Climbing the Highest Point in the Maldives

No discussion about global warming is complete without a nod to the Maldives, the paradisaical Indian Ocean archipelago that spans the equator, comprised of around 1,200 islands.

Indeed, the geographical term atoll comes from the Dhivehi word describing these low-lying coral isles that almost seem to float on the flat blue surface of a tropical sea. Twenty-six different atolls make up the entire island chain of the Maldives, and while most of the country lies north of the equator, we landed in the southern hemisphere, on the southernmost atoll in the country.

Addu Atoll is the southernmost coral atoll in the Maldives (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic)
Addu Atoll is the southernmost coral atoll in the Maldives (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic)

I first visited the Maldives some seven years ago, and no matter how much I raved about the beautiful neon coral, the schools of blue and yellow fusiliers, the flawless sand beaches and the rustling palm trees, all anybody wanted to ask me about was the question of rising sea levels and how in a decade or so, the entire nation will be underwater.

According to National Geographic, we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100. If that is true, than the islanders in the Maldives have real reason to worry. The average height of this country of coral beaches is around 4 feet above sea level, and the highest point in the entire nation is just under 8 feet (about 2.4 meters).

Now, out of the hundreds of islands in the Maldives, it just so happens that our expedition was staying on Villingilli in Addu Atoll. Though it’s just a tiny sliver of sand in the big wide ocean, it’s also the location of the highest point in the Maldives. Books and websites refuse to divulge the exact location, and so I set out with a GPS and an altimeter (and a few clues from the locals) and found the very highest point on the island, and therefore, the highest point in the entire nation.

Well I found it–the highest point in the Maldives, and thereby, the lowest high point in the world. Though it took me all of an hour on a bicycle in a 5-star resort, I still felt a great sense of accomplishment.

Villingilli Island in Addu Atoll, home to the highest point in the Maldives (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic)
Villingilli Island in Addu Atoll, home to the highest point in the Maldives (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic)

This trip is one of the many ways to travel with National Geographic Expeditions. To learn more about all of our travel programs, click here.

Comments

  1. Monica
    Missouri
    November 5, 2013, 5:12 pm

    Now that’s a high place worth climbing, beautiful! It would be a sad and great loss for the seas to rise and swallow up such beautiful places such as these.
    I am enjoying this journey, thanks for making it highly memorable. Traveling mercies!

  2. Lisa Kellenberger
    Boulder, Colorado
    November 12, 2013, 3:54 pm

    Wow, what incredible photos. Thank you for sharing.

  3. GFDD
    March 6, 2014, 3:43 pm

    Maldives Ambassador Discusses Climate Change Challenges for Small Island Developing States in the GFDD Global Roundtables.

  4. […] most exciting I’ve ever explored. Kicking gently through the blue, I felt like I was back in the Maldives or Palau, where the ocean is endless and the fish […]

  5. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  6. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  7. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  8. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  9. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  10. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  11. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  12. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  13. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  14. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  15. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  16. […] emissions and adapting to climate change is a necessity. The Maldives sit at an average height of four feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas. Nasheed, the the first democratically-elected […]

  17. James Singh
    April 9, 2015, 6:01 am

    I learn something new about the Maldives each day. Great piece of interesting solo research, love it, who would have thought Shang ri la’s Villingili Maldives resort would be the highest point at just 2.1 meters. Not sure why this mound was so secretive, maybe to protect the resorts interests.

  18. An Uncertain Future | LET'S TALK CLIMATE
    October 13, 2015, 5:40 pm

    […] risen 4 to 8 inches over the past 100 years. The islands are extremely low lying with the highest point across the whole atoll being approximately […]

  19. Jame Balaban
    South Africa
    December 27, 2016, 2:36 am

    Am not sure I would have the stamina to make it to the top- perhaps with some advance training?

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