Sunday, 4 September 2005

Maldives



This was my second trip to the Maldives, which is one of my favourite places in the world. Whereas last time (2004) I had to  travel via Seychelles, this time the Seychelles>Maldives flight no longer exists, so I had to travel via Mauritius and Dubai.

Malé from the air

The Maldives consists of almost 1200 coral islands spread over 750 km in length, and when you land in the Maldives it's on a special airport island known as Hulhule, which is next to the capital island, Malé.

speed boat with Malé in the background

Your resort will come and pick you up from the airport, and depending on the distance from Hulhule, will organise a boat or seaplane transfer.

Maldivian seaplane (Maldivian Air Taxi is one of two companies, the other
is called Trans Maldivian Airways and has a yellow livery)

As I was travelling with a friend who writes guide books we were actually staying in six different hotels over a two-week period (well, actually five resorts and one boat!).

a seaplane airport

Our first stop was overnight at Embudu Village, a 124-room resort in the northern part of South Male Atoll, not far from Malé.

Embudu village

Our second stay was at White Sands Resort and Spa (2012 update - now called "Lux* Maldives").


This is on an island call Dhidhdhoofinohlu, located in the south of Ari Atoll.


Ari Atoll is located in the west of the Maldives archipelago, about 30 minutes by seaplane from Malé.


Most of the accommodation is in water bungalows, like those in the photos above, but some older rooms are on the island itself. 

Our third stay was at the extremely luxurious Reethi Rah, probably one of the most expensive hotels I've ever stayed in.

inside our villa

This is a villa-only resort, with a total of 130 villas.

inside our villa

It's part of the One and Only chain of resorts, which also has properties in Mauritius and Dubai.


The resort is in North Malé atoll and can be reached by speedboat from Malé/the airport.


The island the resort is on, Medhufinolhu, was extensively redesigned for the current resort. 


It has its own spa, as do nearly all Maldivian resorts


you really have to fight for space in the pool


The fourth place we stayed at was the Soneva Gili - also very luxurious but in a very different, more decontracted style. On my previous 2004 trip I'd stayed at its sister resort, Soneva Fushi which is more land-based; in contrast Soneva Gili has only water bungalows.


inside our water bungalow

each villa has its own private access into the water

Soneva resorts have "No News, No Shoes" policy whereby you are encouraged to kick off your shoes and disconnect from distractions like TV news.

Everybody has their own bike to get around the island on!

Soneva Gili opened in 2001 and is on Lankanfushi Island, in North Malé Atoll.


The smallest bungalow ('villa suites') are 210 m2! There are  also a number of 'Crusoe residences', which are stand-alone entities for total privacy. Their have their own rowing boat/boat shuttle to the main island.

some of the secluded Crusoe residences

Even on a cloudy day the colour of the water is amazing.


As each resort was better than the last, I was starting to wonder if our penultimate stay, on board the Four Seasons Explorer, could live up to its predecessors. 

Four Seasons Explorer

It wasn't going to be easy downsizing from a 200m2 villa to a 20m2 (shared) stateroom!

our stateroom, Four Seasons Explorer

However the excellent food, service, and programme of activities on-board meant we were scarcely in the cabin apart from sleeping and changing clothes.

lobster

The FS Explorer is a 39 metre long vessel with 10 staterooms and one suite. It has its own dive dhoni, the Azekara, and a programme of activities for divers and non-divers. (A dhoni is a type of Maldivian boat).

Azekara dive dhoni

As well as diving and snorkelling we were also able to visit a local island called Dhangethi, in Alif Dhaal atoll (aka South Ari Atoll). It measures 925 x 350 metres and has a population of 1000.


In the Maldives it is only possible to visit tourist villages/islands during the day - as a foreigner you're not allowed to stay on them overnight.


On the island we saw two types of traditional Maldivian seats, as you can see in the photos above and below.


village school

school children

'street' with souvenir shops
Here's the beautiful underwater video that was available from Scubazoo when we disembarked from the FS Explorer (video © Scubazoo).


My last stop on this trip was at the Angsana resort on Ilhuru Island in North Malé Atoll.


It is a sister resort to the nearby Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru resort.

typical Maldivian bathroom - half outside

jetty

Unfortunately after two weeks it was already time to head home - no worries, the Maldives still has plenty more islands to visit another time!


Some facts about the Maldives:
  • Asia's smallest country in terms of land area (300 km2) and population (330 000 inhabitants).
  • Lowest country in the world with an average ground level of 1.5 metres.
  • Country with the lowest natural highest point in the world - 2.4 metres.
  • One of the world's most geographically dispersed countries, as it covers about 90 000 km2.
  • 1192 coral islands are grouped into 26 coral atolls. About 200 islands are inhabited by locals, a further 80 have tourist resorts.
  • 99% of Maldivian territory is below sea-level.

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