This post is coming a year after the trip, but I can safely claim that I’m still basking in the warmth of that glorious sun!
The beautiful island nation of Maldives was our destination of choice for our honeymoon last February. And, why not? It is nothing short of a lovers’ paradise! With clear blue water and some of the most well-maintained and picturesque beaches, it turned out to be the perfect honeymoon spot for a couple like us. Why do I say, “for a couple like us”? Put in simple words – we wanted to chill. No shopping, no partying, no touristy sightseeing. All we wanted was to just soak in the natural beauty around and rejuvenate after a tiring week of wedding festivities. Maldives gave us all of that and much more. Also, a free Visa on Arrival doesn’t hurt! 😉
Neil and I started planning our trip well in advance. I have to admit, the early planning worked like a charm! We are based out of Pune, so the initial plan was to fly to Kochi, halt overnight and then fly to Male with Spicejet. The route for the return journey was the same- Male-Kochi-Pune. But the overnight halt at Kochi both ways was something we weren’t too keen on. With limited leaves in hand, we wanted to spend the most number of days in Maldives, and this air route was eating away 2 precious days. A few extra hours of online research later, we found that Air India also flies to Male from Bangalore. That worked perfectly for us – Pune and Bangalore are a lot more connected than Pune and Kochi are. That would save us the overnight stays during transit.
Next task in line was finding and booking accommodation. Preliminary research told us there are two kinds of accommodation available in the Maldives – Island Resorts (typically, one humongous resort per island), and smaller hotels on local islands (inhabited by Maldivians). February-March is peak tourist season in Maldives, and we wanted to ensure we get reasonable rates to stick to our budget (quite meager, if I may add).
Now, there are a few things you should keep in mind while choosing between the two kinds of accommodation I mentioned above.
Broadly speaking, the smaller hotels on the local islands are relatively cheaper than the island resorts (with a few exceptions, of course). The reasons are pretty obvious. The island resorts give you privacy and exclusivity. You have access to beaches that other travelers do not have, just by virtue of putting up with a specific resort. Moreover, these island properties and the beaches are extremely well maintained. Some of these resorts even have a house reef (a coral reef surrounding the periphery of the island), that can be accessed all day long. No need to get on a boat to sail away in the middle of the ocean to find snorkeling spots!
2Access to alcohol
Excuse me, but before you judge me and roll your eyes, let me tell you, this is a potential deal breaker for many tourists. Anyhow, Maldives being a Muslim state, has a ban on serving any kind of alcoholic beverages on any of its islands where locals reside. So if you’d like to have a drink or three, head straight to one of the island resorts. As mentioned before, these islands only house resorts for tourists and hence hold alcohol permits. (Let all those sundowner dreams on a remote island kick in right about now)
This is appearing last, but is one of the key points of consideration when choosing between private islands and their local counterparts. The islands resorts are pretty self-sufficient, more so if they have a house reef. Sun-bathing, snorkeling, jet-skiing etc. are sorted. The only thing missing is access to some kind of shopping (apart from the resort’s souvenir shop), if you’re keen. The local islands, on the contrary, have lots of restaurants and more number of souvenir as well as convenience stores. However, a stay on a local island would also need you to plan some additional outdoor activities like snorkeling trips, island hopping or visits to one of the resort islands. Most hotels will have their own tour/activity packages that you can pick and choose from.
Our preliminary search made the island resorts seem way beyond our budget, and we almost convinced ourselves to stick to a reasonably priced hotel on the very popular local island called Maafushi. UNTIL, Neil came across a small island called Eriyadu, which housed one of the quaintest, most charming beach resorts I had ever seen/visited! The resort happened to be running a flash deal of a massive 60% discount on their room rates when we spotted it, and that was it. Hitting the “Book Now” button didn’t take us long, even in the middle of that busy work day.
This entire phase, starting with research and ending with the purchase of air tickets and booking accommodation, took us a good 3 months. More details of the actual trip coming up in the next post!
But before I end, here are a few quick Travel Hacks that should be of good use if you’re planning a trip to this little piece of heaven:
# As opposed to the conventional notion, you CAN accommodate a trip to the Maldives within a reasonable budget. To put down in simpler terms, our 5 nights/6 days trip cost us about INR 1.1 Lakhs (all inclusive for a couple). Just start planning about 6 months in advance in order to get the best deals within your budget
# Try different permutations & combinations of flights instead of sticking to the usuals, depending on your base location. E.g. – Pune-Kochi-Male vs Pune-Bangalore-Male. It’ll help you make a better decision.
# TripAdvisor is a great platform to find out which hotel/resort fits your needs, and it also helps you compare prices across different portals
# Ask your hotel/resort manager for details on activity packages they have on offer before you arrive, if at all you’re interested. It’ll help you plan your time there. (Unless you’re like us, who just wanted to chill, remember? 😉