Maldives, where the sands of time stand still
Travelling to Maldives was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I guess I would like to thank the TigerAir Promo for even putting Maldives as a travel destination into my head. Yes. I was enticed by the promo going for $237 ALL IN ROUND TRIP and since going to Boracay was a no-no due to strong objection from M, I decided to go for Maldives. Think Maldives, Think Safe. Think Expensive, Yes or No?
Not too expensive because Google says that you can travel to Maldives even with a low budget.
- A Budget Travel Guide to Maldives
- How to spend a week in Maldives for less than one night in a resort
- The Shocking Truth about Maldives: On a budget
After the trip, I’m pretty convinced myself since I spent about SGD$1000++ for 6 days in Maldives. Right now, I’m even starting to have withdrawal symptoms. I really miss the idyllic life there and I would say it’s perfect for chilling since watching the waves kiss the shoreline again and again simply melts away all your troubles. By the day, you can see those clear turquoise waters and at night, the starry sky simply lulls you away into sweet serenity.
So,in this post, I’ll try to make it a bit more informative should you wish to travel to Maldives on a budget.
I guess without saying, budget travel means budget airlines. Just watch out for the promos every now and then which usually falls on a Tuesday I think! Do not hesitate whether to go or not because the airfare price will hike during weekends for the same dates. For the dates I have chosen, I was supposed to pay only $237 but due to the indecisiveness of my partner and I, we ended up paying $312.96. Just quickly figure out when you can make it and book away!
I guess the accommodation really makes up pretty much of your Maldivian experience because there are so many islands you can choose to stay at! At the end of the day, we chose to stay at Maafushi since it’s supposedly a local island and so everything is much cheaper compared to resort islands. Indeed, the view may not be as stunning but I thoroughly enjoyed myself all the same! I will elaborate more about it below under the activities session.
As a budget traveler, I guess I am most concerned about cleanliness, hygiene and service. To my surprise, both hotels I stayed at have exceeded my expectations. To the maafushi-ians, the number one house rule is to keep tourists happy and I think that is clearly reflected as you can feel their sincerity to make you feel welcome despite some with limited English-speaking capabilities. A smile does wonders.
So, for this trip, my travel partner and I both stayed at 2 hotels, Arena Beach Hotel and Kaani Village and Spa. Initially, we were supposed to stay at Arena Lodge but we got a free upgrade to the beach hotel since Arena Lodge is undergoing renovation. Based on our research, we thought that Kaani Village and Spa would be a upgrade to Arena but we were wrong as we enjoyed both hotels very much.
Arena Beach Hotel
Arena Beach Hotel is probably one of the newest hotel on the Maafushi island with a beachfront where you can wear bikini. (Note: Maafushi is a local island and most of the Maldivian population are muslim, alcohol and bikinis are prohibited on the island.) We chose Arena Lodge initally due to its affordable price point and wonderful reviews, SGD$66 per night so if you halve it, it’s only SGD$33 per person/night! Not sure if Arena Beach Hotel has a much higher price point though but booking through Agoda is pretty much a great way to save some moolah.
So, we were greeted at the Maafushi jetty ( more information on transport will be provided below) with 2 staffs from the hotel. As the entire island is covered with white sand, they brought along a cart and manually brought it over to the hotel, which is about 7-12mins away from the jetty. On our way there, they told us that Arena Lodge is undergoing renovation and upgraded out room to Arena Beach. Upon arrival, we were served with some chilled hand towers and mango juice. Then, we got our room keys and was astonished to see our beautiful room complete with beach view and a balcony. While the ocean view may not be fantastic but I am delighted to have a new, clean and cosy room as shown above.
On our first night, we were also lucky as it coincided with some Ramadan festival and we were able to indulge in some local Maldivian dance and traditional food. NOMS~ I love that banana sweet rice dish. Check out that giant fish! HAHA!
Service was also great! Moosa and Izam spoke good English and helped us familiarize ourselves with the island. Moosa also managed to help us book a day trip to Biyadhoo island even though the island was supposedly “full house”.
All was good except for the breakfast I guess. There were only cornflakes, milk, juice, yoghurts that arent chilled enough, toasted bread, omelette and sausage. It would have been alot better if there are more variety such as chapatti, some hot dishes to go with it, french toast etc. With limited choices, we had mixed omelette ( which is pretty tasty) and sauasage with toast every morning.
Kaani Village & Spa
Kaani Village and Spa is also another new hotel on the island and the main reason as to why we booked it was because the rooms look alot nicer online and we were actually looking forward to the spa. Unfortunately, the spa was not operational yet so too bad for us. We were given a room on the ground floor which gave us easy access to the glorious pool complete with tanning beds 😀
The rooms in Kaani was alot more dim which can be kinda romantic and as the place is rather new, everything was very clean and the room was more spacious as compared to Arena. Another distinct feature is its carpeted floor which adds a touch of luxury to the room. However, one downside is that the electricity to the fridge is being cut off whenever we took out the keycard when we left the room. This means our face masks wouldnt be cold when we return.
Service was impeccable as well where the staffs were all very welcoming and friendly. One of them even offered us a free top-up of the watermelon welcome drink. Nothing quench your thirst better than a cooling glass of watermelon juice. 🙂 As the restaurant was not yet operational, we had our breakfast at Kaani Beach Hotel instead. There was slightly more variety as compared to Arena and I really love the chapatti with coconut tuna and stewed chicken dish which gave a local touch to the breakfast. In addition, we were also entitled to free snorkeling kits (which is great since we had to rent snorkelling kits for USD$5 at Arena) , bicycle rent , indoor games which includes Table Soccer, Karaoke , Pool table and the beautiful swimming pool ( I think it’s the only hotel that has a swimming pool in Maafushi?)
In my opinion, it would be amazing after the spa and restaurant are fully operational. Just imagine a cold cucumber wrap while indulging in fresh coconut ice cream at the end of a day out scorched by the sun. Mmmmm.
Here are some pointers to note when booking hotels:
- Book New Hotels
- Check Reviews
- Check Pictures
- Compare Price
Before we started planning our itinerary, we had no idea how much the activities are worth since we couldn’t find exact prices online and first thing we did after we checked in was to go around to compare prices. Pretty much a singaporean thing huh? But I realised the people from California and China were even more extreme. Heh! But I guess since people at Maafushi are all budget travelers, we share a common goal: Getting the best value out of everything. So, you’re in luck because I will be posting some of the prices here!
Island hopping typically consists of the transport fee ( round trip) and the entry fee to the resort island. Not to forget, you should always consider the activities and food costs there as well. I guess if you have more cash on hand, you should definitely try Ananthara Resort since we heard that it’s totally amazing there. But with the steep entry price, be forewarned that activities and food there may not come cheap as well.
The cheapest island on the list is probably gonna be the picnic island since there’s no entry fee required and a BBQ lunch will be provided. However, we did not visit it as we felt that we would be scorched to death since it’s just a strip of beach in the middle of nowhere.
In the end, we decided to visit Biyadhoo island, which was recommended by the Arena staff for its house reefs. Initially, we couldn’t even get a day pass to the island since it is full-house ( I dont even know why?) but Moosa was able to get hold of it for us eventually. However, we were totally disappointed since the resort is rather old and run-down. I felt that the staff should not even have recommended it and we paid close to USD$70 per person which is rather expensive since we didn’t have any other company.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t deny that the beach was still awesome because it’s the Maldives ( See above) and since it was my first snorkeling experience in Maldives, I was still awed by the beauty of underwater life. Unfortunately, I also had the worst and most expensive spa experience there which costs USD$50 (ok I swear I didn’t even know what was I thinking). The facilities were run down, it felt dirty and the towels doesn’t look very clean either for a spa. The service at the restaurant was also bad since the food took very long to arrive and the staff were not very friendly either ( If you compare it to the Maafushi-ians). In conclusion, I don’t think you should ever hop onto this island till further revamps are done.
Lucky for us, on our way back to Maafushi, a few wild dolphins randomly appeared!
And then as we were checking out some local restaurants for dinner, a mother and daughter from California approached us and asked if we wanted to go to Fihalhohi island resort the next day. We agreed almost in a heartbeat as it costed us about USD$49 as there were more people going. This is a definite must-go if you are on a budget travel and in fact I would say if you had some spare cash, you should totally stay on this island since it costs less than $USD 200 per night!
Now, allow me to present to you….
Fihalhohi Island Resort
To be honest, I don’t even know how I should describe my day there because it is absolutely amazing… almost something like the perfect beach vacation and the pictures can’t do it justice because you just have to experience it yourself. The snorkelling experience was just spectacular especially at the extreme left of the island where you can see the sea cliff and is well endowed with beautiful reefs and fishes. It’s just simply stunning. The water sports are pretty affordable as well and the spa was so much better than Biyadhoo’s . ( Regrets)
Here’s to our awesome travel company from California, Russia, Las Vegas and Korea! In any case, just as we thought that the transport fee being USD$25 was cheap, our china friends got it lower at USD$20 at Venturo Resort. Haa but sometimes I realize that we have to give and take, afterall our Maafushi-ian friends got to make a living as well.
I realised fishing isn’t exactly my kinda thing after I caught my first fish, it’s a beautiful blue-striped snapper. I felt kinda sad when the bait was ripped out of its mouth while it’s still flopping on the deck. In any case, if you like fishing, you can probably get a good deal at USD$10 or was it USD$20 with a bunch of people at Venturo Resort. After fishing, the nice Maafushi-ians would help to prepare a BBQ feast for you. I guess fishing company matters as well so choose them wisely.
On a side note, you should also get on the upper deck of the boat on your way back since it is really dark in the middle of the ocean, the sea of stars are simply breathtaking. We also made a wish upon our first shooting star ! 😀
We went scuba diving on our last day with Shark Diving School and it has ignited my spark for diving. We went for the Discover Scuba package which costs USD$55 for the lagoon introductory lessons , USD$25 for the open dive and rented a GOPRO for USD$10. Some say, if you have not gone scuba diving, you haven’t really seen Maldives. Indeed it was a whole new experience to be twelve metres underwater and it was magnificent to be able to catch a manta ray, eagle ray, turtle and a few sharks all in a single dive. Here’s a shark btw! I totally regret not bringing a good underwater camera but the gopro takes great videos !
I am so glad that the Shark Diving School has equipped me well enough for this diving experience . Thumbs up to the instructor who is super friendly, encouraging and experienced in handling newbies like myself. I wish that my driving instructor is half like that. More importantly, I felt super safe throughout the whole dive as there was somebody watching over us throughout the whole dive. Three Quarter-way through, my partner did not feel well and luckily he responded fast enough to bring us up to the surface.
So yes, Scuba Diving with the Shark Diving School is a must!!
You’ll probably find this image very familiar on social media and it is what we call bioluminescence — tiny phytoplankton, microbes washed ashore by the tides, turning their chemical energy into light energy. The process is ancient, natural and found around the world. If you’ve never seen it , it’s most easily observed on nice, warm beaches after dark.
Deeply intrigued by this phenomenon, I asked one of the locals from the Shark Diving School to show us where it is. Without hesitation, his brother( our guardian angel underwater) and himself brought us to the lagoon where we practiced our dives to look for it. It was a nice long walk back and when we reach the waters, they stopped and started splashing water and I have no idea why. Then, we continued further down the shore in the direction of the currents and they repeated that stop-splash-continue walking routine till we finally catch some glows in the water. Although the bioluminescence look nothing like the above as the tides weren’t high up enough, we had a fun time swirling water and putting the glow onto our palms. I guess when things are scarce, we end up appreciating them more, even though it may be just one dot of glow.
Then, we started chasing crabs and eventually got attached to 2 hermit crabs, gary and sandy. It was truly a night of fun, laughter, peace and joy, where we felt like adolescents playing under the starry night skies. All I could say is that I’m truly thankful for this unforgettable dreamy night.
Note to self: Remember to do night snorkelling, wakeboarding, jet ski expedition, more diving !
4) Getting to Maafushi
- First, you will arrive at Malé Airport.
- Second, Take a ferry right outside Malé Airport to the capital, Malé. (About 15mins at USD$1)
- Third, Take a cab from where you alight from the ferry and take a cab to Villingi Ferry Terminal ( About 15mins at USD$3)
- Lastly, take a ferry from the terminal towards Maafushi but you should check the transport timing online as the ferry to Maafushi only operates as certain timing. ( Around 2hours at USD$2
- Alternatively, you can arrange for a speed boat or seaplane.
5) Other information
Sun protection is important. For a flawless tan, do get your sunblock and aloevera gel ready. They can be readily purchased at the local stores. We didn’t know that and as a result, we are peeling real badly and experienced sun burn from the second day onwards which can be a nasty experience. This Ocean Potion is pretty potent. Please spam it!
- Food can be purchased from USD$3 at Maafushi. I would recommend Suntan Hotel for their Grilled Fish Russian Style and Grilled Seafood Platter. Having dinner at Suntan Hotel is amazing as you can sit by the beach to enjoy the sunset in the evening and watch the stars twinkle as night sets in. Oh and the fries tastes so good that we ordered it on its own with the Russian Sauce.
Maldives, I’ll be back again. For now, ciao!