Who among us hasn’t dreamt of the Maldives, the paradise-like country, where long white beaches, clean turquoise waters and great weather seduce like nothing else on this Earth? But as you realise how deep in the pockets you have to dig for such a holiday, the dream seem to be crushed.
Video: Maldives 2017, by Merisa & Tarik
Songs in video: Summer Hit & Happy Electronic Music, by Alexander Blu
Yes indeed the Maldives can be very costly, as most people grasp for those luxurious island resorts. But say you look beyond those typical packages, you could actually enjoy the beauty of this country and not go bankrupt.
In 2008 the Maldive government allowed tourism on local islands as well, thereby everyone could set up their regulated business and attract tourists. Today many of the local island have at least a couple of guesthouses and they all are affordable.
The country is divided in numerous attols and each of them consists of a couple of local islands, resorts and uninhibited islands. Upon landing in Malé, there are more options on how to reach your local island; by seaplane, speedboat or local ferries.
We chose to stay on three different local island in the Alif Alif Atoll (Northern Ari Atoll), Bodufolhudhoo, Ukulhas and Rasdhoo, for three nights on each. The reason that we stayed within one atoll was that we did not want to waste a lot of time on transportation between the islands, and within one attoll you can get around very quickly (15-20 minutes by speedboat or 1h by local ferry). Also, this atoll is not far from Malé (one hour with speedboat to Rasdhoo, or 3 hours with the local ferry).
We spent one night in Malé city upon arrival and one night in Hulhumale before our flight back home. This to make our travel as comfortable as possible, but also for the fact that we did not want to miss out on this little capital, one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
As for service, the Maldivians are top notch. We literally did not have to lift a finger. The hotel staff always greet you upon arrival, take your bag and guide you to the hotell. We did email all our hotels before departure, just to confirm our reservations and they also gladly helped us with speedboat-/ ferry transportations.
In Malé we stayed at a great hotel not far from the harbor, though in Malé nothing is really far away, having an area of 5.8 square kilometres. After some refreshments, we headed for the city, as the evening-sky was closing in on us. The first impression: crooooowdeeed. Anywhere you turn, people are walking, people are on motorbikes, cars, bicycles. This city is indeed alive.
The next morning we had arranged a speedboat (50$ p.p) to take us to our first local island, Bodufolhudhoo. It is the smallest local island in Northern Ari Atoll even if the name means “big island” in divehi. On the boat, one Maldivian gentleman asked us if we were heading for Bodufolhudhoo and as we confirmed, he smiled and proudly said, that is my home island.
At the harbor we were greeted by Adil and Iqbal from our hotel. During our stay on this island, we were heartily taken care off by these guys and no wish was to big for them. We felt like family members and still today, our stay in the Castle Inn is one of our best Maldive memories.
The island itself is as mentioned not big, but has a school, two mosques, a medical centre, guesthouses and a store or two, where you can buy snacks, fizzy drinks, water, ice- cream and candy. Local Maldivian islands with guesthouses always have a tourist beach witch is cleaned and specially taken care of. The weather during our stay was great and we enjoyed snorkelling, swimming and relaxing.
On the third day, it started to rain so heavily that the local ferry was cancelled and so our transportation to Ukulhas. The guys at our guesthouse were attentive and arranged so that we could travel by a private speedboat, at the price of a local ferry ticket. Amazing. Instead of 1 hour, it took us 20 minutes to arrive to Ukulhas.
We stayed in a small guesthouse with 4-5 rooms, near the harbour. A part of the beach, just 2 minutes walking distance from the hotel, is reserved for guests and is cleaned often (corrals and rocks do tend to wash up on the beach). The beach in Ukulhas is approx. 1 km long, and is loved by tourists because of the length, the very clean, azure sea and the lovely white sand. It feels endless. During our stay, unluckily the weather was not the best, but we still managed to explore the reef, swim and snorkel. We saw several reef sharks (over 1m long) and many baby black-tips. The world under water was really mind-blowing and we were never bored.
In Ukulhas, there are several restaurants, a school, mosques, shops and a children´s playground. Because of the length of the island (1 km) everyone drives motorbikes and in the evening, before sunset, the streets are crowded with people just driving around in circles and hanging out. On the harbour side, just next to the mosque, there is a square-like area, with big trees and lots of shadow possibility to cool you of during the hot days. There we sat, on the typical Maldivian chairs called jolly, with cold fizzy drinks and sweet snacks, people-watching, and took in the beauty of the island every day.
Our plan was to visit the island Thodhoo, and stay there on our last three days, but we ended up changing our plans and continued to Rasdhoo, the capital of Alif Alif atoll. We arrived there after a one-hour trip with the cheap local ferry and stayed at a new and very clean guesthouse (Acqua blue) near the tourist beach. The weather was once again wonderful and we did not waste any time so we headed for the beach right away. It was a rather small beach, but never crowded. It seemed like tourists mostly came to Rasdhoo for diving, as they have a couple of diving schools on the island, and off-course, famous diving-points just near by.
In Rasdhoo one can find good restaurants, several stores, an ATM machine, a stadium, a school, a beautiful mosque, a hospital and dive-centers. The island is very clean and it is easy to get around as it is only 500 x 600 m in length and width. Just near Rasdhoo there is a small uninhibited picnic-island known for its beauty and should not be missed. One can get there by organising a little day-trip with the guesthouse, or, as the clever Serbian couple that we met, rent a canoe and paddle there on your own (risk).
On our last day, we took the speedboat to Hulhumale, the airport island just near Malé. We stayed there for one night and could catch our early flight the next morning feeling relaxed and without any stress.
Hulhumale is an artificial island built to take some pressure away from the capital. The infrastructure is well constructed and there is no crowd on the streets. The beach is also nice, many locals and tourists are out in the evening for a cool-down. Hulhumale is a really clean and interesting island and we would always choose to stay here for a night or two over Malé.
So long paradise, we hope to visit soon again. And off-course again, on a budget…
- Most local islands do not have any banks or ATM machines. Bring cash, dollars or rufiyaas will work.
- Sit in a Maldivian outdoor chair called “jolly” and take part of the local lifestyle.
- Use the local ferries to get around. It is so cheap.
- Somerset Inn (Malé)
- Castle Inn (Bodufolhudhoo)
- Acqua Blue (Rasdhoo)
- Newtown Inn (Hulhumale)
- Maldivian Breakfast (Mas huni) – consist of tuna, greated cocunut, lime, chilli, onion, spices and is eaten with flatbread called roti.
- Maldivian short eats (Hedhika) – a late-afternoon snack eaten with black tea or coffee. You will find this at local restaurants or coffeeshops (Olhumathi Restaurent, Ukulhas or in Lemon Garden, Rasdhoo)
- Seafood from the grill. We had reef fish and octopus, all great and fresh.
- If you have missed a good cup of coffee (coffee in the Maldivies is generally not the best), we really recommend the coffee-shop “Family room” where you can enjoy a quality cup off coffee, cold brew teas, desserts, burgers and more.