Maldivian Rhaspody !
From 2nd October to 9th October 2022, Mohua and I went to Maldives. Since I was not in the pink of health, for last 4 months (since 21st May), due to my knee joint pain, I planned this tour at the last moment. The plane fare by that time sky rocketed due to the Ukraine war. I had limited options between Sri Lanka, Burma and Maldives. The visa in Europe was also delayed due to heavy rush (because of revenge tourism after Covid) ! So the best bet was Maldives.
2.10.22 - CCU (2330 hrs) > Bangalore
3.10.2022 - Bangalore (930 hrs) > Male (1050 hrs)
3.10.2022 - Male (1500 hrs) > Maafushi (1630 hrs) - by public ferry
5.10.2022- Maafushi > Nurse Shark tour > Maafushi - by speed boat
6.10.22 - Maafushi > Adaran Club Rannalhi > Maafushi - by speed boat
7.10.22- 6.5.22- Maafushi (1230 hrs) > Male (1300 hrs)
8.10.22- Male (1220 hrs) > Bangalore (1400 hrs)
8.10.22- Bangalore (2320 hrs) > CCU (1400 hrs - 9.10.22)
Today is Saptami of Durga Puja in Kolkata. Like every year , Mohua called the car early and we left for airport at 1835 hrs. As usual the roads were very well managed by Police (during this time - Puja) and we reached the airport by 1725 hrs. We spent the rest of the time in the Airport Lounge.
From Bangalore, we boarded the flight at 0930 hrs and reached Velana International Airport or Male (pronounced as Maaleyy) Airport (actually this is not Male, rather it is Hul-hule) at 1050 hrs. The return fare of the plane from Kolkata was around Rs 28,000/-
The Maldives has a remarkably easy visa policy. Everybody, including Indians, gets a free 30-day visa on arrival, provided that they have a passport valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry, a pre-paid hotel booking, a return ticket. There is not even a sticker visa . You do not need to carry any photo.
At the information counter of Male we were misinformed that there is no public ferry, because 3rd October is celebrated as world tourism day. They wanted me to buy the speed boat (Private) ticket for 25 USD (which takes 35 minutes to reach Maafushi). I did not believe this information, since only on Friday in Maldives, there is no public ferry (Govt run - MTCC) - since it is a Muslim country. There is a speed boat counter in the airport itself.
I met a Bangladeshi and on his advice went to Male by public ferry by paying 10 Maldivian Rufi-yya (MVR) or 1/20th of Public Speed boat cost. Here 1 USD =15 MVR. You probably cannot pay in US Dollar in Public ferry terminal. I suspect even that is possible. Everything else, you can pay in USD and the balance they will pay you in MVR. Even in super market/ restaurant / souvenir shops you can pay in USD !! There is a forex counter in the Male (or Hul Hule) Airport. Thankfully we got some MVR from our money changer in Kolkata at a 20% mark up that official rate. Now I understand there was no need for that. Normally there is a public ferry at 1500 hours at Male airport which goes to Gurai-dhoo via Gulhi and Maafushi everyday, except Friday. Since Male has better connectivity to reach Maafushi, we went to Male .
In the Public ferry we met 3 resident Bangladeshis. It takes 10 minute by public ferry to reach Male. After getting down at Male - Hul-hule ferry terminal, we went to the Male-Maafushi ferry terminal - which is just 100 metres from the Male - Hul-hule ferry terminal. At the ticket counter we met another Bangladeshi, who is also a traveller (solo) like us, who is travelling to Maafushi. While we are waiting at the terminal we met a Bengali couple from Dum Dum !! They are going back to Hul-humale. They have arrived Maldives few days before. They are going back to Kolkata next day.
In other words, there is a public ferry at Male which leaves for Maafushi at 3 pm. Male-Maafushi ferry terminal is just 100 metres from the Male - Hul-hule ferry terminal. There is probably another ferry from Male-Villingili terminal (Villingili is a small Island near Male) which goes to Maafushi. But there is no need to go there, since the Male-Maafushi ferry terminal is just 100 metres Male - Hul-hule ferry terminal. At least that is what I did. Some bloggers suggest that you have to take a Taxi all the way to Male-Villin-gili Ferry terminal to take a public ferry to Maafushi. I have no clue why ? Probably because at certain point of time there is a ferry only from Male-Villin-gili Ferry terminal and no ferry from the ferry terminal I have just mentioned. If there is a confusion you can ask at this terminal. But if you reach Male-Hul-hule ferry terminal before 1500 hours, there is no need to go there. Public ferry is called Dhoni ! The sweeper in this terminal is a Bangladeshi. He took me to a super market in Male , from where we bought some fruits. The helper in this market is also a Bangladeshi !
THE PUBLIC FERRY FROM MALE- MAAFUSHI FERRY TERMINAL (which leaves at 1500 hours) FIRST STOPS AT GULHI, THEN MAAFUSHI AND FINALLY STOPS AT GURAI-DHOO. ALL OF THEM ARE PUBLIC ISLANDS. But the options are limited (Hotel, Restaurant, Tour operators) in Gulhi and Gurai-dhoo. Plus the beach in Gurai-dhoo is not very good. But they are less touristy. But there are some direct ferry service to Gurai-dhoo from Male-Villin-gili Ferry terminal.
Hul-hule and Hul-humale are inter-connected ( I think by reclaiming land). But hul-humale / Hul-hule is connected to Male by Friendship Bridge (constructed by China). People normally either stay at Male or Hul-humale, not Hul-hule. There is an aiport hotel in Hul-hule, though, I have read. On the last day, we have booked a hotel in Hul-humale. Many Government offices have been shifted to Hul-humale. The density of population in Male is one the highest in the world.
From Hul-hule ( and also from Hul-humale) , you can reach Male either by ferry or by public bus (fare is same - 10 MVR). Both the bus stop (right hand side of the exit gate of airport) and Hul-hule-Male ferry terminal (left hand side of the exit gate of airport) are nearby. Just 2 minutes walk between each other. In Male, bus is available till 12.30 pm at night ! It is a very safe country. Villingili is an adjacent Island of Male - only 5 minutes by public ferry. There are frequent (every 10 minutes) public ferries from Male to Vilingili. You can go to Maafushi from Male Vilingili ferry terminal too. It is not possible to book the public ferry tickets online, so make sure you arrive at least 20 minutes in advance of the ferry departure time to buy your tickets. They are very punctual. But the public ferries are quite big. I do not think there is no need to panic. There will always be enough seats.
Ultimately we left at 1500 hours and reached Maafushi at 1640 hours. On the way, the ferry stopped at Gulhi Island, which is near Maafushi. At the Maafushi jetty/harbour point/ferry terminal we were received by the representative from our Hotel to carry our luggage. There is no public transport in Maafushi , so it is a common practice for the hotels to send an Attendant to the ferry terminal to pick up the luggage by a small hand held cart/thela. Maafushi is around 1.2 Km long and 200 metres in wide. Almost 1/3rd of the area of the Island is occupied by the largest prison in Maldives. Our hotel Arora Inn is managed by a Bangladeshi - Samy ! The helper is also a Bangladeshi - Bakkar ! You can get a reasonably good hotel at 35-55 USD in Maafushi - which is cheaper than many hotels in Mandarmoni ! Samy is very smart. He told me he can book Tours and hotel for Indians in Maafushi. He can be reached at +960 783-8003 . He seems to be very reliable.
|Samy - our smart Bangladeshi hotel manager|
|View from our hotel|
After checking in we were offered welcome drink. After that I tried to walk around the Island. But it soon started to rain, so I had to come back. I saw people playing futsal. We went to have our dinner at a nearby China Garden restaurant - where the waiter is a Bangladeshi.
Our resort is near the prison - on the right hand side of the ferry terminal - which is on the quieter part of the Island. Most of the big hotels, restaurants, tour companies, Water sport Companies like Kaani, Arena etc are on the Left hand side of the ferry terminal. I would definitely prefer hotels near the prison. The other/back side of the Island is the dock.
First thing first ! Even if you are on low budget, it is possible to visit Maldives.
The name Maldives is possibly derived from Sanskrit mālā (garland) and dvīpa (island). The Maldivian people are called Dhi-vehin. Dhi-vehi is the native language, though English is widely spoken. I did not meet a single person who cannot converse in English. Dhivehi language is somewhat similar to Sinhali. Some words are taken from Urdu too. Its script was meant to be secret, apparently. It is very unique.
|Typical Maldivians look like this|
The country has an established history of over 2,500 years, according to historical evidence. Early settlers in the Maldives were probably Gujaratis . The Mahā-vaṃsa (300 BC) has records of people from Sri Lanka emigrating to the Maldives. Mahā-vaṃsa is the historical chronicle of Sri Lanka written in the Pali language. The 1,400 year-long Buddhist period has a foundational importance in the history of the Maldives. It was during this period that the culture of the Maldives both developed and flourished, a culture that survives today. The Maldivian language, early Maldives scripts, architecture, ruling institutions, customs, and manners of the Maldivians originated at the time when the Maldives were a Buddhist kingdom.
Buddhism probably spread to the Maldives in the 3rd century BC at the time of Emperor Ashoka's expansion and became the dominant religion of the people of the Maldives until the 12th century. The ancient Maldivian Kings promoted Buddhism, and the first Maldives writings and artistic achievements, in the form of highly developed sculpture and architecture, originate from that period. Nearly all archaeological remains in the Maldives are from Buddhist stupas and monasteries, and all artifacts found to date display characteristic Buddhist iconography.
The importance of the Arabs as traders in the Indian Ocean by the 12th century may partly explain why the last Buddhist king of Maldives, Dhovemi, converted to Islam in the year 1153 approx. Adopting the Muslim title of Sultan Muhammad al-Adil, he initiated a series of 6 Islamic dynasties that lasted until 1932. Formerly a Sultanate under Dutch and British protection, the Maldives are now a republic. In 1558, the Portuguese established a small garrison or trading post in the Maldives, which they administered from their main colony in Goa. Their attempts to impose Christianity provoked a local revolt led by Muhammad Thakurufaanu al-A'uẓam and his two brothers, and 15 years later drove the Portuguese out of Maldives. This event is now commemorated as National Day.
In the mid-17th century, the Dutch, who had replaced the Portuguese as the dominant power in Ceylon, established hegemony over Maldivian affairs without involving themselves directly in local matters.
The British expelled the Dutch from Ceylon in 1796 and included the Maldives as a British Protectorate. The status of Maldives as a British protectorate was officially recorded in an 1887 agreement.
When the British became increasingly unable to continue their colonial hold on Asia and were losing their colonies to the indigenous populations who wanted freedom, on 26 July 1965 an agreement was signed on behalf of the Sultan by Ibrahim Nasir Rannabandeyri Kilegefan, Prime Minister and on behalf of the British government by Sir Michael Walker, British Ambassador-designate to the Maldives Islands.
In fact Cholas from India also invaded Maldives, but they were later thrown out. Cholas also invaded Malaya, Myanmar, Sumatra, and Java. I have witnessed that when I visited Indonesia, Cambodia.
They lie South-West of India . Maldives was for the most part unknown to tourists until the early 1970s. The Maldives are an archipelago (An archipelago is an area that contains a chain or group of islands) of around 1,200 coral islands, grouped into 26 atolls or coral Islands or reefs (a chain of rocks or coral near the surface of water) in the Indian Ocean. These are not single islands, but giant ringlike coral formations, hundreds of kilometres wide that have fragmented into countless islands. Out of this only 200 are inhabited islands and 154 islands are Private resorts Islands.
The atolls that are open to tourism are :
Lha-viyani Atoll (Faadhih-polhu)
Raa Atoll (Maalhos-madulu Uthuru-buri)
Baa Atoll(Maalhos-madulu Dhekunu-buri)
Kaafu Atoll (North and South Malé Atoll) - Site of the capital Malé and the airport, home of most Maldivian resorts. Maa-fushi, Gulhi, Gurai-dhoo, Thulus-dhoo are in Kaafu Atoll. Some people found Gurai-dhoo little disappointing, since the beach is not good.
Alifu Atoll (North and South Ari Atoll) - To the west of Kaafu, the second most popular group. It is home to Mahiba-dhoo and Ukul-has
Vaavu Atoll (Fooli-dhu). It is just South of Kaafu Atoll.
Faafu Atoll (Nilandhe Athol-hu Uthuru-buri)
Dhaalu Atoll (Nilandhe Athol-hu Dhekunu-buri)
Thaa Atoll (Kolhu-madulu ). Thre is a Gurai-dhoo here - it is different from the one in Kaafu Atoll mentioned above.
Seenu Atoll (Addu) - The southernmost atoll, the second-largest in population and site of Gan International Airport.
(Source : Internet)
The temperature is more less same throughout the year. You should bring lot of sun cream ! The best 10/20 Public Island are (as per different websites) :
Tourism accounts for 28% of the GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Fishing is the second leading sector. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. The per capita income is around 14,000 USD. So they are 5 times richer than a typical Indian! Over 17 Lakh or 1.7 million tourists visited the islands in 2019. The population of the Island is around 0.6 million or 6 Lakh. Around 20% are Bangladeshis! There are so many Bangladeshis, some signboards are in Bengali too !!
There are 2 Bangladeshi restaurants in Maafushi Island. I saw few
Sri Lankans, Nepalis, Philipinos, Indians too. You probably do not need to
speak English, if you know Bengali, it is enough, like Rome ! Most of the shops are manned
by Bangladeshis. They can speak local language too. It is somewhat like Italy.
Shops are owned by Italians, but employees are Bangladeshis.
Maldivians are entirely Sunni Muslim, and the local culture is a mixture of South Indian, Sinhalese and Arab influences. Alcohol, pork, dogs and public observance of non-Muslim religions are banned on the inhabited/Public islands. The weekend in the Maldives runs from Friday to Saturday, during which banks, government offices and many shops are closed. Their favourite past time is sipping tea and having beetle nut, since Alcohol is banned !
|Their favourite past time is sipping tea and having beetle nut, since Alcohol is banned !|
There are 12 airports in the Maldives, out of which 4 are international, and the rest are domestic airports. But the main airport is Male or Velana International Airport.
Since we had a tiring day on 3.10.22 (due to long layover in Bangalore) , we decided to take rest on this day and book the tours for the next day. This is my slowest tour ever ! The breakfast was part of the hotel deal. The breakfast was quite impressive. After breakfast Mohua took rest in the hotel and I went exploring the Island. At around 3 pm we had our lunch at a nearby restaurant - Navio. Post lunch Mohua went with me to walk around the Island. We met a group of Bangladeshi tourists. But they are not working class. One of them is a BCS (or equivalent of our IAS). We met many Bangladeshi tourists throughout our tour. We saw many people from Delhi, MP, Kerala. But we met very few people from West Bengal. After chatting for quite some time with them, we had our dinner and booked a full day Nurse Shark tour (50 USD) from "Salt Beach Tours" Company, next day. Some Malaysian girls also booked the tour. They were studying Medicine in India (Bangalore). The guy who booked the tour is also a Bangladeshi. Unlike other countries, all the tour costs same , in all the tour companies. There seem to be a cartel. My hunt for a steal was futile. Only in iCom Tours , Private resort tours are slightly cheaper (by 10 USD). iCom is a very reputed company. They run speed boats also. But the speed boat timings with other tour companies do not clash. iCom will not book speed boats of other companies. But if you go to Salt Beach Tours, they can book speed boat for all the tour companies.
The food is quite expensive in Maldives. It is comparable to European price. A chicken fried rice will typically cost 5-7 USD. I had Mas Huni one day in my hotel during breakfast - which local Maldivians have in the breakfast. It is made from Tuna fish. We had our dinner at an Indian restaurant, Ocean Vista, close to the harbour and it is just beside our hotel. Here you can have Indian dishes like paratha, dosa, idli and a lot more. The great thing here is you can pay in Google pay ! We had grilled fish here for 10 USD which comes with juice and Rice.
Where to Stay in the Maldives?
Basically, there are 2 types of islands here: private and public.
The public islands, also called “local islands”, meaning there are locals living there. This also means that there are establishments available to everyone such as grocery stores, tour agencies, shops, etc. Staying in local Islands is not very expensive, starting from 30 USD.
The private islands are invariably occupied by luxury resorts, most of which are open only to their guests and staff. Some of these private islands are open to non-guests who are staying elsewhere but on a day tour. The private Islands are very expensive. If you’re after luxury and privacy and you don’t mind spending much on this trip, you might want to consider staying at an such resort. Exclusive resorts come in all forms, too. Some charge thousands of dollars per night (the likes of Four Seasons). But those in the lower end of the spectrum are slightly more affordable.
For example, and offer beach rooms for only 200 USD (low season) and 300 USD (peak season).
Most exclusive resorts have 2 major types of accommodations: beach/land rooms and overwater bungalows (water villas). Of course, staying at a water villa looks tempting, but they are usually the priciest rooms. Those on the beach are much cheaper.
If online users are to be believed, click the link here are the 6 best resorts, that are on the lower end of the budget spectrum.
The public/ inhabited islands that are popular among tourists are :
- in Kaafu Atoll
- Fuli-dhoo in Vaavu Atoll (just below Kaafu Atoll)
- Gurai-dhoo in Thaa Atoll. There is another Gurai-dhoo in Kaafu Atoll
- Gulhi in Kaafu Atoll
- Ukulhas and Mahiba-dhoo in AlifuAtoll (Ari Atoll) - To the west of Kaafu, the second most popular group.
However Island hopping is very difficult, since ferries are not frequent. So you might get stuck in an Island. If you have to do Island hopping, better to book Island hopping tours.
Best Time to Visit the Maldives
December to April is considered “high season,” This period is when the most favourable weather happens.
May to November is considered “low season” — rates are at their lowest — but storms are likely. For some reason, the prices rise again in August, most likely because of European summer break.
After breakfast, we went to the Salt Beach Tour Company's office. The excursion activity started with a on how to use fins, life jacket and snorkel gear. Later we headed to the harbour.
We were a . Our tour starts with Manta Ray watching. But we were told it could not be seen since the water is rough. Similarly Dolphins were also not visible. We were told there is always 50% chance of sighting Dolphin.
Then we went to see Nurse Shark. The water was very clear and we could see the Nurse shark from our boat. The sharks were given fish to eat, by our tour guides. People did snorkeling with the Shark. Because of my health problem, I did not do it. But it was quite interesting to see the Nurse sharks from our boat. They are harmless. The snorkeling guides also took picture of the tourist from under water.
Then we left for Sting Ray feeding at Fuli-dhoo Island in Vaavu Atoll. The Sting Rays were given fish to eat, by our tour guides. We took pictures and bathed in the blue ocean.
Next we left for the. The Maldives is home to countless little sandbanks. It is a submerged bank of sand in a sea that are exposed at low tide. We had fried rice, fruit juice, and apple in the lunch at the sand bank. We had good time at the sand bank clicking amazing pictures. The tour guides took pictures in the Island. We had to walk in the sea , with 3 feet water, to reach the sand bank.
Then we went back to the Maafushi Island by 1615 hours. We headed to our room, got fresh and explored more of the island in the evening. Maafushi surrounded by lovely beaches.
We again had our dinner at . We had Dosa and Prawn fried rice. Actually we were quite full after the late lunch. So we wanted to have something very cheap and light. While we were eating we met a lovely Pakistani couple from Karachi (husband) and Islamabad (wife).
We both had a similar plan to visit a Private Island on 06.05.2022. But there has to be minimum 4 guests. We went together to iCom Tours - which sells the cheapest Private resort tours. We planned to go to Fihaa-lhohi Island Resort for 100 USD, but since they do not allow you to visit the water villa , we opted for Adaran Club Rannal-hi for 110 USD.
We went to Salt Beach Tour company for collecting the photos of the day tour, they have taken during the tour - it includes under water photos. It is free of cost. They transferred the photo to our mobile.
After quickly finishing our breakfast we reached iCom Tours office at 830 hours and left for the Private Island tour. You have to bring Passport for this tour. Our speed boat took around 25 minutes to reach Adaran Club Rannal-hi Private Resort at 900 hours. Normal rules of Maldives do not apply here. Here you can have alcohol, wear bikini and even have Pork. In Maafushi, like other public Islands, there is a designated place called "Bikin beach" where woman can swim in swim suit or bikini. It is segregated from other part of the Island by a partition ! It is near Kani Hotel. But here there is no restriction. Some Private Island have separate time zones too, apparently to save day light !!
On arrival we had welcome drink and were told the rules and regulations. Our boat will come at 1700 hours, so we have plenty of time in hand. You can have unlimited mocktails, cocktails and buffet lunch is served between 1230 - 1430 hours. It is a very nice resort. We had lot of mocktails.
Then we went to the water villa. Since one of the water villas were vacant, we had a peek into the room and spent some time there. In fact Mohua laid down at the beach chair for quite some time - it is kept just outside the room of water villa. In fact you can get down to the sea for snorkeling from each of these water villas. It was an amazing experience to say the least. In the mean time I walked around the Private Island - which is owned by the resort.
Since everything from water, sewerage, electricity is managed/generated by the Resort, it is so prohibitively expensive. Water villa here starts from 700 USD without food and transfer. The resort on the mainland of this Island starts from 300 USD without food and transfer. In most Private resort food is very expensive. So you should go for Full board (all meals) instead of half board. You cannot go outside the resort for buying food . In most resorts (not all - you have to negotiate) transfer from Male airport is compulsory. Depending upon the distance of Resort from Male, it can be by speed boat or sea plane. It is very expensive. Typically speed boats charge 125-250 USD per person. Sea plane typically charges 500 USD per person. But they vary from resort to resort.
The buffet lunch was very elaborate. There was pork also ! After lunch we laid down at the chair near the beach . I also bathed in the sea. They were offering Balinese massage and spa at the resort for USD 55 for 50 minutes for day tour guests. The resort is owned by a Sri Lankan and the massage/Spa is run by a Balinese company. Like any where in Maldives, the ownership has to be jointly with a Maldivian. Here we did not see any Bangladeshi. The employees are either Sri Lankan or Maldivian or Balinese.
|At night, one see fish through the glass inside the room|
After having our coffee and snacks in the afternoon beside the sea, we left for Maafushi. We bought the Public speed boat ticket from iCom Tours for 25 USD each for next day. Since this is our last day, we chatted with Samy , the manager of our hotel. We learnt that 3 items are subsidized in Maldives - Rice (5 MVR), Sugar (8 MVR) and Pulses (10 MVR). We also learnt that after 65 years every Maldivian is entitled to a Pension of 5000 MVR or around Rs 27,500. Normally they (Samy) get a salary of 500 USD. His helper Bakkar gets around 350 USD. He was telling us how difficult it is for him to stay alone.
Today after breakfast we left for Harbour to catch a speed boat to Male Airport. There is no public ferry on Friday. We did not wait for the last day, since water might be rough and public ferry might be cancelled. We left at 1230 hours and reached airport by 1310 hours. From the airport (Hul-hule) we took a public bus to go to Hul-humale. In the bus stop we met a Bangladeshi Doctor. He is in the Island for 7 years. But he does not understand the local language, since he has an interpreter, where as Samy has learnt the local language in 6 months. The reason being he has to learn for survival, unlike the Doctor. We got down at Phase I of Hul-humale for our hotel. Phase II is like Rajarhat, New Town,Kolkata. You have to cross the bridge from Phase I to reach Phase II. There is construction everywhere in Phase II.
We walked for some time in Hul-humale and then went to the Hul-humale - Male Ferry. As advised by the Doctor we went to Indira Gandhi Meromrial Hospital at Male by a very comfortable double Decker Bus R1 . You cannot buy ticket inside the bus as on Octoer 2022. This is going to change soon. Either you have a bus card or buy a computerized ticket at a bus ticket counter before boarding the bus.The fare is 10 MVR.
Then we took another bus to go back to our hotel. I bought some souvenirs for Mohua. Magnets are very expensive. They are charging 4 USD for a magnet !
Our flight is at 1220 hours. After breakfast we left for airport - which is around 15-20 minutes away from the hotel. We reached Bangalore at 2 pm. After a long layover, we reached Kolkata at 02 00 hours on 9.10.22. But we comfortably got a pre-paid Taxi even at that time and paid Rs 485 (without any night charge apparently) to reach Ballygunge.
To know more , you can read the following :
To know more , you can read the following :
https://www.neverendingfootsteps.com/travel-the-maldives-on-a-budget/ - this one is the most detailed.
#maldives #maldivesitirenary #maldivesforacouple