Maldives, Location: Situated off Sri Lanka, the worlds smallest Asian country and and the lowest, made up of 1190 coral islands.
Famous for: White sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.
When to go: The temperature is pretty consistent throughout the year, but there are two distinct seasons here, the dry season (January – March) and the rainy season (May – November) Having traveled in both seasons, I would have to say that the rainy season is probably my favourite, but to be honest the temperature is so good year round that it makes little difference.
During the rainy season, I have experienced regular rainfall in the evenings, but little during the day. The rain, when it comes, is heavy and storm like and very impressive to watch from a sheltered bar or room veranda. It has never had an adverse affect on any holiday I have taken there.
Cost: Well, this is a tricky one, with so many different islands (each island is generally owned by a single hotel)there is a vast choice, and it really does depend on when you go and what kind of a holiday you are looking for. Some islands specialise in luxurious pampering and indulgence holidays and these can be up to £10,000 per person per week in the high season. However it is possible to get last minute deals and special offers if you wait and are prepared to visit in the rainy season. The cheapest holiday I have had here was about £1,200 per person for 8 days, and honestly it was the best. When you bear in mind that your holiday cost includes, flights, transfers by seaplane or speedboat and all of your food and drink for the duration of your stay, it actually works out to be excellent value an the food is always exceptional.
Flight times from the UK: Flight time is around 10 hours, depending on the operator used. I have always used Sri Lankan airlines as they offer a direct flight and they have a bigger seat footprint than most airlines – making it a much more comfortable journey. There are cheaper flights that have a pause in Dubai, which tends to make the journey longer.
Time difference: 5 hours ahead of the UK.
What you will see: The Maldives are renowned for being a honeymoon destination, with little to do but laze around the beaches and be pampered. And while this is true to a degree, the Maldives also offer the most amazing dive and snorkeling experiences as well as opportunities for wildlife and bird watching. There is much more to the Maldives than we are generally led to believe. Depending on your location within theMaldives and the season you choose, you may have the opportunity to see: Manta rays, spotted whale sharks, turtles, black and white tipped reef sharks, blue and yellow fin tuna, sting rays, eagle rays, spotted rays, dolphin, porpoise and even some passing whales, all of this of top of an amazing plethora of tropical fish on the reefs, from stunning trigger fish and guinea fowl puffas, to Nemo (clown fish) and moray eels. The sea life really is amazing and the majority of reefs are well protected as the Maldivians are becoming more active in their preservation. Some islands are even running new reef generation programs, cultivating coral and creating new areas for the marine life to flourish.
Meanwhile, on land you will sea, lizzards, the amazing tropic birds, finches and other birds, alongside Fruit bats in abundance. Unlike most bats the fruit bats look more like a flying fox and are pretty big. They have a curious nature and will often move along a branch to get a better look at what you are up to. The roost during the day and then become more active in the late afternoon when they take advantage of the drop in temperature. In flight they are easily confused with seabirds at a glance, purely due to their size. Watching them swoop in and out of the trees really is mesmerising.
Detail: You will be hard pressed to find a bad resort in the Maldives, there are all generally rated 3 star of above with the majority being 4 & 5 star. The star rating here, really reflects the amenities. You will find some of the larger island have gyms, tennis courts, sometimes even small golf courses etc, alongside several bars and restaurants. While some smaller islands may simply sport a single restaurant/bar and a boules area. This doesn’t amke it a worse hotel, just a smaller more intimate one. My advice would be to decide what you want from you trip and choose your island carefully.
Generally the rooms are detached or semi-detached bungalows and are often in one of three categories: Garden villa, beach villa and water villa. The garden villas, don’t tend to have a sea view, or if they do, it is a restricted one. But other than that they tend to be much the same as the beach villas inside. The beach villas often allow you to step out of your door and straight onto white sand, with the sea immediately in front of you. The water villas position you actually above the sea, with steps that allow you to get straight into the sea and bypass the beach entirely. Water villas also have the reputation of being more luxurious than the other villas.
Pro’s and cons of each room type:
Garden villas tend to offer privacy, more so than you would get being beach side, but due to their location, it’s often difficult to find a sunny patch directly outside. Also, their location in the trees means that you may have a higher risk of mosquitoes and bugs.
Beach villas tend are right on the beach, so access to sun, sea and sand is a given, however, the islands coastline is a regular route and you may find that when you sit outside, your privacy is an issue. But trust me, the ability to sit outside your villa and watch the sunset over a cocktail in the balmy evenings, make the water villas an unbeatable experience.
Water villas give you lots of privacy and the added bonus of a sand free room, but, and there’s always a pay off right? The fact that you are at least a jetty away from the island means that the walk to any bar or restaurant is much further than from anywhere else. If there is a storm, you will be more battered in a water villa. The access to the sea can be deceptive, as the water villas are located in shallow water and you may not always have water to get into, depending on the tides. Again, depending on the island and the location of the water villas, this may leave you on dry land for some of the day and the general sea debris can gather under your villas, meaning that in the full heat of the day it can be a bit smelly.
What to take:
• Bear in mind that you will travelling into a muslim area when you arrive at Male, so it’s advisable to make sure you carry a shoulder covering top (lightweight and cool) in your hand luggage. It may not be your religion, but it pays to show respect to theirs and common courtesy costs you nothing.
• You won’t need much in the way of footwear once you arrive on your island, so just make sure you take some flip flops and comfy shoes for travelling in. If you plan on doing lots of boat trips, make sure you take some sandals that give grip and won’t drop off into the water when you are embarking/disembarking.
• If you have an underwater camera or underwater camera case, take it!
• A lightweight raincoat or poncho if you are going in rainy season. You may not have far to go, but the downpours are heavy even if they are short lived.
• Mossie repellent and bite cream (anything you buy on the island can be expensive).
• If you take cash (generally US$) make sure they are crisp new notes, with no tears or pen marks. Apparently the Sri Lankan banks won’t accept any dog eared notes, which means that you could encounter problems when paying with cash – this has happened to me. Make sure when you get the money from the exchange, that you check each note to make sure you are happy – the newer the better.
• A waterproof or at least shower proof bag or rucksack.
• Snorkelling gear, if you have your own, then it will help you to have it. Some islands lend you the kit free of charge, but not always. Flipper will save you a lot of effort too and enable you to keep up with the more interesting things you may see.
• Lots of books to read.
What to expect: Expect paradise! You will get it. Don’t expect cafe culture, if this is what you are looking for then the Maldives is not for you and you may end up being a little bored. Your entertainment will be largely self motivated. Once on the island you won’t have night clubs or shops to visit (other than the odd couple owned by the hotel). Expect, peace and quiet, relaxation and a relaxed pace of life. If you are there for the marine life (scuba or snorkelling) expect an ocean adventure.
The food will be fresh and tasty and of very good quality. You will find that there is a lot of fresh fish on the menu and a lot of Asian, food. However, there is always a good selection catering for most tastes.
You will be expected to tip your waiter (generally the same for the duration of your stay) your cleaner and your porters, the tipping amount will be suggested by your travel agent and often depends on the prestige of the hotel you are staying in.
Expect slow internet, if you get any at all. Technology is refreshingly absent here – enjoy it while it lasts.
Expect a laid back approach. The staff are exceptionally friendly, helpful and will go out of their way to make your stay a good one, but reaction times can be slow and you may have to adjust your expectations accordingly.
Romance: if you are here on honeymoon, or just for a bit of time together, there is plenty of romance to be had here, from beach dining, castaway picnics on deserted islands to an ice cool cocktail on your veranda.
The islands are beautiful, which is why I keep going back, the relaxation is compulsory, and the romance is optional.