In my first ever blog i thought i would start with writing about one of my favourite places i have visited so far-that atolls made paradise on earth-the Maldives. I will include some essential tips and information i think you should know if you are planning on visiting there and share the experience i had during my few days stay in the 4 star resort called Drift Thelu Veliga Retreat.
Dream destination for many honeymooners, ocean adventure seekers and recently even the average backpackers due the arising budget friendly guesthouses and hotels the Maldives will capture your hearts with its white sand beaches , incredible marina life and multiple shades of blue waters. It is truly a place where you can have an old Nokia phone and still take postcard looking photos. It definitely lived up to the dream and exceeded my expectations.
Some important things you should consider before you arrive there are :
Hidden Charges and taxes
What you should know before you make your bookings is that there are many different hidden fees such as vat , city tax , service or hotel fees that are usually not included in the initial shown price. The rates of those taxes are set by the island resorts and the hotels individually so they vary. In some cases that can add up to 100 dollars on top on the first price per night, the same applies for restaurants,bars , groceries etc so do read the small fine print and make sure to double check with the place you plan on staying so they are no unpleasant surprises when you are asked to set your bill. I would also suggest looking into at the all inclusive options to be aware of how much the trip should cost you upfront.
Culture and Customs
The Republic of Maldives is entirely Muslim populated. Alcohol and drugs in Male and the other islands where there are locals living are prohibited due to the Islamic religion . You won't find any in the hotels and bars in those areas neither. Customs scan all the bags at the airport on arrival too so do not bring any alcohol when entering the country, it will most likely be found and confiscated. Banned are also pork meat, wearing bikinis on the beach, any forms of public affection especially if you have different sexual orientation than the traditional. There are however 'bikini zone ' beaches in some of the local islands separated by a fence. Hotels include that information in their description so look for it if it is something you don't want to miss out. Women can wear short dresses and skirts but it will be frowned up and it would be considered disrespectful. None of those rules apply for the tourists made resorts so do not panic about it.
Maldives have their own currency - Ruffiyaa , however different currencies such as dollars and euro are widely accepted and i was able to use it even the local supermarkets in Male. I never exchanged any money but do have cash money as there are places that don't take bank cards yet.
Picking a place to stay
The good thing is that nowadays staying in the Maldives doesn't necessary need to be excessively pricey. There are many guesthouses and hotels in Male city and some other parts of the locals islands with average cost per night between 70-90 dollars per night including all those taxes i mentioned above. My flight to there was arriving very late at night so i decided to stay in the closest to the airport hotel i could find on booking.com which was Fern Boquete Inn in South Hulhumale beach area. I arrived there by taxi which costed me 10 dollars. It is a nice 3 star quiet place located 5 mins away from the airport and exactly on the beach with a lovely top roof overlooking the Indian ocean. There was no alcohol sold on the premises and they do not have bikini beach area. Their WiFi was down on the day but i was offered a Maldivian 20 dollars sim card with 5 GB of internet. I was told later on that you can also buy one of them from the airport and they are handy to have if it is important to you to stay connected online.
Now if you are like me and really want to have that deserted island experience with staying in one of those the heavily advertised water villas overlooking the ocean it will cost you a bit more. At present there are over 106 resorts located in different atolls across the Republic of the Maldives. Those islands are populated entirely by tourists apart from the staff. There are the water and beach villas , restaurants , spa rooms , bars , diving schools where in the bigger resorts you can few extra facilities. I would suggest one of them if you are travelling with children as they have kids clubs and other attractions for your little ones to enjoy. Look at the villas capacities that the resorts holds and check with them about what kind of audience do they target if you want more relaxing and quiet experience. The resort i stayed in was exactly of those Robinson Crusoe islands where there was rarely anyone in sight and privacy was highly valued. I will add more information about it below.
As you are surrounded by water and the only way to reach those resorts is by seaplane transfer or a sea boat which in most cases needs to be organised by the resort itself. Do keep in mind that seaplanes can only operate during the day. The price for a round trip is around 400 dollars per person ! ( I was told that sea boats are an option too for some places and cost about the same ). Also don't be surprised if the hotel informed you about your seaplane flight details the night before you are supposed to arrive. They seem to have very laid back approach to it and delays at the airport are not uncommon. As they will be other passengers with you , you might need to stop at one or more other resorts before you reach your destination. It does however feels incredible to fly over the Indian ocean and witness all of that beauty those small atolls and turquoise waters hold.
Drift Thelu Veliga Retreat
This 4 star resort was recommended to one of my best friends as being a great value for money combined with providing an authentic Maldivian experience and top quality customer service. Having staying in the place now myself i can truly say that it is a little gem and fully agree with those statements .The resort has only 10 beach and 20 water villas making it perfect for families , couples and singles who are looking for the perfect intimate and undisturbed escape. Interesting fact about it is that resort's time is an hour ahead of Male.
Me and my friend who joined me on the following day of my arrival in the Maldives reached the resort by 30 mins seaplane journey from Male international airport.We were then escorted to the resort by a very short seaboat ride.
We were greeted by a very professional and courteous staff and then accompanied to the water villa that we had booked for around 350 dollars per night( without the taxes ) .
The room was made in a traditional Maldivian style , clean , very well equipped with a mosquito net over the bed , a sofa bed , a wooden desk and chair , plenty of storage for clothes. There is a mini bar and a coffee pod machine , which is replaced everyday with two small complimentary bottles of water.
The bathroom was very spacious with two sinks and mirrors. The shower and the toilet are in separate semi open rooms. My favourite part was the lovely bathtub with straight view into the infinite Indian ocean.
The villa had also an outside terrace giving you an immediately access to the waters with two wooden sunbeds , a table and chair and a cozy wooden sofa where you could enjoy reading a book or a magazine. There is no TV in the room and the WiFi is not that strong to watch movies or Netflix online.
The food in the Drift Retreat was high quality for a 4 star resort. We had breakfast included which is combination of a buffet and there is a on duty chef which give you options to choose from. There could add more variety but i really enjoyed having some coffee , fresh squeezed juice , fruits and waffles or pancakes sitting in the outside area looking at the beach each morning.
Food and drinks in the evenings did not disappoint neither. There was a buffet and a la carte menu providing options to satisfy almost any taste . There is a BBQ and freshly prepared pasta on the beach if you decide to go for the buffet option. The menu also gives you the opportunity to try some traditional Maldivian cuisine .The cocktails from the bar were luscious.Staff is friendly and very attentive. Just as a guideline dinner would cost you around 45 dollars per person , drinks such as Margarita are around 12 dollars. My friend enjoyed their freshly squeezed Mango juice so much that they literally ran of the fruit after 2 days ! :)
The resort also provides an option of on the beach private dinner or in villa chef one ,which we decided to try out on one of the evenings.It was and it would be a bespoke romantic experience for any couple. You can indulge in some lovely wine or a cocktail, selection of salads and breads, expertly grilled food ( their Lobster was to die for ! ) and irresistible desserts while watching the sunset, the stars and tranquility of the surroundings around you . It was truly magical and I don't think i will ever forget how good and in peace with myself i felt that night. All credits to the chef and the staff who were exceptional.
If you are into underwater activities the resort offers free daily snorkeling trips as their reef is sadly suffering. However it is also extensive, colorful and rich is fish and there have a place where you can rent water sports equipment and go kayaking for example. It could be a nice introduction for beginners like me who are trying snorkeling for first time. On another day went on a few hours whale shark trip(extra) and altogether we were unlucky to see any snorkeling into the deep waters there felt incredible to me.A diving lesson was around 100 dollars.
The resort has a diving center shown in the picture and this is where i had my first ever diving lesson. (Having the instructor being so helpful and patient , taking his time to ensuring my safety and my friend there too created an amazing experience for me . I enjoyed it so much that I'm keen on taking more lessons in the future.
Last but not least the resort has a lovely Spa facility with two very professional masseuses.There is also a small section with face and body products(mainly Themae ) where you can purchase some sunscreen protection screams for example which was great. I had one massage and one anti-cellulite treatment there which i quite enjoyed .The price was 90 dollars for one.
To conclude Maldives is definitely a place you should have on and tick off your bucket list.My trip there was one of a lifetime experience and the memories I made there are one of the nicest i have ever had.I loved every minute of it and would like to go back at some stage in the future to make some more .