Maldives on a budget without the kids
You have to see them once in a lifetime, right? Especially if you know that they will eventually sadly disappear. What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you think of Maldives? Seclusion? Honeymoon? One of the best scenery and marine life in the entire world? Or is it the price that comes with this paradise?
Well, thankfully from 2009 you can see everything that you’ve heard or seen about the Maldives and you don’t need to spend a fortune on it. In 2009 Maldivian Government made a historic decision allowing locals to open their own guesthouses and restaurants to tourists.
Until then all the resorts were build on privately owned islands. For a night on luxury bungalow sitting on wooden stilts above the water with only breakfast you have to for example spend from 600$ and upwards. The numbers for All inclusive per day are going up as high as 8000$!
Now you can see everything that the expensive resorts are offering for significantly lover prices. But, there is always a but, isn’t it, there are two things you have consider coming to an local island. Since Muslim religion is the only religion in the Maldives and Maldivian people feel really strong about their beliefs, there is no alcohol allowed on the local island. No, not even a beer. And the second thing is being respectful to their religion which means that you can only swim or be in the bikinis on so called “bikini beach”. This is a part of the beach on the island where only tourist can go. And local kids will be spotted around here too of course. If you are a woman walking around the local island it is respectful if you have knee length covered legs and covered shoulders. For the man shorts and t-shirt would do. You should always be respectful and try not to make them feel uncomfortable. The locals on the other hand are very friendly and always willing to help.
We’ve made a decision to come here for our tenth wedding anniversary. Our two precious kids stayed and home this time. It was mommy and daddy time. After some research about lodgings, reefs, snorkeling options, distance and transport options from Male we’ve decided to visit Bodufolhudhoo Island. The Island is part of the Northern Ari Atoll which is renowned for its breathtaking underwater life. You can take a slow 6 hour ride with public ferry for as low as 6$ pp/one way or you can take a two hours speedboat ferry on route from Male to islands in Ari Atoll for 50$/pp per way.
If taking the speedboat ferry, you first stop on Rasdhoo Island which is well known for the schools of Hammerhead sharks. The next stop is Ukulhas and after that you’ll reach Bodufolhudhoo Island.
The Island is very small and you can walk around it in five minutes. It has four small stores (one of them is bigger- supermarket in which you can find basics and also ice cream, chocolate) four guesthouses, coffee shop and pizza place. I would say by the looks of it, pizza place and coffee shop are not operational. The island also has a modern health clinic and pharmacy.
We stayed at Yonder Retreat, a small cozy place with five rooms. The total number of tourists on the island, us included, was around 18. The local people are just getting used to having tourists around and they are very friendly. Especially the kids who always greet you and look at you with their wondering eyes.
The streets are narrow, covered with sand and the small houses are very basic. But still, all are made from concrete and stones. No wooden ones like in Asia.
The bikini beach in kept clean by the locals, which sadly can’t be said for the rest of the island. There are plastic bottles, bags and other garbage laying around.
Pollution and environmental issue in general is a major problem in the Maldives.
There are few high end resorts nearby that you can visit if you want to experience the other way of staying in Maldives. The nearest is Nika Island Resort just minutes away from the beach. They will charge you 35$/pp entrance fee for using their bar if you want to have a beer or cocktail ( 5$ for small Heineken or Tiger Beer, 12$ for cocktails). You can go around the island or use other facilities for additional payment (pool, spa…). We decided to treat ourselves and spent few hours at resort enjoying cocktails & beer, watching sunset and just enjoying life.
Another plus of staying at the local island is that you can do all the trips like they do it at the resorts and visit the same reefs at significantly lower price. And if it is one thing that you will fall in love with here it’s the underwater life.
Snorkeling on one of the most mesmerizing coral reefs we have ever seen, island hopping, being alone on the remote sandbank, open water swimming with huge manta rays…all of this you can do from Bodufolhudhoo Island.
You can see all kinds of fishes, turtles, sharks, octopuses, manta rays, sting rays, corals (most of them sadly are bleached as a result of El niño weather incident at the Maldives in 1997-98), dolphins and during certain period in the year also the gentle giants – whale sharks.
The snorkeling here is really some of the most impressive we have ever seen. House reef is just off the bikini beach and full of all kind off fishes and turtles and even white tip sharks early in the morning.
We also went on so called picnic island. It’s a small sandbar between Bodufolhudhoo and Mathiveri Islands. The boatman dropped us off with water and snacks and we were alone on it for next five hours. There is a great turquoise lagoon and the sand on the island is powdery soft. There is almost no shade on the island and Maldivian sun can be unforgivable so be prepared for that and bring lots of sun block and stay hydrated! We swam around, made lots of photos and even saw a baby sharks and sting rays frolicking in the shallow waters of the lagoon.
The island hopping to Mathiveri island was nice too. The island is twice the size of Bodufolhudhoo and there are around 900 people living on it. It’s greener and they actually grow vegetables and papayas on it.
It has a beautiful turquoise lagoon with the view of Gangehi Island resort at the back of it.
There is also a sunken floating bar (wooden sailboat) off shore. It went down two years ago and it’s still lying on the ocean floor. Floating bar is an elegant and legal solution for getting alcohol in Maldives if you are not staying at the resort. It has a bikini beach and house reef in front of Casa Mia resort but in our opinion they are not as good as the ones on Bodufolhudhoo.
Swimming with Mantas was one of he best experiences in our lives. We sailed from the island at 9am and went in to direction of Gangehi Island Resort. Our boatman knew exactly where to find them. And there were lots of them swimming around eating plankton. They are so elegant and gentle. If you don’t scare them off by vigorously splashing with fins, you can really come close to them. Swimming with mantas includes quite a lot of swimming and strong currents in some parts so it can be tiring but you forget all this the second you see this elegant creature. The sharks and eagle rays was also a surprising addition to this trip.
In conclusion I have to say that staying in the private resort is, I imagine, for sure unforgettable experience but if you want to experience real Maldivian culture and life you should stay at local island.
So here is the breakdown for the expenses:
550$/pp for the Etihad tickets to Maldives (Ljubljana-Belgrade-Abu Dhabi-Male)
100$/pp return speedboat fare ((Male-Bodufolhudhoo-Male)
1100$ room for two on all inclusive basis with six trips included (six
35$/pp Nika Island visit
45$ drinks at Nika Island