A Dhoni cruise is probably the most original way to experience the Maldives. Dhonis are the traditional boats of the Maldives and were formerly mainly used for fishing. Now, you can take a multi-day boat trip with a modernized Dhoni and experience the Maldives off the beaten path. Equipped with tips from other travel bloggers for the Maldives, my boyfriend and I went on a seven-day Dhoni cruise through the South Malé Atoll in March 2019. On this trip
- you will visit inhabited and uninhabited local islands,
- you can relax on remote sandbanks and at lonely beaches,
- you will discover the underwater world and the coral reefs of the Maldives on your daily snorkeling trips. You will encounter colorful fish, crustaceans, octopuses, and turtles and, with a little luck, even dolphins, nurse sharks, spiny and manta rays,
- you will anchor in bays at night where you will spend the night on the Dhoni,
- you can enjoy the local cuisine.
Arrival in Malé – Day 1
You should book your flight so that you land at the Malé Velana International Airport (IATA code: MLE), also known as Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, no later than 10.30 AM on the day of arrival. You will meet your local Maldivian tour guide, also known as the Chief Experience Officer (CEO), and your fellow travellers from different countries in the arrival hall of the airport. The airport is located on the island of Hulhulé. Here you have the opportunity to buy a local SIM card, bug spray, and sunscreen. You will then be transferred by boat to your Dhoni from the nearby jetty.
In order to save you unnecessary stress in the event of a flight delay, it is advisable to arrive one day before the actual day of arrival. This is how you can explore the capital Malé, which is located on the island of Hulhumalé. From Hulhulé you can take a taxi or an airport transfer over the Sinamalé Bridge to Hulhumalé in fifteen minutes. My boyfriend and I arrived the day before and stayed at The Beehive* hotel. In the evening we walked through Malé and had dinner at a local restaurant. On the actual day of arrival, however, you have to go back to the airport, because that is the meeting point for the group.
After you moved into your cabin on the Dhoni and explored the boat, the Dhoni casts off. Over a welcome drink, you will get to know your CEO and your fellow travellers. Your CEO will also discuss the itinerary for the next seven days with you. Your itinerary will likely be very similar to ours, but there may be differences due to weather or for other reasons.
With our Dhoni, we went past several inhabited and uninhabited tropical islands on the first day and anchored near a remote sandbank. We headed there with the Dhingi. We spent some time on the sandbank and then snorkeled back to the boat. We saw countless colorful fish and crustaceans. Of course, you can also take the Dhingi back to the Dhoni. Note that you will occasionally wade through shallow water not only here but throughout the Dhoni cruise. Therefore, you should take a waterproof bag or pouch with you, in which you can store your most important things e.g. your camera.
In the late afternoon, we anchored in a bay off the island of Mahaanaelhihuraa. We were lucky that several dozen dolphins suddenly swam around our boat for a long period of time. In the evening we experienced the first of several wonderfully beautiful sunsets on this trip.
Turtle Reef and Kudiboli Island – Day 2
The dolphins were still there or back again the next morning. After breakfast, we cast off and headed to a turtle reef where we went on a snorkeling trip along the reef. We were accompanied by our CEO Suja and the Maldivian captain of our Dhoni Hussain. Here, too, we saw numerous colorful fish and crustaceans, but also octopuses, and even a few turtles.
In the afternoon we anchored close to the diving paradise Kudiboli, where we also snorkeled. Again we met countless colorful fish and crustaceans, cuttlefish, and turtles.
Anbaraa Island und Bodu Mohoraa Island – Day 3
Following our morning snorkeling excursion, we visited the uninhabited island of Anbaraa. There we strolled along the beach and took a walk on a sandbank that led from the island into the sea.
After snorkeling a second time in the afternoon, we continued our journey to the uninhabited island of Bodu Mohoraa. We anchored a little way from the island and took the Dhingi to get there. While we were exploring the island, the crew of our Dhoni prepared a lovingly decorated dinner for us on the beach. With this, they surprised us when we returned to the beach. During the sunset and later by candlelight, we ended the evening on the island.
Shipwreck close to Keyodhoo Island and Felidhoo Island – Day 4
That day we anchored near Keyodhoo Island and snorkeled at a shipwreck. It was mostly submerged in the water, but the bow protruded out of the water.
After our afternoon snorkeling excursion, we visited the inhabited island of Felidhoo. We anchored in the island’s fishing port and took a tour of the island with our CEO Suja.
Hulhidhoo Reef, Alimathaa Resort and Fulidhoo Island – Day 5
In the morning we snorkeled along the Hulhidhoo Reef before continuing to Alimathaa Island. During our snorkeling excursion at the Alimathaa Resort, we encountered several nurse sharks. They are completely harmless, so you can swim, snorkel and dive with them without hesitation.
In the afternoon we anchored off the inhabited island of Fulidhoo. Together with our CEO, we explored the island. After dinner on our Dhoni, we returned to Fulidhoo in the evening. During the crossing from our Dhoni with the Dhingi to the island of Fulidhoo we saw several stingrays. A Bodu Beru drum performance awaited us on Fulidhoo Island. The Bodu Beru is the traditional Maldivian drum made from the trunk of the coconut palm. The performance was a mixture of music and dance. Originally the melodies and rhythms of the Bodu Berus probably come from southern and eastern Africa.
Turtle Reef, Embudu Island, and a night in a lagoon – Day 6
In the morning we snorkeled along another turtle reef. As on all snorkeling excursions on our Dhoni cruise, we were accompanied by our CEO Suja and our captain Hussain.
Then we continued our journey towards Embudu Island. During the trip, our crew kept an eye out for manta rays, which you may encounter here with a little luck. And indeed, near the island of Embudu, a group of manta rays approached our Dhoni. We had the opportunity to swim and snorkel with them for quite a while. For us, this was the absolute highlight of our trip.
On our last night, we anchored in a lagoon. In the early evening, our South Indian cook Vijay initiated my boyfriend and me into the South Indian cuisine at our request. For our farewell dinner, he cooked a special menu for us and our crew had lovingly decorated the table. After dinner, we all sat together and let the trip end.
Departure day or individual follow-up program – Day 7
Our trip ended after breakfast at around 9.30 AM when we returned to Malé. After taking a few farewell photos, we were taken to Malé International Airport, where our trip ended. Please note that you should book your return flight or your individual follow-up program for the time after 12 PM.
Your fellow travellers
Your fellow travellers on this type of adventure travel are usually between the ages of 20 and mid-sixties, but sometimes also older or younger people travel with you. Generally, they are all very open-minded and bring along a certain level of thirst for adventure.
The traditional Dhoni offers space for eight travellers, the premium dhoni is designed for 14 passengers. We did the Dhoni cruise with the traditional Dhoni. Our group consisted of only three participants including my boyfriend and me. Our fellow traveller was a thirty-year-old Swiss guy with whom we got along well. At the time of travel, we were 41 and 42 years old.
On the traditional Dhoni, there are a total of five crew members with your CEO, the captain, the cook, and two sailors. The crew on the premium Dhoni consists of your CEO, the captain, the cook, and three other crew members.
Despite our small group size, our crew consisted of the five crew members that we would have had if our tour with eight participants had been booked out. Our CEO Suja was a young Maldivian in his twenties. Our captain Hussain also came from the Maldives. Both of them accompanied us on all of our snorkeling trips. They dived with our waterproof cameras and took photos for us if there was something to photograph a little further down that we couldn’t capture while snorkeling.
Our chef Vijay came from South India and provided us with delicious food and drinks throughout the trip. The two sailors Azeez and Asad came from Bangladesh and were always there for us. The entire crew always tried to make our wishes possible. They made our trip unique, absolutely wonderful, and unforgettable.
You have the choice of whether you prefer to do the Dhoni cruise with a traditional Dhoni or the premium Dhoni. The premium Dhoni is larger, a little more comfortable, and offers more storage space than the traditional Dhoni. Of course, the journey with the premium Dhoni is correspondingly more expensive than the cruise with the traditional Dhoni.
We took the trip with the traditional Dhoni because we were attracted by the more original variant of this cruise, the boat, and the smaller group size. We were very satisfied with our decision, can only recommend it to others and would even do this trip again.
The traditional Dhoni
The traditional Dhoni is 11 meters long and has four twin or double cabins for a total of eight passengers on the lower deck. Each cabin has its own bathroom, a narrow side window, and a lifting roof. If you are travelling alone, you will share the cabin with a fellow traveller of the same sex. But if you prefer you can also pay a surcharge for single use of the cabin.
On the main deck, there is a covered dining area in the rear outside, where we had our main meals. Inside are the captain’s bridge, the kitchen, and a small seating area. Furthermore, in the front area of the main deck, there is a covered seating area with a table, a lounger area, and folding loungers, as well as an uncovered sun deck. You can also sunbathe on the uncovered upper deck.
Please note that there is no WiFi on the traditional Dhoni. If you want to use the Internet during your trip, you should buy a local SIM card before you travel or on the day of your arrival at the airport. The best thing to do is to ask your CEO about the wireless company with the best internet connection. I did that and the internet connection was good to very good even when we travelled between islands.
The premium Dhoni
The premium Dhoni is 27 meters long and has four twin cabins with bunk beds, two triple cabins with a double and a single bed, and a twin cabin with two single beds on the lower deck. All cabins have their own bathroom. They are slightly larger than on the traditional Dhoni.
On the main deck, there is a covered outside lounge at the rear. Inside is the captain’s bridge. There is also a covered lounge and an uncovered sun deck in the front area.
You can also sunbathe on the uncovered upper deck. Just like the traditional Dhoni, the premium Dhoni has both snorkeling and fishing equipment.
Food and Drinks
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included during the Dhoni cruise. You will get lunch and dinner on the day of arrival and breakfast on the day of departure. In addition to the three daily meals, our crew served us coffee and tea after lunch and dinner as well as cocoa in the evening. We also got fresh juice and fresh fruits between breakfast and lunch, as well as coffee and tea as well as cake or pastries in the afternoon. Only alcoholic beverages and soft drinks cost extra.
Since you will be on the water for a large part of the cruise, there are often fish dishes for lunch and dinner. The fish is caught by the crew themselves. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, do not like fish, or have allergies, you should definitely state this when booking your trip. This will be taken into account on the trip.
At the beginning of the Dhoni cruise, we were given a drinking bottle. We were able to refill this at any time at the drinking water dispenser inside on the main deck. To be on the safe side, you should bring your own drinking bottle with you.
The best travel time for the Maldives
The best time to travel to the Maldives is between November and April. March is considered the best month to travel. We were there in March and had very good weather.
The rainy season is between May and October. During this time there can be rain, thunderstorms, and storms more often. If you can, you should avoid this time for your trip.
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