Getting there: To continue from our Istanbul layover, after our Turkish Airlines flight, and upon arrival in the Maldives, we queued up for immigration, grabbed our bag, and then went to the area specified by the resort. We were instructed to have a seat and wait about 30 minutes until a few more people arrived, and then off we went to our (fairly tiny) speedboat that took us to our resort (about a 1 hour ride, note to those who get seasick: definitely bring Gravol for this part!). A quick note about the airport in the Maldives, too – it’s on its very own island, and you get on and off the plane on to the tarmac (I love airports like this! For some reason, getting off a giant plane on to the tarmac makes you feel like you’re in a very small place). You land and at the end of the runway the plane does a very quick pivot turn to taxi to the gate, and ditto for when you leave – pretty strange feeling to do a super tight turn in such a large plane!
Where the 2d’s stayed: We were at a resort called Meeru Island Resort after a lot of Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet reading as well as seeing what we could actually afford. There’s nothing really ‘cheap’ in the Maldives, but you can definitely spend as much as you wish on the high end of things. We splurged for an over the water bungalow which was well worth it (it had its own Jacuzzi outside with stairs that lead in to the ocean, an outdoor bathroom (which you could also enclose), and a large panel of doors that opened up to the balcony which faced east (perfect for waking up early thanks to jetlag and watching the sunrise). Resorts here have different packages – all inclusive (i.e. all drinks and food, some other extras), full board (3 meals, no drinks, no extras) or half board (breakfast and supper only), and some don’t have any meals included at all. We read that since we’re not drinkers, the all inclusive option wasn’t going to be worth it, that coffee/tea and 2 large bottles of water were provided per day with full board, and we were ok with paying for our gym access ($25 for a week each or $5/visit), and even though juice and pop were overpriced, buying these with our meals was cheaper than the all inclusive option for us.
Our resort was on one of the bigger islands (all islands here have only one hotel/resort each) – it was about 1 km long and 500 m or so wide, with about 300 rooms. We requested and got a room on the north side of the island that didn’t allow kids and since I’d read that the snorkeling here was also good, and we were assigned to a restaurant near our room (about a 5 minute walk down the pier to the island). We got to know our waiter well and although we didn’t have snacks throughout the day, we ate like a king and queen at the buffet 3 times a day, with there really being something for everyone all the time, and lots of different options. The food was pretty consistent (and pretty good overall), and the Friday night meal was traditional Maldivian style (very Indian-like with lots of similar spices and curries). Even though we’re not typically resort/all inclusive people, you don’t have much choice in the Maldives, and it worked out just fine. We also ate a la carte one day at an Asian restaurant on the southern tip of the island that was over the water. We actually had the whole restaurant to ourselves, the portions of food were very generous, and really, not that badly priced overall. While waiting for our food we got to sit on the ledge of the restaurant and watch the sea.
Fun: OK, this trip was totally an indulgence trip – we knew it from when we booked it. And part of why we booked it was that it’s simply super exotic and also because it’s on a list of places to see before they sink (- seriously). Our first few days really consisted of lazing on the beach and in the ocean (it was so warm!), snorkeling a bit, and sleeping a lot. The weather was pretty good, with a few periods of rain, but they passed over for the most part (in 8 days there we had one afternoon of pretty consistent rain, but we were still super jetlagged, so we didn’t mind curling up for the afternoon and having a nice long nap!). The island was also pretty breezy and the temperature was consistently around 30 degrees during the day (if the sun was out, it felt really, really hot) and maybe a few degrees cooler at night (but to be honest, you really couldn’t tell).
So I guess I should be honest – really everyday was pretty routine here: get up and laze around, pinch ourselves that we were waking up over the Indian Ocean, get our lazy butts to the breakfast buffet (hello, daily omelette station!), go to the beach and snorkel (our bungalow was near a small reef on the island where we saw everything (reef sharks, rays, octopus, all sorts of fish)), sleep, have some lunch, repeat morning activities or maybe walk around the island, go to the gym after the sunset, get ready for dinner, indulge in another meal, go to bed, and repeat the next day.
The resort had a boat excursion a few times daily to the ‘house reef,’ which was about a 10 minute ride away and was free. We did this twice, once when the current was pretty strong and swimming against it totally pooped us out – but also totally worth it as we filmed a sea turtle feeding on the bottom coral and swimming up to surface for a few minutes, and another day when the current was calmer. The visibility of these trips wasn’t the best in the water, but the marine life and the number of fish were outstanding.
We got our open water diver certifications for this trip. To be honest, scuba didn’t exactly click for me when I tried it and did my certification. After a few days at the resort, we signed up for a dive, and when the day rolled around for it, I had a sinus/head cold. I waited it out for a few days and decided I wasn’t going to chance the pressure/sinus issues….or maybe my fears about diving also got the best of me (you all know I’m a control freak, so I think that’s part of why scuba didn’t exactly turn my crank), but d2 went. Overall he said it was an ok experience, although he wasn’t blown away by the experience or the sea life – we saw more things just snorkeling than he did on his dive. I’m not really sure that I’ll go diving again, but at least I did my certification to try it.
When we got to the resort, they offered everyone a 15 minute welcome massage. I was the perfect consumer because I then got suckered in from that for a full hour massage later in the week (but part of this was because the therapist was really good, so I made sure to get her name and request her for later in the week). Most of the ladies working in the spa were from Bali, so I had a delightful conversation with my masseuse, Lini, about her home there. The massage was really good – a combination Thai (active stretching – and man, what a stretch that was!) and Balinese (basic massage) – in an over the water bungalow with a little window to watch the fishies go by. She also played Indonesian music that took me back to our trip there in 2010. Lovely all around.
We could’ve done some other trips too for extra cost – other snorkeling trips, a bbq to a sandy, deserted island, and a sunset cruise. But we decided that our snorkeling on the reef close to our bungalow probably wasn’t going to be topped, and we watched the sunset from the beach instead. On our last morning, though, we decided to get room service and so we ate breakfast on our balcony over the ocean. It was scorching out there, so when we finished up, d2 went for a swim right from the stairs by our Jacuzzi that lead directly in to the water.
We had a blast in the Maldives – the people who worked at the resort were lovely and friendly, our room was fantastic (especially the view, and the size was good, too), the resort was really well run (we had no issues at all, all questions and concerns were taken care of, and the excursions were well run), and all transfers to and from the airport were smooth. I think each island/resort has something else to offer here, but once you get to a resort, the prices start to pile up in terms of excursions or going off the island, so it’s pretty much a stay put and turn things off sort of place. That being said, it’s not hard to do that once you arrive in such a paradise! Farewell for now, Maldives!