Holidaying in the Maldives

Late last October, we jetted off to the Maldives for some much-needed rest and relaxation. It's not someone where we would have normally chosen to go, but with various COVID travel restrictions still in place (and limited BA companion voucher destinations available to us), it's where we ended up!

For us, we wanted to go someone nice, warm and sunny. With minimal COVID regulations to jump through to get there. (And get back.) Mauritius was our original plan (actually, it was Sweden, but that got cancelled as us Brits were banned due to COVID), which pivoted to the Maldives after Mauritius changed their entry requirements. For the Maldives we only needed a negative PCR test to fly and to fill out some forms for the Maldivian government. Which worked for us.

How to get there:
If the Maldives is on your bucket list, here's what you should know: Flight time to Male, the capital, is around 12 hours from London. You'll then need to take a speedboat, a plane, or maybe even a speedboat and a plane to get to your resort. Which can add on anything from one hour to several hours to your travelling time, depending on flight times and where you're heading to in the island nation. We had just missed a flight to Kudahuvadhoo so had about an hour's wait for the next one, a 45 minute flight, followed by a bus to the harbour and then a 15-minute boat journey. So from clearing customs in Male to arriving at our resort, this added on another 3 hours. Door-to-door, you'll likely be travelling for 18-22 hours (if you're coming from the UK/Europe).

We booked with BA, which included this domestic transfer, thank goodness(!), but not everyone does. The cheapest option is what we had included - we took a domestic flight, followed by a speedboat - but you can also book a seaplane which will take you directly from Male airport to your resort. A lot quicker, but a lot more money. According to the website where we stayed, if you need to book a return seaplane for two people, it'll cost you $1370. The domestic flight option is $790. You can see why this is a honeymoon sort of destination! And why it pays to book the Maldives as a package that includes this transfer!

Where to stay: 
The Maldives is definitely also a honeymoon destination because the most common tourist accommodation option is a resort. This doesn't mean there aren't other options, but you're probably looking at a fancy 4* or 5* all-inclusive stay. I am going to caveat that we used a BA companion voucher so our flight costs were minimal. And because COVID uncertainty was still a thing when we went they had an incredible sale on, which meant we paid a third of what we'd pay today if we went to the Maldives for two weeks and stayed at a 5* all-inclusive resort. Our stay was a bargain - and I'm very aware of this! 

One thing to note as well if you're thinking of holidaying in the Maldives, hotels are on private islands, so the resort *is* the island. You will be eating, sleeping, drinking, relaxing, snorkelling etc all on one little island. Basically, there is no sightseeing in the Maldives unless you get on a boat - this is not a travelling around sort of destination. Anything you will need, you'll have to get at the resort, so make sure you take enough sun cream etc as you'll be paying top dollar for it.   

We stayed at the Hotel Riu Palace, a 5* all-inclusive resort on the private island of Kedhigandu, which is in the South Nilhande Atoll. (There are 20 atolls in the Maldives.) In this atoll there are 56 islands, most of which are uninhabited. It's all very remote! However, we did have a neighbour - the 4* Hotel Riu Atoll, which is reachable by a footbridge that's just large enough to take a golf buggy. For us this meant we could dine at our a la carte restaurants and those at Hotel Riu Atoll, whereas guests staying at the Atoll could only eat there. The Atoll is also where the watersports centre is, the shop, the doctors and where you can get beauty treatments. Both hotels have evening entertainment. 

We definitely preferred the food at our hotel, and ate in those restaurants twice. The Riu Palace has an Asian-fusion restaurant and a Japanese restaurant; on the Atoll there's an Italian restaurant and a steakhouse (we ate in those once). And rather sweetly the Asian-fusion restaurant, where we ate on Olly's birthday, brought out a cake for him! (They also left us a bottle of wine in our mini bar.) At that restaurant we had an excellent Sri Lankan lobster curry, which was probably my favourite dish, followed by the seared tuna and tempura dishes at the Japanese restaurant. 

When we weren't eating in the a la carte restaurants (bookable via their app), we were at the buffet. Which was actually very, very tasty. And had an abundance of lovely Sri Lankan food because of the close proximity to Sri Lanka (a lot of the staff were Sri Lankan, too). Certainly one of the better all-inclusive buffets I've ever had. All-inclusive also covers drinks, either from the bars or from the mini-bar and drinks dispenser in our rooms (the drinks dispenser had full-size bottles of gin, rum, whiskey and vodka). We were a fan of the pop-up Aperol bar, the pop-up waffle bar, and there's also a swim-up bar in the main pool. The all-inclusive facilities were great, overall.  

When to go:
Situated just north of the equator, the best time to visit the Maldives is October through to April as there'll less be rain then (though it will still rain a bit); temperatures will range from around 28 to 35°C. We were there late October to mid-November and it was mostly hot and sunny, with a couple of rainy and windy days where we were stuck indoors. This time of year is also when water visibility is at its best so ideal if you want to go snorkelling or diving. 

What to do:
Eat, drink and be merry! Basically we did a lot of relaxing, but we did also do a lot of snorkelling whilst we were there. As I mentioned above, there is a watersports centre on the other island where you could use snorkelling equipment for free (as well as kayaks, pedalos and paddleboards), but we took our own snorkels so we could walk out of our beachfront suite and head straight into the water in front of our room. A better way to do things, I'd say!

There's an abundance of colourful tropical fish to be spotted when you're underwater - and you'll also find white-tip reef sharks along the shoreline of the island. Don't worry, they will swim away if you try and approach them! We also did a snorkelling boat trip where we were taken further out to deep water. I didn't like that as much as it was very choppy, but we did see a manta ray which was pretty cool! (And Olly really enjoyed that trip; I'm just not as comfortable in deep water.)

All-in-all, holidaying in the Maldives is definitely like holidaying in paradise - and we were very lucky to go. Is the Maldives on your bucket list, or have you been? x

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