Even now, it seems like a dream come true. We had been planning for this trip to that smallest country on the Indian ocean (trivia: in fact, smallest in whole Asia!!!) for years…..Until, one fine morning in the month of April when we realized that unless we got the tickets we would never be able to make it. Surprisingly, this kicked off things much quicker and we got most of our bookings done within a week or so.
29-09-2017 [The flight]
Our flight was from Bangalore to Malé via Colombo. It was not a long-haul flight, though (total flight time was just 3 hours, excluding the transit halts), except for that 1.5 hours wait for the connecting flight at Colombo. So I utilized the time for my photography practice. I’m still a novice, you see!!!
This was the first look of the city of Malé, after we came out of the Airport and I, immediately fell in love with the water…trust me, it is not an exaggeration or over-reaction. I had never seen such blue water before.
Now we had to take the sea-plane to reach our resort island. In Malé, the sea-planes are operated by the Trans Maldivian Airways. Once you contact the respective information counter of your resort (which is just outside the arrival gate), they should be able to guide you through the check-in process and luggage tagging. The TMA airport is little far away from the international airport but don’t you worry….they have their own shuttle and lounge for you to freshen up (And you don’t need to carry any special credit card to avail the lounge facility!! 😛 ).
Our flight, which was a small ATC, was waiting for us.
It took off soon after we got ourselves stuffed inside. The Malé city is not a very big one, but for a country which has 99% water and 1% land, this seemed pretty widespread.
It was a 40 minutes flight to the Vilamendhoo Island Resort. We had our booking here for 2 days. As this was our first trip in this country hence I wanted to have combination of both costly and cheap accommodations to see whether or not Maldives is suitable for a budget trip and I must thank booking.com for helping me do that. I had never been to any island resort before and certainly did not have any idea about what that was. So when I got a price drop on this resort, I chose it. But now I think most of the resorts are similar except for some minor differences here and there. But that said, there are some resorts/places, too who have enough offerings to make you do:
In fact, my initial plan was to go to one such place: Reethi Beach. You might want to click on the link to know why and trust me even you would be interested. But unfortunately, I could not make the booking due to 1) way high price & 2) all sold out 😦 . May be next time!!!
As soon as we got off the sea-plane, they picked us up in a local boat called ‘Dhoni’ and took to the resort island. The word resort island means the whole island is part of the resort and there is no other residents other than the resort stuffs.
Our initial formalities were done in next half an hour and we got the room keys and WiFi passwords. Now it was time to see the rooms. I had booked a garden villa which was supposed to be right in front of the sea. I was very excited to see how my choice looked like 🙂 and this is what we had got:
Well, our room was the left one. There was another couple staying in the other side of the wall.
And this is the view you can start your day with… 🙂 What do you think?? Ain’t it awesome??? 🙂
Honestly, I was pretty happy. Even the interior looked neat to me. I liked this open bathroom concept, as well.
Once you check-in, you would be tagged to one of the three main restaurants they have on the island. Ours was ‘Funama Buffet Restaurant’ which was at the center of the island. One should keep it in mind that whatever table you choose the very first time would be tagged against you till you stay in the resort. You are not supposed to change the table. Advantage is, no one would touch your belongings that you left on your table, not even your half-finished water bottles!!!…
After the lunch, I was super excited about going to the water. I had never done snorkeling before. So, I wanted to try it here. Unfortunately their go-pro was not functioning well and the only camera we had was my Nikon DSLR. So, we could not get that experience snapped. But, trust me tell you that it was an awesome one and if you have never tried it either, then may be its time for you to add it to your wish-list.
However, we also noticed an interesting thing. The shallow water (3-4 ft deep) was only till some few feet from the shore and after that the land suddenly took a steep dive into an abyss of 30-40 ft and then went further deeper little ahead. As none of us was any expert in swimming, we did not want to go far from the shore. But right on that moment we decided to come again with oxygen cylinders and scuba-diving kit.
My experiments with my camera again resumed after we came back from the water.
By the way, while snorkeling, we also made some new friends and as a token of our friendship he agreed to pose for me, too…
These are called Blacktip sharks and I had reasons to believe that they are not harmful. Besides, these ones were only few feet long and was only preying on small fishes.
By now, the sun was about to say adieu for the day and I did not want to leave this chance for my photography. There was a balcony specifically built at the end of the series of Water Villas where you could sit, relax and watch the sea and of course the Sunset. The water was pretty calm this side.
The water villas were looking nice at the backdrop of sunset. I did not know they would look so much awesome, otherwise, I would probably have opted for one of those instead of the Garden Villa (Phew!!..one can never be happy with what he has got!!! 😉 )
The night life at the resort was also good. They have a separate area for late night parties and a natural dance floor made of sand!! But I preferred to go to the jetty to see the whole bunch of these uninvited guests (see below). After all, the place I went from (Bangalore) is already famous for its colorful night life, and the resort was not any better.
The next day started pretty lazy. Our only fixed plan was to go for diving which was at 11 AM. So, we had enough time in hand. Hence thought of exploring the island. They have a small football ground and a golf course (micro edition) on the island. I guess, we also saw one lawn-tennis court. Not sure!!!
The west side of the island has a swimming pool and one bar-cum-restaurant. After that, the water villas start.
From the Jetty, the sea was looking even more beautiful and sharks once again gathered to have their breakfast.
We decided to go for the scuba little early. The go-pro was still not available 😦 . But we had to do it. So we decided to do it even without the camera. After the initial 10 minutes lesson on how to manage the oxygen cylinder, water pressure and those usual sign-language, we headed towards the water. Unlike other places, we did not have to go to the deep sea. As the island itself was sitting on a giant coral reef, we could, practically swim right next to the shore. The land disappeared into that abyss only after 40-50 ft from the shore (in the above pictures that were taken from the Jetty, the light blue water was shallow and the deep blue part had the starting depth of 30-40ft). Thanks to the scuba kit, this time we could dive down into that bottom. The corals looked really beautiful. There are hardly any color that you would not find in a coral reef. Some of the corals were even alive and moving. The next thing that would catch your attention is the fishes. They were even more colorful and with the blue background of water, everything was looking pretty spectacular. There were couple of blacktip sharks, too. I was missing the camera and already swearing myself to buy a go-pro before the next trip.
There was a mild drizzling at the afternoon. The black clouds made the whole sea and the shore even more picturesque. You can see the proof below:
Time had come to move to our next part of the trip, The Dhangethi Island which was just 20 minutes (speed-boat) drive away from vilamendhoo. Unlike the resort island, local people live in Dhangethi. They have proper school, markets and playground and more importantly one police-station. I also found a local soccer club there.
Our Booking was in Mala Boutique Inn which covered our budget part of the trip.
Of course the island did not have those extravagant lifestyle and sanity everywhere, but I still found one thing here which the professional resort stuffs seriously lagged, the affectionate heart. The locals of Dhangethi would never make you feel low, unhappy, or even insecure. Being a Muslim country, they are little orthodox and do not engage in certain activities that we, outsiders may perform. But they would never even raise their eye-brows, let alone stopping or yelling. At the resort, I was feeling like living in Europe, where everything was proper and following the clock. Here in Dhangethi, I met life. Locals never rush. They have plenty of time to live the moments.
Our guide was Saalde, who was a friend of the owner. This guy has become a good friend of mine too. He took a very special care of us. Whenever, we needed something, he was there to help. Talk to him, and you would get to know a lot about the island and its people.
The only other guest in this guest-house was one one old couple from Munich. They had been staying there for 10 days and they had plans for one more week.
Dhangethi is also a very small island town. The following pictures may give you an idea about its width. I took them standing at the same point (just twisted myself). This one lane meets the Sea at both of its ends.
The island has a dedicated beach for the outsiders called: The Bikini Beach where locals are not allowed (Except for the hotel stuffs from various hotels and guest-houses). The special thing about this beach is the water is shallow for about 1-1.5 kilometers from the shore which is ideal for snorkeling and other water sports like kite-surfing etc.
The best thing I liked about the Guest-house is its dining area. You can see why:
Overall, I found this small island a very peaceful place. You can read, write, listen to music or just enjoy the ocean. Even though the shoreline was not as clean as the resorts but it was still beautiful.
We passed the second day in Dhangethi, leisurely. We did some snorkeling and this time we managed to get a go-pro, thanks to Saalde:
We also went for the whale shark sighting but our luck was not with us 😦 . But we did get to explore some more reefs.
The stuffs in the guest-house were all Bangladeshis and we, the Indian-Bengalis have some special bonds with them (for historic/political/geographical/cultural/blah/blah/blah reasons!!!). Hence, naturally we became good friends and had a very good time as long as we stayed there. They were very helpful and would not say no to any requests we used to make at any time of the day.
The whole trip was really rejuvenating, peaceful, exciting and adventurous… we did see lot of new things, did some new adventures which we had never tried before, made some really good friends and vowed to come back again… may not be immediately, but definitely, one day….
One special thanks to this new friend, too..