Our love affair with the Maldives began with an incredible bird’s eye view of the atolls as we arrived by seaplane, and we can’t see it ending anytime soon. For more magical moments, take a cruise on a dhoni, a traditional wooden boat, as the sun sets over blue-green waters and pristine deserted islands, and musicians pound their drums to attract playful dolphins.
Utterly peaceful and totally exotic, the unspoilt white sands of the Maldives leave even the most discerning traveller breathless. With just one resort allowed per island you'll never have to fight for a sun bed here, but if you want 100 percent seclusion, take a boat trip to one of the 200 uninhabited islands, and feel like a castaway for a few hours.
In the Maldives, if you are not on the beach, you're in the warm, clear, turquoise waters. You will find water sports in every resort, from kayaking and catamarans to windsurfing and water skiing. Fishing trips go out in search of groupers, snappers and barracuda, ending with a barbecue of the day's catch. Underwater, pristine coral gardens are home to turtles, rays and brightly coloured reef fish. All resorts have dive centres, with courses for amateurs and PADI certified divers alike.
With colourful high-rise buildings covering the island, the Maldives' capital is a compact hive of activity. Make sure you visit to see what life is like outside the resorts. Pick up local produce and handicrafts at the busy seafront markets, take a look around beautiful mosques outside of prayer times, and see sultans' ceremonial robes and opulent thrones at the National Museum.
From underwater treatment rooms to rustic massage huts on the beach, spas are an essential part of the Maldives holiday experience. Reflexology, Thai massage, yoga, meditation, acupressure, ayurvedic healing, shiatsu massage, and Maldivian natural therapies; the treatment menus here are extensive and oh-so-tempting. For a romantic treat, book a double massage for you and your partner.
There are a number of carriers offering flights to the Maldives from the UK.
Direct Carriers: British Airways offer a direct service from the UK.
Indirect Carriers: Emirates and Qatar Airways offer an indirect service via Dubai or Doha. Sri Lankan offer a service via Columbo and Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi.
Departure Taxes: There is no departure tax when visiting the Maldives.
No special vaccines are required or recommended for travel to Dubai. All travellers should be up to date on routine immunizations. Yellow fever immunisation is required if arriving from an infected country. For full details, please contact your GP.
Holidays in the Maldives are beautifully warm all year round, although you might get caught in a shower or two from May to November. Don't worry about bringing your snorkelling or diving kit; your resort will have everything you need. If you are planning to scuba dive, don't forget your PADI credentials and a medical certificate if required.
Cool, lightweight clothing in natural fabrics like cotton or linen;
High factor sunscreen;
Waterproof jacket in rainy season;
A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face;
Modest clothing (sleeves, long trousers or skirts) for trips to Malé and other inhabited islands;
An electrical adapter (the power supply in the Maldives is 230 volts at 50 hertz);
An underwater camera;
PADI and medical certificates if required.
The official currency is the Maldivian Rufiyaa. The Rufiyaa is a closed currency, which means it is only available in the Maldives. Most people use US Dollars and credit cards while on holiday here, but you can buy local currency in your resort, as well as banks, hotels, and larger shops in Malé, the Maldives' capital.
Most prices are shown in US Dollars, which is the most commonly used currency in resorts. You won't need a lot of cash, as most things in your resort will be added to your bill to pay when you leave. Most resorts will accept UK credit and debit cards. If you need money on the go, you will find cash machines in Malé. Travellers cheques are no longer accepted in the Maldives.
Ten to 15 percent is standard in most island resorts, as well as larger international style restaurants on Malé. Many resorts will add this service charge automatically. Tipping isn't expected in Malé's local cafés, although it would be a nice surprise.
May - September
Tasty and fresh, Maldivian food makes good use of the islands' locally caught fish, drawing flavours from the fragrant, coconut based curries of southern India and Sri Lanka. Local ingredients include seafood like tuna, grouper, octopus and swordfish, and juicy, pink, refreshing watermelons. Otherwise, a great deal of food is imported to these tiny islands.
You can’t go to the Maldives without tasting the ultra-fresh, succulent local seafood. Treat yourself to marinated lobster or char-grilled king prawns. Sit down to salty snapper or chunky tuna steak, served with lentil-based side dishes or steamed rice and vegetables.
Fish and seafood are the main ingredients in most traditional Maldivian curries, although you’ll find chicken and beef too. Creamy, spicy and flavoured with coconut, these dishes are served with rice, roshi (an unleavened bread), and papadhu, (Maldivian poppadoms).
Maldivians often end their meals with custard, bodibaiy (sugary sweet rice) or tropical fruits like papayas, mangoes, bananas, and island grown watermelons.
Your best bet for local street food is in Malé, the Maldives’ island capital. Head to the markets and cafes where you will find traditional Maldivian snacks, most of which are made using the islands’ number one ingredient, freshly caught fish. Here are some of the local favourites:
Bajiya - pastry stuffed with fish, coconut and onions;
Kulhi borkibaa - spicy fish cakes;
Gulha - pastry balls filled with smoked fish;
Theluli mas - fried fish with chilli and garlic;
Kavaabu - deep-fried snacks made from rice, tuna, coconut, lentils, and spices.
On holidays in the Maldives, prices vary from resort to resort. In Malé though, you can expect to spend around 15 US Dollars on a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant and around 60 Cents on a 1.5 litre bottle of water.
For women, the traditional Maldivian costume is the dhivehi libaas, a long sleeved dress with striking silver and gold lace hand-woven around the neck. For men, it is the Maldivian sarong, usually worn with a shirt.
With its islands scattered with mosques, the Maldives is a strictly Muslim country. Only Muslims may become citizens, marry, or own property here, and locals live their day-to-day lives according to the principles of Islam. Twenty-five percent of the Maldives population lives in Malé, with the rest spread across small, close-knit island communities. The main industries are fishing and, since the 1970s, tourism.
When it comes to etiquette, it is worth keeping the following in mind:
• Greet men with a handshake and women with a warm smile.
• Dress modestly and keep beachwear to the beach.
• Do not sunbathe topless—semi-nudity and nudity is considered unacceptable.
• Some restaurants insist on both men and women covering their legs.
You will often wake to the sounds of seabirds in the distance, and you might spot fruit bats on occasion; but most of the Maldives' wildlife makes its home under the water. The atolls' delicate coral supports hundreds of species of Technicolor reef fish, graceful manta rays glide through the clear waters along with green and hawksbill turtles, while giant but gentle whale sharks, the largest fish in the seas, swim around the Maldives' outer reefs.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
The Maldives is one of the top five places on Earth for watching whales and dolphins. Join an excursion to see species including blue and sperm whales, as well as bottle nosed and spinner dolphins, which swim in large pods and often race speedboats.
Many resorts now offer volunteer programs or marine biology tours with expert naturalists. You might even get the opportunity to help look after baby turtles, sharks, and rare fish.