Monday, November 10, 2014

3 Things You Need to Know About Maldives

Maldives is located in the Indian Ocian- Arabian Sea area and is located about 750 kilometers south-west of Sri Lanka, making it a short 90 minute flight and the reason I decided to go after visiting Sri Lanka.

Maldives is made up of 1,192 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls that are composed of sand bars and coral reefs. It's spread out over 90,000 square kilometers. So what does this mean to you? It means that Maldives is basically a bunch of islands and if you like snorkeling and diving, you will love it.

Before you pack up your bags and book a ticket, here are 3 things you need to know:

1) It’s an island paradise, but it’s far: Here’s the thing. Maldives is beautiful. There are huts on the beach and those cool huts that have the glass water bottoms. There are gorgeous beaches and there are water things to do, but frankly, it was very similar to what you can get in Belize and some Caribbean resorts.

So if you live in the west (like Canada and the US) and all you want is one of those huts and do some snorkeling on your honeymoon, then it might be better to splurge on a resort on that side of the world. The flight from the US is over 24 hours and Maldives is expensive. But if it’s on your bucket list, do it. You won’t be satisfied with any other place so you might as well experience it as long as you know the pros and cons.

If you live in Europe or the Middle East, then come on over the Maldives. For you it’s close and would be worth it for a tropical getaway. From my research, it is cheaper than Seychelles, but more expansive than Bali and Phuket. There are beaches in Sri Lanka, but they aren’t as developed as the Maldives resorts which really cater to expats and westerners.

2) Each resort has its own island: This is cool and not cool. It’s cool, because you are staying on an island that only caters to your resort. It’s romantic and isolated.

But just like the crew of Gilligan’s Island could not leave, you won’t be able to leave your island. So make sure you research everything. All your meals, activities and everything else will be limited to one place. And every island has its own “tourism” hook depending on what’s around their reefs. Some have turtles, some have surfing, some can only offer generic snorkeling, some have night clubs, some are for families, some are mostly for couples – so make sure you book one that has the stuff you want to do. There are 106 resort islands to choose from and they range from affordable to luxury – so you should be able to find one that works for you.

Also note that because you are trapped on an island, things are expensive. You have no other options so they can over charge you – and because it’s an island where everything has to be shipped in, things are also expensive because of that.

Plus, you will have to pay for transport to and from the island. Generally, you will fly into Male. From there, the resort you choose will either get you there by sea plane or by boat. Seaplane is about $400 per person for the return trip. The boat option is cheaper, but you still need to factor that in. The seaplane also has a luggage weight restriction and only flies during the day – which means that if you land late at night in Male, you will need to get a hotel for a night before you get to fly to your resort.

The bonus of this is that is super cool to take a seaplane to your island vacation. I mean, really super cool! Plus, the aerial view makes for amazing photos.

3) Limited culture: Unless you are staying in a guesthouse in one of the 5 islands that are actually inhabited by local Maldivians, you won’t experience the “real” Maldives.  Maldives is a Muslim country so alcohol is not allowed except in resorts and the religious laws need to be respected if not on a resort island.

If you stay at one of the 106 resort islands you won't have to worry about that.  Alcohol will be available, English will be spoken and you can sun bathe freely at the beach.  The menus will also cater to what westerners like and at the resort I stayed at, even the prices were in US dollars and not in Maldivian currency.  It will feel very comfortable to people looking for a traditional island experience with a Western feel.

But if you were hoping to eat real Maldivian foods, shop with the locals and see how they live, that won't happen on the resort islands.  For some people, that won't matter as they came for the pampering and relaxation in a tropical setting.  But if you are the type who likes to really get to know a country's nuances, the island resorts might be disappointing. They are beautiful. Don't get me wrong. They are just designed for western comfort.

We went after spending two weeks in Thailand and Sri Lanka where it was culture overload (in a good way), so a little "normalness" in a relaxing environment was a great way to end an action packed vacation.

So that's my honest opinion about Maldives.  If you are looking for a tropical experience, are prepared for a long plane ride (if you live in Canada or the US), and want pampering over culture, you will love it -- especially if it's on your bucket list.

It's a great place to unwind and feel like you are away from the problems of the real world.    

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