The decision to journey for a second time to the Maldives was a rather hasty one. We had originally planned to be in Kyushu. However the earthquake and subsequent chaos around flight arrangement risks influenced us to cancel the trip and diverted our attention to the Indian ocean.
Because this is our second opportunity to be in the jewels of the Indian ocean, we took in the considerations from our first experience:
- To be able to fly over the atolls in the day time.
- Not stay over over-water villas.
- Not taking full board package, just half board.
You observe the cost was not on the list and we were prepared to pay for the experience. So for this one we paid about S$3300pp and it included:
- Flight to/from Singapore to Male
- Seaplane flight to from Velavaru to Male
- One night stay in Male and four nights in Velavaru
- Day use of Traders’ hotel on the last day before flying home
- Half board – ie breakfast and dinner
Much more bang for buck compared to the first journey in 2007. What happened? In the period between 2007-2010, the world underwent a financial crisis that wreck havoc on many a travel budget plan. Meanwhile, developers were building resorts in the Maldives (and indeed all over the world) like there is no tomorrow. Demand did not meet supply in a classic case of economics 101.
And the demographics changed too. Barely 4 years ago the resorts were probably full of Europeans and possibly Americans. Today, that has diametrically morphed in favor of mainland Chinese travelers. How the world changes!
The overnight in Male
First, we had to congratulate ourselves. Unwittingly, we had gotten ourselves onto the inaugural day flight between Singapore and Male on Singapore airlines. Our intent was simply to be able to see the atolls as we fly in during the day, but ended up with fire engines firing their water cannons to welcome the aircraft. Upon arrival at the terminal, we had garlands of roses presented to us along with complimentary coconut drinks. Interesting indeed.
And if we had to recommend it, take the day flight. The views were already spectacular enough from the small windows of the 747.
The Traders’ hotel is on the main island of Male – a short 5 minute boat ride across the strait. Honestly we would not recommend exploring the town on your own. There are way too many touts trying to sell you some cheap stuff made in China or India. We did walk to the sort of fishermen’s wharf and watch them unload their catch. But that was it.
Where we do recommend though is to have dinner at Poppadums. This restaurant serves up great bryani. Unfortunately Suan was a little under the weather and could not eat much. Well, more for Mel then! A very good meal for two can be had for ~MDR300-400 (~S$30 back then).
On our way back, the flight was close to midnight. Our package allowed us to have the day use of the hotel in the afternoon. Which we spent lounging in the room sleeping in. Dinner at the hotel was pretty good too.
Come fly with me – seaplane flight
Yaay!! Finally we embark on the flight to our resort.
To get to the outlying resorts, you need to fly. And since these small atoll islands do not normally accommodate a landing strip, its seaplanes that will have to do. The seaplane port is on the same atoll island as the airport, and naturally along the waterfront.
Unlike the airport though, you just check in with your boarding pass and move to waiting lounges. Large luggage are moved in separately and there is no room for any carryon larger than a briefcase. They also cannot exceed 5kg, so don’t bring too many mobile devices. Planes are small, normally flying only 16 people. It is cramped and the seats are like the size of stools.
It’s free seating, so almost like getting on a train and choosing the best positions. Make sure you sit in a position where the sun is not in your face. The flights to the resort normally take place only in the mornings, so best to know which direction you’d be flying to.
The plane is very noisy as it is a propeller model. And best of all, no inflight meal service! LOL. We are on our nearly hour flight over 144km towards the Dhaalu atoll group. The inflight entertainment is just outside your window. We wrote separately about that here.
Cyan blue colors mix with that of a deeper blue as we flew over the various atoll island chains. Many that we saw on the way are just sandbanks. There are said to be 26 natural atolls at the time of our journey and about 200 of the small islands are inhabited. These can be seen quite clearly. Between the islands are deep channels of that connect back out to the great Indian ocean. As with the case in Vabbinfaru, these deep currents shift the sands on the atoll islands, moving them and sometimes totally wiping them out!
The same experience awaited us when we made the return flight to Male.
We had the option of taking a villa that is over the water or on the island facing the beach. Being the cheaper option we decided on the land villa. And we did not regret this.
We were able to check in within 30 minutes as the villa had already been prepared for us. Like its counterpart in our previous journey, the villa is large and spacious and has a large yard leading to the sea. It also has a pool in the back, where one can shower in the open as well as indoor.
This time however, we had a whole swimming pool to ourselves in the villa. Sure it was not Olympic sized, but will do for two! It is so refreshing to be able to dip in the fresh water pool every day to cool off or wash off the salty sea water.
Yes, the backyard was just as nice too. And again the lagoon area just in front of our villa was shallower and full of smaller coral colonies.
So shallow that it was wise to float on a pontoon to view them. Not being allowed to feed fishes on the snorkel trips, nothing stopped us from carrying bread into the water at the shallow lagoon. We spotted many a juvenile fish hiding amongst the coral, camouflaged away by the colors on their skin. The bread did come in handy as it attracted a lot of attention and fishes coming our way. Our greatest find : a porcupine fish spying at us.
Daily trips are organized and this one is just to the outer ring of the atoll itself. Like the one at Baros, it cliffs off dramatically into the deep. We went on two separate trips – one each to the northern and southern edges of the atoll.
Being further out in the middle of the ocean, the coral life here is more crowded and seemed larger too. The table corals seem to extend more than 5 feet in diameter and we saw a lot more anemones tended to by clown fishes. The size of the clams were exceptionally larger too and came in many different shades of blue and green. Perhaps it is the more pristine waters out here that facilitated being able to see them clearly.
The southern end was quite a disappointment comparatively.
Clarity was even better here but seemed to be devoid of life. The corals appeared to have been bleached out and visibly less fishes can be seen. I wasn’t sure it was just me, but I could hear fishes crunching on the corals! Fortunately there are still some spots of good corals, so not all is lost. Nature sure has a way of adapting.
The resort & facilities
As we only had half board, lunch was not included. So we chose whatever we liked. Suan had her Maldivian lobster (clocked one more) which was not exactly cheap at US$70. Sure there was a lot of fries and salad… so you see, it’s a dilemma. Opt for full board and be stuffed up with too much eating. Pay expensive lunches if you don’t…
The one thing to rant about is our good “plan” to take the land villa instead of the over-the-water ones. Every hour there is a shuttle that takes folks to/from the ocean villas. Yes – they are NOT connected to the island.
The villas have their own “pier” to get into the reef. There is also a private pool in each one like
the one we have on the island. Difference? The shade from trees. There is no shade & it’s hot, so hot that by 10am we decided to head back to the sanctuary of our own villa. We noticed that each of the “private” pool is parallel to each other and can see across to each other. There seems to be no screen to shield each occupant for privacy. No wonder the folks from the ocean villa keep coming over to the island!
Obviously the other advantage of being on land is that you can always take a stroll along the fine powdery sand beach, coming across palm mangroves bearing fruit. Or watching folks wade into the sea as they take the first steps of a scuba lesson.
Ultimately, this was yet another wonderful journey concluded. We rate this resort an 8.5 out of 10. Perhaps it was the experience of flying over the water to the resort that nailed it. Or maybe the wonderful weather we had? Indeed choosing a ‘good’ time to make the journey can be critical. Monsoons to affect the number of sunny days you have. And when you are here in the Maldives, the only thing you really pray for is : cloudless sunny days…