It has been my third time to step foot on beautiful Maldives; and yet, the spectacular scenery and cerulean blue waters never fail to captivate my heart and take my breath away as solidly as the first. Never have I been to any part of the world that I can regard as “super clean,” and where I would almost want to drink the water from down beneath. The glamour of the islands wows me every time; and contrary to common perception, Maldives is not just a place for soul-searchers and lovers, it is also a perfect haven for families and group of friends, who wish to relax and experience paradise for days.
Maldives is an archipelagic country in Asia composed of many small islands splendidly dispersed in the stretch of the Indian Ocean. It is a highly Muslim country and there are things that you cannot bring with you when you enter Maldives. Here’s a few things to remember:
· PORK IS A NO-NO… I obviously had no problem with this one since oink-oink was never part of my diet plan… Easy!
· LIQUOR IS REGULATED… Well, there was a time when I attempted to sneak a bottle of liquor during my first visit, but was asked to dispose it during custom control… Bye, Vodka, my friend… *teary-eyed*
· PORNOGRAPHIC MATERIALS ARE ILLEGAL… Ummmmm, Okay… Let’s just say, I’m a good boy… Nope! I’m more of an obedient one, actually… hehe…
Altogether, you just need to be a law-abiding visitor to make it through; after which, it’s “Welcome to Maldives, Traveler!”
Upon your arrival in Male, where the airport is, make sure that you always have these ready, just so you can spare yourself a discussion at the immigration:
· Valid Passport at least six months prior to expiry date
· Booking Confirmation and Exit Ticket
· Just the right amount of USDs as pocket money
Dhivehi is the official and common language in Maldives. But, good news, traveler! English is widely spoken by the locals, so communication will never be sweat-time for you… Isn’t that nice?
There are over 105 privately-owned resorts in Maldives and I have tried quite a few during my previous visits. But if you wish to have an extravagant travel experience worth every penny, you definitely need to try VELASSARU!
This luxurious and highly-rated resort is located at the South Male Atoll, and the amazing experience starts right at the moment that you land at the airport. Upon arrival, expect to be welcomed like a celebrity and be treated as a preferred guest. The staff are so courteous and hospitable that they attend to all your luggage neatly and transport them worry-free to the lavish speedboat waiting at the dock.
Onboard the speedboat, I and my friends were led to the upper deck where we were served with cold towels and soothing refreshments to quench the summer heat. The pier alone was already a marvelous sight to see, and having been given the best seats, we were ensured to enjoy our first 25 minutes in Maldives – the transport from the port to Velassaru. And believe me, expect your cameras to start shooting non-stop the moment you leave the pier.
Accommodation and Service – Maldivian Style
As we approached the port, we were warmly welcomed by the Velassaru Management team, and were gallantly assisted off the boat. We were introduced to the staff as we were led to the Fen Bar where we were served with complimentary drinks and canapes. Before heading to our villas, we were briefed by one of the Managers, Ms. Myla Alpaz – who happens to be a Filipina – on the amenities and perks of staying in Velassaru.
To maximize our experience of the entire island, we strategically booked the accommodation of three of our friends at the luxuriant East Deluxe Bungalow, while I and my two other friends took the highly-crowned West Water Villa with pool.
Our villa is located at the west-most part of the island, facing the vast horizons of the Indian ocean. You can enjoy the view of the breath-taking sunrise in the morning, and the majestic sunset at dusk, just by looking out the bedroom window. The villa also holds a lofty bathroom with an elegant bathtub; a spacious outside porch facing the sea; and our own mini-infinity pool where we spent most of our time relaxing and unwinding over wine and cheese.
The newly-upscaled Bungalow where my three friends stayed was just as beautiful as the other Villas. It has its own porch, a cozy living area, a high-ceilinged bedroom, a huge closet, a luxurious shower room and a jacuzzi big enough for a party. I remember staying there with my friends to play in the relaxing waters over piles and piles of bubbles. It was really fun!
Going around the island…
Everything in our resort is jaw-droppingly beautiful! The island offers a wide plethora of panoramic views – from crystal blue waters and powdery white sands, to majestic sunsets and clearly visible coral reefs. Maldives is highly organized and has disciplined waste-management, making its waters almost pollution-free and pristine. Flora and fauna also triumphs abundantly, and travelers can enjoy nature’s hefty blessings just about anywhere – be it at the pier as you arrive, on board a sailboat, at the comfort of your own villa, or at the shore as you swim.
I’ve been to so many places, but I would have to say, no beach can ever compare to the clarity and blueness of the Maldivian waters and skies. You can spot birds by the shore or at the villa porch, while schools of fish swim around freely. And if you were among those who got LSS with the viral “Baby Shark” song last year, you’d probably sing it again in Maldives! A few baby sharks would come by the shore once in a while, but they’re completely safe and harmless! Guests are advised to not feed these creatures, though, to keep the sharks attached to their natural habitat.
Going to the main beachfront from our water villa was a slight discomfort as you will need to walk for a brief few minutes. How I wish there were available buggy services for guests. But, on the other hand, since the adorable view compensates everything, brisk walking – which is, by fact, a form of exercise – could actually end up fun and refreshing. Never mind getting drenched under the sun!
Of course, a travel to a place as spectacular as Maldives will never be complete without picture-taking! And I am just so happy to be traveling with a good set of supportive and artful friends who took most of my amazing photos. Most of the shots we made were either taken at the beach, in the villas or in the pool, to feature the whole island’s glorious sceneries. With such vibrant colors everywhere, every shot is nothing less than picture perfect!
When you get hungry or simply want to unwind…
Our entire stay in Velassaru included a complimentary breakfast buffet, where you can choose from a wide range of good food served at the Vela Restaurant. These are served until 10:30AM; and therefore, you’d probably be still full by lunch time; and the next meal you would need would be your afternoon snacks. On a brighter note, it would mean “opportunities to save”!
There are eight big restaurants within the island where you are free to select the dish that would appeal to your palate. If you’re craving for Japanese cuisines, there’s the blockbuster Teppanyaki Restaurant; and if you’re in the mood for Italian or Mediterranean dishes, they have the Sand and Turquoise Restaurants, and the Pool Deck Pizzeria. You can also go for that steak, prawns and lobster dinner at the Etesian; but, if you’re simply out to get some specially-prepared finger foods, canapes, cheese and mojitos, the Chill Bar is the place to be!
As for me and my group, we were lucky to have been personally accommodated by Velassaru’s very own Chef Carlos at the Chill Bar during an arranged afternoon snack. Not only did we get to enjoy his specialties, we also had rounds and rounds of refreshing Mojitos while enjoying the spectacular view of the sea.
A regular, single meal in Maldives is a little pricey. A sandwich or pasta would cost from around 20 to 30 USD per serving. That would be around 1,500 philippine pesos tops for a single meal. A steak would cost around 45 USD per plate, and a lobster and prawn dinner would cost around 65 USD. And if you wish to have buffet for dinner, make sure you have at least a hundred US dollars in your pocket to enjoy a feast that will satisfy your heart’s desire. A bottled water would cost around 4 dollars, so make sure you bring your complimentary water from your villa instead of ordering from the restos.
Night life in Maldives are not as crowded and as loud as some of the popular tourist destinations around the globe. Maldives is, simply-put, not a party-goer’s haven. The best place for a chill night with friends would be at the Fen Bar. There, you can enjoy wine and unlimited peanuts & olives while you lazily lay by the beachfront. It is also an ideal hangout place for couples, as well. Romantics would enjoy the serenade of Male’s local acoustic bands, while relaxing under the light of the Maldivian moon.
Unfortunately, wines are not served by the bottle, and a cocktail or a glass of Sangria would cost around 12 to 15 USD each. Beer is served at 10 USD per bottle, and their whiskeys and rhum are at 15 USD per shot.
As a health-conscious person with a moderated diet, it’s not surprising that I didn’t spend “too much” on food. But, hey! If you’re up to enjoy every sec, I strongly suggest that you simply go after all the food and eat ‘em all! It’s not every day that you would go to Maldives. And, take it from me, I’m sure you won’t visit the island monetarily unprepared, so just go ahead and SPLURGE!
Leisure and Fun Activities for groups, couples or single souls
Five days in Maldives would not be enough to enjoy all the available adventures that the island has to offer. Glide, which is Velassaru’s beachside water sports and excursion center, has a wide menu of water activities from jetskiing, kayaking, windsurfing, parasailing to snokelling and coral reef diving. Each activity may cost from 10 USD to as much as 1,100 USD per person, depending on the guest’s selection. While snorkeling equipment may be free for all guests, a lifejacket rental – especially for the not-so-brave-ones – would be at 9 USD per day.
The island also has special areas for sports, their own gym facility, as well as their own photo gallery and museum for the artsy-by-heart. As a fitness advocate, I had ensured that I devote at least an hour each day for my usual workout routine. But if there’s anything that is more fun than working out, it has to be working out with friends! It was a trophy for me that I have influenced my friends to join the wellness bandwagon during our entire stay in Maldives.
I cannot count the many times that I have indulged myself the pleasure of dipping into the sea or by the pool while bathed under the summer sun. But, of all the activities, the most nostalgic and memorable of all would have to be the fabulous Sunset Cruise with my squad. The one-hour voyage onboard a private cruise ship allowed us the luxurious experience of relaxing over wine and classy music, while we watch as the sun disappears from the horizon.
To cap it all, my third visit to Maldives was, by far, the best experience. Just like the first, my expectations of the islands never failed me. I would absolutely recommend friends and aspiring travelers alike to include this in their bucket list (at least just before the islands disappear in the next 30 years or so).
As for me, I would surely go back, most especially that Maldives now has a direct flight from Manila. Maldives will always be pure bliss, a paradise on earth, and an escape from reality for me. And all I need to do to enjoy the pleasure it presents is to stay healthy, spend time for myself, plan my travels ahead, save for the trip, and tag along my perfect squad!