Maldives

It’s our first wedding anniversary! Like any other couples even we were excited to go on a vacation to celebrate our first year of union. The next question is obviously where to go?? This has always been a confusion with list of destinations popping out in mind. This duration of the year (Nov-Dec) adds-on to our confusion as the climate is so amazing to travel. Whether to visit snow-capped mountains or white sandy beaches. After lots of discussion, finally we decided – its White sandy beaches…. MALDIVES!!!

Once our destination was decided, we started searching for good packages to Maldives. We came across one of the package tour operator-“HOLIDAY FACTORY” who was providing a good package well within our budget. The package included flight tickets, 3 nights and 4 days stay in 4 star hotel with breakfast. We opted for this package and booked the vouchers. It was bit tough time with the customer care team, who were unclear in responding to our queries. With long mail chains for couple of days we finally got our itinerary. To our surprise, they gave one extra night as complimentary. We were excited with this offer.

Our flight tickets were provided two days ahead of the journey. And it was “Fly Dubai” airlines. We left from Dubai at 3:45pm DST. It was our first experience traveling with Fly Dubai. The ambience and services in flight were good. All seats were provided with LCD screens. We experienced few turbulence during our flight journey. Overall it was a nice flight.

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FlyDubai
Finally we reached our destination @ 9:30pm local time. Maldives airport is simple and hassle free. In no time we cleared immigration and got our visa. Their visa is so innovative, it’s a colorful sticker depicting Maldives pictorially. In no time we got our luggage and headed towards exit where our tour package agent was waiting. It was a nice feeling when someone is waiting outside the airport for you holding a Placard board. That was the only identity for us. We could find our Hotel name on the placard-“Hotel Lonuvelli”. We approached him quickly and introduced ourselves. He gave us a warm welcome and provided us itinerary sheet for next three days in Maldives. His name was Ahmed. He was very friendly and gave us all necessary information about his country. In short a verbal Wikipedia of Maldives. It was good to hear from him. As we moved out of airport, the vehicle was waiting for us, we were accompanied by two more couples who came through Holiday factory. To our surprise, the moment airport premises ends, starts the water body…! There was narrow single lane road for vehicles to commute. Our hotel was in Hulhumale Island- the only artificial island created by land reclamation.

The moment we arrived at our hotel, we were dumbstruck by surrounding beauty, the melody of waves was soothing to ears and cool breeze was hitting our tired faces. It was a refreshing feeling. We finished all the formalities at reception counter and headed towards our room. It was 10:30pm local time. This was the most wonderful surprise we could ever get…. Beach facing room!!! Never expected… The room was clean and tidy. I liked the interior work of the room, simple yet very attractive. After a tiring busy day, with lullaby of waves we fell asleep in no time.

The oceanic beauty was humming to wake us up. We woke up to see mesmerizing beauty outside our room….. The rising sun not so harsh on us, the coconut tress dancing to music of ocean, whispering waves, crystal blue water spread miles across, white sandy beach, calmness in the weather. It seemed as if we are enjoying a beautiful painting. We were totally immersed in admiring the beauty around, that we forgot its 8AM in morning and we need to be ready by 9AM for Adventure tour. We somehow pulled ourselves from the balcony and rushed to get ready for a fun filled day ahead. We headed for our breakfast. If you are an Indian, you won’t be interested in having the breakfast provided by hotel. We somehow managed to fill our tummy and waited for Ahmed. The vehicle dropped us to a point where yacht was waiting for us. We were accompanied by people from India, Pakistan, UAE, New Zealand, Germany and Philippines. Our yacht started; we couldn’t hold back ourselves from admiring the beauty of crystal clear water, white sandy beaches along coastline, as we went further the fishes swimming across water was clearly visible through naked eyes.

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After 20mins of sailing in deep water, our yacht was anchored near a location which had coral reef underneath. Here starts our activities!!! The crew team who organized the trip, briefed us about schedule. It goes like this: – Everyone (irrespective of swimmers or non-swimmers) will have to dive into water from top of the yacht; else NO LUNCH. After diving, its turn to do snorkeling, and interested ones can go ahead with Jet Ski (Extra charges).  After all activities, lunch would be served. Listening to the schedule, it took few seconds to believe, if we really need to jump from top of yacht though you don’t know swimming and have fear of height??? But the enthusiasm among everyone was so much that you get boosted up to do this crazy thing. One by one everyone started jumping.

Once everyone were done with diving, we were provided with snorkeling kits and explained about the process. After diving into water, we all were geared up for this exciting activity. I must tell, this was first and lifetime experience. I run short of words to describe the beauty of world under water. I just loved it and would like to do it again and again. The coral reef, all sizes, colors and designs of fishes dancing around inside, feels like its only you and yourself around. You actually tend to feel your own breath, discover yourself! I was enjoying snorkeling so much that I never got to know about the time, everyone were back to yacht. Our instructor finally said, lets head back to yacht. That was when I could hear my stomach crying due to hunger. By the time we reached back, lunch was arranged. Lunch offered was OK OK…. Once all were done with lunch, we started our journey to another small island. Just to not make us sleepy after lots of fun and lunch, some good loud music was played around… Few friends from Philippines were entertaining us by their dance and having fun. Rest were busy clicking pics in all possible pose, taking selfies, staring across the ocean and enjoying its beauty.

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Lunch on board Yacht
We reached Himmafushi Island. We were given 1 hour of time to do some shopping, and enjoy time out in this small island. The entry way to this island was very creative. There were many souvenir shops around, few snacks stalls, tender coconut and ice cream outlets.  We visited two shops and bought a souvenir of Maldives. After shopping, we were chilling out on island. We saw a small bicycle parked outside a government office. We looked around for owner of this bicycle to borrow it for some time. But couldn’t find anyone. Since the bicycle was not locked, we took it for a small ride in the same premises; just to relive our innocent childhood. It was really a great time peddling that tiny bicycle. Seems crazy….but such crazy memories stays with us forever. After cycling we saw a snack stall and the aroma of that stall was literally pulling us. We visited there and had authentic Maldivian snacks- A samosa made of fish and one more snack made of egg & fish. Very different yet very yummy! We still had 20 mins to go. Our other friends of yacht were sitting there waiting. I joined them, exchanged greetings and started our chit chat in no time. It was great time talking to those gentlemen from NZ and Germany respectively. Meanwhile one of our other trip member from UAE joined us. It was short time but nice to know people with different geography, work and culture.

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@Himmafushi Island
We all returned back to our yacht and continued our journey back to Hulhumale.  On our way back we had amazing time watching many dolphins dancing around in midst of ocean. In short we were surrounded by so many dolphins. I fall short of words to express the excitement and happiness viewing dolphins having great fun to the music being played in yacht. Its mesmerizing view to see the dolphins dance. I’m sure we cannot get such views in any organized shows or aquariums. After an amazing view of beautiful sunset, the winds became strong and waves were raising higher and higher. The UAE couple shared very interesting stories about fishing, swimming etc…. Ms. Huda was walking Wikipedia about fishes and their dishes. She was sharing tips about which fish tastes good and how it needs to be cooked to make it taste better.

With these memorable moments and amazing views, we reached back to Hulhumale. We started our trip as strangers and by the time we returned back, we all had a different but memorable bond with everyone in yacht. With lots of wonderful memories we returned back to our hotel by 7pm. We refreshed ourselves and left for dinner to a restaurant – “Pilawoos” suggested by one of our UAE buddy. After having the first bite, we were literally thanking him for suggesting us such a wonderful place. We had tummy full of yummy dinner!!!

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Yummy Food @Pilawoos
We had a walk along the beach for quite some time and returned back to our room by 9:30pm. We were still discussing the whole day’s activities, our new friends and their nature, the beauty of Maldives etc… we dint realize when we fell asleep. The next day we had plans of Male city visit.

Next morning we woke up with the sound of showers from rain god. It was very damp early in the morning. We had our breakfast by 8:30AM and waited for rain to stop. By around 10:30AM, the sky was totally clear, seems as if there was no rain at all and the sun is shining bright in sky. By 11AM the temperature also picked up. That’s the beauty of this country; unpredictable weather. However we had postponed our Male city visit to afternoon.

There were frequent motor boats from and to Male. These boats are major mode of transport for the people traveling from Hulhumale to Male and vice versa. The terminal made for this service is really good, and crowd management is done very well. We were accompanied by a guide and one Pakistani family who were from Dubai.  We reached Male by 3 pm. Male is capital of Maldives having area of 5.5 square kms only! It’s very small and over populated island. The city has very narrow lanes that one finds it difficult to walk along. I would suggest not to hire a guide for such small place. Its waste of time and money ($10 per person). The guide we hired was very lazy and knew nothing; I was frustrated and said him that we would manage on our own and see you back at the Male terminal.

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Mr. Guide!
We were very hungry and literally looking for some local restaurant to have authentic Maldivian lunch. But, hard luck we couldn’t find any such restaurant. Indian and Mughal cuisines are very common there. Since our stomach was growling we quickly found a good restaurant-“Lemon grass” and ordered a south Indian famous dish-“chicken kottu”.

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Egg Kottu@Lemongrass Restaurant
It tasted very good. We had tough time communicating with the people in Male. It’s very hard to convey them what we wanted or what we are looking for. We had done our homework on Male city and its places of interest. When we started exploring and asking people for the directions, hardly anyone were able to understand what we were looking for. Few of them understood, but couldn’t reply back. We managed to visit Friday mosque, president office, fish & vegetables market, and back to terminal. We returned back to Hulhumale by 8pm and headed for dinner at Pilawoos. This was a good restaurant in the surroundings with reasonable prices. But had to wait for almost 20-30mins after ordering. Hence patience is the key to enjoy yummy food. After a short walk along the beach, we went back to room.

 

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View of Male City

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@Male City
Another lazy start for the day, woke up by 7:40AM with a bright sunshine peeping through the windows. After quick and boring breakfast we headed to beach. Since it was Friday, all the localities were out with their families. Aft one hour of fun at beach, we came back to hotel. We tried lunch at a local and not so famous restaurant (Google also can’t find this restaurant) – “TEA TIME”; run by group of Bangladeshi. The food tasted yummy!! Prices are half of the regular tourist restaurant. Post lunch, took a walk around Hulhumale streets. The island is well planned and developed with spacious roads, colorful buildings, and open air gym parks, play area for kids, and beach line for evening walk. It’s interesting to notice that most of the two wheeler are very funky mopeds. This particular moped caught my attention very much. It was 6 in the evening with a view of beautiful sunset at beach when we headed back to our hotel. We returned back to TEA TIME for dinner. Do not forget to try tuna fish fry here…

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Tuna Fish Fry
The last day of our vacation! We spent this day having leisure time in hotel, walking along the beach, playing in water for some time, collecting so many shells of various designs, shapes and colors. Taking white sand from here as a memory of Maldives. Visited TEA TIME for one last time for lunch, before we leave from Maldives. For dinner we went to Pilawoos. After having a great time in Maldives it was time to say GOOD BYE which is never easy. I was feeling so low deep inside my heart thinking of going back to same old boring and hectic routine. But consoled myself telling, every trip has to end, so that you have another brand new exciting trip awaiting……that’s life!!! We checked out of Hotel by 7:30pm and reached airport by 8pm. Our flight took off from Male Airport at 10pm, and we reached Dubai by 5AM next day.

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General points: 

  • Visa: visa is on arrival for all nationalities & no visa fees. Reaching Maldives: Major airlines fly directly to Male airport-INIA. (We flew in by Fly Dubai airlines from DXB)

 

  • Stay: opt for packages to avail better discounts. Select beach facing hotel to enjoy your stay at Maldives. ( we stayed at Lonuvelli hotel)

 

  • Food: Opt for local Maldivian food which is rich in tuna fish. There are many restaurants which serve all major cuisines.

 

  • People: People are very friendly and they go about their work without disturbing others. Very few speak fluent English; the rest manage to assist you with signs.

 

  • Currency: only US dollars (USD) and Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) is used for all transactions. Debit & credit cards may be of little or no use. Carry as much as cash in your hand
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