Aaah the Maldives ! Of course everybody dream of it… Desert islands, turquoise sea, submarine life incredible, luxury hotels with bungalows over the sea. The postal card is perfect, but the problem is, it’s a bit out of reach when you look at the prices. Hotels rates are over $200/night minimum, speed-boat transfers will cost you again $200/person. So of course, it’s bringing down the appeal for this dreamy destination. Not to forget that once on those island-hotels, you’ll find yourself a bit like a prisoner of a little piece of earth in the middle of nowhere.
Maldives though, are just an hour and a half away from Bangalore by plane, so we had a second look at it and found out that more than island-hotels, some “local islands” were existing and that it was possible to stay there. Those islands are inhabited all year long by Maldivians and are starting to open up to tourism with affordable guest-houses and small hotels. Those islands are also connected to the only city-island of the country, Malé with regular ferrys which will cost you no more than $2-3 one way. So even if those islands are not exactly matching the perfect postal card, we thought we could give it a try.
In Maldives, amazement is starting right in the plane. While approaching the airport, we had a great view over atolls, small islands spread out like confetti in the sea. It’s sumptuous and it’s a first sign showing that we’re landing in an other world. A world where everything is an island, a kind of Waterworld in real life or a Sim City game quite extreme. The airport-island from where you’ll already need a ferry to reach the city-capital-island, Malé. Or there’s also the garbage-island or the industrial-island for example!
After crossing the surprisingly busy but pretty unworried Malé, we took a ferry to the “local island” we chose, Maafushi. Before welcoming some tourists, the island is the place hosting… the biggest prison of the country with 500 inmates! It’s also the place where live 3000 inhabitants, practising islam like the rest of the population of the country. So no alcohol, forbidden to swim with a bikini for girls all over the island except on the “tourist beach”. So the postal card is not exactly the one you have in mind when thinking about the Maldives. But it’s also a good opportunity to experience the real life of local people and discover the “behind the scene” life of the paradise for tourists. A life flowing with prayer calls, ferry’s arrivals, chat on benches made of fishing net and cans of ernergy drink…
Apart from that, “Tourist Beach” is really magnificent and the sea is shockingly blue turquoise all around the island. It’s certainly the most beautiful sea we’ve ever seen. Then comes the under-water life… fascinating, surprising and sometimes majestic!
No more than a few centimetres deep, on the shore of the beach, we were able to see dozens of coloured fishes, rays and baby-sharks! 20 meters furthers, the slope, enigmatic (the floor is diving suddenly to disappear in the dark), is bringing its lots of fishes and some rare specimens like murens, turtles and even eagle-rays whom swim is more bringing the image of a big bird flying (Nicolas thought at first it was the famous Ray-Mantas). Because Maafushi is also more than anything else a great starting point for excursions bringing you to nearby reefs, deserted islands where you’ll continue to discover this colored submarine life.
So yes, we validate the plan “Maldives – local island”! It’s really an other world and it worth it to make a detour there.
What about the prices? even if it’s less expensive than the island-hotels, don’t expect to pay there the price you pay in India. We had to pay $170 for 3 nights in our hotel for example. Food is also pretty affordable even if not very tasty… so it’s even better to try the local snacks, kind of samosa filled with fish and curry.