Most avid travellers would not pass up an opportunity to head to The Maldives for a week – and I was no exception. A simple online search of the destination brings up an array of stunning pictures of beautiful couples on white sands and crystal-clear waters. I was determined to not drown myself in the unending pit of social media hashtags about the destination but rather to experience everything as authentically as possible.
The long-awaited Sunday finally came, and I took one final run-through of all my pre-travel requirements. A negative COVID19 test, visa, masks, online check-in, sunscreen and health declaration forms from South Africa and The Maldives. That is the reality of travelling during a pandemic but it was not going to deter me from The Maldives. In my mind, I was already drinking cocktails on the beach.
During my nine and half hour flight from O.R Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) to Hamad International (Doha) I watched several movies, none of which I can recall due to my high excitement levels. I was spoilt for choice on the Qatar Airways flight with all my needs catered for with precision making the time pass by fleetingly. The same can probably be said about my connecting 7-hour flight from Doha to Male.
When landing at Velana International airport in Male, I looked down and was immediately struck by the water surrounding the airport as if out of one of those old postcards that we used to receive from a rich family member whenever they travelled. The city, however, had a lot of parts that looked like construction sites and I started wondering if it was time to lower my expectations!
After going through customs, collecting bags and all that glory that is travelling we were met by one of the staff members (presumed tour guide) from the first island on the itinerary – Finolhu Island – and that was the true beginning of our tour that the Maldivian Tourism Board had so graciously arranged.
Our guide walked us through the scorching heat out of the main airport to our air-conditioned ride that was to take us to the lounges while we waited for our next flight. Exhaustion kicked in at that moment but he graciously explained that the Maldives is made up of more than a thousand islands and transport to each one is via air or boat.
There isn’t much to see in Male and the seaplane was to only take a little over an hour (sigh of relief). As a potential Maldivian tourist that I hope you are keep in my mind that these seaplane flights (mostly through Trans Maldivian Airlines) can cost a pretty penny so pre-booking is key. Unless you are planning on catching a ferry or speedboat from Male to your chosen island there is no avoiding them. In just over an hour we water-landed at Finolhu.
Straight out of a travel-fairy-tale we were greeted by staff singing local songs and handing us cold towels to cater for the heat. A short induction occurred to go through the COVID19 protocols and reminding us that we need to take the test again. We were taken through the island to show us the key areas on a buggy or rather golf-cart as we refer to them in South Africa.
Our accommodation type were individual water villas – my-oh-my! I didn’t even notice the temperature switch as I entered this air-conditioned heaven. My mind was racing between connecting to Wi-Fi, taking a video for my friends and family that I knew were waiting for my ‘’Arrived safely’’ message, having a glass of that champagne on my table, jumping into the bathtub overlooking the ocean or swimming in the infinity pool. I wanted it all. I threw myself on the beautiful bed that I felt slightly guilty of messing up as it matched the perfection and cleanliness of the whole villa.
I showered and put on my sunscreen and got ready for lunch. Finolhu offers a choice of various restaurants based on cuisine and I spent the few days trying them all out. I forgot about my travel exhaustion or the COVID19 tests that I had to do as I had so many activities lined up – yoga, ocean-side golf (with biodegradable balls) and all the water sports you can imagine. After the scheduled days at Finolhu, with our latest negative COVID19 test results, it was time to move to the next destination – Hurawalhi Island.
A flight and speedboat later we descended at Hurawalhi Island. The ambiance was very different, and the service was impeccable as expected. Our water villa had wooden finishes, a calm and serene atmosphere that subconsciously forces you to enter a relaxed state. I took full advantage of the hour-long full body massage booked at Duniye Spa and nothing beats a good massage while overlooking the water and listening to exotic Tibetan bowl sounds.
In my relaxed state, I was just giddy about my upcoming dinner at the infamous 5.8 undersea restaurant and I was right to be excited. One of the servers meets you outside and takes you through another restaurant leading you to a flight of stairs 5.8 metres into the sea. I think the artificial intelligence server could see my face (safety-first) and started explaining the history of the safety protocols that ensure that possibilities of drowning are less than zero. I relaxed and took off my high heels before going down the stairs. Eight tables only – I could dine like this daily! Everyone must be there on time each time as the chef takes you through the 7-course meal at the same time. All courses are paired with an equally great glass of wine while watching the different schools of fish circle through the glass barrier. I left the restaurant with my dress feeling a little tight but I didn’t care – the walk down the jetty, passing a yacht and looking at the moonlight hitting the water was nothing short of a dream.
We had one more big activity before leaving for the final island. A day trip had been planned for our visit to see two of the surrounding islands in the Baa Atoll. The first one on the list was Komandoo which offered various types of villas which are not as big as the other islands that we had been to but this was the island’s secret ingredient. Featuring gardens with stone-made hearts from the various villas, everybody spoke to each other like family. I soon found out that they boast lots of return customers that want that a family-knit environment. I am going back there!
Still reeling from the beauty that is Komandoo, our speedboat was ready to take us to the next one on the list – Kuredu, a total opposite of Komandoo being a much bigger island with different villas to fit each pocket. We took a tour and saw all the amenities that the island offers for those travelling with kids, spouses, and colleagues –sheer indulgence with something for everyone. The tour was finalized, and we were ready to head back to our new home – Hurawalli – so that we can pack for the final island.
There was a mix of sadness and excitement as we sat on the Trans-Maldivian flight back to Male to connect back to the final island, Dusit Thani. It was not the first time I had heard the name so I was aware they form part of a huge group of hotels and resorts.
I was convinced there wasn’t much more beauty that my eyes could take. I was wrong. The island is big yet it gives one a rain-forest type of feel due to the vegetation and trees that are everywhere.
With my personal butler I was escorted to my villa which was huge. I forgot that I was sad about heading home in 3 days and I got excited all over again. I continued with my champagne diet, as I looked over in excitement at the menus that the various restaurants offered.
This time I took advantage of all the water-sport activities that I hadn’t had time to complete while working up an appetite – snorkelling, rowing and swimming – for what seemed like hours in the ocean. Dinner was served at Benjarong and the spicy Thai cuisine was nothing short of perfection. We spent the next few days touring, learning about local culture and seeing some of the green and marine-friendly initiatives that both the island owners and the government are enforcing.
As I sat on the luxurious Qatar flight from Doha back to Johannesburg, I reflected on everything I had seen and learnt on the Baa Atoll. From the people I had met and the genuine kindness that they possessed from island to island to the different types of food I had eaten – it was simply divine.
I have a habit of picking shells whenever I go ocean-side but that was not possible as The Maldives government has put much-needed restrictions to conserve their part of the Indian Ocean for which I thank the Maldivian authorities as their efforts are clearly producing stunning long term results.
For your next holiday trip make The Maldives your next adventure even if it’s just once in your lifetime – the best way to understand will be to experience it. For best deals and tour packages to Maldives click here. To compare, search and book affordable hotel & flight, visit this website here.