Oh the Maldives: The place I dreamt of going since my landmark discovery that it existed at the tender age of 16. I'd googled it. I'd looked at pictures of it. I'd priced out flights. I'd looked at resorts. Always out of budget. Or would eat my entire budget.
Until one day... I booked my trip to Yemen and Sri Lanka. What I thought with just those two destinations was my trip of a lifetime. A couple days later I took a peek at my flight itinerary. What's that? Could it be true?
A LAYOVER IN THE MOTHERFUCKING MALDIVES!!!!
8 whole hours, which was not enough time. I mean what are the odds that the place you wanted to go more than anything 11 years prior just so happened to be a layover?
I called Emirates and I changed my ticket, 100 something bucks later and I had a 3 day stop over in absolute, over priced, clear-watered paradise.
My tastes in travel had changed since I was 16. When I was 16 all I could think about was white sand beaches and clear turquoisey waters. Albeit a few oddball places not in that category I wanted to visit back then... Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Rep., Moldova, African safaris.
I thought the stop off here sounded like a great plan. 2 days in Sana'a, Yemen, 10 days camping (with no modern facilities or amenities) in Socotra, Yemen, 3 days lazing around in a perfect sea in the Maldives, and then 8 days of uncharted exploring in Sri Lanka.
Once I had my flight changed, I began searching which atoll I wanted to stay on. I was fully aware that Maldivians were a devout Muslim bunch, and that the inhabited islands there is strictly no skin to show (as a female, you'd have to be fully covered when having a swim in the water) so naturally I wanted to go to a resort island, (which is sooo not me).
After weeding through, narrowing things down, pricing it all out, I landed on Herathera Island Resort down in the Addu Atoll. It was an Eco-resort and the price was hard too pass on. I booked on Agoda (which is my Asia hotel booking go-to). The beach-front villa I rented I managed to nab for under $200 a night and an all inclusive food plan, no drinks 🙁 I know, sounds horribly expensive right? Well that particular room normally went for $600 USD a night, so that seemed like an offer to jump on. Especially after seeing listing after listing for rooms that went for a rack or more. If I'm spending $1,000 a night I better get a happy ending... Something.
*You can stay on the cheap in the Maldives- but be prepared to stay on an inhabited island. Nothing wrong with that, just not on my agenda for these 3 days,
Hotels there charge a fee for getting you from Malé airport to the nearest airport to the resort and back. I happened to need to fly into Gaan airport for my resort. It was a $300 charge for it (living in Alaska, that's not a crazy price tag, but I know is a shock for a lot of travelers, but remember we ARE talking about one of the most expensive destinations in the world). The hotel asks what time your flight arrives into Malé and they usually try to get you onto the very next flight headed to your atoll.
Gaan airport is situated in the Addu Atoll. The only atoll in the Maldives that falls below the equator.
I arrived in Malé on 11 February 2014, after a long layover in Dubai. I cleared customs fairly quick and then headed over to the domestic check in side of the airport. All I had known was that I would be flying to Gaan on a Maldivian flight. I went to the counter, told the girl working the desk my name and I walked away a couple minutes later with my ticket in hand.
The flight to Gaan (and back) ended up being one of my favorite parts of the Maldives. It really is a special place to see from above. Hundreds of thin white rings floating atop of blue waters in the Laccadive Sea. When you arrive they even give you a little certificate with your name printed on it saying that you crossed the equator going from Malé down to the Addu Atoll.
Adda Atoll- Gaan and Herathera
I arrived at Gaan, walked outside after grabbing my bag and followed the lady working for Herathera rounding up us tourists.
She led us outside and onto the speedboat that took us to our island.
You get brought onto a dock, walked past a perfectly manicured beach with beautiful Palm trees swaying in the sea breeze and into the resorts reception area. You're handed a chilled coconut with a straw and a flower in it. Next the staff comes around and checks you in.
"So it's just you checking in for the next 3 nights." -reception
"Really, just you by yourself?" -reception
"Yup, just me." -me
The lady looked quite confused. I assumed since I was in the honeymoon capital of the world for the filthy rich.
It was actually because I was going to be there over Valentines Day. Alone. I didn't even pay attention to the dates (not that that would have detoured me from coming here). Nope, I just like treat me own self.
Everyone around me in the reception area was very obviously 'in love' and clinging all over each other. Then there were a couple families, kids and all. They were more on my level.
They send a van to come pick you up and bring you to your villa.
They loaded my dirty, falling apart backpack onto the van and in about 2 minutes I was at my villa for the next three days. Private little beach area and all.
The next day was spent lying around my own little beach. However my neighbs next door were a Russian couple. The girlfriend/wife whatever spent her days laying in her lounge chair drug down onto the beach topless belting out Mariah Carey. It was hilarious.
Later that afternoon I wandered down to the sports center. I wanted to at least go snorkeling while I was there (still need to get my PADI cert) . Holy shit. Their snorkeling trip was $300 for a couple hour trip into the middle of the atoll. Then I saw they offered wakeboarding. That was again $300 but only for a half hour of riding.
The guy working the counter could tell I was looking at the sign with my look of how ridiculous on my face (although, I was not surprised to see prices like this, given the location). I told him I wakeboarded quite a bit back home, but that I also wanted to go snorkeling. My mind set behind it was, "ok, it's just money, it come and goes.... plus how many opportunities are you going to have in life to wakeboard and snorkel in the Maldives?" Then he offered to only charge for one, and take me out on both excursions. SOLD!
Late that afternoon, I was taken out into the middle of the atoll on a wave runner to snorkel. Oh how I wished I'd gotten off my ass and gotten my PADI cert. But what I did see was still amazing. I saw small sharks, baraccuda, parrot fish, giant corals, anemone... the list goes on. I'd never encountered sharks that close before.
So as for the meals at Herathera, my stay included breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was buffet style. Most the food was pretty good, I don't have many complaints. They even had a small section of Maldivian dishes (a lot of borrowed cuisine from neighboring India and Sri Lanka.
The resort did have a very nice pool area too, granted I did come here for the beaches. I did have a swim in the pool in the evening.
My final excursion in the Maldives was wakeboarding, which I did shortly before the boat picked me back up to take me to the Gaan airport. We ended up out there for a couple hours so I got more in than what I paid for.
Before I knew it I was checking out and on my way to Gaan. I had another lovely flight over the Maldives and landed at Malé airport. I had plans to go into the capital city Malé and go have a look around before my flight departing to Colombo. What I had not realized was that my hotel had set up a guide for my quick three hours in the capital. He greeted me as I got off the plane and he took me to a luggage storage, brought me to an ATM and took me into the city.
To reach Malé island from the airport, you must take a ferry across. The airport is actually on an island called Hulhulé. I spent much of my last few hours in the Maldives wandering the streets of Malé. It's definitely got a unique feel to it. Brightly colored buildings stacked high and narrow streets. It is one of the most, if not the most densely packed areas in the world. Over 100,000 people live on this tiny islet that is only 1 km by 1.7 km.
I did do a small amount of shopping, and had a quick Maldivian style curry and was back on the ferry to the airport for me next adventure onto Sri Lanka.
When I was younger I couldn't understand why people would plan a trip to the Maldives and only go for a couple of days. My mind set was, "why would you spend all that time and money traveling halfway across the world and only stay for 2 or 3 days?". Well after having gone there I get it. There's not a whole lot to keep you occupied for very long. Don't get me wrong it's amazing, but at the same time you get bored fairly quick. I would go back again in a heartbeat, BUT I would do it in conjunction with a trip to India or Sri Lanka.
Although, the one way I could see spending a lot more time there would be to do a live-aboard, if you're a diver. That would keep you going for days on end.