a “theory”?

    Terrorism has been mentioned on this post (you see – and I know this will come as a shock to you – but other people are also making points!). Hence a quick calculation of the total number of terrorism deaths since the event that sort of woke up the US to the fact that Terrorism Is Bad. We could go back further if you like – compare total terrorism death rates in the US and Europe since, I dunno, how about the Oklahoma bombing? But it would be wrong not to count, say, the Boston marathon horrors, when comparing like with like.

    You’re right that there may be explanations for the massive slaughtered on US roads in car crashes. I’d actually expect the US to score better here than the UK, what with our medieval lanes, overcrowded streets, high car ownership rates and impoverished motorway system. Yet, bizarrely, rates when adjusted for population are vastly higher in the US. It’s weird. Anyone would think US roads were less safe.

    Feel free not to answer (I always love how people write that as if they’re being generous, rather than hoping to get the last word). 🙂

  41. @Paul,

    Your brand of false logic, lazy use of selective data, and overall inane level of deductive reasoning is comical.

    There are ~8x vehicles in the US vs the UK and likely an equally high ratio of usage (road miles driven, hours on road, use of public transport, etc). You chose to only quote the absolute vehicular death rate suggesting a 10x disparity being out of line on a per capita basis and implying a significant difference in safety levels – clearly there is more to the story. And your choice of verbiage makes it clear your level of bias and vitriolic attitude.

    You seem to also have an issue with reading comprehension – I never said that murder or crime rates were or should be the same in Western societies. Nor did I say the US is safer on average. What I said is that your comments on safety concerns for tourists visiting the U.S. is not accurate and that “Murica is a scarily dangerous place by the standards of most Western Europeans” is a completely preposterous statement. I provided tourism statistics to support my point. Where is your data on tourists deaths in the U.S.? As a proportion of whole? How does this compare to UK and France – we are talking about now, not decades ago. Maybe that’s why tourism is noticeably down in Paris since 2015??

    At the end of the day, if you feel unsafe, don’t come to the U.S. Nobody will miss you.

  42. @ PAK

    I am crushed that you decided to reply again. So far from nobody reading my “drivel”, it appears you are hanging on my every word. Actually, I guess I am flattered! Unless, of course, you mean that *you* are a nobody. Let’s draw a polite veil over that.

    I’m perfectly happy to stand by my statistics. So let’s see yours. Or is this a case where you only have “alternative facts” to deal in?

    I’m quite willing to agree there are lots of reasons why tourism numbers change: but I’d suggest Tunisia’s numbers are mostly down for one reason; US numbers are apparently mainly down for a Trump-shaped reason (though I suspect you’ll want to argue that it’s the strength of the dollar instead). UK numbers are apparently up: either a wilful act of defiance against Brexit, terrorism and, er, safe streets, or possibly the pound going down. In truth, I’m pretty sure that all those numbers have multiple causes. But since I’m not – and have never – argued that America’s appalling rates of violent crime are having an effect on the number of visitors from Western Europe, I’m not sure where that leaves us. Maybe with my original point: that Murica looks like a dangerous place to most Western Europeans.

    You may of course see things differently. Though some stats to back up your vision would help.

    Have a safe day.

  43. @ Paul,

    Apparently, you have a hard time with reading / comprehension so I will refrain from repeating myself. If my prior points are not clear enough for you, so be it. It seems to be useless to keep pointing out and refuting your incomplete logic, convoluted reasoning or unintelligent prattle.

    I also see that you now changed your original statement from “Murica is a scarily dangerous place by the standards of most Western Europeans” to “Murica looks like a dangerous place to most Western Europeans.” So it seems you realize your comment is not a supportable fact but rather your ridiculous opinion. At least we can thank you for that simple clarification.

    As noted, it seems we can also thankfully not have to worry of your presence in the U.S. anytime soon. Toodles.

  44. @ PAC

    Oh, for the avoidance of doubt, both statements are still true: Murica both looks dangerous to Western Europeans and, according to the – you know – facts, it is dangerous.

    Here’s another one for you: in 2014 (the last year for which I’ve seen the stats), the good ole boys in the US police forces shot 1,100 people.

    Germany is, roughly, one third the size of the US, so you’d expect their police to have shot, say, 3-400 people.

    How many people did German police shoot in that year? Er … none. Not one person.

    But the US of A is not a dangerous place at all. No, sirree. Oh look – a squirrel.

    Still waiting for just a single comparator stat from you, to prove you’re right…

  45. All I can say, as an American myself, I exercise extreme caution when I return to the USA.
    I knew a man who worked over 15 years in dangerous areas, including 7 in Iraq, dodged plenty of bullets, rockets, and bombs. He left his Iraq position, after saving enough over the years to retire at 50 comfortably.
    A month after he left, we got word he was murdered in Detroit (his hometown) in a botched mugging.

    But some people here continue the USA is perfectly safe and no crime at all, ever lol.

  46. @ Paul,

    You either choose not to read closely enough or have a really hard time understanding basic English. Good luck in your life ranting into the mirror.

  47. @ PAK

    Thank you so much for your best wishes – I truly appreciate them.

    And good luck to you in not being shot in your own country. Friendly fire is a bitch.

  48. @ Paul, I take back my prior comment – please DO come visit the US, and hopefully your “dreams” come true!

  49. @ PAK

    Oh no – I thought you weren’t going to read any more of my drivel. You must be in love with me! I’m deeply flattered, though I can’t see it going anywhere.

    I *would* come to the US, but I’m too scared of either being shot by your kind and gentle police, or meeting people who don’t know what facts are. And just what is an “alternative fact”?

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