Island Paradise: Maldives

In May 2010 we found a really good last-minute package to fly out to the Maldives for just one week (9 days, including travel time) and we decided it was time to give it a go. We normally avoid all destinations that have the label ‘luxury travel’ attached, because we find that they’re often over-priced, over-rated, over-crowded places easily outshone by other, lesser-known destinations, but £650 for the two of us, intercontinental and local connecting flights, hotel, and three meals a day, just was too much of a temptation.

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We liked every bit about the stay. Straight from the international airport in Male we took a tiny seaplane to our final destination, one of the outer islands. You’re being dropped off at a raft surrounded by coral reefs and little islands, then small boats pick up each group of travellers (there were 5 other people and between us we split into 3 groups) and took them to the respective island.

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We were immediately greeted by local staff when we arrived at the pier and walked to our bungalow next to the beach (well, everything is next to the beach on these islands).

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The bungalow was as we expected, 5* by local standards, 3* or so by Western standards, so pretty decent, everything was clean and worked, fair bit of space, no complaints. It was literally roughly 50 steps from our terrace to the blue-green water and white breaking waves of the Indian Ocean.

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We spent the little time we had on the island sunbathing, relaxing, swimming, snorkelling, doing a couple of spa treatments. One of us was recovering from a slight ear infection, which is why we both decided to skip scuba diving.

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Besides that, we only made one other mistake: we let ourselves be talked into doing a half-day trip to one of the neighbouring islands to ‘get to know the real Maldives’, where the local people work and live. Don’t do it, not worth it. We took it with a huge pinch of humour and tried to see the ironic side of us being on one of the most beautiful island archipelagos on this planet while spending half a day watching abandoned construction sites, landfills, and a village about as picturesque as a rat’s bottom.

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The best activity by far was going the two of us on a single high-powered jet-ski. Neither of us had done this before and we couldn’t believe how fast those things accelerate, and to what speeds, and how they go around tiny turns like on rails, automatically leaning inwards to counter centrifugal forces, it’s SOOOO MUCH FUN!!!!

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After an hour of madness we were still having silly smiles on our faces for another hour or two, that’s how good it was.

Another day we watched a shark feeding session. It seemed a bit unwise to feed sharks from a giant pier alongside which dozens of tourist huts on stilts were lined up (why attract sharks to your homes from where you and possibly your family jump into the water for swims???!!?), but heck, it wasn’t our huts and it was on a different island, so no complaints from us. The biggest sharks were close to two metres long and looked quite fierce and dangerous, even though we were assured they’d be scared of us if we’d jump into the water (we didn’t try).

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We also saw hundreds of giant sting-ray come right to the line where the waves end and the beach starts, sometimes staying out of the water for a few seconds until the next wave washed them back into the sea again, very impressive, very unreal.

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The staff all seemed to have a bit of an attitude, very proud Muslims that didn’t think highly of Westerners overindulging in food and drinking a bit too much, but overall we didn’t really mind too much and didn’t encounter any seriously annoying situations.

The food was extremely nice, something for every taste and dozens of dishes to choose from at the open buffet. The drinks were very pricy and even though we didn’t get gazeboed on a constant basis they added up to quite a substantial amount at the end of the trip, our fault, we should have held back and also kept a close tally on expenses, never mind. The trip was brilliant and we often think back to it (basically whenever talk is about beaches, it’s impossible not to think of the Maldives).

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We’ve been to a few nice beaches, trop islands, and reeves in our time. The Maldives must rank among the top three.

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