Maldives – a beautiful island country that we anticipatedly visit like dream comes true, came back with mixed feelings.
Located in the Southwest of India and Sri Lanka, Maldives is the second least populated country in Asia, also the smallest country in Asia by land area. It consists of over 1100 islands, stretching over chains of 26 atolls. What makes Maldives a famous holiday destination is certainly their crystal clear turquoise seawater, blue skies, amazing coral reefs, fine white sandy beaches, vibrant cultures, accompanied by luxurious resorts, spa, restaurants and water sports that elevates your vacation experience.
Another reason of why you should visit Maldives while you can is because – it is said that 80% of the country sits less than one metre above sea level, and could be inhibited by 2100. The country’s authority has taken extra effort to resolve rising of seawater level issue, such as constructing the brain-shaped floating city. So do visit Maldives – for the once in a life time tropical paradise escape.
To us, the thought of going to Maldives comes in a sudden, as we aren’t really beach vacation lovers. Our plan was to visit Krabi or Phuket for the budget beachfront holiday initially, but the chaos of browsing through way too many resorts (*that are so lovely we can’t decide) leaving us give up searching.
And on a fine Friday evening, Summergirl suggested Maldives. Summerkid replied: “why not?”. So we went through some researches, such as the weather in Maldives, best time to visit Maldives, PCR test requirement, visa information, what are the to-do before going to Maldives, etc.; filtering down the accommodation options; then book for our flight, hotel and resort within 2 days. Probably the fastest decision we made, and unexpected choice of travel destination.
Apart from your high SPFs sunscreens, shades, hat, summer dress, etc., what are the important things that you need to know before going to Maldives? Here you go: –
1. Make sure your passport has at least six-month validity.
2. Effective from March 13th, 2022, PCR is not mandatory to enter the Maldives.
3. Maldives Immigration will issue on-arrival visa to all tourists – 30-day tourist visa
4. Prepare a copy of complete travel itinerary including return journey confirmed tickets, with a prepaid confirmed hotel booking at a registered hotel, or provide proof of financial means for sufficient funds to support the stay in Maldives, or hold a pre-approved visa sponsorship Maldives Immigration.
5. Confirmed returned tickets to the home country or the country of residence
6. Submit IMUGA / Traveler Declaration within 96 hours to the flight time, during arrival and departure to and from the Maldives.
Information adapted from https://www.immigration.gov.mv/tourist-visa/
We overlooked IMUGA and only fill up one day before going to Maldives. Thanks to Summergirl for browsing XHS and accidentally came across the requirement. Do keep this in mind and submit the IMUGA form electronically through https://imuga.immigration.gov.mv/ethd ahead. The staff at the KLIA2 and Male airport will require you to show the QR code before you board the flight.
For flight, we booked through Airasia, as it is currently the only airline that offers direct flight between Kuala Lumpur – Maldives. Convenient, non-stop. The trip too 4 and a half hours. We touched down at Velana International Airport (MLE) around 10AM (GMT+5). The Maldives’s GMT is +5, which means Malaysia is 3 hours ahead of Maldives’s time if you are matching with local time.
Let’s get the vacation started!
In the thousands of island in Maldives, there are actually inhabited islands, uninhabited islands, resort islands and we learnt from Google that there’s also disappeared islands. Part of them are natural island, some are artificial islands, built with purpose, like Thilafushi – as waste management solution/landfill.
Generally, for vacation, tourists will choose to stay in either inhabited island or private islands. For our trip in Maldives, we had chosen to experience both at inhabited island and private island.
So what is the difference between inhabited island and private island?
An inhabited island is where the locals stay. With the rising of tourism industry in Maldives recent years, many hotels begin to open on inhabited island. Hotel price is affordable, you can get a decent room for just few hundreds ringgit. Here, you can blend into the life of locals (despite understandable touristy on certain parts), trying out various foods from the local restaurants, go for various water sports, Some of the famous inhabited islands in the Maldives include Thulusdhoo, Maafushi, Fulhadhoo, Vaadhoo, Meedhoo, Male, Laamnu Gan, Huraa, Feevah.
Private Island is also referring to ” One Island One Resort” – a concept that makes Maldives tourism unique. With this policy, there is only one resort built on an island. Each private resort will have their own highlights, be it from the room design, water villas, activities, house reef, sea view, etc.. If you have come across very stunning Maldive’s water villas on any publications or online media, that it is, they are built on private island.
Due to its exclusivity, room price on private island is far more expensive, with price range from few thousands in ringgit per night, up to more than ten thousands a night depends on your package, hotel’s star rating, location, etc.. But of course with the price given, expect a luxury escape that would be different from local guesthouses.
We spent our first two nights in Maafushi – one of the most visited inhabited islands in Kaafu Atoll of Maldives. It has roughly 3000 locals, and interestingly – Maafushi is the pioneer in inhabited island tourism industry; also the local island with the most number of hotels in the country. The island is famous for snow-white, soft sand beach with multi-shades blue sea. Not to forget, Maafushi Prison.
How to reach Maafushi ?
There are several ways to reach Maafushi from Male Airport – by public ferry, shared speed boat or private speed boat. Ferry is the cheapest mode of transfer, USD3 per person per way; but takes longest time to reach – 1 hour 30minutes. Private speed boat is ideal if you are in a group trip – ~180USD for maximum 8 persons, per way. While for shared speedboat, you will be sharing the speed boat with other travelers going to Maafushi too. Price can vary depends on which tour/hotel you liaise with, usually from USD20 per pax.
As there’s only two of us, shared speed boat is the best choice for us. We booked with the hotel, at the price of USD50 for two pax, one way. There is only 3 trips available a day, and 10.30AM is closest to our flight arrival time. At first we were so worried that we won’t be able to make it as there is a slight delayed on the flight arrival. So worse come to worse, if we miss the shared speed boat, we would have to look for private speed boat instead, far more expensive than ferry and shared speed boat.
Glad that we made it to the hotel’s waiting counter in time. Thanks to the rather small airport. So after getting down from the aircraft, there will be a bus that bring us to the main airport arrival hall. So the amazing part was: From the immigration – luggage pick up – exit – search for hotel counter – all these took about ONLY 10 minutes. It could easily take 1 hour or more to complete the whole process for airports in other countries. Pretty cool. We were literally running with our luggage, so if you walk slowly, maybe it would take only another extra 10 minutes. Hopefully this could be a nice timing guideline for your future planning to Maldives.
After we meet up with the hotel staff, they brought us to the jetty, together with other guests. Our journey from Valena International Airport to Maafushi took about 30-40minutes. Weather was gloomy and as expected, it began to rain once we reached. Caught in rain towards the entire walk to the hotel.
We stayed in Kaani Palm Beach – the most popular hotel in Maafushi. The hotel is owned by Kaani Hotels and Tours, who also manage Kaani Beach Hotel, Kaani Grand Seaview, Kaani Village & Spa, and Kaani Tours on the island. Commercialize but hard-to-go wrong with.
We would recommend this top 5 hotel in Maafushi:
Kaani Palm Beach
Kaani Grand Seaview
Arena Beach Hotel Maafushi
Triton Prestige Seaview & Spa
Velana Beach Hotel Maldives
Due to the high stay rate, we can only check-in after 2PM, even though we reached before noon. The rain turned small by noon, so we decided to have a walk, check out the iconic Maafushi Prison and had lunch. Luck was not on our side, it began to rain again not so long after. When we said rain, we mean heavy rain, that we got all wet, from head to toe. This including our bags – that we carried with us as there are drone, camera, laptop and cash in it. Felt pretty bad. We were not familiar with the area, and most shops are closed due to Ramadhan month so we got no where to get a shelter. Puddles everywhere, and we had to step into in to get through.
Wasn’t a good start but certainly a memorable experience.
In the end, took lunch in the hotel while waiting for check-in. Had Grilled Reef Fish, Grilled Tuna, and Chocolate Milkshake. Total bill came to ~34USD. Taste wise, so-so. The tuna especially, was so hard to bite on. Our initially plan was at NAVIO to try some local food, but sadly, it didn’t turn out in the end.
Finally we can check-in! Clean, spacious room with balcony overlooking the clear blue sea, so pretty! Our room was at 6th floor, the view will be prettier if you got 8th or 9th floor.
The rain finally stopped, but still gloomy. Breezy but not sunny, so the sea doesn’t look that impressive due to the lack of sun reflection. Don’t care. It is time to feel the white, soft beach!
In Maafushi, there are Public Beach and Tourist Beach – more know as Bikini Beach. Kaani Palm Beach is located directly on Bikini Beach, there is no restriction on the attire, so you can wear bikini to swim. But if you are at the public beach, it is important to note that proper attire is required.
Headed to Moonlight Cafe for dinner. Apparently the prettiest cafe on Maafushi Island till date We wanted to check it out for lunch and shot some Instagrammable pictures but ya, thanks to the rain. Food in Moonlight Cafe tastes so much better than in the hotel. We ordered their signature Raw Tuna Tartare with Homemade Nachos, Aglio Olio, Caramel Cola and Peach Mojito. All are tasty! Bill came to ~33USD.
Halfway enjoying ourself, suddenly it rain heavily. No sign, heavy downpour out from no where. We had to leave immediately and ran all the way back to hotel, because we took all our wet clothes, shoes, bags that are all wet from the afternoon rain, out at the balcony to dry up. As Moonlight Cafe and Kaani Palm Beach is one end to another end, by the time we reached hotel, we were again, all soaked up, same goes to our shoes, clothing, etc.. Feeling so exhausted. What a day. We thought that we could have a night walk by the beach after dinner but now, we could only the “moments” into bed with us. Speechless, didn’t know how to express ourself.
Forget about yesterday, wish ourself good luck for the next day! Good morning from Kaani Palm Beach!
Went to the beach at 5AM to catch sunrise! 5AM is certainly a time that we will reluctantly wake up back in Malaysia, because waking up at this hour meaning heavy traffic jam, never ending workload and all the work chaos waiting for you in few hours later.
Sunrise is early in Maldives. By 6.30AM, it is already bright like 9AM in Malaysia. Back to the hotel later, find a nice seat facing the sea and enjoy our breakfast. Small food varieties, but sufficient to fuel up.
Had a walk by the beach. Finally the sun is out! The sea is so beautiful with the calm ripples and sun reflection. Huge different from the sad-looking sea yesterday. Now we felt like we were on a vacation.
At Maafushi island, there are plenty of water sports and activities that you can have, such as parasailing, wind surf, jet ski, wake board, wave surfing, fun tube, water skii, and kayak. Price is affordable. You can easily ask for your preference at many of the booths along the beach. Alternatively, you can also go for some half day tour or day trip, out to the sea for Dolphin Watching, Turtle Reed, Sand Bank Trip, Whale Shark Cruise, Sunset Fishing, etc.. You can also check out Kaani Princess – a waterfront property with floating restaurant and bar. You can chill at the sun terrace, enjoy a meal, followed by a drink at the bar.
As our main intention is to relax, we only walked around the island, rest at the Bikini Beach, enjoy expensive mocktail (haha) while watching the world goes by.
12noon. Check-out, and all ready for one island one resort stay! Finger cross there is no more raining!
To go to the private island, first we need to board the speed boat at 50USD for 2pax and went back to the airport. Generally, if the next island you want to visit has no direct trip from your current island, you will have to return to the airport/ Male city. Not a big issue for us, as the journey is bearable.
Back to Valena Airport after 30 minutes and look for the booth of our next accommodation. We will be staying in OBLU XPErience Ailafushi – a brand new resort in Maldives, located just 15 minutes speedboat tide from the airport.
OBLU XPErience Ailafushi is managed by Atmosphere group, who also owns multiple resorts in Maldives including Ozen Reserve Bolifushi, Ozen Life Maadhoo, Oblu Nature Helengeli, Oblu Select Sangeli, Oblu Select Lobigili, Atmosphere Kanifushi, VARU by Atmosphere.
Highlighting a theme to experience the magic of connection, OBLU XPErience Ailafushi welcomes guest to immerse in carefree tropical island living with invigorating activities, playful design, and a buzzing party vibe. The island resort houses a total of 268 accommodation with options in 4 category. Consider a huge amount of rooms, but doesn’t fall short in having both the tranquil beachfront and lively pool side area.
Love our room, with direct access to the beach.
It also has a window seat and veranda with comfy daybed. Comfortable bed, wooden flooring, colorful cushions, equipped with hair dryer, wardrobe, cloth hangers, large flat screen LCD TV, single vanity, coffee making facilities, mini fridge, robe, slipper, drinking water, air conditioning.
Favorite tranquil morning at the swimming pool.
Empty beach in the morning, before everyone out for sun tanning.
Even though OBLU XPErience Ailafushi is a newly launched property, it has fast becoming popular, thanks to its price-worthy Fushi Plan – that creates a free-spirited Maldivian holiday experience for the modern traveller – be it families, couples, or friends.
Instead of a choice of half-board, full-board or All-in, the resort offers only a single package – Ultimate Fushi Plan. Limited service but unlimited selected drinks, breakfast/lunch/dinner included, complimentary 30-minute watersports daily, live music and dance floor. What’s better – Free Transfer. If you browse through resorts in Maldives, not many of them offers complimentary speedboat transfer. Even if so, there is a condition of staying a minimum of few nights. To be honest, speedboat and seaplane transfer are not cheap for private resorts. It can cost few hundreds USD per person, which could end up as expensive as your room. But at OBLU XPErience Ailafushi, you are given Free Speedboat Transfer, even though you stay for only 2D1N.
For food, three main meals are covered under the Fushi Plan, at Element X All-Day Dining Restaurant. Enjoy self-assisted buffet and beverage counters with various drinks, and a cold room with salad and dessert bars. Dishes are laid out in five sections, namely Western, Eastern, Central, Cold Starters and Pastry, and Bakery.
The restaurant is real huge, Instagrammable at every corner especially during daytime.
However, the unlimited drinks part certainly need some improvement. We tried the cocktail, mocktail, wine. All tasted pretty “meh”. In the end we only stick to whisky on the rock/neat.
You pay for what you get, so can’t compare with All-inclusive in upscale luxury resorts that serve premium range of alcohol, fine dining, course by course romantic dinner; and include activities like sunset fishing, snokeling, house reef. We paid close to MYR3000 per night, which considered reasonable as it is all-inclusive include speedboat transfer.
Many of them said this resort is way too commercial, not for everyone. We agree with this at some points but personally, we enjoy the vibes and liveliness that the resorts offer. Seriously a nicely curated island, colourful, awesome design. However, if you are a person looking for quiet, undisturbed moments in Maldives, this might not be suitable for you. Just our two cents.
Our Maldives came to an end pretty fast. Memorable trip, and made more unforgettable – our USD and MYR that add up become thousands, got stolen by unknown. Again, no matter where you travel to, there’s always safety risk. So please be extra careful with your belongings. Make sure your electronic devices, cash, passport, etc. are with you all the time; and take care of yourself – do not talk to suspicious strangers that approach you too.
Hopefully you enjoy our Maldives itinerary! Thanks for reading.