Our Trip through the Maldives
The Maldives are no longer only for honeymooners staying at luxury resorts. In fact, the in previous 10 years, the government has been relaxing tourism rules, allowing local islands to open up to tourism for the first time. The Maldives are a Muslim-majority country, so it’s worth remembering most islands are dry, and there are special beaches where tourists can don bikinis. However, it’s incredibly beautiful (and potentially may disappear with rising water levels), so worth a visit now.
Week 1 – Male to Ari Atoll (North & South)
Male: Upon arriving in the Maldives, you will land in Male. I would recommend you get off of Male as quickly as possible; it is one of the most densely populated places on a per capita basis. Ferries run all the time between the airport (on Humhale) and Male Island; from Male, speedboats and ferries travel to nearly all the other atolls, with fares ranging for a few dollars (public ferries) to $30-40 (speed boats).
Rasdhoo & the North Ari Atoll: Start in the Ari Atoll, just to the west of the Kaafu Atoll (where Male sits). Here, there are great dive spots in the north for seeing sharks, rays and even hammerheads (Rasdhoo). Spend a few days in the island chill, enjoying the beaches, and the perfectly warm water (29 in the air and sea).
Maamigili & the South Ari Atoll: From here, take a boat back to Male, and then head toward the South Ari Atoll (Maamigili), where whale sharks live year round. There are more restrictions now for the kinds of boats that can go whale watching (a good thing, because exposed rudders can hurt them). One of the few places in the world that is a natural home for whale sharks year round
Week 2 – Maafushi and the Vaavu Atoll
Maafushi : From the South Ari Atoll, head back to Male (unfortunately all of the Maldives operates like a hub and spoke—and Male is the hub), and take a short speed boat down to Maafushi, likely the most touristy of the islands. There are more hotels, restaurants, dive shops and activity centers than any other local islands—meaning lots of options and better prices.
Drinking & Maafushi: There are a few larger ships that hang out off shore; these are the only places where you can drink alcohol, and getting there requires finding a dingy (at the main harbor), and hitching a ride out.
Diving Maafushi: The diving and snorkeling around this area is fantastic; even swimming along the beach can often yield discoveries of sting rays or fish hanging about. Maafushi is definitively the cheapest place in the Maldives for booking dives.
Week 3 – Fulidhoo
Fulidhoo: From Maafushi, take the public ferry further south onto the quiet island of Fulidhoo. It’s mostly locals here, and a few guest houses that dot the islands, but the local diving is incredible. There is a site with dozens of nurse sharks, tuna and giant trevally and swarm around you. Mantas can be seen swimming and playing. There are more white tips, black tips and silver tips than you can count, and the occasional eagle ray that comes to play. The diving is more expensive ($75/tank) but rewarding.
Liveaboard diving: I hear in the deep south is where all the big animals live—in schools. It’s recommended to reach those areas by a week-long liveaboard.
Week 4 – Baa Atoll/ Kaafu Atoll
Baa Atoll and Manta Season: During Manta season (in the late spring), check out the Baa Atoll, to the north west of Male. Here, hundreds of mantas may swarm around dive sites.
Kaafu Atoll and Surfing: Or if diving is not necessarily your thing, head up north from Male (on ferry or speed boat) to Thulusdhoo—a place with backpacker vibes, and one of the only places in the Maldives with two surf breaks.