The Maldives has always been high on the bucket list for travellers everywhere, and for me, it kept creeping closer to the top with every jaw-dropping Instagram picture I scrolled past. It’s one of those places where you expect the beaches to be as white as sugar and the water blue, but it wasn’t until we took off in the seaplane that I realised just what all the hype was about.
From the impeccable service and hospitality to the rooms and striking surroundings, it exceeded all of my expectations. Sure, it might put a dent in your wallet, but it’s a once in a lifetime trip that’s more than worth saving for. Here’s hoping this guide might just be the extra push you need to get booking….
How to Get There:
Getting to the Maldives isn’t always the easiest feat — but let’s be honest, it’s more than worth killing a couple of hours in an airport for! Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon both fly direct from Hong Kong (with a flight time of 6 hours 30 minutes) however, bear in mind that these are often the most expensive options, and there aren’t direct flights available every day of the week. Definitely consider AirAsia, Singapore Airlines and Srilankan Airlines which have fairly minimal stopover times. You may even find it easiest to book everything through an agent; Flight Centre helped us to arrange our schedule, which meant that we didn’t lose track of any finer details, like additional taxes and booking seaplanes!
It’s definitely worth noting that although there are gorgeous resorts which are reachable by boat from Male Airport, many also do require transfer by seaplane, which can be an additional cost of up to USD 400 per person (depending on where you’re staying) – so it’s worthwhile checking whether the cost is included in your package!
Tip: Seaplane transfers stop around 6pm, so if you’re staying further out and arriving late (our Singapore Airlines flight didn’t land until 11pm), check with your resort if it has a sister hotel that’s reachable by boat – as the staff may be able to arrange transport and accommodate you for a night. Alternatively, Hulhule Island Hotel is just a few minutes walk from the main terminal which, although still not cheap, might be a good option to rest overnight. If your flight home isn’t until late, it also offers various day packages of which the most basic include: use of the swimming pool, two hours of wifi and luggage storage for around USD 50, and up to USD 100 for buffet dinner and complimentary transfer to and from Male (if you’re keen to visit). We were booked on a 4pm seaplane from our resort which meant that we had an eight hour wait before our next flight; we sucked up the cost as it saved us from sitting in Burger King all evening (hold up in the hotel bar – it serves free popcorn and drinks are reasonable).
When to Go
High Season (December – February): Also the most expensive time to go (who wouldn’t want to spend Christmas in the Maldives?!), high season promises little rain and low humidity! As it’s so busy, many resorts will also require a minimum of a five day stay over this time. You can also expect awesome weather up until the end of April (when the Maldives is at its hottest)
Low Season (May – November): Technically ‘monsoon season,’ storms and rainfall are more likely over these months, but the weather is still warm and and resort prices are much cheaper in comparison.
Where to Stay:
Let’s be honest, you can’t go wrong when choosing a resort as you’ll be greeted by shimmering blue hues wherever you go (check out Lonely Planet’s recommendations here), but Angsana Velavaru resort was something else. The resort is located just 40 minutes by seaplane from Male and lands right in the lagoon, where you’re immediately surrounded by crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches. Split into two areas across the lagoon, the main island boasts gorgeous beachfront villas surrounded by lush greenery, and across from it, In Ocean Villas.
Bright with big sliding doors and large windows, the rooms have been beautifully designed in white and contrasting orange. The king size bed and huge bathroom are the main features of each room, however some villas also have private swimming pools and verandahs, as well as a long stretch of jetty that makes for unforgettable sunrise and sunset moments.
We were so lucky to be staying in the In Ocean Sunrise Villa which not only had a private rooftop, but a jetty and sala which made for the ultimate in luxury. Leading straight into the ocean, we spent our mornings snorkelling and ogling fish.
If tucking into a three-course meal while turtle spotting doesn’t do it for you, I don’t know what will! Azzuro Restaurant and Bar is suspended over the ocean, offering up a great range of Western and Asian favourites. We were on a full-board package which meant that we sat down to three courses every lunch time (#noregrets) and enjoyed complimentary soft drinks and juices. Offering breakfast in bed, order your meal the night before and wake up to eggs, bacon and freshly brewed coffee over the ocean – you’re on holiday after all!
A super quick boat ride from the main island, beachfront Kaani Restaurant whips up a buffet spread for both breakfast and dinner. Opting for a different cuisine each night, our favourite was definitely the Maldivian night, dishing up freshly grilled fish and zingy curries. Opt for a night cap at the Kuredhi Bar and catch Bodu Beru night, a high energy traditional dance performanced by the friendly staff. FYI, the Mango Mojitos are insane.
What to Do:
The Maldives is a tropical paradise, so you would be well within your element simply soaking up the sunshine and cooling off in the shallows, but if, like me, you get a little antsy lying about for too long, there are heaps of other things to do on the island. Many resorts will undoubtedly have a watersports centre (our jet ski experience to the outlying islands was seriously awesome), and the option to head further out to sea, so be sure to do a quick recce and check what’s on offer before your holiday. Activities can be expensive, so if you’re keeping things chilled and cheap, Angsana, for example, offer complimentary daily snorkelling trips to the house reef. We spent the better part of an hour free diving along the reef cliffs each day, spotting turtles, sharks and bright, colourful sealife. Sadly the Maldives has recently suffered from coral bleaching due to the rise in water temperature, however the fish thrive and the resort’s marine centre is constantly making an effort to protect the corals.
Looking for a little romance? We indulged in a sunset cruise which sailed past the lagoon and out into the open water where we sat, spotting dolphins, champagne in hand, totally immersed in the moment. Honestly though, we were also content emerging from our private villa and going for a pre-breakfast stroll around the tiny island, which you can walk around the whole island in under 15 minutes. Baby reef sharks swim around the shores, making the whole experience totally surreal.
Fees and Taxes:
Just like many hotels and restaurants, you can expect to pay 10% service charge on your bill, but it pays to know that there can also be up to 12% GST on top of that. From October, 2016 Maldives has also introduced Green tax which is “payable at the rate of USD 6 per day” for tourists staying in resorts, tourist hotels and on tourist vessels, and “USD 3 a day from tourists staying in guesthouses.” It’s worth writing a quick email to your chosen resort before booking to avoid any hidden costs and surprises.