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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Maldives on a budget

When people talk about Maldives, what comes into mind first, is the beauty, paradise, gorgeous luxury resorts, & exorbitant bills afterwards... That was exactly what came across my mind. When I googled "Maldives", the first results that was shown was "TOP 20 Maldives resort", Maldives Luxury Resorts & Luxury Yachts... They look so good that you will feel so tempted to click on them, just to find out they are at least RM1.5k per night all the way to RM5k per night. But boy, these resorts are so beautiful, they make your jaws drop just by looking at the pictures.

But, back to reality, we really were looking at more affordable options. 

Accommodation on a budget
Maldives is divided into two categories, Resort Islands & Local Islands. Resort Islands are where all the beautiful over water villas are, while local islands are for local residents but recently, locals have started to venture into the hospitality industry, as more and more hotels/guesthouses are built to cater for tourism. This actually helps the local economy as they use to only rely on fishing as their primary source of income.

After spending a little bit of time, searching around, we found out that staying at hotels/inns/guesthouses at local island, Maafushi, is fairly affordable. Hotel/Inn/Guesthouse prices ranging from RM88 - RM300 per night. We finally decided on booking the Stringray Beach Inn. Price of room was about RM250 per night (USD92) inclusive of breakfast. We felt the price was reasonable, the rooms look decent from the pictures. Now, you may think, if it's so cheap, everyone would just opt to stay on the local island. There's a catch. Being a muslim country, staying at local island requires us to be in modest clothing. No swimsuit/bikinis are allowed. No alcohol is allowed either. These rules however are not applicable if you are staying at a resort island. Well, I don't wear a bikini or drink alcohol so, it doesn't really bother me.

Sunset @ maafushi

Travelling from Male to Maafushi/Maafushi to Male
The tricky part about Maldives is, transportation from island to island via speedboat is quite costly. To get from Male to Maafushi, you can choose to travel via speedboat (about USD220 per boat, it gets cheeper if there are more passengers), or by the local ferry (about MVR 30(USD2) per pax). Speedboat journey will take about 35mins while ferry takes about 1.5 hours. For local ferry, understanding the ferry schedule is one of the vital consideration during your trip. Some of these ferries operates on weekdays (except Fridays), some operates on only Saturday/Monday/Wednesday and only one trip per day. Planning your trip should put this factor into consideration.

We took a ferry back from Maafushi to Male as well... Lucas was FOC but we paid MVR60 for both of us.

About our hotel
So, because we were travelling on a FRIDAY, there are no ferries to Maafushi operational, so we had to take a speedboat to the Maafushi. Upon arrival, we were greeted at the jetty by the co-owner of Stingray Beach Inn & his staff, with his trusty push cart (for our luggage).
While walking to our inn, the owner, told us, he has a surprise for us, we then reach the Sun Tan Beach hotel, where he told us that this is a new hotel owned by the same owners of Stingray Inn, & they have upgraded us to a beachfront family size room (one double & one single bed). At the lobby, we were then offered our welcome drinks, and Ibrahim briefed us on the available activities. 

We then, went up to our room. The size of the room was clean & fairly large, with one double & one single bed. Tiled floors, TV, built in cupboards, Fan & Air conditioned, toilet was not very big but it's clean, equipped with handheld shower head & Rain shower options. Snorkelling gears, beach towels are all available for free. The first impressions were great & We couldn't ask for more...

Daily Activities
I believe all guesthouse/hotels at the local island will provide services such as snorkelling, dolphin sighting, etc... one of the services they provide is resort island excursions. So, even though we are staying on a local island, we can choose from the given list of resort islands, to spend our day at. Each resort will usually charge a fee for entry, & the hotel will provide you transport (with a fee) to that island. Some resorts will charge an entry fee + a minimum amount as spending credit. 

Rihiveli Resort
Day 1, we chose to go to Rihiveli resort, as we were told there are a few people from Stingray Inn joining in as well, the transport fees will be cheaper. The resort also has two smaller islands which we can swim/walk to. Fees inclusive of Lunch (USD60++ (entrance fee) + USD65++ (transport fee)). Trip was 30mins by speedboat.

We were very lucky, upon reaching the island, there were a school of dolphins swimming nearby. Our boat stopped & we were able to have a close encounter with the dolphins. It was amazing!

We chose to have the BBQ lunch & it was quite shocking for us, when we found out, we need to swim/walk across to another island 400 metres away in the scorching sun for our lunch! @.@ We opt to rent the kayak and kayak there instead... the rental for the kayak was USD30. We were not too happy about the rental fee for the kayak as it was written on the brochure, free non-motorise water sports equipment. Apparently, that was some miscommunication between our hotel and their resort to be sorted out. Anyways, we did voice out to both parties but paid for it anyways, because there was no way we will be walking through the waters under the scorching sun to our lunch!

There was a time limit so we had to reach by 1pm. I swear we almost melted on the way to Sunrise Island. Poor Lucas! Lucky he wore my hat. Lunch was just rice, grilled fish & salad (free flow). Since we already worked so hard to get there, we spent sometime snorkelling & Lucas built sand castle while we were there. I must say the water was really clear though. It was a beautiful little island nonetheless. 

Holiday Inn Kandooma Island Resort
For the 2nd Day, we opt for Holiday Inn Kandooma. We were charged USD 150++ (USD50 for entrance fee, USD 100 for minimum usable credit) + USD25++ for transport fees per pax (our hotel gave us a discount of USD 10 per pax for transport).

We absolutely love this place! I think even more than Rihiveli :) There was a swimming pool so it was great for Lucas! All water sport gears are free! Usable credit can be used for food or spa services.

I guess this post right about sums up our mini trip to Maldives.