“The only time we like to dance is to the song of the sea”
– partly Anonymous & partly us 🙂
Maldives holds a special place in our hearts as it was our first foray in foreign lands..individually and together. Though it would be awesome to be marooned on an island like Tom Hanks in Castaway but cooking your own food would be too much of an ask….ain’t it?
How to reach Maldives
Maldives is a paradise situated to the south of India, in the Indian Ocean. The best time to visit this gem would between November to April. It rains a lot from May to October so it is best to avoid traveling to Maldives during this period. The best and I guess the only way to reach Male (capital of Maldives) is by Air. There are direct flights from India (Kochi & Bengaluru).
One of the most painful aspect of travel to a foreign country is availing Visa but in this case you have the convenience of Free Visa on Arrival which issued to you when you land in Male Airport. The tourist visa is valid for 30 days from the day of arrival.
Accommodation & Transportation
The best place to stay in Maldives is to stay in any of the numerous island resorts rather than in Male the city. We chose Paradise Island Resort & Spa for our 5 night stay in Maldives. You can either use tripadvisor or any other online travel aggregators to book your stay.
Once you exit Male airport, there are a lot of kiosks where your resort representatives would be waiting to welcome you. Based on the distance from the airport, you can travel to the resort either by Seaplane or a speed boat.
Note: Usually the speed boat transfers are free inclusions in the package. However, if you have to travel by sea plane, you will have to shell out additional money.
All the resorts have Beach villas (or by any other name) and Water villas. Going by the description, water villas are more expensive than beach villas. One can either split the stay between Beach villas & Water Villas to reduce the overall expense. But if that’s not a constraint, then we would suggest you opt for a Water Villa.
We were so mesmerized by the photos of the Water Villas that we opted for them for our entire stay. Each of the water villas had a huge room with a private deck with 2 chair and an open tub – luxury over water! The icing on the cake was a private access directly into the waters through a flight of stairs from the villa.
We spent a good half an hour admiring the villa, immensely happy about spending the next 5 unforgettable nights in the lap of luxury.
Where to eat
Since most of the resorts are secluded and the only way to travel anywhere is seaplane or speed boat, you will have to rely on the restaurants on the resort. If you are particular about a certain cuisine and are not in a mood to experiment, you could include all the meals in your holiday package.
Otherwise almost every resort has 3-4 restaurants and even bars to provide a host of options. Paradise island resort had 3 restaurants – Multi-cuisine, Italian and Chinese restaurants and a bar on the beach. We had opted for an all-in meals option as a part of the package. One would think that a buffet meal 3 times a day for 5 days would end up being boring, but the spread was changing everyday much to our delight. <slurp>
Note: It is advisable to buy a crate of water bottles from the Airport (there is a shop at the airport) as the water bottles at resorts are around 3 times as expensive. Once you are at the resort, you will be at their mercy. With the tropical climate, and the sun beating down during the noon – 1 litre of water will not be enough for a couple. We bought a crate of 24 (half litre) bottles from the airport costing around $24 overall.
What to do at the resort and beyond
With most of resorts secluded from other islands, they usually have a host of activities. For people who like to relax can laze on the beach for hours or opt for Spa. For adventure seekers, there is Scuba Diving – led by a PADI instructor on the resort. The overall dive is for 1 hour and would cost around $350-400 for a couple with the dive being as deep as 12 m below sea level. There is a training – theory for around 30 mins followed by a test (which anyone can clear) and post that you need to sign the declaration form. Post all this, we enter the water with the bulky scuba outfits to swim along with the fishes.
Note: Please ensure you use sunscreen before you enter the water and also bring along a couple of water bottles – drink some water before you dive. Since you would breath using mouth the entire time, it will be very dry. We had forgotten to bring the water bottles and one of us had to actually drink the saline dirty sea water because the thirst was unbearable. <yuck>
Snorkeling is another option to explore the under water without any bulky apparatus like that used in Scuba. For those who do not know swimming, can we use a life-jacket and then try snorkeling – it is equally amazing! The transparent blue waters in Maldives is treat to the eyes. It would cost you around $35 per person including the equipment.
The snorkeling experience starts from the shores and ends at the Italian restaurant. After burning all the calories during snorkeling, it wouldn’t harm to have a cheese pizza as a reward! 🙂
Other activities would include trips to nearby villages (half-day and full-day trips) on speedboats or watching dolphins during sunset.
Well, if you do not want to travel in the middle of the sea to watch Dolphins, you can watch and feed sharks every evening near the Chinese restaurant at the resort.
Important: Things to Remember
The Maldives currency is very weak so it would be prudent to use dollars instead of the local currency unless you end up using every penny. All the resorts prefer credit cards to dollars over the local currency. We used credit cards to settle the dues and dollars wherever required.
Also, it is better to get a crate full of water bottles from the airport.
Do pack a few medicines in case you feel sea-sick or get bruises from corals during scuba or snorkeling. An in-house doc is available but the medicines will be expensive.
Just like any vacation, the journey back is the most painful. We literally dragged ourselves back to the Speed boat to go back to the airport…not before we went to the souvenir shop to collect some memorabilia to remind us of this awesome trip!