Maldives on a Budget

With India and the week long adventure behind me, it was now time to relax. I headed south to one of the most beautiful places in the world. The Maldives lies in the Indian Ocean just a short flight away from India and this was the ideal time for me to visit.

I arrived in Male’, the capital of the Maldives, in the afternoon with just enough time to catch my speedboat transfer and get to my hotel before sunset. Maldives consist of 26 atolls with hundreds of islands and the only way to get to these islands is to take a speedboat or by seaplane for those islands that are further away. When you arrive at the airport and you’re staying at one of the many private island resorts, just look for the booth for that resort after you claim your luggage. The resort representative will assist you to your transfer. If your staying at a hotel at one of the public islands, you can contact them to help you with the transfer and they’ll have someone help you upon arrival. If you’re backpacking and didn’t make transfer arrangement, you’ll have to take a boat from the airport to the main island of Male’ where you can catch a speed boat to your destination island. Transferring from the airport to your hotel can be confusing so I suggest contacting your hotel for assistance. The private resorts will charge you a fee for this convenience.

The first four nights of my visit would be at one of these public islands so I contacted the hotel for assistance after I booked my room. It was a $25 charge to Gulhi Island just thirty minutes away from the airport by speedboat. When I arrived at the airport, I couldn’t locate the hotel representative so I asked the attendant at the information booth for assistance. He got on the phone and then informed me that the boat hadn’t arrived yet. The representative found me about 20 minutes later and my Maldives on a budget vacation had begun. I arrived on Gulhi Island about an hour before sunset so I didn’t get to see to much of the island, not that there’s all that much to see. It’s a very small island, only takes about 10 minutes to walk to the other side of the island.

I had originally wanted to visit another island that was bigger with a long sandbar attached to it but it was a two hour ride by speedboat so I decided on Gulhi which was much closer. There are multiple public islands that are the same distance from the airport but the Ayala Hotel had some great reviews and great service so it helped me make the decision. The reason why I decided to stay at a public island is the cost. I couldn’t afford to stay a whole week at one of the expensive private resorts. You can stay at one of these public islands for as low as $40 per night. Of course, the hotel is much more modest and the amenities are a bit lacking but you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to visit.

But, you’ll be swimming the same turquoise waters as the resorts. There are other drawbacks since this is an Islamic state and you’ll be staying among its people. There is no alcohol allowed on the island and everyone will have to wear at least a t-shirt and shorts when in public. They do accommodate visitors by assigning a designated “bikini beach” on each of these public islands. Here, women can wear there bikini and men can remove there shirts as they would on any other beach in the world.

There wasn’t much to do other than relax and enjoy the sun and the ocean on this tiny island, just what I needed. I did take a half day tour where we snorkeled at a coral garden and swam with turtles. In this case, a single turtle off the coast of another island.

Dolphin watching was also on the tour list and we followed a playful pod until they made their way to deeper waters. We had lunch at one of the many picturesque sandbars that dot the Maldives. I couldn’t think of another more beautiful place to have lunch.

I also snorkeled off the coast of the bikini beach and I was surprised at the number of fish on the reef. I did have to swim a good distance from the beach to get to the reef as it droped into the depths of the ocean. Life on Gulhi was slow and peaceful and just what I was looking for. The service at Ayala Hotel was just as good as I had read in the reviews and it was worth more than the $60 per night I spent. My four night stay on Gulhi Island had come and gone and it was travel time again.

Transferring from one island to another is difficult. You have make your way back to Male’ and then transfer to your desired destination. So, there I was on the dock boarding the speedboat on my way to the airport again. The 2nd half of my visit to the Maldives would be at the other end of the spectrum.