No longer reserved exclusively for the rich and famous, the Maldives is fast becoming the ultimate place to be seen – particularly for those seeking some serious downtime and an unforgettable place to truly unwind.
Simply oozing with luxury resorts, pristine white sands and tropical blue seas, the Maldives offer the ultimate escape in secluded decadence. Whichever of the islands you decide to visit (and you’ll certainly be spoilt for choice), you’re almost certainly guaranteed a peaceful sanctuary well away from the harsh realities of the outside world – not to mention personal service which prides itself on being second to none. Staff on the Maldives are notoriously good at what they do and don’t be surprised if you’re offered a coconut drink on arrival – it’s simply their way of saying a friendly hello and extending a genuine welcome to their island!
Beautiful white sands in Maldives.
Generally speaking, the food on the Maldives is an experience in its own right although this often comes as a surprise to most who certainly don’t expect such fresh resources or elaborate culinary displays, which are often themed, particularly for evening meals.
From casual dining overlooking the ocean, through to butler served gourmet meals, the Maldives is renowned for its tempting variety of dishes from across the globe and it perhaps goes without saying that the fish dishes are as fresh as you can possibly get.
Of course, one of the questions most people ask is how on earth people can return to the Maldives time and time again. Many sceptics speak of getting ‘bored’, not having enough to do or even feeling trapped. However, that’s simply not the case. Ask anyone who’s been there and they’ll almost certainly say they can’t wait to return. Put simply, it’s even more beautiful than the postcard pictures you see of it and once you arrive, you can’t deny the feeling of having been (quite literally) dropped in paradise. Whether you choose to arrive on your chosen island by boat or sea plane the whole experience is simply wondrous and ever so difficult to put into words when you get back home.
Add to all this the sheer relaxation of being there … from sinking your toes into the soft white sand, the sound of waves gently lapping on the shore (or around your water villa) and the pure darkness of the evenings and it’s difficult to imagine ever wanting to go back home.
What’s more, you’ll also feel as though you’ve got the entire island to yourself and surprisingly (contrary to popular belief!) you rarely bump into the same person twice in one day. What could possibly be more perfect? …
Nestled to the south west of India, around 430 miles from Sri Lanka and forming part of Southern Asia, the Republic of the Maldives is a sovereign archipelagic nation strategically positioned in the Indian Ocean. Perhaps the most notable fact about the Maldives is that it has no counterpart in the entire world in terms of its most unique geography and topography.
View from plane.
The impressive nation of islands that make up this truly tropical paradise are scattered across 26 natural atolls consisting of dual island chains which were first formed thousands of years ago by volcanic eruptions. These days the atolls, which are categorised into 20 administrative divisions, offer the perfect habitat for all manner of marine life and are composed of live coral reefs which perch atop a 960km submarine ridge. Interestingly enough, each atoll is now overseen by an independent Atoll Chief who is duly appointed by the President of the Malaysian Government for the purposes of preservation.
Land here tends to be made up of lush tropical vegetation and sitting around 1.5m above sea level it’s by far the lowest country on earth although this, in itself, raises grave concerns about its future sustainability with fears that yet further islands will be submerged under water by the year 2020. In fact, the Maldives remain the third most endangered nation in terms of flooding from ongoing climate change. During the last century alone sea levels within this particular geographic region rose more than 20cm; thus causing great concern for environmentalists worldwide.
The span of all the island nation is currently spread out over around 35,000 square miles yet only 185 of the 1,190 islands are inhabited for purposes other than tourism. A further 90 islands currently serve as popular luxury resorts and the nation itself has access to all major sea routes within the Indian Ocean.
There can be little doubt that the beaches on the Maldives are among the very best in the world. Boasting beautiful white sands, some of the clearest turquoise waters in the world and safe swimming conditions all year round, the beaches here are quite simply – perfect.
If you’re looking for something a little more secluded and off the beaten track then the lagoon of Baros offers an incredible natural landscape – so too do Bandos and Kuda Bandos; both of which have truly beautiful beach areas that tend not to be too populated, even during peak season.
Renowned for being the most beautiful beach on the Maldives, Biyadhoo beach is definitely worth exploring and can be reached from Maafushi; although there’s also a resort there. The island itself is perfect for divers since it offers wealth of top dive sites nearby; not to mention a PADI dive school where instructors are on hand to offer any advice you might need on exploring what lies beneath the beautiful turquoise sea.
If you’re travelling to the Maldives on a budget then you won’t go far wrong with a visit to Fun Island which again, despite being slightly cheaper than other resorts, still has a lovely white beach, clear waters and a coral reef which makes for a perfect diving opportunity.
With so many different types of resorts to choose from, the only stressful thing about visiting the Maldives is deciding where to stay!
Maldives luxury huts on private islands.
Of course, one of the major factors (apart from the price tag!) is what you want to get out of your holiday. If, for example, you’re keen to sample the local cuisine then resorts such as the Kuredu Island Resort are ideal since it offers not just one but four sumptuous restaurants to choose from – or there’s the interactive dining experience offered by Kandooma – ‘The Kitchen is The Deck’.
If, on the other hand you’re travelling as a family then resorts such as the Meeru Island Resort and Spa makes for a great choice since it not only offers lots of activities for younger members of the family but also has a luxury Spa … simply perfect for Mum to escape and unwind whilst the kids enjoy some of the fun stuff!
For Honeymooners – or those simply seeking some quiet time together – then the four star Veligandu Island Resort and Spa is nothing short of perfect; particularly given its’ “no shoes, no news” barefoot policy!!! As with many other resorts, the Veligandu offers different types of accommodation options so you can either relax beach side or even over water; for that added touch of privacy.
Last – but by no means least – if you’re looking to truly blow the budget then be sure to look at the range of Soneva hotels which offer luxuries you never realise you needed! Here you’ll hear all about how Eva and Sonu Shivdasani built their very first resort, Soneva Fushi, as well as their own home on the desert island of Kunfunadhoo back in 1995. Whilst primarily aiming to craft an environmentally responsible lifestyle the couple’s vision was soon rewarded by a successful collection of world-class hotels, resorts and spas – the latest of which (Soneva Jani) was built as recently as 2016.
It’s perhaps little wonder that the Maldives is renowned as being a superior place for divers of all abilities since life beneath the water’s surface is becoming ever more respected by scuba divers of all abilities from across the globe.
Fortunately, in terms of what time of year to dive, there’s no real bad time since both the wet and dry seasons each have their own set of advantages. You can basically expect good to excellent visibility all year round, regardless of your dive site.
What’s more, wherever you choose to go diving on the Maldives you’re more than likely to find some good coral reefs to explore but the abundance of marine life really sets it apart from other dive destinations.
Many of the dives currently offered in the Maldives are done from liveaboards. This basically means staying onboard the diving vessel whilst the tidal current gently moves you along, thus enabling you to see vast numbers of fish including Napoleon wrasse, parrotfish, snappers, jacks and sweetlips.
Two of the main features you’re likely to encounter whilst diving from the Maldives are the current swept channels and the pinnacles which act like little magnets for all manner of marine life. In the channels themselves you can easily explore the numerous caves, caverns and overhangs where soft corals proliferate and you’ll often find a riot of colourful sponges, invertebrates and gorgonian fans emerging from the nutrient-rich water. Divers can also expect plenty of cleaning stations where cleaning wrasses and shrimps service the much larger marine species.
Inside the atoll lagoons divers very often find pinnacles of rock vaulting up almost as high as the surface. These are referred to locally as “Thilas” and are often bejewelled with sessile life forms. These formations then bring water up from the ocean floor against their walls, feeding the sponges and soft corals which cling to its sides, as well as creating an environment that supports a plethora of crustaceans and schools of resident fish.
You’re also likely to spot the pelagics which frequent the Maldives including manta rays, eagle rays and a variety of sharks. In fact, ideal places for catching a glimpse of the reef shark are at Lhaviyani, North and South Male, Vaayu, Meemu, Laamu and Gaafu (the latter of which is arguably by far the best). For whale sharks then Ari Atoll, Gaafu and the Thaa atolls in the south are also good areas to target but never be afraid to ask for advice from the locals since tidal changes and weather conditions will always contribute to their whereabouts!
Wherever you look, there’s always something of interest going on within the deep blue seas and given that the water is illuminated by the sun’s rays you can usually expect great visibility; not to mention numerous photo opportunities so be sure to pack your camera!
If you’re looking to take diving a bit more seriously (and what better place to do it than on the Maldives?!), then the 3 star Biyadhoo resort is a great place since it has an excellent PADI dive school; not to mention some great snorkelling opportunities where you can get up close and personal with reef sharks, rays and turtles. This is a particularly good idea for those travelling as part of a family since everyone can get involved in underwater adventures!
Generally speaking, there’s never a bad time to visit the Maldives in terms of the weather forecast. Since it’s near the Equator the islands tend to enjoy good weather all year round. In fact, the average temperature in the Maldives is around 29 degrees and there are just two main Monsoon seasons – or the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ seasons.
Of course, as with any destination, a ‘standard’ forecast is almost impossible to predict. With a distance of over 800km from North to South, and the Equator crossing the Maldives, the weather conditions here will naturally vary according to your specific location in the archipelago.
The ‘wet season’ on the Maldives (referred to locally as “Halhangu”) lasts from May through to October, although temperatures very rarely drop below 27 degrees during this time (and can even soar up to the 33 degree mark for most of the time). However, whilst the majority of rain tends to fall between June and August it rarely equates to anything much; with the average amount of annual rainfall being just 2,540mm on the north side of the islands (compared to just 3,810mm in the more southern regions). The main advantage of the wet season is that it’s also the best time to witness some of the most spectacular sunsets you’re probably likely to see in an entire lifetime.
The ‘dry season’ on the Maldives runs from November to April when you can generally expect more hours of sun each day (usually around 8 hours) with temperatures reaching an average of 30 degrees. During this time the water temperature soars too – usually to around 25 degrees which, coupled with calmer sea conditions, make it an ideal time to swim or try out some of the many watersports on offer.
As with anywhere, weather on the Maldives isn’t an exact science but generally speaking you can expect warm sunshine all year round.
The Maldives is fortunate to enjoy a very low crime rate although, as with any other country, petty crime can naturally occur – for example, through the theft of goods left unattended on the beach or in unlocked hotel rooms (a habit which is easily done given the laid-back attitude you’ll find on most resorts). That said, most resorts offer safety deposit boxes for in-room usage and these should certainly be used for important documentation such as passports, medication and so on.
The capital city of Male has seen a recent increase in crime (including gang related violence) although there’s certainly no evidence to suggest that certain nationals are being targeted in any way. That said, all trips into the capital should ideally be done via organised excursions.
Whilst the Maldives is an Islamic country which has strong anti-drug laws, alcohol and pork is permitted on resorts; as is topless sunbathing (although these are all strictly prohibited off resort, in places such as Male).
If you’re looking for vibrant nightlife, hard rock music and parties going on into the early hours of the morning then the Maldives almost certainly isn’t for you. Whilst the majority of the islands’ resorts offer regular nightly entertainment, including beach parties, competitions and laid-back BBQ’s, there are certainly no nightclubs as such and you’ll tend to find that evenings are quite laid back with the emphasis being very much on relaxation rather than rock and roll!
What’s more, whilst nights out in the capital city of Male can’t be recommended for safety reasons, it’s also an alcohol-free zone – as are the rest of the islands, other than the actual tourist resorts. If you’re staying on an island resort you’ll also find yourself unable to get back from the capital city once night falls since very few (if any) water taxis operate after dark. If it’s specifically on your ‘to do’ list, though, then accommodation options in Male are both plentiful and flexible; although if you venture outside of your hotel you’ll find yourself in a no-alcohol zone and locals tend not to endorse any type of party life as you’d ordinarily find in other capital cities.
That said, most resorts across the Maldives will encompass a wide range of evening attractions that are well-suited to their guests and you’ll find that their cocktail menus are absolutely second to none! So, as the evening falls and the sun sets across the ocean it’s a perfect time to kick back and relax with the waiter’s latest recommendation; perhaps whilst listening to soft sundown tunes or chatting with your fellow travellers poolside.
Jazz music tends to be extremely popular on the Maldives and some resorts host jazz ensembles or similar entertainment to ensure you end yet another perfect day on the Maldives in both style and comfort.
With so much to see and do on the Maldives it’s perhaps little wonder that people return to the islands time and time again. You only have to ask anyone who’s been there to get a real feel of all there is to discover. However, to make sure you get the best experience possible (and one that’s right for you) it’s always advisable to do your homework well in advance and make sure you choose the right resort since there are so many to choose from! However, once you’ve done that you can simply kick back, relax and look forward to all these beautiful islands have to offer. Wherever you choose to go, whichever resort it is – and whatever time of year you do it – you’re in for an experience that you’ll never forget in a lifetime!