The Maldives may seem like a strange choice for our first destination profile as most people would perceive it as a high end blow your budget destination. And for at least half of the inhabited island you’d be right. Recently, the Maldivian Government has allowed locals to open up their homes as independent guest houses. You can stay in a brand new room with a private en suite hot water bathroom, daily room cleaning and breakfast for under $60/£40 a night! That sure beats the £3-400 per night for the big hotel chains! Add this to low cost flights from the likes of Bangkok and Dubai and you’ve found yourself a bargain get away!
I really do believe that now is the time to get yourself to the Maldives before they disappear for good!
LocationThe Maldives are an archipelago of nearly 1200 individual islands which lie just off the coast of the Indian sub-continent. Out of these only around 200 are occupied by humans, half of those being high-end hotels and resorts.
The coral islands are no higher than 1.8m above sea level so you can understand why there is so much pressure on the world to try to tackle rising sea levels. Two meters higher and the whole of the Maldives would disappear into an underwater world.
MoneyThe official currently is the Rufiyaa however at most of the big resorts they will accept USD. The Rufiyaa can be quite difficult to exchange so make sure you only take as much as you need and top up your funds with USD.
ATM’s can be very hard to find. There is one situated at Male Airport and i have been told that there is one on each of the most occupied islands in the various atolls. 99% of all the big resorts will accept credit cards. Smaller guest houses you will require cash.
Everything you buy at your hotel will have a 10% service fee plus an additional 6% government tax added so please take this into mind when you think something seems like a reasonable price.
Everything other than coconuts and fish are expensive in the Maldives due to everything having to be imported from other countries. This can soon hike up the cost of an already expensive get away.
TransportIf you are staying at one of the resorts you will more than likely either have an inter island flight, a speedboat or seaplane transfer depending on the distance from Male. These can range in price from a $150 right up to $500 per direction.
If you are travelling independent then you have the task of deciphering the local ferry schedules. As The Maldives are a Muslim country, Friday and Saturday are classed as the weekend. Just to add to the challenge, most inter island ferries only operate every other day and sometime you will have to over night on an island in-between due to the schedules. But that’s all part of the adventure, right? A local ferry can be anything from $1 to around $20.
WeatherThe Maldives has a tropical climate. There are officially two seasons. The North-East Monsoon or dry season, which runs from January to March/April time. Then there is the South-West monsoon or wet season. This typically runs from May to November.
If you ever check the forecast for the Maldives, the chances are it will read around 30’C give or take a couple of degrees and thunderstorms. Please do not let this put you off! The whole ten nights we spent there was rain when we landed at Male and then i think one afternoon that we had a downpour for a couple of hours. Every other day was glorious sunshine! The other problem with looking at weather reports in the Maldives is that the islands all have their own individual weather. So although Male may be raining, your tropical paradise 20 minutes away could be basking in clear skies
Things to doGet your snorkel and flippers on and stick your head in the azure Indian Ocean, that’s what! The marine life around the coral islands of the Maldives is beyond beautiful. You will see everything from tropical fish, to sea turtles, to sharks and everything in between! If you are staying in one of the high-end resorts I strongly recommend upgrading to a water villa. Direct access to the crystal clear lagoon, it’s like stepping into the warmest bath…only your surrounded by all this!
If you’d like to get further out to sea then why not head out on a manta ray or whale shark safari? Due to the Indian Oceans balmy climate, you can find whale sharks more or less year round. And with them coming into the shallows you can always see the reefs on the sea floor. I may have been the person who was trying more distracted by the fish on the reefs that i missed a couple of the whale sharks passing by!
Fishing and diving excursions are very popular. You can arrange this directly with your hotels water sports team or if you are staying with locals your guest house host will either take you out, or be able to recommend someone on the island to take you out.
Land based ActivitiesIf you’re not much of a water baby (Why?!) then you can still get your fill of nature without getting your feet wet! These are tropical island teeming with life. Everything from exotic birds to reptiles to fruit bats. We would often meander around the shady trees looking for animals. I don’t think we were ever disappointed!
Make sure you treat yourself to a relaxing spa treatment. If your resort offers an over water treatment hut…go for it! The glass floor under the treatment table was a brilliant idea! Especially for someone like me know normally gets so relaxed I nod off and get woken up by the poor masseuse who’s had to endure my snores! I actually had to stop myself getting over excited and shouting out whenever I saw a new species of fish swim past!
What to take with you
Snorkel and fins are a must! Although most hotel you will be able to hire these. I personally prefer to have my own well fitting set. (I can recommend Cressi’s fins & mask..in pink obviously!)
High factor sun cream. Remember you are right next to the equator, the suns rays are even more powerful here. You don’t want to end up looking like a lobster! Ideally make this bio-degradable if you are planning to get into the sea. There are some very nasty chemicals in normal sun cream that can damage the eco system of the ocean.
If you are avoiding the big resorts and staying on the local islands then you will have to cover up. This is a strict Muslim country. For ladies your arms must be covered to your elbows and your knees must be covered up. Men, you must have your shoulders and knees covered. This does mean that whilst swimming locally you will have to wear shorts and t-shirts.
These days more and more of the bigger local islands do have small ‘bikini beaches’ which are made for tourists where you can relax in your swimwear. These are normally cut off by great big barriers so people can’t see in. These stretches of beach are quote small so during the high season they can get quite claustrophobic. Please do remember that as soon as you are on the other side of the posts that you have to be covered up again.
If you are taking a sea plane then please be aware that they have a strict luggage allowance of 20KG. If you are on a full flight then your case may be left behind and delivered to you over the next couple of days. Your hand luggage will also be taken from you when you board the plane as there is no room under the seats for anything so please take out any valuables that you’d feel uncomfortable not having in front of you. (The bags are stored at the back of the plane and no one is allowed to stand up during the flight so we felt pretty comfortable leaving them. Baring in mid there is also only around 12 people on the plane).
So what are you waiting for? Get your trip to the Maldives booked today!