The Maldives has been on my travel list since forever. I know you are thinking that this place is a misplacement for a budget travel blog. I would be lying if I say that I did not get even a little disappointed after I came across the property rates of all the exotic resorts. Hence, no prizes for guessing, my stay search began on Airbnb and I got a good deal at a property that costed me ~3k INR/night on a local island, Maafushi. Experiencing local food and culture get the major weight-age, on all of my trips. So, this stay was a win-win-win!! I was excited about meeting the local people, experience their livelihood firsthand and most importantly, I wanted to eat delicious home-grown seafood.
After a much-awaited 1 hour 40 mins flight, I could see the placid Indian Ocean dotted with infinitesimal islands. The flight landing view was stunning with the ocean on one side and the tiny airport on the other and it took us a mere 15 mins stroll through the airport, to find ourselves walking towards the picturesque jetty. With a standard fare of 20$ per head one way, Maafushi was about a 45 mins speed boat ride from the airport and we reached just in time for the gorgeous sunset. This local island stretches about a kilometer in length, so locating our hotel on foot was easy-peasy! We were quite skeptical about our stay initially (keeping in mind the major cost difference between our stay and that of the resorts’), however, we breathed a sigh of relief on reaching our property. Our cove was loaded with all the basics amenities one would need to live comfortably. While researching before the trip, we found iCOM tours, a travel agency, based out of Male who have offices across all the local islands, offering day trip packages and so after a quick freshening up we went on iCOM hunt. We were not disappointed and quickly booked ourselves snorkeling trips. We were hungry and quickly headed towards discovering some yummy treats. Zomato guided us with the best on the island and we perched ourselves at an eatery named “Suzy’s Café Quench” and gorged on Special Maldivian Fish Curry and Valhomas (smoked tuna) Noddle.
Sunset at Maafushi Jetty
I am an early riser and started day 2 with the hunt for “Bikini Beach”. Just to let everyone know, moving around on an island in swimwear is not appreciated and hence bikini beach to the rescue. I went alone, walked past the mini school building, then the collectors’ office, a long array of small supermarket stores selling souvenirs and snorkeling gear and could see the white sand-laden stretch with a gorgeous backdrop of 50 shades of blue. After a few quick captures at the beach, I headed back as we were to leave for our snorkeling trip for the day. The full-day trip cost us 50$ each which included our entire snorkel kit with fins and life jackets, bottles of water to keep us hydrated, towels and lunch with fruit and beverage. We began our trip on time and the boat first took us to the coral garden and believe me, I would not be doing justice if I described it as anything less than heaven underwater as it was completely meditative. It was a bright sunny day which worked in our favour. The colourful corals and everything underneath appeared incredible against the pristine blue colour of the water. Luck was really favouring us that day as we got to see hundreds of Dolphins, willfully playing and somersaulting while we watched in awe. I was dreading the next one on our agenda, swimming with sharks! After much consoling, I decided to give it a try and jumped right in and to add to my agony there were at least 20 sharks swimming right underneath the surface. The ocean was turbulent, sharks twice my size whirling in the blue waters while being fed raw sea fish as bait. I was having a major adrenaline rush, while Pradeep enjoyed this bit the most. We ended the day trip with lunch at a sandbank, which are epically attractive tiny stretches of white sand which mingle into the endless blue. We were craving junk that night after a whole day of swimming and satiated on a fish burger each with fresh fruit juice.
Swimming with Sharks
We booked ourselves a fancy day trip at a five-star resort with water villas, private white sand beaches accompanied by fancy cocktail bars at Aadaran Club Rannalhi for day 3. In my opinion, we got a sweet deal at 100$ per head including breakfast, lunch, and snacks with unlimited options of drinks, provision of sunbathing chairs on a private beach, the return commute from the resort, so basically we were free to avail any facility on the resort excluding the night stay. A 30-minute ride later, we reached Rannalhi and received a very warm welcome by the staff who also served fancy Iced Teas and a small briefing of do’s and don’ts around the resort. We started with an upmarket breakfast of tuna samosa, some crunchy cheese sandwiches, and coffee and then we set out to explore the island. On such a trip, we could experience it all, we strolled through the quaint beaches, marveled at the splendid water villas and then spent the rest of the day swimming or relaxing under a shady tree listening to the sound of crashing waves. Of course, last but not the least, we treated ourselves at the graciously spread lunch buffet. We headed back to our BnB bidding adieu to Rannalhi after sunset.
Aadaran Club Rannalhi
At Aadaran Club Rannalhi
I was really looking forward to the snorkeling trip on Day 4 as that day’s itinerary included reeling with turtles explicitly and we headed towards Biyadhoo lagoon to start off. If there was a vending machine that dispensed healthy doses of life underwater and blue, it would fit right in at the Maldives. I experienced my very own “Finding Nemo” moment at almost every corner you turn at this Biyadhoo Corals, aside to spotting Eels and many other rare species of fish and mammals. Pradeep suddenly nudged me and I looked ahead and there it was, glowing like an incandescent bulb against the deep blue, gliding sloppily, an immense Green turtle. We followed it for a considerable distance before heading back to our boat. We headed for lunch on a different sandbank that day along with a different menu and our guide was gracious enough to click some good pictures of us. We concluded the last day sipping coffee gazing at the stunning sunset, with numerous catamarans sailing into the horizon followed by an elaborate buffet at Arena Beach Resort.
Snorkeling at Biyadhoo
Snorkeling at Biyadhoo
Hoping to see you soon, Maldives!!
Trip duration - 5 days and 4 nights
Airbnb Stay - INR 15,000
Flights (2 ways) - INR 30,000
Food - INR 3,500
Basic expense total - INR 48,500 for 2 people
Under-water activities with photos and videos - INR 10,800
Day trip to Resort - INR 14,400
Additional expense - INR 25,200 for 2 people
Equator Villa @INR 3k per night
Kurumba Villa @INR5k per night
Beachwood hotel @INR 4k per night
Arena beach hotel @INR 7k per night
Kaani beach hotel @INR 7k per night
Kuredhi @5k per night
Suzy's Cafe Quench
@INR 350 per head
Maldivian Fish Curry & Valhomas Noodle
Arena Beach Hotel
@$12 per head for dinner buffet
Valhomas Fried Rice and Fish Fillet burger with fresh fruit juice
Full day trip
@$50 per head by iCom Tours
Half day trip
@$25 per head by iCom Tours
Full day resort trip
@$100-130 per head all inclusive also by iCom Tours