I recently explored the Maldives and have to admit that I needed some time to digest all the impressions and experiences. I traveled along the Northern Atolls, visited the South, stayed in Resort Islands and on local islands to get a better idea of the diversity of its country.
Thus, I put together my personal travel tips for you.
Accomodation & Costs
Resort Island, Luxury Retreat or Guest House? Well, this is probably one of the most important questions you have to ask in order to make it a perfect holiday. First of all, you have to check your budget. Luxury Retreats such as the PER AQUUM Niyama for example start at 740 EUR per night per room for two people. For 10 nights that would be 7.400 EUR just for your accomodation including breakfast. You can probably add 1.500 EUR for additional food and beverages for two people, around 1.000 EUR for activities, 1.000 EUR for the flight, another 2.000 EUR for the transfer via seaplane for two people. That makes round about 13.400 EUR for two people and ten nights at a luxury retreat. Of course, there is no limit, but it does not get much cheaper for a luxury trip.
If you don’t have that kind of money, you need to check the traditional resorts such as Paradise Island for example. There you cannot expect the most modern design and architecture, but definitely solid service, clean rooms and affordable prices. When you don’t spend most of the time in your room ’cause you are just on your honeymoon, this could be worth considering. Then you can manage to get a ten-night trip for two people for round about 4.000 EUR – 7.000 EUR including everything. (depending on your room category)
If you plan something big for your honeymoon or as a very special vacation and you do wanna have a little bit of luxury, something extraordinary, then you might wanna go for modern resorts such as Kandima. It is anything but ordinary, still very special, not too luxurious, though. Ten nights woud be around 8.000 EUR – 10.000 EUR for two people including flights, transfers, activities and food and beverages.
If you cannot afford the choices above, you might wanna consider modern guest houses. They are clean, have excellent service and offer you to explore the Maldivian way of life, such as the Canopus Retreat. If you also go low on transfers and consider my travel tips for buget travelers, you can easily spend two weeks in the Maldives spending no more than 2.500 EUR for two people.
All in all, it is your choice and your decision what you consider as luxury. Luxury can be just the amazing sea, nature and culture, but it can also mean getting pampered all day long. So, it is up to you.
Oh, before I forget: One last tip. If you are scared of insects, cockroaches or spiders, you might not want to pick a beach bungalow or studio. Especially after a tropical rain shower, you might come across some new “friends”. ;-) And no, this does not mean, the room is not clean – it is just the natural environment.
When choosing your accomodation, make sure to check the island transfers. Is there a chance to go by local ferry, if so what is the schedule? If not, does the hotel offer a transfer via boat or seaplane? How much is it and what are the departure times? It is very important to check those things BEFORE looking for a flight. You would wanna avoid spending a night in Malé, since no transportation is available in the evening. Make sure to check it to avoid any unnecessary costs. Also, I would not recommend staying in Malé. It is very crowded, the air is quite polluted and it is not the safest place for tourists a night.
The seaplane is the most expensive one and the schedules change daily. They will tell you the exact time of your departure in the evening, one day prior departure. So, either you are lucky and get to spend the whole day at your resort or you are unlucky and have to take an early flight. That happened to me and I was stuck at Malé airport for 7 hours! That can really suck. So, when choosing your final accomodation, make sure the transfers are good. I can truly recommend the speedboat and local ferry. Both work just fine.
When you are stuck at Malé airport
Well, if one of your transfers makes you arrive very early at Malé airport, you might wanna pamper yourself a little. There is a storage unit at the airport. For 6 bucks you can safely store your luggage and freely move around. Just go to the information desk and show your passport to get your personal ticket.
AND THEN: get a nice wellness treatment at the spa. I got myself a nice pedicure and some high-quality nap time. 60 bucks for two hours, but it was worth it. Free wifi, beverages and air conditioning. <3
Water Sports Enthusiasts
To be honest, in my opinion the Maldives are the perfect travel destination for you, if you are into any kind of water sports. Otherwise this is not the right place for you, since you are surrounded by water all the time. Of course, you can play tennis on a tropical island (32 degrees in the shade and very humid – YAY), play soccer or ride a bike for 3o minutes to go around the island, or even get some wellness treatments, but if you don’t love the sealife and water sports, you might pick a different location, where you can simply relax at the beach.
I personally went snorkling, kayaking, on a dolphin excursion, checked out the surfers and tried the jet pack. But see for yourself in this little video, how amazing and beautiful it can be.
Take good care of the beautiful environment
Ninety-nine percent of the Maldives is made up of sea. The people of the islands are widely dispersed across the atolls, with about 200 inhabited islands. About 100 islands are developed as tourist resorts and the rest are uninhabited or used for agriculture and other livelihood purposes.
The environment has a direct affect on all facets of Maldivian life. The islands are protected by thousands of reefs that need to survive for this unique archipelago to be sustained for the future. Locals rely on fishing for their livelihood and they depend on the beauty of its reefs and islands to sustain their tourism industry. Most importantly, the Maldives needs its citizens and visitors to take care of their wonderful natural environment in order to survive as one of the most magical places on earth. So please, take your trash back with you and avoid unnecessary packaging. Whether you are on a cruise ship, going island hopping or staying at a resort, think about what you really need, drink, eat and whatsoever. ‘Cause you don’t want the Maldives to look like this.
Several government regulations have been set up to enable a system to provide natural protection for the otherwise fragile 1,190 islands of Maldives. Since 1995, important marine areas have been selected as protected regions and a number of islands in the Maldives are Biosphere Reserves. Endangered marine species like the whale shark, turtles, dolphins, as well as corals, are protected by law. At the First Plenary Meeting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (also known as Rio+20) held in June 2012, the Maldivian government announced a commitment to make the Maldives the first country in the world to become a marine reserve by 2017. Marine reserve status for all 1,192 islands is likely to attract international investment in pilot schemes to explore new approaches to conservation and sustainability and further protect this unique environment.
Save the corals
Learn from the mistakes people made at the Great Barrier Reef. Now it’s nothing but dead corals. Don’t let the same thing happen to the Maldives. The two biggest threats to reefs are acidification – with global warming the acid content in the water is likely to rise and the reefs can only tolerate certain acidity – so and the other big problem is just the water getting too warm.
The further away you get from the human centers the better the reefs are. But even if they are away from humans, they are still suffering from human-induced impacts such as higher water temperature, high salinity and acidification. Sunscreen is proven toxic to coral reefs. research published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology finds that a common chemical in sunscreen lotions and other cosmetic products poses an existential threat — even in miniscule concentrations — to the planet’s corals and coral reefs. “The chemical, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), is found in more than 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide. It pollutes coral reefs via swimmers who wear sunscreen or wastewater discharges from municipal sewage outfalls and coastal septic systems,” said Dr. Omri Bronstein of TAU’s Department of Zoology, one of the principal researchers. So please, when going snorkling, wear special wetsuits or shirts instead of putting tons of sunscreen on.
Over-fishing is another threat, especially close to human habitation. There’s too much fishing going on of the food fish. And it’s all connected, so if you fish out the food fish that keep the algae down then the algae will overwhelm the corals so the coral reef dies and you get a face-change from a coral reef to an algal reef.
Dangerous animals and health risks
The Maldives is not a dangerous destination, with few poisonous animals and – by regional standards – excellent health care and hygiene awareness. Staying healthy here is mainly about being sensible and careful.
Most of the potential danger (you have to be extremely unlucky or very foolhardy to actually get hurt) lies under the sea.
These colourful creatures are poisonous, and putting your hand into one can give you a painful sting. If stung, consult a doctor as quickly as possible; the usual procedure is to soak the sting in vinegar.
Coral Cuts & Stings
Coral is sharp stuff and brushing up against it is likely to cause a cut or abrasion. Most corals contain poisons and you’re likely to get some in any wound, along with tiny grains of broken coral. The result is that a small cut can take a long time to heal. Wash any coral cuts very thoroughly with fresh water and then treat them liberally with antiseptic. Brushing against fire coral or the feathery hydroid can give you a painful sting and a persistent itchy rash.
Dehydration and salt deficiency can cause heat exhaustion. Take the time to acclimatise to high temperatures, drink sufficient liquids and don’t do anything too physically demanding.
Salt deficiency is characterised by fatigue, lethargy, headaches, giddiness and muscle cramps; salt tablets may help, but adding extra salt to your food is better.
This serious condition can occur if the body’s heat-regulating mechanism breaks down and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels. Long, continuous periods of exposure to high temperatures and insufficient fluids can leave you vulnerable to heatstroke.
The symptoms are feeling unwell, not sweating very much (or at all) and a high body temperature (39°C to 41°C, or 102°F to 106°F). Where sweating has ceased, the skin becomes flushed and red. Severe, throbbing headaches and lack of coordination will also occur, and the sufferer may be confused or aggressive. Hospitalisation is essential, but in the interim get victims out of the sun, remove their clothing, cover them with a wet sheet or towel and then fan continuously. Give them fluids if they are conscious.
Sea urchins generally grow on reefs, and most resorts remove them if they’re a danger to casual waders in the shallows, though the waters are generally so clear that it’s easy to spot them. Watch out though, as the spines are long and sharp, break off easily and once embedded in your flesh are very difficult to remove.
These rays lie on sandy sea beds, and if you step on one, its barbed tail can whip up into your leg and cause a nasty, poisoned wound. Sand can drift over stingrays, so they can become all but invisible while basking on the bottom. Fortunately, stingrays will usually glide away as you approach. If you’re wading in the sandy shallows, try to shuffle along and make some noise. If stung, bathing the affected area in hot water is the best treatment; medical attention should be sought to ensure the wound is properly cleaned.
These fish lie on reefs and the sea bed, and are well camouflaged. When stepped on, their sharp dorsal spines pop up and inject a venom that causes intense pain and sometimes death. Stonefish are usually found in shallow, muddy water, but also on rock and coral sea beds.
Bathing the wound in very hot water reduces the pain and effects of the venom. An antivenene is available, and medical attention should be sought, as the after-effects can be long lasting.
A change of water, food or climate can all cause a mild bout of diarrhoea, but a few rushed toilet trips with no other symptoms is not indicative of a serious problem. Dehydration is the main danger with any diarrhoea. Fluid replacement and rehydration salts remain the mainstay in managing this condition. My personal tip: always take along some perenterol. Then you should be safe. Also make sure to bring along a surgical mask when staying in Malé. Since it is so crowded, diseases such as the flu spread fast over there. I myself came back with flu symptoms and felt awful during the flight. But it was nothing too serious and I just needed lots of rest and fluids.
Tap water in the Maldives is all treated rain water and it’s not advisable to drink it, not least as it has generally got an unpleasant taste. Nearly all resorts supply drinking water to their guests for free – some cheaper resorts make you pay for it, though. Either way, it’s a far better option.
Availability & Cost of Health Care
Most resorts have a resident doctor, or share one with another nearby resort. However, if you are seriously unwell it will be necessary to go to Malé, or to the nearest atoll capital with a hospital if you’re in a far-flung resort. The Maldivian health service relies heavily on doctors, nurses and dentists from overseas, and facilities outside the capital are very limited. The country’s main hospital is the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Malé. Malé also has the ADK Private Hospital, which offers high-quality care at high prices, but as it’s important to travel with medical insurance to the Maldives, the cost shouldn’t be too much of a worry. The capital island of each atoll has a government hospital or at least a health centre – these are being improved, but for any serious problem you’ll have to go to Malé. Make sure to have a foreign health insurance.
Mosquitoes vary from non-existent to very troublesome depending on which island you’re on and what time of year it is. In general, mosquitoes aren’t a huge problem because there are few areas of open fresh water where they can breed. However, they can be a problem at certain times of the year (usually after heavy rainfall), so if they do tend to annoy you, use repellent or burn mosquito coils, available from resort shops at vast expense (bring your own just in case). Dengue fever, a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, occurs in Maldivian villages but is not a significant risk on resort islands or in the capital. When traveling to local islands I got so many mosquito bites. My tip: Autan isn’t working at all. It’s mostly genetic and we Europeans are pretty delicious. :D :P – The best repellent is nobite. Make sure to get it for your clothes and for your skin.
Alright, these were my two cents regarding things to consider when traveling to the Maldives. I hope you find them a bit helpful.
photo credits: V’s World