Maldives: An Affordable Dream Destination

Maldives: An Affordable Dream Destination

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 Day 1: Arrive in the Maldives

When checking into your flight for the Maldives choose a window seat. As you descend through the cloud cover the many groupings of islands that make up the Maldives’ atolls can be seen down below.

Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is located on the island Hulhulé which is adjacent to the capital island of Malé. After passport control and luggage pick-up a representative (verify with your booking) from each resort or guesthouse will be waiting outside with their signs to lead you to where you need to go. Visitors who are staying at the resorts will be wisked away to either the seaplane terminal or the private speedboats directly outside of the terminal to take them to there respective resorts._DSC6237

As an affordable alternative, we chose to start our trip by spending three nights at one of the highly reviewed guesthouses on a local island. The Amazing Noovilu, with prices starting at $120 a night (per couple) is a great alternative to the outrageously expensive resorts while offering you the same excursions. This meant that we would take a boat to the capital island nearby and from there we were to catch the ferry boat that goes directly to the island we would be staying on. The guesthouse owner worked everything out ahead of time and communicated the plan to us via email.

Some advice: Be prepared for the possibility of unexpected, extra expenses due to unpredictable weather. We experienced rough seas that prevented the ferry from running which forced us to hire a speed boat.

_DSC6448We arrived to the island early in the evening and, no doubt, you will be warmly greeted by Mazin and his team from The Amazing Noovilu, just like we were.

Note:

  • The Maldives is a Muslim country with rather conservative dress and appearance rules.  Although the rules are relaxed for tourists, the females will be expected to wear at least a t-shirt and shorts on local guesthouse islands.  The guests can wear bikinis and swim gear when they’re out on a boat away from the locals…or at a resort.
  • No alcohol is allowed on the local islands so if you want to relax with a drink, a resort is the place for you.

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A quick stroll though the tiny island’s sandy, unpaved streets and you will be led through a small courtyard where their five large, air-conditioned rooms are. Once you have an opportunity to get settled in you will walk (shoes optional!) to the family home where their restaurant is located. After you enter their home’s entry way and courtyard you will most likely meet some of their other family members. Say hello and make your way up the stairs to the restaurant above their house for a delicious home-cooked local dish!

Day 2: Snorkelling and Relaxing on “Picnic Island”

The night prior you will likely discuss with Mazin and his brother, Ismael, some of your must-sees while in the Maldives. The top of most visitors bucket-list is swimming with a Whale Shark and Mazin will make sure to include that excursion somewhere in your itinerary. Of course, most of the days activities will be dependent on the weather so be flexible.DSCN1903

_DSC6172“Picnic Island”, with its one standing palm tree, white sandy beach and colorful coral reefs is picture perfect. _DSC6180

Spend the day alternating between relaxing on the beach, frolicking in the shallow waters or snorkelling in the sea with the colorful underwater world. DSCN1836You will see all types of sea life, from the sweet Angel fish and funny-nosed Unicorn fish to sleepy Sea Turtles and pacing Reef Sharks. Make sure to pack a GoPro or similar underwater camera that can take both video and photos. DSCN1946

Day 3: Snorkelling off the Beaches of Mahibadhoo and Reef Hopping

_DSC6366  Spend the morning relaxing in the shade and snorkelling right off the shore.

DSCN1913After hanging out on Mahibadhoo for the morning, head out for some reef hopping in the afternoon. While we snorkelled, Mazin went spearfishing for our dinner. DSCN2022The ends of the above sandbar were covered with the shallowest amount of water which made it look as if you could walk right out into the Indian Ocean. DSCN1904Directly off the sandbar we snorkelled around some more of the most magnificent reefs in the world.

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After dinner you can head back out to the beach to do some night snorkelling!  Night snorkelling is a must-do.  The reef is a different experience at night.  While holding very bright flashlights made for underwater use, you will swim follow-the-leader style along the pitch black reef.DCIM999GOPRO

 

Day 4: Swim with a Whale Shark and Arrive at Lily Beach Resort & Spa

Leaving the guesthouse early is vital to arriving before many of the larger, resort boats. Mazin will tell you to jump into the water; your only instructions will be to swim fast enough to keep up with the whale shark so he doesn’t out-swim you. Spanning some 25-40 feet and swimming gracefully through the ocean, its no wonder whale shark is known as a gentle giant.DSCN2161

The wonderful thing about The Amazing Noovilu is that there is no time schedule and they will stay out on the water as long as the group wants. DSC00478After lunch, Mazin arranged for his brother to take us on the speedboat to the next island over, Huvahandhoo, to Lily Beach Resort and Spa where we would be spending our last two nights in the Maldives in an over-the-water bungalow. The best decision we made was to spend the majority of our time on a local island for adventure and then enjoy a little bit of luxury before we had to head home. The over-the-water bungalow is the epitome of luxury and there’s no better place to experience this than in the Maldives.

Snorkeling in the Clear Waters of the Maldives

We had always dreamed of staying in one of these extravagant bungalows but knew that they came with a hefty price tag (all-inclusive resorts can cost anywhere between $700-$2000 a night). By spending three of our five nights at the less expensive guesthouse, we felt more comfortable about shelling out the big-money to stay at Lily Beach Resort.

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At Lily Beach there are no dress codes, alcohol is not prohibited and is an all-inclusive resort.

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The reef that surrounds the resort was accessible via steps leading down from the poolside of our bungalow.  Early in the day when the tide is high it offers more fantastic snorkelling. In fact, our room had a glass floor near the entrance where you could watch fish and tiny sharks swim buy.  Along with the infinity pool and a glass of chilled white wine It was a little piece of pampered paradise.

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Sunsets in the Maldives are breathtaking, pink skies turn to fiery orange before melting into a deep blue. Fruit bats fly overhead, their silhouettes gliding across the glowing moon.

The resort buffets are exceptional as expected.  The food variations are great with many different options and a theme for each evening.

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After dinner every night at nine o’clock there is a shark and stingray feeding at the entrance of the resort next to the pier.  Watch as the stingrays, sharks and Jackfish go coconuts for some delicious chum-bucket fish food!

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Day 5: Stand Up Paddle Board & Snorkelling Off Your Over-the-Water Bungalow

All non-motorized water sports are included in the Lily Beach all-inclusive price so take advantage by snagging some snorkelling gear or try stand up paddle boarding and much more.

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Departing The Maldives

Lily Beach will give you a reporting time to the front desk with ample time to get you on the sea plane that flies you back to the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport with time to spare before your international connection.  The sea plane is a tiny pontoon plane that seats around fifteen.  Try and get a window seat!  It’s a nice experience and the entire short journey back to the airport offers spectacular views of the many ringed atolls along the way.

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If your dream is to stay in an over-the-water hut in paradise, Lily Beach or one of the other resorts will not disappoint.  If you’d rather forego the resort experience and pack your week with adventure and activities, then save the money and just stay at the Amazing Noovilu Guesthouse…either way, you will NOT regret it.DCIM105GOPRO

Tips Before Your Trip:

  • First and foremost ensure you have at least two (maybe more) blank pages in your passport or you could be turned away from the Maldives upon arrival
  • The Maldives is a Muslim country with rather conservative dress and appearance rules.  Although the rules are relaxed for tourists, the females will be expected to wear at least a t-shirt and shorts on local guesthouse islands.  The guests can wear bikinis and swim gear when they’re out on a boat away from the locals…or at a resort.
  • There isn’t any alcohol on the local islands so if you want to relax with a drink, a resort is the place for you.
  • The locals deal in cash.  There was an ATM at the airport and on the local island where our guesthouse was located.
  • Due to its proximity to the Equator, the Maldives has a consistently warm temperature year round. There are two distinct seasons: wet season and dry season. Dry season typically runs from December until April when the Maldives experiences the highest amount of sunshine and lack of rain. The wet season is from May until November when the Maldives will be cloudier and have a higher chance of rainfall.

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