Male is the great underdog of the Indian Ocean. More than 1.1 million holidaymakers fly into the tiny capital of the Maldives every year to visit the archipelago’s sun-kissed, sandy-white specks of paradise. Yet few – indeed, very few – spend more time in Male than it takes to collect their suitcase from the carousel and catch a connecting sea plane flight or walk to the speedboat dock next to the arrivals hall. Eager to be whisked off to one of the dozens of luxury five-star resorts that fringe the capital’s Kaafu Atoll, they see no more of Male than what’s on the postcards in the gift shop. But that’s doing the city a serious disservice. It’s where more than 105,000 islanders call home, where they make pilgrimages to the beautiful coral stone mosque or experience the country’s most diverse and vibrant restaurant and cafe scene. It’s also the political epicentre of one of the most talked-about countries on the planet. In recent years, the chain of more than 1,000 islands has become the focal point for the eco-fight against rising sea levels – so much so that the scuba-diving cabinet government has held meetings on the seabed to highlight the issue. This vulnerability gives a visit to Male an added sense of urgency: no one knows what the islands’ future holds, but at least you’ll feel safe in knowing that you’ll have the best of the capital all to yourself. On the streets of Male, beyond the infinity pool, lies the real Maldives - and that’s something you won’t see in any travel brochure.