Kaleidoscopic Coral Gardens: Check
Top notch PADI dive sites: Check
Palatable food: Check
Unending variety of desolate islands: Check
Night entertainment: Hmmmm. Not on the inhabited islands. But in resorts and off-shore… still, works for me
So, there you have it, a beach bum’s paradise with all the ingredients in perfection.. well almost.
Once you land in the Male airport, you hail a water taxi instead of one on four wheels. the pier right next to the airport is a scene to behold. Imagine a taxi stand, on the water. Most of the luxury hotel reservations come with attached airport transport, so it’s not really much of a hassle. Just strap in and enjoy the bumpy ride until you get to alternating shallow reefs and deep wavy parts of the sea. the ride on the shallow reefs makes you feel like the boat is gliding on a glass… literally. Your quest for beautiful corals begins even before you have got off the boat.
Though most of Maldives’s resorts are über luxurious; to experience an authentic Maldivian lifestyle and for those on a budget, a visit to one of the inhabited non resort islands does the trick. We had our booking at Maafushi Island, our paradise for the five days. Its one of the few inhabited islands that allow hotels and have private beaches. The private beach, a hop away from the resort is barricaded with coconut leaves (conservative Islamic nation) and is fairly crowded by the tourists. The waters are as pristine as everywhere in the country.
The long-standing political uncertainty in the island nation has neither stemmed the flow of tourists nor dampened the spirit of her citizens. They are still very receptive hosts. Staying at one of the thousand island resorts are satisfying, but somehow lack the local flavor and seem too made up. However, that’s not to say they are any less when it’s only relaxation that you are after. The alcohol ban on inhabited islands seems to have been compensated by the many offshore boats that hang about to serve just that purpose. They will pick you up and drop you. Very convenient.
We ended up doing a couple of scuba dives with the local PADI shop. The corals lose the grayish tinge very quickly as you dive in and you are surrounded by cliffs of beautiful corals all teeming with marine life. We could see a few Ribbon Eels, Cornet fish, Butterfly fish and the prized Turtles among others. My PADI instructor shoved me to the left when he spotted me the Turtle, snatched my Gopro and shot the video. The awesome Turtle just glided across casually, probably used to wide-eyed humans staring at it.
The powdery sand made the five days fly by. You can’t help but ponder staying here forever. Why not, its heaven…
I would normally list the must-see places here. But anywhere in Maldives is lounge-worthy. But, I shall try and list a few:
- Vaadhoo Island, Raa Atoll: Its bioluminescent marine phytoplankton occasionally light up the beach and its a surreal experience only a few get to experience. Make sure you are on the list.
2. Maafushi Island: Think of a perfect island but with a local touch. The local sports club even organizes crab races and its open for everyone. Just pick a crab and let it run. Its one of the cheaper places in the island nation.
3. Rannalhi Island: With its top resort and clear waters and teeming reef right next to your room, you can’t really go wrong with this place. Book ahead. Or at least plan a day trip.
4. Male: You wouldn’t normally list a dense city amongst the things to see on an island nation. But Male is the beating heart and cultural center of the nation and is definitely worth a day. Or at least reach early for your flight from the airport and spend some time seeing the few sights in Male. I would recommend the Islamic museum and the market.
5. Any of the hundred island resorts
Practical Tips & Weird Facts
- All nationalities get a free 30 day visa. Check here..
- Remember Maldives is a fairly strict Islamic nation. None of the inhabited islands allow alcohol and it’s unwise to smuggle one in your bag. Just ask the people around for a boat hanging by that serves them.
- When booking a resort, check and double check the exclusions. In most cases given the distance between the airport and your resort, the transportation cost may be higher than your resort booking costs. Also, check for the additional taxes which are deceptively well hidden until the bill arrives. Though your resort may say all-inclusive, check the fine print. Also the boat transfers are not always smooth.
3. Seaplanes are chartered and do not run on fixed schedules. So plan ahead and talk to the hotel. Always keep them in loop especially if your flights are delayed.
4. Wifi connectivity is poor and expensive in most areas.
5. Another very inconvenient but safe rule is that NO BOATS OR SEAPLANES AFTER AROUND 5PM. So if your flight times are not matching, then better to stay overnight at Male and plan the transfer.
6. Maldivian Rufyaa (MVR) is the currency. USD is accepted everywhere. You cannot purchase MVR beforehand is of not much use when you get back. Exchange wisely.
7. Due to global warming, some islands are disappearing. But the severity and speed are not as bad as was predicted. So chances are your grandkids will visit there too.
8. In 2009, an underwater cabinet meeting was held to highlight global warming. Read on
9. The Maldivians are deeply religious( also slightly intolerant) and superstitious. In 2013, a coconut (Ya, a coconut, not a typo)was jailed for allegedly trying to influence the elections.
10.You cannot vote in Maldives if you are not a Muslim. Period..
What I Read: An epic island adventure by the famous Hammond Innes. Buy here…
What I Saw: The story of Mohammed Nasheed, the former Maldivian president, and his struggles. Read on…