Often Maldives holidays are airport-boat-resort-boat-airport. Nothing wrong with this at all. The resorts are mostly isolated islands with beautiful beaches and with marine life right there to chase your toes and every amenity you can imagine. Basically, if total chilling out is your intent, this is where to do it. But for many, after a few days, unless it’s honeymoon time or a complete commitment to hang over, time begins to drag. So, what do you do?
Spend some days in Male. Spend a day and night in Male. If you are on a package, this is difficult. But if you can book yourself, go to your resort and then move to Male for the last night or two before you fly home. The few hotels in this capital city are great. All a star or two and no “moons.” More than 100,000 Maldivians live in these 2 square kilometers and you can see it all on the main street, Majeedhee Magu. Don’t miss the fish market next to the harbour. The daily dinner shopping by the residents is a great scene. It is quite an experience. By the way, make sure you have decent clothes as skimpy ones will attract attention and offend many Maldivians.
Take the ferry to Hulhumale. This is about 20 minutes from Male. This is a resident island with good snorkeling and a few local restaurants. In front of its harbor is the anchor point for the “Safari Boats”…which can take you to dive sites you cannot imagine. If you don’t do this, all you will have is resort food…which is great….but it’s international. Try some “short eats”…really inexpensive snacks in the same category as Arabic Mezeh or Spanish Tapas or even Dim Sum. Small bite first–a few of them are pure rocket fuel! There are a few very nice guesthouses that will rent you a day room so a picnic is not out of the question.
Do a little homework on Maldives. Maldives has a very interesting history. It was a Sultanate once and the Sultan’s descendants still live in Male. It was as well a British protectorate so there is a big airport in the south of Maldives that is now open for flights to the resorts close by. In days past, the huge Vulcans used to land there and the British hid their fleet in the Addu harbor when the Japanese almost invaded Sri Lanka in the 1940s. The marine life is truly stunning. Even the harbor water is clear enough to see a hundred species. Even if this is not your area of interest, read a bit on this so you don’t get to disturb the wrasse protecting its eggs or a Titan…which will surely give you a nibble! You can see small sharks and rays feeding right on the shore. Wouldn’t it be great if you know a little bit about them? Just be careful not to bore your fellow guests with what little you know.
Talk to the locals working in the resorts. Let them share with you something about life in their islands, about their families, their dreams. Some of them come from islands much further away from your resort. Talk to the Sri Lankans, the Bangladeshis and the Filipinos who work there, too…what great stories and what an insight into another side of life.
Go resort hopping. If you have time and money, book yourself for 2 or 3 days in a resort in the north of Maldives and then move to another one in the south. Experience flying in a small plane…the truly amazing Twin Otter…which has to be the world’s toughest aircraft! They’re used like taxis all over Maldives. Huge pontoons and utterly reliable. And don’t have much luggage. Pack lightly for your trip to Maldives. All you wear the whole day is your swim gear and a few silk roll ups for the evening. You can go very skimpy in the resorts. Just bring one decent outfit for going out to the islands. Forget the shoes!
Maldives is a paradise and one vacation you will truly enjoy…but you can bring great memories back if you make a little effort.