There’s 1200 islands in Maldives, so hard to find what you are looking for! We’re both divers (Open Water, nothing fancy) and our main goal was to see mantas rays and whales sharks. Oh and we also were on a budget.
After an extensive research, we found out the two perfect local islands. Both with dive centres, bikini beach, great to spot sea life, close to a resort (to catch a break), and reachable by plane.
- Dharavandhoo: Very close to Hanifaru Bay, famous for the mantas rays.
- Maamigili: Close to a big reef which is home to several whale sharks.
We decided to spend our last night on Male to be close to the airport (if something happen) which we would recommend to do to. However, don’t expect much from the capital city expect if you like dirty and crowded places.
1. Dharavandhoo in 7 days
Manta rays, scuba dive and snorkelling
2. Maamigili in 7 days
Whales sharks, chill and resorts
General Tips 👏
There’s two kind of islands in Maldives, resort and local. Resort islands are made for tourists, and are free from most of the country’s laws. Local islands however apply the state’s law, which includes for the main ones: no alcohol, no bikini, no top-less or no pork.
However, at the moment most of the local islands accessible to tourists also offers bikini beach, where tourist can be in their swimwears (still no alcohol 😭). Don’t be scared tho, we still had a good time!
- Internal flights are quite expensive, 80$/way.
- Maldivian is spoken (arabic root) but most of people speaks english.
- You can’t go on all the island. However, island with airport and hotels on it are usually accessible for tourists.
- We’ve been there at low season in beginning of October, which was quite nice. We got some showers but nothing crazy or preventing to enjoy the area.
We spent 2960£ in 16 days, which means 185£/day, by keeping an eye on our expenses but still enjoying.
- The easiest and the most expensive is flying between island. Three or four company operates from Male to bring you in different atolls. They seemed all good to us. We used FlyMe and had no problems. However, each leg costed us 90$/person.
- There’s also speed boat, and relatively more slow boat, doing some connections between the islands. Cheaper but not super reliable.
- You can also go big or go home, and book a private plane, like the one you’ll see at Male International Airport, which brings you to fancy resorts like Intercontinental or Marriott, more than 400$/way.
- Netflix: Perfect for rainy days.
- XCurrency: Offline and up-to-date currency rates.
- TravelSpend: Log and budget your expenses day by day.
- Maps.me: Free offline map of the world, including trail paths.
- FourSquare: Perfect to find the best restaurants in a very easy way.
- AirBnB and Booking.com: The best to find cheap accommodations.
- Don’t expect nothing fancy or extravagant in the local islands. Most of them are filled with very few restaurants, offering either very basic sandwiches, or a mix of Sri-Lankan and Arabic cuisine.
- The local food is quite tasty and filling, but not very extended. Often guesthouses provide meals on demand.
- You can buy limited kind of food at the local supermarket, but still have the basics like pasta, tomato sauce or chinese noodle.
Upon arrival, we bought a SIM card at the Male airport with Ooredoo. We bought 30GB for 50$ and that worked perfectly. That was too much data but the coverage was great.
No Visas required for EU/UK citizen, so simply fill a form on arrival at the aiport.
We spend all our nights in two guesthouses on two different local islands. We were on a budget so both of those were quite basic, but did the job to be fair, including daily cleaning and breakfast.
Don’t be attracted by the resort only for the beer, because usually you can do a day-tour to one of those resort islands, where you can enjoy the resort, its facilities and legislation for a fee. Sometimes, you can even go for free if you do an activity with them like scuba dive, which is what we did.
Overall, we recommend to stay on local islands in guest houses. It’ll give you a chance to meet the local people, get some local food even if limited and do and buy whatever you want without paying high prices. If you’re on a resort, you’ll most likely stay on it and see half of everything.
Local islands used to not be open to tourist until few years ago. However, there’s now plenty of hotels and guesthouses on accessible island, which offers tours and such.
Tourism beside resorts is slowly developing on those area, helping the local population by creating more jobs. Also, because of the difference of price, local islands attract another segment of tourists, like us 😆
Packing List 📦
- Beach gear (towel, swimwear, flip-flops…)
- Snorkelling gear (mask, snorkel and fins if possible)
- Rain jacket
- Moskito repellent
- Re-usable water bottle
Overall Experience 🤓
After wrapping up with the two islands, we headed back to Male waiting for our international flight to China. Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Maldives, our highlight was as you probably have guessed the underwater fauna.
The big white sand beaches, the coral reefs and the coconut also make a combination pretty magical, where you’ll be sure to find the chill vibe you need to decompress from work. If you decide to go on local islands like us, you’ll have a great time for not that much money (at least less than what we expected), and you’ll have no trouble to make the most of it. We’ve been in October but we hear dry-january is also a good time.
Hope this was helpful, you can leave comments if you need extra informations or if you have any questions or suggestions! You can checkout our summary video below built with 1 second a day.
Read Next ⏭️
Our 7 days stay in Dharavandhoo.