Last week, I went with Matt for a quick turnaround to the Maldives. I mulled over this one for awhile. The Maldives are not a cheap destination. Even though its one of the shorter Emirates flights – and certainly the shortest I’m aware of with a layover – the flights cost as much as going to Europe. The weather looked pretty crummy, and I couldn’t decide which resort to visit. Woe is me. Anyway, I thought – hey, I might never go back to the Maldives – and hopped on the plane. I also remembered that, you know, the whole place is sinking. Better to check it out now.
Upon arriving, we got a speedboat transfer from the airport to Malé – where we were staying – thanks to our hotel. The boat was speedy and efficient (no suitcases lost over the side), and despite nearly getting taken out by a gang of scooters, we got to the hotel safely. We were staying at the Hotel Jen, which is a nice little hotel. Like most things in Malé, it feels pretty ‘crammed in’. Malé is one of the most densely populated places on earth. With around 130,000 people in only 5.8 square kilometres, you can see why. Flying in and seeing it is most impressive. Our hotel was actually really nice, with modern and bright furnishings, comfortable beds and a fabulous shower. I’d definitely recommend it if you need to stop off “on the mainland” for a night.
Now, I was a bit disappointed in the resort. We paid $130USD each, plus $10USD for a snorkel. The reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor were amazing, but I’m wondering whether you have a different experience as an overnight guest, as opposed to a day guest. While the resort was nice enough, it really wasn’t that special for the price. The food was fine, if not a little basic, and the bartenders didn’t really seem to know how to mix a drink. It just didn’t really have a five-star feel. It didn’t even have wifi, which I know sounds crazy, but I had intended to do some work there. I think we were spoilt by our trip to LUX Belle Mare – I really think nothing will ever beat that!
Regardless of the slightly lacklustre resort, we ended up having a great day – largely thanks to the unexpectedly fantastic weather. It didn’t rain at all. I got to see my favourite fish – the Reef Triggerfish – whilst snorkelling just off the beach. The water depth dropped off very suddenly, so there were actually a few fish – although the coral was a little sad looking. I guess the key to seeing good coral is to go to places where no one else visits. Matt rented my snorkel for me, and declined the offer of flippers. Fine by me – I hate wearing them.
However, after a bit of googling when I got back, I discovered that it is recommended that you wear flippers for when you meet the Titan Triggerfish. They are scary. They guard their nests aggressively, and have been known to chase and bite swimmers with their creepily human like teeth. Apparently they also seem to have good recall, and figure out the best ways to take a piece of you. Interestingly, their eyes also rotate independently. Cripes. I’m glad I found out that juicy bit of info after getting out of the water.
We caught the speedboat back to Malé at about 5.30pm, after a long spell of stalking a local lizard, and decided to go for a wander through the town. I don’t think many people that visit the Maldives do this. I imagine most people hop straight on a boat or floatplane and head off to a resort. While there aren’t any attractions in Malé, per say, we always like a bit of exploring, so wandered down past the Presidents Office and towards Republic Square. We wandered past the Islāmic Centre and towards an odd, neon lit park, and saw the 3 November Memorial Monument, a reminder of the turbulent history of this island nation. While it didn’t feel unsafe walking around, we did wander back to our hotel before it got dark. We ate at the rooftop restaurant – which had a beautiful pool, sadly shut – looking out over the airport. I made it back to our room just before a thunderstorm rolled in.
Did I enjoy the Maldives? Yes, and I’m certainly glad I went. However, it didn’t really stack up to Mauritius for me. Matt and I like keeping active, and I think the Maldives would be a difficult place to stay for more than two or three days. If the weather is crummy and you can’t do water activities, there really isn’t much else. The cost of transfers (particularly by plane) has kept us from visiting. I certainly found being able to drive around Mauritius much more interesting, but I guess if you aren’t interested in seeing how people actually live, the Maldives means you can avoid that a bit more. However, everyone has a different idea of what they want out of a holiday. If I was to ever come back, I would definitely be waiting for LUX North Male to open!
Hotel: Hotel Jen Malé. Ameer Ahmed Magu, Malé. From 700AED per night.
Transport: Hotels typically arrange their own speedboats, or you can catch the public speedboat to Malé for $1USD.
Visit: Cinnamon Dhonveli. Male North Harbour, Boduthakurufaanu Magu, Malé. $130USD for a day pass, including transfers, some drinks and a buffet lunch.
Tips: If you plan on staying on Malé proper, ask your hotel to arrange you a transfer or resort visit.