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Old 12th July 2016, 13:49   #1
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Default Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean

Prologue
Travelling gets me going. There is always a sense of excitement and anticipation with the thought of seeing/knowing/experiencing a new place. I am fortunate enough that my current job allows me enough time to satiate this "travel urge" of mine.

I quietly planned to undertake a couple of trips in June. One was going to be a self-drive trip to the Himalayas (destination undecided). I knew it was going to be an arduous journey for my better half, especially after the ordeal we went through during our trip to Leh last year. To compensate for the troubles that lay ahead, I came up with the proposal of a luxury trip of her choice prior to our road-trip.

Why Maldives
We deliberated long and hard on the destination. Wifey has always wanted to do a 10-12 day Europe trip. However, due to the fact that I was out-of-country during the planning phase, there was no way I could have submitted by passport for visa stamping. Google was fired up to check the list of countries that do not require visas to be obtained prior to travel. Seychelles, Maldives and Mauritius seemed viable. A quick look at the travel times and costs quickly discounted Seychelles and Mauritius.

Maldives, here we come!

Background about Maldives
Maldives is a republic country where the main religion is Islam. It is made of over a 1000 islands, some of them uninhabited. It is renowned for its rich marine-life and is considered a haven for divers.

Where in Maldives
There are numerous islands you can go to. In most case, each island has one resort. Some islands are big in that the resort boasts of multiple restaurants, discos etc. Some are small and would typically have a couple of dining options in addition to accommodation. Some islands would require a "sea-plane" to get to while others are accessible by boat from the capital city of Male.
We wanted to enjoy a bit of privacy along with luxury. Tripadvisor to the rescue again and Mirihi Island Resort (http://www.mirihi.com/en/) was finalised.

When in Maldives, stay in "Over-water villas". I was always fascinated with over-water villas and here was my chance to stay in one. We finalised one of the over-water villas at the resort we were about to stay.

The booking experience was fairly straightforward and smooth and we blocked 6 nights at the resort. With the accommodation being booked, it was time to work out the travel plans.

Flights to Maldives
Well, there aren't many options available. There are NO direct flights to Male. Only Air India operates flights between Male and Trivandrum. The flight duration is a little over an hour.
From New Delhi, I wasn't able to find a direct flight to Trivandrum either. The only option that seemed to make sense was again Air India flying from New Delhi to Trivandrum via Kochi (a stopover of over 30-45 mins). The total flight duration for this leg was just over 4 hours.
I flew Air India once from London Heathrow to Delhi and vowed never to fly them again. In this case, though, the only other option I had was to fly Sri Lankan Airlines to Colombo and then take a connecting flight to Male.
Reluctantly, I browsed the Air India website to book my flights. To my surprise, I found and readily booked 2 business class (a surprise for the missus) tickets from New Delhi to Male for INR 90,000.

With the hotel bookings and air tickets, we were all set!

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 12th July 2016 at 17:47.
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Old 12th July 2016, 14:15   #2
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Default Re: Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean

The Journey
Our flight from New Delhi to Trivandrum was scheduled to depart at 1800 hrs. The arrival into Trivandrum was expected to be 2200 hrs. Check-in formalities at the Air India counter were smooth. My confidence in Air India started building up. However, this was short lived. We were sitting right outside the gate that was printed on our boarding pass. Time ticked and we did not see any movement at the gates. I thought the flight might be delayed. No announcements were made pertaining to our flight. We started getting anxious. There were some other passengers sitting outside the gates as well. 10 minutes before the flight departure time, I walked up to the big screen to check what's up with our flight. To my dismay, I see "Final Call" being displayed against our flight and the gate was changed from Gate 1 to Gate 14. People who have been to IGI, Delhi, would know this is quite a trek. I signalled frantically to my wife and we sprinted across to the gate. All other passengers soon followed.

Upon reaching the gate, I asked one of the staff as to why no gate change announcements were made. He had no response. Air India did it again!!

The mood changed when we boarded the flight. Comfy seats with ample legroom, excellent in-flight meal, prompt and polite service; Air India is changing. The flight was boring though as the in-flight entertainment system was not working and we both ended up chatting, eating, reading books and playing Angry Birds 2. We arrived into Trivandrum at 2230 hrs and our flight to Male was scheduled to depart Trivandrum at 0800 hrs. This meant an overnight stay in Trivandrum. As we were travelling business class, I thought we might just kill time in the lounge if it is decent. However, I couldn't find much information about the lounge at Trivandrum and hence decided to venture out of the airport and stay at Uday Suites (http://www.udaysuites.com/). No advance reservations were done for this as I thought of walking up to the check-in counter and asking for discounts. The hotel is about 15 minutes from the Airport and is a good property. They provided us with a light meal at arrival even though the kitchen was closed. With our tummies full, we crashed as we had an early morning start.

We woke up on-time next morning and made our way to the airport without any fuss. With all the check-in formalities done, we went to the lounge and thanked our luck that we did not decide to spend the night there. The lounge at Trivandrum is more of a cafe with limited seating options. We had a light breakfast and waited for our flight to Male. As luck would have it, the gate change commotion repeated itself at Trivandrum. This time though, we did not sprint as there were only 5 gates to pass through.

Flight into Male was again uneventful but good with an excellent breakfast meal and prompt service. Within an hour and 15 minutes, we landed at Male. Immigration and security were seamless and quick.
Mirihi offered us complimentary sea-plane transfer (one-way). We were greeted by their representative outside the airport. She took us to the sea-plane terminal which is a 10 minute bus ride from the airport. Here you find waiting lounges for all island resorts. We waited for a couple of hours in the Mirihi waiting lounge seeing the sea-planes land and take-off.

Finally, our ride arrived and the excitement levels rose. This was the first time I was going to be in a sea-plane. I was under the impression that landing and take-off would be a bumpy affair given that you are using water as your base. I was surprised to find that it was the opposite! Our landing and take-off were smoother than what we are normally used to. You see a lot of islands from the sea-plane and they look beautiful. Mirihi was 30 minutes away and the scenery below kept us occupied throughout the journey.

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 12th July 2016 at 18:20.
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Old 12th July 2016, 18:58   #3
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Default Re: Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean

The Resort
To sum up, breathtakingly beautiful! I have been to quite a few beaches and islands but this surely has to be the best yet.

We were greeted by the General Manager of the resort himself which I thought was a very polite gesture. After a quick welcome drink, we were given a short tour of the island.

The resort is "shoe-free" meaning you don't need to wear your shoes/slippers once you are at the island. We removed our footwear and only put them back on our departure. The island sand is extremely soft and fine (the softest I have seen). There were two dining options present - one was the main dining restaurant and another was an over-water restaurant which hosted special events. There was a bar adjacent to the main restaurant. There is a decent gym present for fitness junkies. They also have a table tennis area as well as a small 5-a-side football pitch if you are into sports.

The spa was excellent and we were given complimentary 30-min vouchers that could be upgraded/extended.

The resort has a separate "dive centre" called Ocean Pro. You can take all the diving/snorkelling equipment from here. These guys also conduct excursions which you can book.

Our villa was immaculately appointed and the views were awesome. The villa had no TV as per the policy which I guess is a nice personal touch to make sure you enjoy the company of your loved ones.

Our stay
One of the best holidays I have been on. We did not subscribe to any special events being run as we did not think they were worth the price being quoted. I ended up reading the "Sachin Tendulkar" autobiography, feasting every meal time, snorkelling and swimming. It is surprising when you think of it, but for 6 days, you only do limited activities and you still don't get bored!

Food was awesome and the buffet spread had plenty of options for everybody. The service was prompt and we were always greeted with a smile. The buffet theme was changed every single night.

The weather was just about right with temperatures hovering around 28 degrees. There were periodic showers which kept the air cool. There was a massive storm one night though and it was a sight to behold.

Snorkelling
Snorkelling was an amazing experience in itself. Most people visit Maldives as it is known to be a diver's paradise. However, people who do not want to go diving can still enjoy snorkelling. The two main attractions for divers are swimming with the whale sharks and manta rays. The dive centre does not require you to have diving certifications to be able to go diving. Before the dive excursion, they give you a 30 minute introductory overview about the equipment, do's and dont's. Both of us desperately wanted to go diving as it would be the first experience for us. However, when we told the dive centre that we are not good swimmers, they asked us to try snorkelling for a couple of days to get used to being under water for a length of time.

This was the first time both I and my wife were trying it and we both loved it. We had our life-vest on which made it easy for us to float for longer duration without tiring ourselves out. The fins felt awkward but helped us in not hitting the corals with our bare feet. The reef and the marine life is astonishing. With excellent goggles and snorkel, we spent hours just floating around seeing different kinds of fish. It's hard for me to recollect but I would have seen at least 30 different varieties of fish over the course of 4 days. Words cannot describe the beauty that you see. It is one of those things that needs to be experienced first hand.

We did get comfortable with snorkelling but didn't give diving a go as we had too much fun snorkelling itself! Maybe next time we will venture out in to the deep.

I also managed to spot a Manta Ray swimming by our villa. This, I am told, is extremely rare as they don't venture into shallow waters. We did try our hand at kayaking as well. With the weather being choppy, wifey and I panicked and turned back in a haste. It sure looks simple when you see others kayaking but it does require effort and skill especially if the sea is rough.

Journey back and a sneak-peak of Kerala
On our way back, we stayed at Uday Suites again. Our layover was longer and hence we decided to explore Trivandrum for a bit. We went to Poovar for checking out backwaters. On our way back, did a quick stop at Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple to ask for blessings and pay our respects to the All-Mighty!

Conclusion
While I am an adventurer at heart, it is sometimes necessary to pamper yourself and your loved ones with a dose of luxury. This holiday was exactly what was needed before a tiring journey to Himanchal began. Given that there was not much to do, I enjoyed the company of my wife and I hope she did too As I have said earlier, this was possibly the best holiday both of us have had thus far. In terms of sheer beauty, Maldives surely ranks amongst the top albeit it is not easy on the pocket. But hey, you only live once!

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 14th July 2016 at 23:06.
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Old 12th July 2016, 19:17   #4
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Default Re: Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean

Reviews
I would give my review (points on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the highest) on different aspects of this trip.

Air India
Food - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Punctuality - 2/5
Operations - 2/5
Overall - 3/5

Mirihi Resort
Location - 5/5
Food - 5/5
Service - 5/5
Overall - 5/5

Uday Suites
Location - 4/5
Food - 3/5
Service - 4/5
Overall - 4/5

Information and Top Tips
1. You cannot carry alcohol into Maldives.

2. Carry books and music with you.

3. Do not carry an awful lot of footwear as you won't be needing them anyway.

4. Check with the resort if your booking is Half Board, Full Board or All-inclusive.
HB = breakfast and dinner included in your package.
FB = all meals included in your package.
All inclusive = all meals and all drinks.
*We took the HB package

5. Check with your resort on the transfer options available from and to Male. Sea plane transfers are often complimentary one-way only. Make sure you understand the charges of your return journey.

6. You don't need to carry cash at the resort. All bills are settled at the end of your stay. Tipping is not considered a regular practice. All transactions are done in USD.

7. If you are travelling with kids, check with the resort what kid friendly activities they conduct. My resort did not have a lot of options for kids apart from swimming.

8. Carry your own swimming gear (goggles, cap, snorkel etc). This will ensure you get a good fit and are not struggling to find one of your size at the resort.

9. Most resorts offer good discounts in June-July. The weather is not as bad and this time can be considered a good time to travel to Maldives.

10. Try Air India. Fares are competitive and the service is improving.

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 14th July 2016 at 20:15.
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Old 12th July 2016, 20:02   #5
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Photos
Enough text. Time for some photos.

Our chariot to Mirihi- The sea planes. The terminal and the aircraft are managed by Trans-Maldivian. This might be the only place you will find the crew and the pilot dressed in a white shirt and knee length shorts operating an aircraft. Once inside the aircraft, you will feel uncomfortable for a little while as the cabin temperature is quite high and the smell of the fuel is quite profound. However, once you are completely in air, the cabin becomes better.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0002.jpg

This was the view from our over-water villa. Each villa has a separate staircase that leads you right to the ocean. They have also provided a shower at the staircase itself so that you can wash yourself after a swim. The resort has two villas side-by-side. However, rest assured that you get all the privacy you need such is the design of the villa.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0015.jpg

Views from the inside. The villa was very well appointed with all the creature comforts - Nespresso Coffee Maker, Bose Music System, A fully stocked fridge etc.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0008.jpg

This shot was actually taken in low-light. Hence the graininess. This is the jetty where the yachts picked-up and dropped passengers. Upon request and at an additional charge, the resort organises a personal dinner for you right at the end of the jetty.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0044.jpg

As pristine as it can get. So many shades of blue.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0071.jpg

Most evenings were cloudy owing to the rainy season. However, I was lucky to witness this one of the evenings
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0099.jpg

This is the over-water restaurant of the resort. We did visit this restaurant once to check-out what it has to offer.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0065.jpg

Walkway to our villa. I still cannot believe how soft the sand was!
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0131.jpg

Approach to the water villas. Notice the small bucket kept outside the villa. This was to wash your feet to get rid of the sand before you entered your villa.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0141.jpg

Imagine lying on this for hours reading about your favourite cricketer! Appropriate shading is available so you don't feel the sun as much even when it's bright and sunny.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0146.jpg

Sun, sand,sea and shade
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0085.jpg

Sit here and gaze into the ocean while chatting for hours! The entire island is dotted with such seating so you have plenty of options to sit around in privacy.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0153.jpg

A closing shot!
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0147.jpg

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 14th July 2016 at 22:46.
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Old 12th July 2016, 20:14   #6
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From Kerala

Poovar backwaters. It took us around an hour to reach Poovar from the Airport hotel. The cruise company offers different packages based on the duration. We took the one for 90 minutes and ended up paying Rs.2000. All fares are government regulated.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0172.jpg
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0183.jpg

I couldn't witness a proper sunset here as well due to clouds. While on the cruise you do see a lot of birds. I am not an avid bird watcher though, hence, no shots of them here.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0228.jpg

The cruise took us to the Golden Sand Beach. This is where the backwaters meet the ocean. It's a fairly clean beach apart from a few areas. I witnessed some massive waves here owing to the weather. There was a lifeguard here manning the beach and preventing people entering the water.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0203.jpg
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0195.jpg
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0213.jpg

Also, saw the Elephant Rock. Took me some time to understand why it is called that. I was told that this is the natural shape of the rock. Nearby you can also find a couple of resorts with stay options as well as 3 floating restaurants where you can enjoy a meal.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0222.jpg

Saw the Mother Mary statue next to the Elephant rock. This was initially setup by the Portuguese if I remember correctly but has been recently refurbished/repaired.
Maldives - The jewel of the Indian Ocean-dsc_0224.jpg

Last edited by TheDesertRat : 14th July 2016 at 22:53.
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Old 15th July 2016, 06:53   #7
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 15th July 2016, 14:30   #8
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Thank you for this nice post and excellent photography.
Basically your post remind me of my stay in Maldives long back when I was there on a business trip.
Few trivia, the airport you have landed in Male, is basically part of the reclaimed island Hulumale. Maldives local population follows conservative daily life and you will find it pretty amazing how the culture changes between the mainland Male and the island resorts.

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Old 15th July 2016, 18:26   #9
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Thanks a lot DesertRat! Mesmerizing and wonderful write up as well!

I so wanna visit Maldives now that thinking of giving up on my dream SUV and go for a hatch back and spend the savings on the trip especially after checking the resort rates
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Old 15th July 2016, 23:52   #10
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Nicely written up travelogue and crisply edited. The pics itself make me wanna impulse-book tickets to Maldives... and if my wife likes the idea, I might actually do it after sept. Any idea which months to avoid? My wife and I, went to andaman only to be stuck up in the hotel room for two complete days till we boarded the return flight because of heavy rainfall. Do let us know the best months to visit Maldives, if you have an idea. Thank you. Felt good to read a short and a sweet travel story..
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Old 16th July 2016, 14:52   #11
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A very nice Travelogue..Islands and Blue waters is something that excites me ! I was feasting on the pics and it ended too soon :( Got more pics to share ?
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Old 17th July 2016, 01:23   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc_nikhil View Post
Nicely written up travelogue and crisply edited. The pics itself make me wanna impulse-book tickets to Maldives... and if my wife likes the idea, I might actually do it after sept. Any idea which months to avoid? My wife and I, went to andaman only to be stuck up in the hotel room for two complete days till we boarded the return flight because of heavy rainfall. Do let us know the best months to visit Maldives, if you have an idea. Thank you. Felt good to read a short and a sweet travel story..
Thanks Doc. I have heard that the 2nd half of the year (August - December) is wet season and travel should be avoided during these months.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mohammedismail View Post
A very nice Travelogue..Islands and Blue waters is something that excites me ! I was feasting on the pics and it ended too soon :( Got more pics to share ?
Thank you, Sir. I do have more pics but it's more of the same and I did not want to overload the travelogue with similar pictures. Let me sort out a few and upload them shortly. I do have a video of some baby sharks swimming right at the edge of the beach which I think is quite interesting. I just need to find time to upload it on YouTube and then post it here.
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Old 18th July 2016, 09:29   #13
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Shot and Crisp! Hey, but I was looking for more...lovely writing capturing most of the points. Your pictures are very good, post some more.
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Old 18th July 2016, 16:12   #14
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Lovely pictures, TheDesertRat. Reminds of my (not so old) honeymoon. We stayed at Meeru and had a gala time.

Quick question- My wife & I aren't great swimmers, we mentioned it to the resort authorities and were asked not to go for Snorkeling. I see that you snorkeled, even though you admitted to not being a good swimmer. Any difficulties faced?

Everyone- I have seen that scuba diving is allowed to non swimmers in countries like Thailand, while it is the opposite in Maldives. Any idea why it could be so?
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Old 18th July 2016, 17:02   #15
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Quote:
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Lovely pictures, TheDesertRat. Reminds of my (not so old) honeymoon. We stayed at Meeru and had a gala time.

Quick question- My wife & I aren't great swimmers, we mentioned it to the resort authorities and were asked not to go for Snorkeling. I see that you snorkeled, even though you admitted to not being a good swimmer. Any difficulties faced?

Everyone- I have seen that scuba diving is allowed to non swimmers in countries like Thailand, while it is the opposite in Maldives. Any idea why it could be so?
There was a "learning" curve. Like I said, with the life vests on, snorkelling is easy as you don't need to put any effort to float.

If non-swimmers want to go diving in the Maldives, they sure can. However, the resort dive centres in Maldives are a bit more professional in recommendations. Thailand is all about getting maximum people to dive as it generates maximum revenue.
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