The Maldives are a picture perfect oasis notorious for its crystal clear waters and collection of many, many islands. It is an archipelago that sits in the Indian Ocean and consists of twenty six series’ of islands, or atolls, of which 1,192 islands are considered to be the Maldives. Only 192 of these islands are actually inhibited; the rest are simply nature, uninterrupted. Many islands are used for resorts as there is a large tourist population seeking serenity in this pocket of the Indian Ocean. Volunteering in the Maldives is truly unique in that the island communities are so small that volunteers can easily integrate into the community and culture. Do a quick web search of the Maldives and tell us that this isn’t a place you’d want to go to! Volunteer in the Maldives and get lost in the crystal blue water, explore lagoons and coral reefs, become acquainted with the local Muslim culture, and get to know the locals who call this unique locale their home. With all the different islands the picture perfect archipelago has an offer, so are there countless destinations requiring volunteers. Male is the most urbanized island in the Maldives, and the country’s capital. It is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with roughly 35,000 people per square kilometer! Nearly one third of the country’s population lives here, therefore, there are many volunteer opportunities available in sectors such as community development and education. The friendly island of Naifaru is located 88 miles north of Male. Due to current reclamation projects, Naifaru is expected to grow in the next coming years which expand the possible volunteer opportunities available in community development. Here you will find smiling locals streamlining through the dense streets and alleyways. Bring your walking shoes because everywhere on the island is just a walk away! Naifaru is nothing short of a cultural, people-packed experience. Noonu is a ring shaped, coral reef atoll that lines a shallow lagoon. These islands are a protected area due to the surrounding coral reef. This island has a rich history: it is said that the capital of Noonu, Manadhoo, has been populated since the 4th century B.C. Volunteer opportunities here reside in the categories of marine conservation and community and educational development. Volunteer placements in the Maldives include marine conservation, working with children and community development. Due to the surrounding (and breath-taking) waters, marine conservation is the most popular. The Maldives were created by a series of volcanic eruptions which gives them unique geographical features like submarine mountains and atolls. Where there are previously active volcanoes, there are typically diverse animal and plant life. The ocean is very important to the island communities of the Maldives; therefore, marine conservation projects are always under way. Volunteer work in this sector may include research and rehabilitation of marine life, and sea and beach cleanup. For those of you interested in education, there are plenty of opportunities available in the Maldives, especially on the more densely populated islands. As an education volunteer, you will most likely be placed as an assistant teacher. In addition to helping the primary teacher lead the class, you will help students improve their English language skills and build their confidence. Options include placement with primary school to high school students. Volunteering in education is a great way to get to know a culture through forming strong relationships with the local youths. Community development volunteer opportunities are available both on the big and small islands. If you want to bring people together and help maintain the framework of a community that needs your help, then give this sector a try. As a community development volunteer, you are there to help make the lives of the locals better. Day to day activities may include cleaning the beaches, clearing reefs and participating in farm work. No matter your skill set, you are sure to find something you like as a community development volunteer in the Maldives. The Maldives are nearly 100 percent Sufi Muslim. This religion and culture greatly influences the mannerism of the people, and cultural atmosphere of the entire archipelago. When volunteering in the Maldives, it is important to be open to the customs of the Sufis and embrace the traditions while you are there. Some restrictions on the islands include no alcohol, no eating during Ramadan, and no pork products. Not all laws must be obeyed by tourists, but as a volunteer you may live with small communities where it is important to be respectful and abide by these customs. After all, what a great learning experience it is living like a local for a short while. This sprawling oasis is truly a gem in our world. When you’re not volunteering, you will have time to explore the ocean, the islands and the cultural centers of the country. Surf, snorkel, relax on the beach and let the essence of the Maldives sink into your soul.