A Guide to the Maldives

30 Mar A Guide to the Maldives

Maldives is a tropical country in South Asia that lies southwest of India and Sri Lanka. Stretching over a space of about 298 square kilometers and occupied by a little over 393,500 citizens. It is the smallest Asian country both in terms of land space and population size. Despite its size, the Maldives is an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands, grouped into 26 natural coral atolls in the Indian Ocean, making it extremely picturesque. Out of these islands, only 192 are inhabited with its people and a further 100 more being developed for the commercial purposes. The rest remains virgin islands.

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Photo credit: http://www.fourseasons.com/maldives/

About Maldives

The Maldives is small, with sunshine and temperatures of around 30°C lasting all year long. It is the lowest country in the world, where ground level is an average of 1.5 metres, and its highest point at a mere 2.3 metres. Sadly, with the onset of climate change and global warming, and being the flattest country in the world, the Maldives faces the risk of sinking in the near future. So do visit this beautiful country before it’s too late!

Getting There

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Despite being the smallest country in Asia, the Maldives has 10 airports serving the country. More information on Male International Airport:

  • Male International Airport (also known as Velana International Airport) is the country’s main airport, located on Hulhule Island in the North Malé Atoll,
  • If you are arriving my plane, you would land at Malé Internationational Airport as it is the main gateway to the other Maldives islands for tourists.
  • It is currently the only airport in the country offering international flights.
  • Asian countries that have direct flights to Malé include India, China, Middle East, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Hong Kong.
  • Outside of Asia, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom also fly to the Maldives directly.

Getting Around the Country

Maldives is made up of a vast chain of small islands, split apart by the ocean. As such, there is essentially no public network of transportation linking the different islands. Here are some of the ways to get around the country.

By Air:

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Photo credit: https://cruisingmaldives.files.wordpress.com

The fastest way to get around the Maldives is via seaplane, which is even available at several resorts. As seaplane transfers are only made during the day, it is a great way to enjoy the scenic view of the country’s reefs and islands. If you intend to island hop via seaplane, make sure to compare the rates between Trans Maldivian Airways and Maldivian Air Taxi, to ensure that you get the best deal! The cost varies between USD250 and USD450 return, depending on the distance, the deal between the resorts, and the special packages that they offer.

By Sea:

There are several options when getting around the islands by sea. Firstly, you can take the local public ferry, a network introduced in 2010 connecting all the inhabited islands in the country. This ferry network only runs a few times a week. (http://www.roomsmaldives.com/help/ferry)

In fact, this transport option is extremely time consuming, with the entire route one-way lasting from 06:30 to 17:00! Also, these ferries will not help you travel between resorts. To reach the respective resorts you will still need to do so by much pricier speedboats or seaplane transfers. Ferries are cheaper, costing between MVR2 – MVR50, but are also much slower compared to speedboats. Although they follow a scheduled timetable, ferries are also prone to delays due to bad weather or technical problems.

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Secondly, Dhoni charters (above) are multi-purpose sailboats that are in abundance at the harbor. These sailboats are available for charter to nearby islands from resorts, typically costing between MR1,000 and MVR2,000 for a day, depending on the destination, duration, and your negotiating skills. Dhonis are also available for charter at most resorts, however, it would cost more (anything from USD400 to USD800 per day).

Lastly, several resorts in North Malé Atoll, South Malé Atoll, and Ari Atoll offer transfers via speedboat, which costs between USD80 to USD400 return depending on the distance.

By Road:

Taxis are another mode of transport around Male, especially with luggage in hand or when caught in a thunder storm. A trip around the island usually costs a flat rate of about 20 MVR with an additional 5 MVR fee for baggage.

What to do:  

  1. Water sports at Banana Reef

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Photo credit: http://www.prodivers.com/

Situated in North Malé Atoll, the globally renowned Banana Reef is the first diving site to be discovered in the Maldives. With a dive depth ranging from 5 to 30 metres, it continues to be one of the most popular diving spots in the country. It is surrounded by cliffs, caves, and overhangs, as well as an abundance of marine life and coral growth. With plenty of underwater activities to do like scuba diving, snorkeling, and jet skiing, the Banana reef is an attraction for adventure junkies from all over the world!

Cost: Dive starts from USD 65

Best time to visit: 09:00am. There is also night diving at the Banana Reef.

Getting there: The Banana Reef is accessible via speed boat. The cost and time to the Banana reef would depend on the resort where you are staying at.

More information: https://divebooker.com/banana-reef–baz14394

  1. Swim in an Artificial Beach

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Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/Artificial-Beach-543567059048998/

At the eastern seafront of Malé, there lies an man-made beach, literally named “Artificial Beach”. This beach is not only a popular tourist destination, it is also locals’ favorite as it is snugly situated in the country’s capital. The beach allows several water sports activities. Surrounded by parks and cafes, this place is great place for families with kids. In fact, many of the city’s events are held here such as carnivals, parades, and live music shows.

Cost: Free

Opening hours: 24-hrs

Address: Boduthakurufaanu Magu, Malé

Getting there: Walking distance from Hulhule Airport terminal. Nearest bus stops – Artificial Beach Bus-Stop 101- 402.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/Artificial-Beach-543567059048998/

  1. Dive with Whale Sharks and Manta Rays

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The Maldives is a place where you can dive and snorkel with whale sharks or manta rays. Stretching as long as 12 metres and weighing up to 20 tons, whale sharks are often spotted in tropical and warm seas. However, these creatures found in the Maldives are relatively smaller, ranging between 4 to 8 metres in length.

Sun Island:

The southern part of Sun Island’s reef is one of the best places to find whale sharks. With water depths ranging only between 5 to 10 meters, it is relatively easy to spot these massive creatures. Whale sharks are spotted all year round at Sun Island, however there are times when the chances of catching a glimpse of them increase, namely:

  1. In November, December and May.
  2. The week before a full moon.
  3. 3 to 5 hours before high tide.

Be sure to take note of the best time to find whale sharks before venturing out!

Cost: Dive starts from USD 65

Best time to visit: 09:00am

Getting there: 30 mins via seaplane or 3 hrs via speedboat from Male airport

More information: http://www.prodivers.com/info/2-bodufinolhu-thila/

  1. Pay Tribute to the First Maldivian King

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The Utheemu Ganduvaru is the famed birthplace of the revered Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu, who, together with his companions, fought an eight-year-long war to drive Portuguese invaders who occupied the Maldives from 1558 to 1573. This wooden palace in which Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu lived and grew up in is preserved to show the lifestyle of the rich in Maldives centuries ago.

Admission Fee: USD 1.63

Opening hours: Sun-Thu 9am-6pm

Address: Utheemu Ganduvaru, Bodu Magu, 02020

Getting there: Take a domestic flight to Hanimaadhoo domestic Airport or travel by local ferry to Utheem Island, Haa Alif Atoll, north of Maldives.

More information: http://www.trips365.com/maldives/attraction/utheemu-ganduvaru

  1. Visit the Oldest Mosque in the Country

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The Malé Hukuru Miskiiy or also known as the Malé Friday Mosque, is one of the oldest mosques in the city of Malé. Made with of coral boulders as the basic materials used for construction, the mosque was added to the tentative UNESCO World Heritage cultural list as a unique example of sea-culture architecture.

Admission Fee: Free

Opening hours: 24 hours (Except during prayer times). Best to go morning before noon prayer takes place.

Address: Medhuziyaarai Magu, Malé

Getting there: The Hukuru Miskiiy Mosque is an 8 minutes walk from the Hulhumale’ Ferry Terminal in Male via Boduthakurufaanu Magu and Medhuziyaarai Magu. You can also take bus number 101 to Sultan Park Bus-Station, which is 170m from the mosque.

More information: https://www.triphobo.com/places/Malé-maldives/Malé-friday-mosque

 

  1. Go Island Hopping

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Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/patspengler/maldives-islands/

Since a majority of the country made up of most water, the Maldives is a vast chain of small islands, with each hotel or resort being on its own. As such, a major tourist activity is to visit other islands and resorts in order to experience the country’s full beauty, with many resorts even offering trips to local islands for a picnic lunch. However, with essentially no public network of transportation linking the different islands, island hoping can turn out to be pretty tricky.

Prices for island hopping varies according to which island you would like to visit, the number of islands you intend to visit, as well as which resort you are starting from. To personalize your own itineraries to suit your holiday duration and your preferences, visit http://www.planetdiveholidays.com/tours/maldives/maldives/50 or call 0044 (0) 1273 921 001 to speak to an expert.

Here is a sample itinerary:

  1. Days 1 – 4: Biyadhoo Island

Accommodation: 3* Biyadhoo Island Resort, Maldives

From Male International Airport, the ground agents will show you to your speedboat for a transfer to Biyadhoo Island (approximately 30 minutes). This is a small and simple island that is surrounded by a vibrant reef filled with marine life that is great for snorkelling and diving.

On days 3 and 4, the 5* PADI dive center will organize boat dives to several of the surrounding areas such as Kandooma Thila. These sites feature strong currents and pelagics and are sure to impress even seasoned divers.

  1. Days 5 – 9: South Male and Ari Atoll

Accommodation: 4* Kuramathi Island Resort, Maldives Full Board

On day 5, we will head towards your next island getaway, Kuramathis, via speedboat, with a short transit in Male (approximately 1.5 hours).

On days 6 and 7, the dive centre would bring you to some of most ideal dive sites around Ari and Rashdoo Atolls. At these islands, there is an option for guided or unguided dives, which can be made throughout the day.

On days 8 and 9, the dive centre will bring you to the most famous dive sites of North Ari Atoll, as well as Hammerhead Point, which is only 8 minutes away by boat. This is a rare opportunity given to advanced divers to dive with hammerheads throughout the year.

  1. Day 10: Return

On the last day of your holiday, you will be taken by speedboat back to Male Airport for your returning flight home.

 

  1. Go for a Walk at the Glowing Beach

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Photo credit: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/

Several islands in the Maldives experience this beautiful work of Mother Nature, where in which ostracod crustaceans come in contact with water and emit light for seconds, or even lasting more than a minute. While this beautiful phenomenon can be seen over several parts of the world, Maldives is one of the best places to view them. However, these natural occurrences are hard to predict and the odds of viewing them is entirely based on luck.

Address: Vaadhoo Island, Maldives

Getting there: 15 minuts via speedboat from Male International Airport

More information: http://www.luxuo.com/lifestyle/travel/vaadhoo-island-glowing-beach.html

What to Eat:

  1. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant

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Five metres below sea level, Ithaa is the world’s first all-glass underwater restaurant surrounded by coral reefs and an abundance of marine life, seating up to 12 patrons. The dome-shaped ceiling gives visitors a tranquil panoramic view of thousands of fishes swimming around them. Ithaa serves up and excellent spread of food, from Australian wagyu beef, to French chocolate and Caspian Sea Caviar.

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Photo credit: http://www.fusionchef.de/

Price Range: $$

Prices start from USD 120.

Four-course set lunch – approximately USD 190

Six course dinner menu – approximately USD290

“Cocktail hour” with a glass of champagne and a selection of canape – approximately USD65.

Address: Conrad Rangali Maldives Island Resort

Getting there: 0.5 – 1 hr from Malé International Airport via sea plane to Rangali Island

Dress Code: Smart/ Formal

Opening Hours: Daily 11:00 – 00:00

Child Policy: Children are welcome at lunch but not dinner.

Contact: To make a reservation, call the hotel at +960 668-0629, or visit http://www.hiltonmaldivesresort.com/ithaa-undersea-restaurant/ for more information

  1. Sala Thai

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Photo credit: http://www.salafamilymaldives.com/ 

A part of the small six-room Sala Boutique Hotel, this restaurant is one of Malé’s most celebrated restaurants. Serving up an array of authentic Thai dishes from prawns marinated in spicy fish sauce to Phad Thai.

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Price: $

Address: Sala Thai, Hithaffinivaa Magu, Malé,

Getting there: 8 mins boat ride from Malé International Airport

Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday – 12 noon until 12 midnight, Friday – 5 pm until 11:30 pm

Contact: To make a booking, call +960 334 5959 or visit http://www.salafamilymaldives.com/ for more information

  1. Muraka

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Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/strada20/restaurants/

Over the blue lagoon of Mirihi Island, this al fresco, fine dining restaurant leaves guests breathless with a view of the beautiful turquoise waters against the horizon. Muraka serves up a variety of Asian dishes that include pink peppercorn peppercorn crusted Maldivian tuna loin, fried bok choi, crispy potato wanton, lobster bisque, angus beef, and papaya salad.

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Price: $$

Address: Muraka, Mirihi Island Resort, South Ari Atoll

Getting there: 30 minutes from Malé International Airport via sea plane to Mirihi Island

Opening Hours: Sun – Sat 18:00 – 22:00

Contact: To make a booking, call +960 668 0500, or visit http://www.mirihi.com/en/culinary/muraka/ for more information

Where to Stay:

  1. Diamonds Thudufushi Beach & Water Villas 

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Photo credit: https://exp.cdn-hotels.com

The island features 31 beach bungalows, 16 beach junior suites, 18 water cills, 3 jacuzzi water villas, and 2 two-bedroom water villas, sitting atop clear waters. The resort offers a variety of activities to do, these include:

  • A wellness centre with ayuredic treatments
  • A diving centre organizing excursions and courses
  • Water sports such as windsurfing, canoeing, snorkling tours, deep sea fishing, and water skiing.
  • Other activities such as beach volley, table tennis, darts, billiards, Nintendo Wii, pilates, yoga, and aqua aerobics 

Price Range:  $$$$

Address: Diamonds Thudufushi, South Ari Atoll, 00130, Maldives

Getting there: 20 minutes via sea plane from Malé International Airport

 

  1. Filitheyo Island Resort

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Photo credit: https://www.filitheyoislandresort.net/

Lined with 125 spectacular villas around this island in the Faafu Atoll, the Filitheyo Island Resort is perfect for guests looking to relax. With a option of either a Deluxe villa, Superior villa, or Water villa, each room is comes with an open-air out bathroom and outdoor shower. With a view of either the beach or lagoon, the respective villas are equipped with private verandas, terraces, day beds, and sun loungers as well, creating the perfect relaxation spot. In fact, the resort also has an in-house offering several forms of treatments such as Maldivian Sand, Hot Stone, Thai Massage, and Balinese Massage, to make guests all the more relaxed!

Filitheyo Island Resort also offers a spectrum of sports and leisure activities for their guests. This includes water activities such as windsurfing, sailing, and canoeing, as well as other land activities like volleyball and board games.

Price Range (per night): $$$

Address: Faafu Atoll, 20188

Getting there: 40 minutes via sea plane from Malé International Airport

  1. Ayada Maldives 

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Photo credit: http://www.ayadamaldives.com/

Ayada Maldives houses 122 rooms open for booking, with nine luxury accommodation types ocean suites, family suites, lagoon suites, beach suites, ocean villas, beach villas, and island villas. Stilted over water and steps away from the ocean, guests of this resort are blessed with magnificent views of the endless horizon, while enclaved in absolute privacy and serenity. A mix of both Maldivian and Turkish design elements, the rooms are luxurious yet modern and simple, with some rooms even sporting a glass floor and an infinity pool with direct views over the sea.

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Photo credit: http://www.ayadamaldives.com/

The resort also hosts an extensive list of activities for its guests to ensure that your day is never boring. Ranging from sunset cruises, fishing trips, and genuine island excursions to inhabited islands, be assured of your safety as all excursions are undertaken under the care of experienced and personable team members. The Ayada experience includes carnivals, movie nights by the pool, Las Vegas nights, and badu beru shows (the performance of song and dances from east and south west Africa). There are many excursions to join as well such as traditional Maldivian fishing at sunset, glass-bottomed boat tours, equator crossing, deserted island picnic, island hopping, local island visits, and dolphin spotting and snorkelling. Sports are another option of activities to do at the Ayada Maldives, where water sports such as stand up paddle boarding, catamaran sailing, jet skiing, fun tubing, and riding banana boats are available to participate in.

Price Range (per night): $$$$$

Address: Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, Magudhuva Island, 20050

Getting there: From Malé International Airport, guests will have to take a 55 minutes domestic flight on the country’s domestic carrier ‘Maldician’ to Kaadhedhoo Domestic Airport. From there, it will be a 50 minute sea transfer via speed boat to Ayada Maldives.

Extra Information

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The Maldives is a Muslim country, where its citizens follow strict Islamic laws. As such, when visiting the country, it is extremely important to respect and abide by the laws of the country. Here are a few main laws to take note of:

  1. Alcohol:

Alcohol is generally prohibited under Islamic law, and is only allowed within resort premises and should not at any time be brought out. This also means that alcoholic drinks are only available for purchase on resort islands.

  1. Culture:

Homosexuality is against Islamic laws, and if convicted, one can face fines, prison sentences, or even deportation. However, there has been no issues with LGBT couples checking into resorts in the Maldives to enjoy a holiday. In general, any forms of public displays of affection is frowned upon in non-resort areas, including holding of hands and kissing.

  1. Dressing:

Islamic law encourages modesty of dressing so nude or topless sunbathing is prohibited throughout Maldives. Bikinis on the other hand are allowed within the resort however should not be worn out of resort premises. When out of resort islands, uncovered legs and shoulders are not a common sight, therefore it is respectful to dress conservatively in these areas.

  1. Drugs:

The Maldives has very strict drug laws that carry severe penalties should one be caught importing or in possession of drugs. It could even result in life imprisonment in some cases.

  1. Imports:

Other than the universal illegal import materials such as explosives, weapons, firearms, ammunition, and drugs, Islamic laws also frowns upon the bringing in of these items: alcohol, pornography, pork and pork products, idols for worship, and non-Islamic religious texts,. While one non-Islamic religious material may be allowed in, a large amount would raise suspicions.

  1. Religion:

The public observance of any other religion other than Islam is illegal although religious practice within private settings is allowed. It is also illegal to invite or encourage Maldivian citizens to such gatherings.

  1. Holy Month:

During the holy month of Ramadan, a period of 29 – 30 days, it is important to be extra respectful to the Maldivian culture. In 2017, the Ramadan period is set to start on 27th May and end on 25th June. This holy period is observed by Muslims all around the world, where they cease eating and drinking from dawn till dusk in order to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. As such, in order to be considerate of the Maldivian citizens, you may take steps to avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public.

 

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