Turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and glass-bottomed overwater bungalows – this is what comes into many people’s mind when thinking of the Maldives. But the Maldives has a lot more to offer. The archipelago consists of 1196 islands and several atolls and is located southwest of India and Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. In this article, travel bloggers from around the world reveal their tips for the Maldives.
I have been dreaming of travelling to the Maldives for many years. And now, the time has come. I arrived in the Maldives two days ago. But unlike usual, I am not travelling alone this time. This time, my boyfriend travels with me. To prepare for this trip, I asked a few other travel bloggers who have already been here for their tips for the Maldives.
Paradise and Peace
Who does not dream of the Maldives? White sandy beaches, endless views of the sea, palm trees that seem to rise into the water and turquoise-colored water as far as the eye can see. An underwater world teeming with colorful fish and the most colourful coral reefs. Sunsets which colour the sky in the coolest red and orange tones evening after evening. Candle-light dinners which you can enjoy right on the beach by the light of candles and the most magnificent starry sky. Do you imagine the Maldives like that? Yes? This is exactly how it is and it is even more beautiful. The Maldives has something to do with enjoyment, enjoying the game of nature around you. Feeling the sand between your toes and watching the colours of the sea, this is what makes you forget the stress of everyday life and leave behind all that at home.
The Maldives is not only for honeymooners but also for people who are looking for paradise and peace. The Maldives truly has a lot to offer.
This tip is from Katrin from Koffer on Tour.
Photo: Koffer on Tour
Many travelers believe that staying at a luxury resort in the Maldives will restrict them to a small island with limited activities to do around. However, if you are an adventure seeker then you will not be disappointed in the Maldives. One of the things to keep you busy and entertained at a luxury resort is the many water activities in the Maldives to enjoy. Irrespective of how good of a swimmer you are there is always some water activities to enjoy in the Maldives. The underwater life of the Maldives is unparalleled to none. If you are an avid diver, then you should definitely consider diving in the Maldives. If not, then still there many fun water activities to indulge into like kayaking and snorkeling. You can also consider parasailing in the Maldives. Seeing the tiny islands surrounded by the turquoise colored Indian Ocean water is a unique experience.
This tip is from Rhama from The Sane Adventurer.
Photo: The Sane Adventurer
Swimming with Manta Rays
One of the most magnificent experiences one can participate in while visiting the Maldives is the opportunity to swim with the birds of the ocean, Manta Rays. There are a few islands that offer the chance to get up close and personal with these gentle giants, including Dhigurah, Hanifaru Bay and Ukulhas. I had the pleasure of swimming with these creatures off the coast of Ukulhas, which is one of the Maldives’ less developed local islands. The sleepy island of Ukulhas is a small island located in the Alif Alif Atoll (an Atoll is a collective group of islands) with a population of a little over 1000 people and can be reached by local boat or speedboat from the capital Male. There is a plankton-rich feeding spot located a few kilometres off the coast of the island where Manta Rays gather for their morning feed. Take a local boat tour (Cost ~70USD) out during the morning to witness the feeding and watch as the playful Manta Rays feed and dance around you.
Villimale is a short 15-minute boat ride from Male and makes for the perfect day trip to gain insight into the local lives of the Maldivian people. Eco-tourism company Secret Paradise Maldives offers tours to the island that include the opportunity to snorkel a reef rehabilitation project (coral nursery) created by activists from NGO Save the Beach, helping to reverse the damage coral bleaching has caused on the reefs here.
Since 2014 coral bleaching has severely affected between 60-90 percent of the Maldives reefs, causing a strain on the natural ocean ecosystem and threatening the biodiversity of these islands. During the tour, you have the chance to learn about how the coral reefs play a major role in sustaining an abundant fish population, one of the main sources of protein for the Maldivian people.
This tip is from Bianca from The Altruistic Traveller.
Photo: The Altruistic Traveller
The Maldives is simply a dream destination. For years, I dreamed of getting the chance to experience the white dreamy beaches of this country myself, which is why I applied for an internship in the Maldives for my practical semester. In this way, I could spend three months in this wonderful place. Besides my 48-hour work week, I had enough time to try out many cool activities which were offered on the tourist islands. My favorite was by far snorkeling with manta rays. The manta season depends on the atoll where your island is located. But if it is the right season you should definitely join a manta snorkeling tour.
A speed boat takes you to a place where the impressive animals are often spotted. Since these are wild animals you don’t always encounter them. But when they are spotted in the water you should put on your fins and get into the water. It’s an incredible feeling to swim with these big animals. However, you should follow a few basic rules that are explained to you before (for example, you should not touch the animals).
If you have the chance to take a manta snorkeling tour, you should definitely take it – it is an indescribable experience.
This tip is from Vicki from Vicki Viaja.
Regardless of whether you are staying at a luxury resort, a local island or if you are taking a liveaboard – the Indian Ocean and its underwater world is for everyone! In the Maldives, it can be easily explored by snorkeling. You do not need any training, no super expensive equipment nor “special knowledge”. What I recommend is to bring your own diving mask and your own snorkel. The glasses should fit well. Small tip: just hold the mask on your face and inhale. Do the glasses fit? Then it’s the right size for your face. For example, I wear children’s glasses because I have a narrow head shape. An alternative may also be a complete face mask that has been offered for the past few years. You can usually borrow fins everywhere.
You can start your first snorkeling tour from the beach. This is how you can set your pace and you can see how far away you want to go. There is something intimidating about looking over the reef edge into the open, deep blue ocean for the first time. Maybe you feel a flow. Just try how it feels to float and how hard it is for you to swim against it.
The first excitement is over? Then immerse yourself into a fascinating underwater world and be enchanted!
This tip is from Josefine from Fine on Tour.
Photo: Fine on Tour
The Maldives is the perfect place to learn to dive. Clear blue waters, lots of wildlife and fish as well as warm sunshine after your dives. The Maldives has given me some of the best diving and greatest underwater experiences I have ever had. If you are learning to dive or going to the Maldives for diving then you do need to think about a few things. Make sure that you talk to the dive centre before you go. You can get a good feel for their attitude just from a few email messages. Tell them your experience and what you like doing. Find out about how their packages work – are you paying for just the dives or diving plus equipment. Group size is always important as well. Small group sizes, especially if you are diving with manta rays or whale sharks is essential to protect the habitat and the creatures themselves. If you are learning find somewhere that will allow you to complete the theory before you arrive. This means you are not wasting valuable holiday time in a classroom and can get straight into the water. With a little planning the Maldives can provide some of the best diving in the world.
This tip is from Suzanne from Meandering Wild.
Photo: Meandering Wild
The Maldives may be associated with luxurious resorts in a picturesque island paradise, but for scuba divers, this island nation is also a unique destination for some of the best diving in the world! One of the best ways to explore beyond the surface in the Maldives is by spending a week on a scuba diving liveaboard boat. This way, you can visit multiple amazing dives sites with a guide, as well as several different islands and even experience the local community!
We traveled on the Emperor Leo Liveaboard for a week. In addition to diving, this liveaboard includes accommodations, onboard meals, and rental equipment, if you need it. Most importantly, you get to meet thousands of the Maldives’ underwater residents, including the Napoleon Wrasse, manta rays, and even whale sharks! It is definitely a sight that you won’t soon forget.
The boat brought us ashore a few times, including for a beach barbecue and a visit to a local village. While those might not be what you have in mind on a scuba diving liveaboard, they add flavor to an already incredible Maldives experience!
This tip is from Halef and Michael from The Round The World Guys.
Photo: The Round The World Guys
Sunset Cruise in the South Ari Atoll
Mention the Maldives and the image projected in people’s minds is that of white sandy beaches, with the sun sparkling off the turquoise waters surrounding the atolls. While this is indeed true, and while the Maldives is primarily a beach lover’s paradise, there is so much more to do here than you would think.
During our time in the Maldives, as well as the usual activities like snorkeling and scuba diving, we also took a sunset cruise out into the ocean. Watching the sun setting beyond the lonely islands and turning the sky from a clear blue into a deep golden hue will cause you to think that you are truly in the world’s most beautiful place right at that moment.
Get lucky and you will be joined by pods of inquisitive dolphins, coming to see who you are and why you are trespassing on their playground. Hearing your reactions to their playfulness they will be encouraged to jump close to the boat, swim underneath and rise from the other side, and generally entertain you. Being a highly intelligent creature, they thrive on attention like a child does, and the more you react to them the more they want to impress you.
If the island you are staying on has the option of doing a sunset cruise, it is certainly a beautiful way to spend an evening.
This tip is from Martin from Breaking Barriers.
Photo: Breaking Barriers
Picnic on a Sandbank
What could be more amazing and exciting than spending your holidays on one of the many beautiful islands of the Maldives? It is easy to have your own little island all to yourself! Granted, it is not that easy, but with a little luck and the right tips from the locals, it is possible.
There are a number of small sandbanks on the Maldives where you can have a great sandbank picnic. You can book these tours almost everywhere. Usually, a speedboat will take you to one of the sandbanks and for a few hours, the sandbank will be your own, including the wonderful turquoise sea around you.
Depending on the provider or region, it may happen that you have to share the sandbank with other people. It is best to talk about your expectations with the provider before booking the tour. And do not forget the snorkeling gear. With a little luck and the right island, you have the chance to extensively explore the wonderful underwater world. For us, the trip was one of the absolute highlights of our Maldives trip.
One more tip: Make sure that – depending on the weather – the provider doesn’t leave you alone. A storm can rise faster than you can imagine. We experienced that ourselves and were glad to be picked up in time.
This tip is from Michael from Erkunde die Welt.
Photo: Erkunde die Welt
The Local Islands
Paradise beaches? The clearest turquoise water? People often think the Maldives is a honeymoon destination and only filled with super expensive resorts but there is so much more to this amazing place. With this post, I’ll share tips for visiting the local way.
There are so many beautiful islands so you will find one local one that suits you best. Staying on a local island will give you a chance to see how locals really live and connect with them. Meeting local people and making friends will be the biggest thing when you go outside the resorts.
Go check out Airbnb that is filled with local options! To give you an example I stayed with a local family in Male and found the cutest little guest house in Maafushi with the fraction of the cost for the resorts.
For a local island on the Maldives, my tip would also be to support local business by choosing them instead of international chains. This will bring the living to locals, keep them in business and they are the best guides you have for anything on the islands.
In the Maldives, the nature and sea life are the number one thing and these you can enjoy on any island.
Many guesthouses have snorkeling gear and they might even go with you to show you around! On the biggest island, there are also local tour company’s offering daily trips for snorkeling, diving and sandbanks so you’re not missing out on these while staying local.
Living on the island means lots of fresh seafood so make sure you stop by to enjoy local little restaurants for taste memories.
During your trip make the effort to talk to local shop keepers and business owners to hear more about their life on the island. I promise this will make everything much more interesting. You could even try to visit a local school to connect with the locals.
Staying on a local island will make your trip a different life long memory.
Go enjoy the paradise!
This tip is from Tuija from Palm Tree Babe.
Foto: Tuija Seppälä
If you are visiting the Maldives, it would be a crime not to learn more about the country and its people. And there is no better way to do that than to visit a local island.
In recent years, the restriction on foreigners staying overnight on the islands has been lifted, and bed & breakfast accommodation is springing up in many villages. But a visit to a local island is still a step into another world. Wander unpaved streets between colourful homes; meet local men in sarongs and local children playing in the sand. All Maldivians are Muslim, and local ladies will be in hijab; be respectful of photographing anyone, but especially the women. However, friendly smiles are everywhere. When I visited, I came across a group of women playing a ball game on the beach, and joining in the fun was one of the highlights of the trip.
The islands are small enough to be car-free, but the shores are lined with fisherman bringing in and selling the day’s catch. And arrive at sunset to hear the call to prayer ring out over the swaying palms and crashing waves. The Maldives are as fascinating as they are beautiful.
This tip is from Jill from Reading the Book Travel.
Photo: Reading the Book Travel
There are two ways to travel to the Maldives – either as a package tourist in a luxury resort or on your own. We are in the second category and took our first trip to the turquoise paradise in 2015.
If you travel to the Maldives as a backpacker, you have to inform yourself about ferry lines and local islands, because you can not go far on foot or by bus. The Maldives consists of 1192 islands distributed over a north-south orientation of over 1000 kilometers.
In search of a suitable island, we keep coming across on Maafushi, probably the most well-known native island. The residents of Maafushi are all very friendly and already in 2010, they started to focus more and more on tourism. Today, Maafushi is home to several guest houses and hotels and is easily accessible by ferry from the airport. In addition to the Bikini Beaches, as beaches on local islands are called, Maafushi is also home to the Maldives State Penitentiary, the Maafushi Prison. However, that did not bother us, because Maafushi offers beaches, sun and a bit of relaxation and comprehensive and affordable leisure activities far away from the island. Maafushi is a very interesting and fascinating island, but if you are looking for absolute peace and empty beaches, you should choose another island.
This tip is from Sven and Dennis from Maafushi.de.
The Maldives isn’t just for the rich and famous. Backpackers can do it, too. My top recommendation for people who want to do the Maldives on a budget is to visit local islands. Usually, the accommodation and food at local islands are really affordable. Some of the guest house owners even cook for you, so you can safely tell your friends that you eat like a local in the Maldives.
The best thing about the local islands is the house reef. Not all local islands have house reef, though (Maafushi doesn’t). I visited Hangnaameedho because there are house reefs where you can snorkel at your own time. I didn’t even have to bring my own gears, I rent them from my guesthouse.
Another tip when visiting the Maldives is to explore Male, the capital city. Yes, it is chaotic and crowded. But you can get a glimpse of a truly Maldivian city. You can explore Male without joining a tour. Or, if you love the interaction with locals and want to contribute to them in a meaningful way, engage local tour guides.
This tip is from Eva Natalia from Trevallog.
While all journeys to the Maldives start in Male, the options afterwards are endless. If you have booked a resort, chances are that they will pick you up by speedboat or seaplane to take you to your accommodation. If you are planning on visiting the Maldives on a budget like myself, it can be quite overwhelming to decide which atoll or group of islands to visit after arriving in the Maldives. A quick and easy introduction into the country is Maafhushi, also known as the backpacker island. Maafushi has several guesthouses, they are used to having several visitors and you can even do some great dives based off this island.
If you are looking to wander further into the country, there are many options. We asked around with the locals and were mainly focused on the scuba diving that was possible in the country. We all hoped to see manta rays for the first time and the Maldives is famous for them! Asking the locals is a great way to find a good island to visit, just make sure that you do your research as well. We ended up on one of the dumpster islands before leaving and finding the beautiful island of Dhangethi.
Planning for a journey across to a different island on the public ferry can be daunting. Public transport between the islands will be your biggest challenge if you are on a budget. There are a few things you should know about the local ferries: they will only do certain routes between certain islands, they will only go out on certain days and they book out fast. To get to Dhangethi, we had to take a public ferry from Male to Maafushi (not that difficult) and then had to get the right ferry on the right day to Dhangethi. Public ferries, though costing pennies, are slow and there is not a lot of shelter from the sun. It’s not an easy journey for sure! Once you get to your island of choice, feel free to hop around from homestay to homestay or book one of the local hotels. One very important tip that I do want to give you is to plan your return by ferry well in advance. The ferry won’t be there every day and you need to make sure you are there on the correct day at the right time! If you miss the ferry, you need to pay several hundred dollars for a speedboat.
A journey to the Maldives on a budget is possible, but due to the lack of regular public ferries, you need to make sure that it is well planned. Otherwise, you might find yourself losing a lot of money. Don’t let this hold you back to travel this beautiful country though, just calculate in a few extra days to accommodate for the irregular ferry times.
This tip is from Marijs from Rooftop Antics.
Photo: Rooftop Antics
Our own journey in the Maldives
My boyfriend and I are currently in the Maldives. As with most travellers, our trip to the Maldives started in the capital Malé, where we arrived the day before yesterday and spend the first night in a locally-run hotel.
Yesterday we met a fellow traveller and our local Maldivian guide. We were taken to the harbour where we boarded a traditional Dhoni boat, with which we will cruise through the South Malé Atoll for the next six days. Onboard, we are only three travellers plus our local Maldivian guide and three crew members. Yesterday we drove to a sandbank where we snorkeled and continued onto a bay where we saw dolphins. At night our boat always anchors in bays. In the next six days, we will visit indigenous islands and more sandbanks and we will see a traditional drum show on Fulidhoo.
After the Dhoni cruise, we will spend another four days on the local island of Maafushi before flying back home.
Photo: The Travelling Colognian
Did you like this article? Then, I would be glad if you leave me a comment.
If you would like to accompany me on my trip to the Maldives or in my travels in general, subscribe to my latest posts via my RSS-Feed or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.
Amazing place. This photography is really incredible and the article also informative. Thank you.
Hi Royena, thank you very much for the kind words.
Although Maldives has been written about a lot, it is still a refreshing destination. Love your photos, especially of the sun-kissed kids. :)
Hi Renuka, thank you so much for the kind words. Yes, although the Maldives is quite a popular destination there is a lot to explore especially the fascinating underwater world.
I totally agree, every tourist should go to a local island and learn about the culture. There is so much to learn with them!
Lots of great tips! It’s sad to hear about the coral bleaching and its effects on the people who live there, but at least it sounds like they are trying to bring awareness to the issue.
[…] 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. […]