Odds are nearly every photo you’ve ever seen of the Maldives involves shades of the most incredible blues on Earth. In this archipelago of nearly 1,200 islands — southwest of Sri Lanka — only 189 are inhabited, little dots of sand barely rising out of the Indian Ocean (they’re the lowest-lying islands on the planet). The rest? Many are used solely for tourists, allowing us the dream of living the high life in secluded paradise.

But life in Malé, the capital, couldn’t be more different — it’s one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Outside the capital, the Maldives are all about wildlife and luxury. And sleeping with sharks. But these islands are running on borrowed time — be sure to get there before the ocean does.