Addu Atoll also known as Seenu atoll is the southern most atoll in the Maldives archipelago. The islands of Addu Atoll, are unique in every aspect. The people, the size of the islands, culture and way of life all have their uniqueness. Addu Atoll together with fuahmulaku island, which is located 30km north of Addu atoll extends Maldives to the southern hemisphere crossing the equator. Addu atoll is located approximately 478 km south of Male’.
The atoll is about 18 kilometers wide, 15 kilometers long and posses a shape of a heart in its formation. The atoll has some of the largest islands in the country and has a formidable coral reef formation on the northern side of the atoll which joins the house reef of the islands on the west side making it the largest stretch of coral reef formation in the country.
The atolls western side covers a chain of Large islands. The island of Gan, Feydhu, Maradhu Feydhu,Maradhu and Hithadhu from south to north respectively and On the eastern side are Hulhudhu and Meedhu followed from the small Heretere, Gesskalhuhera, Mulikolhu, Villingili and Kandihera. All islands are closely located; landscape of the atoll is mainly dominated by coconut palm trees, tropical shrubs and tropical trees.
Addu Atoll also houses the largest beach area in the Maldives which spreads to the length of the atoll, even though recent infrastructural developments namely Addu paved link road project, necessitated to consolidate some of the beach areas on one side of inhabited islands the beautiful white sandy beaches still surrounds the major portion of Addu land mass.
The governments initiative to upgrade the runway strip on Gan island to an international airport to cater for the expansion of tourism industry in the south of Maldives and the development of first typical Maldivian style resort in Addu Atoll on the island of Villingili and construction of an international port, creating thousands of job opportunities as estimated may be the beginning of realizing a long awaited dream of all adduans to have an employment opportunity in their homeland. The fate of Adduans hope to lead a decent life in their home land with their families and relatives may lay on these very ambitious projects which are currently undergoing in Addu atoll today.
The domestic airport on Gan is served by daily flights from Male’ and it is the main mode of passenger traffic between Male and Addu Atoll. Causeways are built connecting the islands of Gan, Feydhu, Maradhu and Hithadhu, making the largest land mass in Maldives.making the largest land mass in Maldives.
Addu Atoll was a major military base for the British Royal Airforce until Maldives got independence in 1965 and afterwards had a sufficient military presence till 1976, the islands of Addu Atoll were home to those Britain’s who served in the RAF for many years, though they were stationed in Gan. Addu atoll is considered the place where the first taste of development was felt in the Maldives. The Island of Gan, even today itself depicts the development, where it has been completely transformed not only to an air base, but with all the physical infrastructure and other amenities needed. Even today Gan Island Posses the most fascinating infrastructural and landscape sceneries in the country with amazing vegetation, palms, tropical bushes, floral gardens and grass fields all contributing to the breath taking beauty of the island.
Addu Atoll is the second populous city apart from Male’. The people of Addu are very friendly and hospitable, caring and helping each other is an integral part of Adduans daily life. Addu people speak in a very unique language which is only limited to the atoll and take an extra ordinary pride for Adduans and it derives a sense freedom and independence for the atoll , Most of the people speak good English, as they were employed in former British RAF Base in Gan which also exposed them to experience working with westerners. The result has been very favorable as every Aadduan has tendency to welcome foreigners at all times as they know how to respond confidently to every need which they may have.
The atoll’s capital is Hithadhu with a population of about 15000. There are six administrative islands in Addu Atoll. Hithadhu has secondary and higher secondary schools, a regional hospital, Regional telecommunication Center, an asphalt road connecting from Gan-Hithadhu (the first of it’s kind in Maldives), a fish processing plant, and garment factories and a regional port ( under construction) to cater for ocean going vessels.
The eviction of RAF Base in Addu Atoll in 1976 resulted an overwhelming number of people to loose their jobs and lost economic and other opportunities associated with it in their home land. Stand by aside till an opportunity arrive was not an option for the mindful Adduans, instead they tend to go towards the opportunities, As a result, there was an influx of Addu people to Male’ seeking employment in Male and nearby resorts and also looking for education to their children. Most of the employees who had experience working for westerners in RAF Base and who spoke good English had turned to the tourism industry for employment and soon became the cream of tourism industry which was until very recently limited to Male’ Atoll and its surroundings. Even today after decades Adduan are the main source of human resource in Maldivian tourism industry.
The trend of Adduans migration towards Male’ and near by resorts for employment education and healthcare needs continues at an alarming rate, with all efforts by government, providing basic infrastructure in place does not seem to have much impact on the issue of economic opportunities in Addu Atoll.