A night at the beautiful W Maldives resort costs S$1,278. 2 nights at an all inclusive resort like Club Med? $4,780. Even the cheapest bungalow over water villa we could find cost $500 a night :O
While the resort is probably what makes up most of the experience for a trip to the Maldives, we just weren’t willing to fork out that much for the experience we were getting.
Lucky for us, Maldives opened its doors to independent travellers a couple of years back. That means, instead of staying on resorts separated entirely from the locals, you now get to travel cheaply by public ferries to islands that interest you. Want to see whale sharks on the southern atolls? Or have a day of sea sports on Maafushi? You can get to these places by ferry that cost less than US$5!
But probably the best part of all this is the locals opening up their homes to travellers; some even revamping it to luxury guesthouses — without the luxury price tag.
We took a 4 hour ferry ride from Malé and spent the best part of our trip in Noovilu Suites on Mahibadhoo island. Here’s why we absolutely loved the experience:
You can stay at a place like this for $150/night
Upon alighting the ferry, we realised we were the only foreigners. Everyone else was transporting bags of goods from the capital island, Malé and obviously not arriving on vacation.
Our host Hamdhoon stood on the shores, greeting us with a bright wide smile, loaded our backpacks on his wooden wheel barrow and led us down the streets to our place.
The place we stayed was a newly built 2 storey villa, that looked like it came out of Greece. Past the large round wooden door are 6 cosy guest rooms with an open concept bathroom. The stairs led to a rooftop bar (not even fully set up at that point). Since no other guests were on the island, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves :D
Food is included – homely and delicious
Out of curiosity, we found out through the guide that there was only 3 guesthouses on Mahibadhoo and 2 happened to be owned by the one we were staying in. As such, you won’t be able to find many restaurants or teahouses (like on Malé and Hulhumale) as most locals eat at home.
A night’s stay in most of these islands far away from Malé usually offer full boarding in their price.
They cooked us 3 meals a day at the owner’s own dinning room which was cosy and delicious!
Our guide would introduce us to his friends and they would share with us stories of the sea, videos of their previous dive trips and fill us with envy of their beautiful country.
You get the whole beach to yourself
The beauty about Maldives is, even on non-resort islands like Mahibadhoo, you still get to enjoy the powdery white sand and clear blue waters. At beaches like these, you’d expect people to just hang out here all day (because, why not right!), but at Mahibadhoo, we were practically the only human beings. During the early mornings you may catch some of the local women raking the leaves on the beach but you’d probably not get much company on any other time of the day.
If that’s not enough, you can even have a whole island to yourself (for a day)
There honestly isn’t much to do on the island itself so the host usually brings his guests out on his speedboat for snorkelling trips with Manta rays or whale sharks. One of the activities which caught our attention was the chance to picnic on a deserted island! The guys would send you there, set up a beach tent and leave you to spend the day with a picnic basket of packed lunch and a snack.
You can snorkel, explore the reef, and chill to your hearts content.
The underwater world is at your doorstep
For those who love the ocean, it’s literally a stone’s throw away. There’s an in-house reef just a couple hundred metres from the resort, where your guide will show you the best snorkelling spots for spotting corals and marine life.
If you’re looking for more, you can also hop on a short boat ride to search for manta rays and turtles. Who knows, you may even spot the gentle whale shark!
Other than snorkelling, there are also plenty of diving sites that will give you more opportunities to explore the underwater world. If you have a diving licence, Maldives is one of the best places in the world to dive.
Your host will feel more like a friend than a service staff
Our host Hamdhoon pretty much took care of all our needs during our stay on the island. But more than what a resort staff would do, he would have breakfast with us every morning, discuss the possibilities of things to do that day based on the weather, arrange our boat trips and snorkel gear, show us around the underwater reefs and when it was time to bid farewell, it pretty much felt like we were leaving a friend behind.
You can fly to Maldives under S$350
Maldives may not be the cheapest holiday destination but its definitely gotten much more affordable with guesthouses and even Budget carriers covering the destination. With Scoot, you can fly direct from Singapore to Malé for under S$350! Look out for their deals as they sometimes go as low as S$200. Save on flights and stretch your dollar on the experiences that make the trip a truly memorable one!
ENFP, fuelled by yoga, the outdoors, adrenaline and anything that spells adventure. Follow her adventures on Instagram @cheriesyw.