|Beautiful, ain't it!|
Maldives - the name conjures up images of reef-ringed atolls, clear blue waters, white sandy beaches and luxurious overwater villas... and lately also of Bollywood stars flaunting their tanned bodies on the beaches of this sunny island! It had almost become a mini Mumbai before this current lockdown.
I did not particularly think about why they are thronging to Maldives. However, just recently I read an article that many of these celebrities get a deal vacation - free staycations in these resorts to post pictures and promote these resorts on the social media sites...quite a deal, right!
Uber-luxury and expensive resorts are what come to mind whenever Maldives is mentioned but that's not entirely true. Not many are aware that Maldives is also a budding budget destination since the last decade.
In 2009, the Maldivian government started allowing tourists to stay among the local population rather than just on privately-owned resorts. This regulation is gradually opening up the budget travel scene here with local guest houses mushrooming on this archipelago nation.
One can easily google about these guesthouses/bed&breakfast places and find one!
For us, however, it was a resort vacation in Sun Siyam Iru Fushi to relax and unwind from all the responsibilities back home. Plus, it was one of the birthday months of the year for my family when we usually take a vacation to celebrate! To be honest, I am not a beach person, and spending a week at such a secluded resort was not my idea. However, I gave in to my husband's wishes and decided to experience luxury at the world's sought-after luxury destination.
Our resort was not the super expensive one like that of Hyatt or Taj - but can be called a mid-range luxury resort. The prices vary per season and in March, we ended up paying $730 per night including food & drinks.
The resort is on a 52-acre island situated in the heart of Noonu atoll - a 45 minute seaplane ride from Male. The air ride was cramped in a small seaplane but was equally fun to see these small islands pop up along the ride to our atoll.
|Landed at the resort|
|Our island from the landing dock|
The aerial view of the archipelago was a treat to our eyes - imagine emerald green reefs surrounding the tiny, circular islands, scattered all around us, against the backdrop of the deep blue ocean. It was lovely! The local islands were considerably inhabited and of course, each family here owns a boat to navigate the waters of this vast ocean.
Sun Siyam Iru Fushi (click on the link, if interested)
Our island was not very big and it took us about an hour to circumambulate the entire island. From one end, we could see the Indian Ocean stretching miles together as far as our eyes could reach and from the other end, we could see another resort island dotting the horizon.
We had booked a private pool villa for ourselves overlooking the beach.
|Our little piece of beach in front of the villa|
The resort has some 5-6 restaurants from which we could pick and choose (Italian, French, Asian, Continental, Japanese and of course Indian). A couple of them were closed down due to the pandemic. Some restaurants opened only for dinner and required prior reservations.
We had chosen the All-Inclusive Stay package where we could go to most of the restaurants for the price paid in our package with an unlimited supply of drinks and even icecreams. It is recommended to go for this package unless you want to diet and control your appetite on such a binge vacation. Going ala carte can be a bit cheaper if you are a light eater. No prizes for guessing that I put on weight 😁
|Our hang-out spot in the afternoons|
We were on a vacation in a resort bubble - partially disconnected from the outside world. Don't get me wrong here - the wifi was good and we did not need to buy any sim while in the Maldives.
I didn't have to worry about cleaning my house, fixing my meals or even wearing masks - yet, I could not sleep late into the mornings. I, on most mornings, ended up waking before 7 am just when the sun was rising in the horizon.
My most favorite activity in the morning was to walk barefoot on the sands along the beach. The white sands were soft to walk on and felt like a soft carpet. I saw a stork at one particular spot on the beach every day for my entire duration of stay. It stood on one leg, patiently, for a long time to get its catch of food. I appreciated that sight daily against the backdrop of the rising sun and the waves lashing at my feet.
Shoals of fishes wandered along with the waves very close to the beach. During low tide, we spotted many amazing fishes in the reef waters. Not to speak of the varied-hued corals dancing below the stilts in the reef.
|The overwater villas and restaurant|
|The villas over the reef|
Brisk walk whetted my appetite and I couldn't wait to get to the breakfast restaurant. Breakfast was a huge spread of Continental, Chinese, Indian, and Maldivian and we were spoilt for choice. The only thing missing was our very own masala chai. However, that problem was taken care of the very next day by the ever-helpful chefs. The best chai was made by chef Chin - the Chinese chef in that resort!
We had all the time in the world at the resort and yet time sped by very fast. Mornings soon descended into afternoons and evenings into the night. I read the Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris - a rather sombre read in a lovely atmosphere. The two situations sort of compensated each other 😀. It feels great to relax with the feeling that you have left behind your cares in the world yonder.
Activities @ the resort:
Dolphin watching was one of the activities that we enjoyed the most. It was pure fun to watch the dolphins jump around our boat in groups of two or three - a must-do activity at the resort.
We even took a boat ride to an uninhabited island all by ourselves - just the 3 of us and our guide who waited on the boat a little distance away from the island granting us privacy.
This island was owned by the resort and was 30 minutes away from our island. It was ethereal to be on that tiny speck of land in the ocean all by ourselves - a sort of philosophical and calming experience 😇 Chatting with the guide was an added bonus where we learnt quite a few things about life on these local islands.
There is also a complimentary fishing activity from the resort for all guests. A gym, badminton court, sports bar were the amenities provided to relax.
A few tips & information:
The Covid Requirements:
- Negative RT-PCR reports (96-hours validity) mandatory for each and every tourist landing in Maldives
- Daily temperature checks at the restaurants in the resort
- A negative RT-PCR report to be obtained from the resort before leaving the premises. You cannot get the test done at the Male airport. If you are one of those unlucky ones then you get to quarantine at the resort at your own cost ;)
A Trip to Maldives can cost...
- Anywhere between $ 60-100 to $ 2000 a night. Depends on whether you are staying in a local guesthouse or a luxury resort. Cost varies amongst the resorts as well. The most expensive ones are the Park Hyatt, JW Marriot, Taj, and Four Seasons with prices upwards of $ 1500-2000 per night.
- Seaplane transfers cost extra. (Approx, $450 per person). If your resort is near Male, then you can opt for a boat ride too which is considerably cheaper.
- The over-water villas are the pricier ones with gorgeous views and a wonderful over-the-reef stay. One gets to descend directly into the reefs amidst the amazing flora and fauna including corals in there.
- An out-of-package 3-course meal can cost you anywhere between 100-150 $ each time. Hence, it is recommended to buy the All-Inclusive Stay Package (Do your maths here!) Breakfast is usually free for all irrespective of your package status and offers a variety of foods including Asian and Indian
- A few activities like fishing, banana boat ride, snorkelling within the reef are usually complimentary while the rest have to be paid for - Choose as per your liking.
- Dolphin watching, snorkelling in the high seas is especially recommended for those interested and cost a few hundred $ per activity or per person.
- While leaving Maldives, we had to undergo the tests at our resort at $120 per person, mandatorily. Now, we found that a bit too expensive considering we spend around only Rs 800 per person back in India..but then the rules were such that we had no other choice.
- Covid trips can prove to be expensive as the resorts can quarantine the tourists at the slightest of reasons even with a negative RT-PCR report. If someone in your activity group tested covid +ve then the others who test negative can be quarantined too.