of the Indian Ocean.
The total land area of the Maldives is approximately 300 square kilometers.
Sri Lanka and India are the country's closest neighbors, lying 750km and 600km north and north-east of Maldives, respectively.
The island of Maldives is formed into 26 natural atolls, which, for purposes of administration, are grouped into 20 administrative regions.
Most of the islands are quite small and low-lying, with an average elevation of 1.
6m above sea-level.
The islands are surrounded by shallow, crystal-clear lagoons enclosed by coral reefs.
Out of the 1192 islands, 199 are inhabited and 87 islands have been developed as tourist resorts.
The Maldives has a tropical climate.
With two monsoons in the year, it is warm and humid throughout.
Daily temperatures vary little.
The annual mean temperature is 28.
3ÚC with temperatures ranging from 25.
1ÚC to 31.
The average relative humidity ranges from 78% to 85%.
The Maldivians are said to be racially homogeneous.
It is a mixed race of predominantly Aryan and Dravidian origins.
The estimated population of Maldives, according to national census 2006 is 298,842.
The population is spread over 199 inhabited islands.
The most populous of the inhabited islands and the center of commerce is the capital, Male'.
The rest of the islands are largely uninhabited, except for 87 islands which have been developed exclusively as luxury resorts.
Maldivian society is very cohesive, with one language, one culture and one religion.
The official language is Dhivehi, which is unique to the Maldives.
However, English is spoken by a majority of the people, and is also widely used in business and commerce.
The people are generally enterprising and very hospitable.
Approximately 79% of the population is under 35 years of age, and the national literacy rate currently stands at a very impressive 98%, and is the highest in the region.