The southern and central atolls fared the worst when the tsunami rolled over this cluster of low-lying islands, destroying harbors, jetties, and sewage systems. Miraculously, though—in part because it was protected by outlying coral reefs—the Maldives suffered relatively few casualties.
At press time, all but 21 of its 87 resorts, including Soneva Fushi in Baa Atoll and Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru in western North Malé Atoll, were open. But Soneva Gili, on North Malé's Lankanfushi Island, was forced to shut down because of widespread damage.
The sea also inundated most of the 106-bungalow Four Seasons Resort Maldives at nearby Kuda Huraa; Neil Jacobs, senior vice president of operations in the region, says he plans to reopen by July: "We're hopeful that come next season it will be business as usual."
In the interim, the Maldives are reeling. In January, occupancy rates reportedly dropped to less than 15 percent— troubling news for a nation in which tourism accounts for more than one-third of all employment.
The wave ravaged Tamil Nadu and the Nicobar and Andaman Islands, but only grazed the southwestern state of Kerala, a popular tourist destination.
The tourism infrastructure of this tiny archipelago was "hardly touched," according to the tourist board; only three of the Seychelles' 147 hotels—all on Praslin's exposed eastern coast—shut down. At press time, two of these, Cote d'Or Lodge and La Reserve Hotel, were slated to reopen in mid-January. Mahé had temporary road closings and debris on the beaches, but no resorts shut down.
Despite its proximity to the earthquake's epicenter, peninsular Malaysia was largely sheltered by Sumatra. Though the tsunami roughed up resort beachfronts in Penang and Langkawi, the hotels themselves were undamaged. At press time, the 92-villa Four Seasons Resort Langkawi remained on track to open in late February.
"The hotel was not hurt at all," Four Seasons' Jacobs says.
CHRISTOPHER R. COX is a feature reporter for the Boston Herald.