Faafu Atoll - also known as Northern Nilande Atoll - is a small group of 23 islands about 120 kilometres south west of the capital of the Maldives, Male. Only one island, Filitheyo, has been developed as a luxury tourist resort. Five islands in the atoll that are inhabited by local people, including Nilandhoo, where the explorer Thor Heyerdahl uncovered important archaeological evidence of the pre-Islamic culture of the Maldives.
The sole resort island of Filitheyo is a tropical paradise worthy of a magazine cover - a small but perfectly-formed coral cay shaded by coconut palms and lush exotic forest, encircled by white sand beaches and clear, warm azure waters. The eco-styled resort buildings match the idyllic surroundings, with thatched wooden villas scattered among the palms beside the beaches, or built on stilts out over the reef-sheltered waters of the island's lagoon. All the villas are built on the western side of the island, and so each enjoys amazing views of the setting sun and the open ocean horizon. The villas are furnished to a very high standard, and the resort is a perfect choice visitors who want to experience a touch of nature tinged with luxury.
Filitheyo is situated on the eastern edge of Faafu Atoll, a 30-minute seaplane flight from the international airport at Malé - which means visitors have have more time to relax on the beach and enjoy the resort facilities. There are several bars and restaurants to suit different tastes, including the Sunset Bar on the waterfront on the western side of the island, where guests gather at the day's end to enjoy tropical cocktails blended with fresh fruit. Other facilities include a swimming pool and poolside bar, badminton and beach volleyball courts, a fitness centre, and a health spa offering Asian-inspired and traditional local treatments. The resort also has internet access, and there is a doctor in attendance on the island.
The beaches are the focus of activities during the day, and the resort has facilities for sailing, kayaking, snorkelling, and scuba diving. Traditional dhoni sailing boats are on hand to carry ferry to the nearby uninhabited islands of the atoll, for a romantic picnic or a private stroll on a secluded and empty beach. The outer reefs of Faafu Atoll are swept by gentle currents that bring many large pelagic sea species close to the islands, such as whale sharks and manta rays, making these waters very popular with divers, and the resort's dive school can arrange training and guided tours of the best local dive sites.
The island of Nilandhoo at the southern tip of Faafu Atoll was the scene of explorations by the Norwegian geographer Thor Heyerdahl, who identified the remains of seven Hindu temples on the island, dating from before the conversion of the Maldives to Islam in the late 12th Century. Heyerdahl believed that the pre-Islamic Maldivian culture had spread from Sri Lanka, carried by an ancient sea-fearing civilization that influenced the cultures of South America and Easter Island - although his theory might be deemed "romantic" by most modern historians. Today Nilandhoo is famous for its 800 year-old mosque, founded by the sultan who introduced Islam to the Maldives and built from the coral stones of the island's ruined temples.