I admit I had my moments of doubts while I was in Maldives. I thought keenly of what the well-promoted country has to offer— food, people, activities, sea life, etc.— weighed their cost and quality then compared the pieces to the ones in my homeland. Which is better?
You might probably have the same question. And to answer that, I think El Nido, a popular island in my country, Bali, Phuket, Hawaii, and other island destinations, including Maldives, are all worth visiting albeit the redundancy of activities in a familiar body of water. Why? Simply because of the certainty that you’ll always find or experience something unique or unexpected.
Speaking of expectations, I sure had a lot before traveling to Maldives, but these are the things I didn’t expect:
1. I didn’t expect to have a complimentary coffee “with a heart”!
This Maldivian coffee is a little similar to the freeze-dried coffee in Vietnam. The flavor is not too strong nor too sweet but already energizing. Thanks to the UInn, our accommodation for a night in Hulhamale, we started the day with “love” in a cup!
2. I didn’t expect Hulhamale to have the finest sands in their public beach as well as a convenient public jetty transfer until 2 AM on weekdays.
The public beach in Hulhamale, the island in Maldives where the airport is located, is captivating. It’s framed with fine powdery sand and crystal clear water. Quite different from Maafushi, a local island in the southern part of Male City, here is rather tranquil, less crowded, and less strict. Tourists can come here in their best swim wear to rest, rejuvenate or contemplate. (I’ll talk more about bikini and Maldives later).
I found out it is convenient to go to Male City from Hulhamale via a public jetty. I was worried we’d need to hire a private speed boat to go to Male if we arrive late but I didn’t expect that from the airport, it is possible to transfer to Male City anytime until 2 AM. HERE IS THE FERRY SCHEDULE FROM HULHAMALE TO MALE.
I’m relieved we didn’t need to take a private speedboat from Hulhamale to Maafushi because some blogs recommend that. It is over our budget. Also, I am happy we spent a morning at Hulhamale as its unpopular beach couldn’t be seen as anything less!
See this school of fish swimming through~
|Inside the public jetty from Hulhamale to Male City|
3. I didn’t expect the island to be a sand factory(?)
We saw this a few blocks from our hotel. An excavator was digging into this sandy soil. I believe they will construct another building here. But I am amazed everything is white sand!
There is a place I went to back in the day. The beach had white sand but apparently the white sand was sort of a cover up. If you dig dip, you’d see the place’s “true colors”.
But hey Maldives got it all real!
4. I didn’t expect Hulhamale to be well-maintained.
Community workers sweep sand particles or any trash off the road regularly.
5. I didn’t expect this 40 MVR (~3 USD) meal at a small local diner to be so delectable (15 MVR = 1 USD)
After buying ticket at the Viligili Ferry Terminal, we went for a quick lunch. We decided to try one of the local diners lining across the terminal road in Male. Upon seeing the menu, I asked the attendant about his recommendation and he pointed this meal. This is Maldivian Chicken rice. It may look like a normal stir-fried rice but definitely more flavorful. This serving BTW is already good for 2 people.
|Chicken rice, diner, papadum|
It came with these crispy papadum. The papadum accentuated the savory, flavorful taste of the chili chicken rice.
I also didn’t expect that the attendants in the local diner (karinderya we call it in the Philippines) would agree to keep our suitcases in their eatery (for free) while we walked around Male City. There is no coin locker/ storage place nearby, so it was really kind of them to help.
6. I didn’t expect that Acer, the brand of my laptop (which just died on me 3 days before I left for Maldives), to be no.1 here! Haha #troll
or so the ad says…
7. I didn’t expect Male’s narrow streets to be TOO difficult to cross.
The traffic in Male City is crazy.
Motorcycles come out of nowhere and it’s difficult to understand the direction where they’re going. You must be really mindful and cautious when you cross the streets. Again, you have to believe me when I say the traffic in Male is crazy, I come from the Philippines!
8. I didn’t expect the public ferry ride to Maafushi to be cozy and amusing.
Due to a longer travel time, I was worried Hiropi (or I) would get bored on the ferry or worse experience motion sickness. To my surprise, the 90 minute ride to the local island of Maafushi from Viligili terminal in Male went by really quick.
The seat on the ferry is well-ventilated and comfortable enough. There are snacks on board any passenger can buy. Outside is a moving landscape and vast view of dancing sea water.
The 2 USD fare per person in this public transport is not bad.
9. I didn’t expect the island to be non-festive at night.
In stark contrast to Boracay or other beach resorts in the Philippines, Maafushi seemed quiet at night. I don’t know if it’s like that all throughout the year but the nights we were there, it was not festive. There was no loud music, only scheduled Islamic call to prayer.
10. I didn’t expect the beach on the other side of Maafushi to prohibit swimming in bikini and the public beach in Hulhamale to allow so.
So earlier I talked about the public beach in Hulhamale. To be honest, I was a bit confused. I have read from some posts that tourists are not allowed to wear bikini in public beaches but apparently there are some parts in the public beach where you can flash your swim wear.
For the record, you can wear bikini in Hulhamale public beach. You cannot, however, do that in the back side of Maafushi. I forgot how the place is called but just to be safe, look at the signage, there is the “bikini beach” and the “no bikini beach”. Not that you have to be nude in the no bikini beach – rather wear full body swim suit. Some Muslims in the no bikini beach even wear their niqāb (a garment of clothing that covers the face).
The bikini beach is in the right side of the island, if you are facing the terminal to Viligili.
11. I didn’t expect the morning sunrise would be this good. I took this from our hotel doorstep.
12. I didn’t expect Maldivians to be really friendly and courteous.
13. I didn’t expect to see these familiar interiors. Reminds me of Malibago Blue Water in Cebu.
14. This familiar face. In my hometown this is the “nuno”
15. I didn’t expect a large grey heron and other sea creatures such as baby sharks, crabs and eels to be a common sight in Maldives.
This is swimming in front of me…
This shark is so cute. I saw four of them.
16. I didn’t expect that the private island resort day pass fee to be higher than what was quoted in our hotel in Maafushi.
Apparenty, the government tax is 22 percent. Our hotel did not mention about this. Also, snorkeling gears are for rent for 5 dollars each. I am not complaining though. The experience is worth the cost.
Although I think it is worth mentioning that: Fihalhohi Island Resort, which charges its guest 285 USD for a day pass, doesn’t provide mat nor swimming/ snorkeling gear so best thing to do is to BRING YOUR OWN!
And enjoy the buffet lunch…
…especially the bitter lemon drink and the salad.
17. I didn’t expect the water to be so rich and clear that we can snorkel ANYWHERE.
I realized that in Maldives, you can bring your own snorkel gear, don a mask and enjoy the underwater scenery anytime, anywhere.
18. I didn’t expect to swim with squids.
Shame we couldn’t use the GoPro, but I and Hiropi were able to swim with lovely sea creatures including reddish-brown squids. It’s a unique albeit (a bit) scary experience.
19. I didn’t expect this. AT. ALL. Where the heck did this come from? LOL
I don’t know what to say.
20. I didn’t expect Maldives to be this colorful.
I really like the contrast of these umbrellas against the blue sky and water, representing the lively colors of Maldivian food and marine life. I got fascinated with the fresh and inviting hues of the fruits that we ate as well as the vibrant shades of corals and fish underneath.
21. Lastly, I didn’t expect Wifi access would be such a pain in the neck at the airport but HEY there are computer stations everywhere so passengers can still use them FREE OF CHARGE.
Maldives is a lofty destination for a reason, and it is better
than I ever could’ve imagined it to be. I’m glad we booked the tickets to its
sworn expensive islands. But don’t get me wrong, you can enjoy Maldives on a budget.
I’ll be happy to come back but not soon, perhaps after I experience other islands of the world. So Jahid, Ima and other
Maldivian friends I met there would need to wait for a while, but hopefully meet you instead
as you decide to pack your bags and find your way on a ferry to Maafushi!
Thank you for reading this article, if you have questions/ insights/ wild reactions please leave your comments below. Also, if you feel this article will be useful to your friends, please do share!