There is so much beauty in the world
I remember telling my husband 2 months before we tied the knot that I wanted to visit the Maldives since I had read that it would soon sink and disappear off the face of the Earth… My husband, then fiance looked at me incredulously but didn’t say anything and surely indulged me and took me to the Maldives for our honeymoon…
It was probably the best decision we took and not just because it is probably the most gorgeous place on the planet but also because it is surely an endangered country that is believed to soon sink… Well not “sink” per se than actually be flooded due to the rising water levels of our oceans, sad but true. Global warming resulting in increasing water levels is threatening the low lying country of Maldives where some islands are barely a metre above sea level to get flooded and eventually sink. The tsunami of 2004 sank almost 20-25 islands of this breathtaking archipelago…
Maldives is a chain of 26 atolls (and ~1200 islets) in the Indian Ocean about 1000 kms south west of Sri Lanka. Male is the capital of Maldives and is situated on an island that is just about 6 sq km in size! The two nights that we were in Male, we literally walked everywhere! Needless to say there isn’t much traffic on the island and whatever vehicles you do see on the streets are mostly 2 wheelers (scooters & mopeds) or ambulances. Because the streets are pretty narrow in Male, every time an ambulance would appear everyone on the streets would simply stop their vehicles on the sides of the road and let it pass!
Since the largest island (Male) is so tiny, the Maldivian government decided to have the international airport (Velana International Airport) and hence the runway on a separate island altogether called Hulhule island. This island houses the international airport, the meteorological department and the Hulhule hotel that mostly serves as a place to stay overnight for passengers in transit. Velana International Airport is not the only international airport in the Maldives let alone the only airport. Maldives boasts of 4 international airports and 7 other domestic airports.
Do Indians Need Visa to Visit the Maldives?
No! Fortunately, Indians get Visa on arrival in the Maldives for 90 days if you are entering the country for tourism purposes. However, if you plan to work or do business then you need to apply for a visa.
How to Travel from India to Maldives?
From India, there are direct flights to Male from Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram (both in Kerala). Its around 1.5 hours long flight. We took a flight from Mumbai via Colombo to Male because we wanted to fit in a day at Sri Lanka too.
We took a Jet Airways flight out of Mumbai and changed planes and boarded a Sri Lankan Airlines flight from Colombo to Male.
What is the Best Time to Visit the Maldives?
According to the Maldives Tourism site,
Best time, dry months, cooler temperatures - November to March Wet months/monsoon - April - August
However, I’d suggest to take your chances. We visited Maldives bang in the middle of the supposed Rainy Season in the month of June. We were greeted with a drizzle when our aircraft hit the runway while landing, however by the time we cleared immigration and exited the airport building it was sunshine all over again and then we did not see any rain for the whole week. Hence I’d suggest you take your chances with whenever circumstances allow you to visit that part of the world.
Where Do I Stay in the Maldives?
There is no dearth of hotels and resorts in the Maldives after all tourism is the biggest revenue generator there. Tripadvisor gives you a lowdown of almost all popular resorts and hotels and the review are pretty extensive really!
We for one stayed at the Taj Vivanta – Coral Reef that is situated in the North Male Atoll, a 40 mins ride on a speed boat from Hulhule International Airport. They provide free airport transfers and are a 5 star rated resort spanning a whole island. I’ll review the resort a little later in the article.
What Currency Should I Use in the Maldives?
The official currency of Maldives is the Maldivian Rufiyaa however everywhere you go they kind of prefer you to pay them in USD. The resorts especially take payment is USD while the cafes and restaurants on the bigger islands accept both dollars as well as the local currency.
My Take on Maldives
Like I mentioned earlier, my husband and I took a flight out of Mumbai, had a stop at Colombo and finally landed at Male. Colombo airport feels a lot like many of the Indian domestic airports in the smaller cities and hence it didn’t really feel any different. However the immigration and the holding area at Colombo airport did feel a little lax and cramped but that’s a story for another time… We switched airplanes from Jet Airways (Indian domestic private airline) to a Sri Lankan Airlines (official Sri Lankan carrier) craft and were on the way to Male. Sri Lankan Airlines serves only one (local) beer per passenger during the 1.25 hour long flight and it did feel a little miserly really.
However, all that was forgotten once we started approaching Maldivian airspace and the descent started. The view from the aircraft of the various atolls, sandbars and the beautiful blue sea was simply breathtaking… The sight of tiny islands, the pristine beaches and water bungalows jutting out into the sea is something that I will probably never forget ever. The excitement is palpable and contagious, I could see that it wasn’t just me but everyone in the tiny aircraft was either looking out of their windows or the less unfortunate ones who were seated at the aisle seats were craning their necks to get a glimpse of what the whole hullabaloo was all about.
By the time the captain announced that we would be landing shortly, it started drizzling and I looked at my husband at dismay as if to say “What a start to our honeymoon!”… But as the aircraft hit the runway the drizzling stopped, the clouds parted and a rainbow came out.
The landing and takeoff at HulHule is a little frightening since the runway is along the sea and for a moment you actually believe that you are probably going to land on water. I know! It sounds crazy when you read it here but that was exactly how I felt when our aircraft touched the runway.
Since, we get visa on arrival immigration wasn’t really an issue and it wasn’t time consuming at all. However, since Maldives is an Islamic nation bringing alcohol or any kind of hormonal medication (even if with prescription) is banned. Hence, everybody has to get their luggage screened compulsorily after landing. The Valena International Airport (at Hulhule Island) is a tiny airport with not much to do or see really, it is basic, practical and provides for the basic of needs and hence we were really looking forward to leave the airport building and see the ocean…
Boy! Maldives is beautiful…
The vast expanse of clear blue sea dotted with a motley of water crafts, boats, ferries and the like makes you want to take a minute and relish the bustling daily activities that go on, on this beautiful archipelago. Once we accustomed ourselves to the pretty sights around, we went in search for a speed boat that would transfer us to our island resort. The boat was bang on time and we boarded it bracing ourselves for the adventure that we expected would unfold…
And an adventure it sure was…
This was not the first time I was visiting a region comprising of clustered islands. I had been to Andaman and Nicobar Islands but Maldives I promise you is something else. For one, the water is unbelievably blue and green at parts and there are times on your boat when you feel like no one else exists in the world but you, not in a scary way though. Many islands in the Maldives are so small in size that they end up being resort islands meaning there is nothing else on the island but your resort. Ours was one such resort and I would highly recommend booking an accommodation in a place like this.
Male (capital city and island) is a delight in itself. If staying on an island resort gave you a feel of being a tourist in any of the fancy Pacific Ocean island nations, then a walk down the streets of Male brings you back to reality and gives you a glimpse of the local life and culture. It is a fantastic experience.
Local vendors, street hawkers and tiny cafes make you feel right at home. I highly recommend walking across the island stopping to sample restaurants and local cafes along the shore and just feeling the air of subtle laidback-ness. There are rooftop restaurants at the jetty that are delightful and give you a birds eye view of the city on one side and the “waterways” on the other.
If I get a chance I want to go back to Maldives one day… Are you planning a trip soon?