The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
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The Maldives - epitomised by idyllic islands, crystal-clear lagoons and underwater treasures - have long been regarded as a luxury destination for the rich and famous, leaving the budget conscious traveller to admire the beautiful atolls in the pages of glossy travel magazines or the social media feeds of celebrities. But not anymore!
For decades, tourism was confined to either resort islands or liveaboards, but after the Maldivian government changed its laws in 2009 and allowed tourists to stay on local islands, a whole range of new affordable options have flourished. Although you might not stroll along the same beach as Lewis Hamilton or swim in an infinity pool with Kim Kardashian, it is now much easier to get your own slice of Maldivian paradise, without getting a call from your bank manager.
Fulidhoo Island is located in Vaavu, an atoll renowned for its diving with sharks, manta rays, vast amounts of fish life as well yellow soft corals carpeting the reef walls and overhangs. Fotteyo Kandu is often regarded one of the best channel dives in the Maldives and the night dive at Alimatha jetty with dozens of nurse sharks and whiprays is not to be missed.
This beautiful island is 700m long, 200m wide, and has only 200 local residents. It is also home to one of our favourite dive centres in the Maldives, Fulidhoo Dive. The only PADI Five Star dive centre on the island, it is run by Four Seasons veterans Ali Miuraj and Adele Verdier-Ali. They combine 5-star service, a wealth of diving experience and knowledge, and friendly Maldivian hospitality to make your experiences here unforgettable.
7 Days, 6 Nights with 10 dives per person starting from USD1,132
including transfers, accommodation, diving, equipment and half-board meal plan.
Situated in the far south of the Maldives at 0°17'S, Fuvahmulah is the country’s closest island to the equator. This isolated and relatively unchartered island promises pristine reefs, large pelagics such as oceanic reef manta rays and mola mola, as well as big shark diving - threshers, tigers and oceanic whitetips.
We recommend diving with the big shark lovers at Fuvahmulah Dive School. They’ve pioneered diving and exploring these waters and are definitely your best bet to get some awesome shark encounters.
7 Days, 6 Nights with 15 dives per person starting from USD2,400
including internal domestic flights, transfers, accommodation, diving, and equipment.
Rising out of the ocean depths, this tiny atoll has found fame as one of the best location in the Maldives for encounters with hammerhead sharks and for some spectacular dive experiences with manta rays and schooling fish. Take a trip to Rasdhoo and explore deep reef walls and dramatic underwater scenery, relax on beautiful beaches and enjoy the hospitality of our highly recommended resorts and local guesthouses.
7 days, 6 nights with 10 dives per person starts from USD1,200
including transfers, accommodation, diving, and equipment.
Ukulhas Island is the ideal eco-friendly budget option in the Maldives. This island, located in North Ari Atoll, was awarded a Green Leaf Award in 2014 for outstanding services to protecting and preserving the Island’s environment.
The island’s location at the northern tip of North Ari - also known as Alifu Alifu Atoll - means guests are well placed to dive some famous sites: Maaya Thila, a submerged pinnacle covered in marine life and home to eagle rays, turtles, barracuda and much more; Fish Head, an oblong shaped reef with schooling fish and snapper as well as resident Humpback wrasse; and nearby Rasdhoo Atoll and the legendary Rasdhoo Madivaru site, with its resident hammerheads that are often encountered on the early morning dive.
We recommend staying with Ukulhas Inn. Just a minute walks from the beach, they offer modern, well-appointed accommodation as well as running excursions, diving trips, manta ray safaris, dolphin cruises and sand bank picnics.
Fehendhoo is a tropical paradise in the 3-island Goidhoo Atoll, located just south of Baa Atoll. There are less than 100 residents and the Fehendhoo children even take a school boat to another nearby island for their lessons. This lush island, covered in coconut-palms and banyan trees, is ideal for simplicity and escapism.
Surrounded by azure lagoons and healthy reefs, it is perfect for snorkeling, catamaran sailing and diving. Day trips are also possible to Hanifaru Bay, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where hundreds of manta rays and whale sharks come to feed on plankton accumulations. There is also a long stretch of “bikini beach” where normal island dress codes do not apply.
The owner-operated Aqua Blue Fehendhoo is a brand new offering on the island that is run by Maldivian veterans, Chikako and Mathias. They’ve been long time friends since the ZuBlu team started diving in the Maldives back in 2006 – and their hospitality is one of the warmest in the Maldives.
Our recommended list of things to pack beyond your toothbrush, t-shirts, and swimwear:
In terms of toiletries and grooming products, we recommend you bring everything you need, however, the majority of local islands do have a collection of small shops selling groceries and souvenirs, as well as sunscreen or mosquito repellent in case you have forgotten to bring your own. Although the local currency is Maldivian Rufiyaa, US dollars are accepted throughout the atolls. And with English the country’s second language most shopkeepers and islanders will be able to converse in English, especially the younger generation
Of course we are a little biased, but the diving in the Maldives really is incredible. For the certified diver, the diversity of dive sites and marine life is breath-taking; from current-charged channel dives with sharks and schooling fish, to shallow reefs with cleaning stations for manta rays, the Maldives has it all. And with plenty of sheltered lagoons, the Maldives is also ideal for those wishing to learn to dive, especially with the prospect of seeing so much more once qualified.
The shallow reefs, known locally as Giris, provide aquarium-like habitats that can be enjoyed comfortably with little concern for currents. The lagoons around the islands act as vital nurseries for reef life as well as sanctuaries for spotted eagle rays and juvenile sharks, making them great to explore. As a rule of thumb, islands within the atolls will have better reefs and provide more enjoyable snorkeling as they are more sheltered, whilst islands on the exterior of the atoll are barrier reefs so the snorkeling is harder to swim out to and there is less coral in the shallows.
With its reefs and channels galore, this atoll nation is a surfer’s heaven. Almost regardless of the tides and winds, there will likely be a corner of reef somewhere that is barrelling, pumping, glassy or simply fun to muck about on. North and South Male’ Atoll are the most well-established surfing spots with accessible breaks and a large number of boats offering surf trips.
We appreciate that thrill-seekers may like to charge about on jetskis, but we prefer to get our kicks by enjoying nature, and the best way to do this is to head out into the lagoons on kayaks, SUP boards, or windsurfs. Being a lot quieter on the water will likely get you closer to spotted eagle rays, either looking for food or even mating, as well as juvenile blacktip reef sharks hunting in the shallows.