Fabulous, Luxurious Maldives
|Surprise, surprise: The place looks exactly like a postcard!|
The Maldives was never on my travel list. Why, I didn’t even know which continent it belonged to. (It’s still in Asia by the way, just south of India). But who could resist the allure of a cheap ticket? Certainly not me. I was unaware that many others were also interested until I started updating on Facebook. Let’s just say that if people could die of jealousy, I would have attended a number of funerals based on what some of my online friends jokingly expressed through their comments.
Any destination is only as exotic as its scarcity of direct flights from one’s country of origin. With flights from various cities across Asia, Europe (a lot coming in from India and China including Hong Kong), the Maldives is no longer as inaccessible as it seems. To stretch your dollar, there are two low-cost carriers that land at Male International Airport: tigerair from Singapore and flydubai from Dubai. Expect to meet fellow travelers from just about anywhere due to a visa-free policy for all nationalities.
The most economical option would be to book a hotel in Male (nearby Hulhumale is an option too, but has fewer attractions). For our group, we stayed at one of the three Arena Lodge properties on Maafushi, an island that comes with a public tourist beach. To get there, we headed to Villingili Ferry Terminal on the southwest corner of Male, paid the fare of MVR 22, joined a boatload of other thrifty travelers and locals and voyaged for two hours. We were pleased with our comfortable stay at the guesthouse and the staff’s commendable service.
As long as you’re not staying at exclusive resorts, the plan is to avail of island hopping day trips to Picnic Island or Sexy Beach, among others. These resorts typically charge a USD 25 entrance fee. Guesthouses offer round trip speedboat transfers for as low as USD 30 for a group of 6 so it pays to be friendly. We chose to avail of a day tour to Fihalhohi Island Resort, an acclaimed 3-star resort known for its pristine wildlife and natural beauty.
Our speedboat stopped at a picturesque little dock and we were escorted to the front desk. After registration, we were on our way to explore the island. The lush trees were soothing and the clarity of the water will make you want to dive right in! It looked just like postcard. Storks were swooping in and strutting around on the shore as if to say, “We hope you’re enjoying your stay here.” Tiny crabs are camouflaged as they burrow into the softest, whitest sand you’ll ever see. A few steps into the water and you can find baby manta rays and species of fish you never knew existed – an indication of just how untouched the waters are. Other than seeing Europeans desperately trying to get a tan just as Asian women are covering up to avoid getting dark, it was truly a surreal experience.
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|I fell in love with this picturesque little dock that greeted us and the most crystalline waters I've ever seen.|
|Storks swoop in and strut around in the sand without a care in the world. I'm kind of envious.|
|Europeans intentionally getting tanned - a typical status symbol for Caucasians.|
|View from the top as I left the island nation. I look forward to coming back and spending my time at the Conrad!|