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Maldives Cruising Safari

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By Red Hunt

The Maldives Islands are one of those rare travel destinations that can live up to the label of ‘paradise’, but for most people they’re out of reach either because they’re so far away or cost so much to visit.

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If you can fore go the extreme luxury treatment and pampering, then there is a lesser-known adventurous way to enjoy the islands at a very affordable price. What is even better? You don’t have to be a couple on your honeymoon to enjoy the affordable Maldives.

Taking a Maldives Dhoni Cruise is not only the most affordable way to visit the islands, it is also the only way to explore around some of the more remote atolls and uninhabited islands. To put it in perspective, spending 36 hours at one of the nice (not ultra luxury) Maldives resorts costs as much as a 7-day cruise.

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There are a few suppliers out there, Voyages Maldives has a solid reputation and was the company I was with. You can book direct with them, although if you don’t mind giving up some privacy, you can book an organized tour from them via G Adventures. The Voyages Maldives crew was amazing and made the trip a real cultural experience too, not just a relaxing escape to the Indian Ocean.

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With a four person crew and an amazing chef on board for just me and the six other boat guests it was an extremely chilled out tour. Sure, the rooms were a bit cramped and hot, but there were three bathrooms between us and a ton of deck space to lounge around or enjoy some card games, watch the sun set or drink some beers.

That last point may be a big one for some people. The Maldives is a dry country. No alcohol allowed. The entire main island of Male’ is alcohol-free. The only places you can drink alcohol are at the resorts or on a boat safari. Be prepared to disconnect too, as you won’t have TV’s or internet while cruising around most of the islands.

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Every day was full of laughs and surprises on the Maldives cruise safari, with multiple snorkelling expeditions every day. The colourful fish and reefs we visited were more impressive than anything I’d seen in places like Belize, the Galapagos and Malaysia. Part of what made it extra special was the near fish-like capabilities of our boat captain and guide. They were both so at home in the water that they could free-dive down to insane depths and hold their breath for minutes at a time. Leave it to them to find all the hiding spots for the most elusive sharks, eels, rays and fish!

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Our cook would always greet us with some tea and either fresh coconut slices or chocolate cake after our snorkels too. Luxury? No. Pampered? We thought so! Spicy, spicy was the name of the game for lunches and dinners. If you like hot food, then you’d love some of the meals in the Maldives, where we’d usually have a spicy and plain version of each salad we had. While we did have some chicken and meat, the big thing – not surprisingly – was fish.

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In fact, we had more than one lunch disrupted as our fishing lines trailing the boat had caught huge deep sea fish. The crew would spring into action to haul in the fish, which would become that night’s dinner or tomorrow’s lunch. I have no idea what most of the fish were that we caught but they were big and they were tasty.

Trips to some of the smaller inhabited islands were a real treat too. The islands that are home to people of the Maldives, not resorts. We had to get special permission from the local chief to visit these islands and see where local children went to school, how people lived on the islands and what they did for entertainment. The Muslim influence was quite evident, but the people were surprisingly outgoing as well.

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The further north we went, the less touristy the islands became and I loved it. Fewer and fewer resort islands, more and more traditional islands where they still built wood boats, fished for a living and everyone owned their own patch of coconut trees. This was the real Maldives, not the Maldives found in glossy honeymoon magazines. Probably the most relaxing trip I’ve taken anywhere in the world.

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If you’re thinking of visiting the Maldives, here are some helpful travel tips.

First, don’t forget alcohol isn’t permitted. Your luggage does get checked and alcohol gets confiscated. If you’re transiting through the Maldives, you can usually have your alcohol stored away at the airport so you can pick it up when you leave.

Second, the airport is on it’s own island and you cannot arrive without a hotel or accommodation booking. They won’t let you leave the airport until you’ve booked something. If your cruise or resort stay doesn’t start on the day you arrive, you do have a few options.

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There is one hotel on the airport island called the Hulhule Island Hotel, which is convenient but pricey. There are many hotels on Male’ Island, which is a quick 10 minute ferry ride away (ferry taxis run at all hours). Some of them such as the Mookai Hotel are safe, simple and affordable. Or there are a few resort islands within a 30 minute fast ferry ride of the airport. Most resorts only run their shuttle ferries or seaplane transfers during daytime hours so if you need to go far and are arriving at night you’ll need to use one of these other options.

Third, don’t forget to bring a weaterproof camera with you! They really aren’t that expensive and will provide you with some stunning photos above and below the water.

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Finally, especially if you take a safari or cruise in the Maldives, is bring your own snorkel equipment. While it is provided, you are in the water so often that ensuring you have fins, a mask and snorkel that fit properly is crucial and well worth the hassle of packing them in your luggage.

Editor’s note: Red Hunt is a former journalist and business analyst that now works in the world of travel marketing. Based in Toronto, Red Hunt has travelled to more than 40 countries over the past 10 years. You can find more on his adventures from www.redhunttravel.com

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Utheemu Ganduvaru: Portal to Maldives’ national freedom

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The Maldives, often celebrated for its sun-kissed beaches and turquoise waters, also offers a rich tapestry of history and culture waiting to be explored. Among the islands of Haa Alif Atoll lies Utheemu Island, home to Utheemu Ganduvaru, a historical treasure that invites travellers to delve into the storied past of the archipelago.

Utheemu Ganduvaru, the ancestral home of Muhammad Thakurufaanu, stands as a poignant reminder of the Maldives’ fight for independence. Thakurufaanu, revered as a national hero, led a successful campaign against Portuguese occupation in the 16th century. His childhood home, Utheemu Ganduvaru, offers a rare glimpse into the life and times of this legendary figure.

In 1558, the Portuguese invaded the Maldives, killing the Sultan in battle and establishing their rule. Muhammad Thakurufaanu and his brothers, Ali and Hassan, left for Minicoy to prepare a campaign to liberate their country. The boat they built, Kalhuohfummi, was crucial to their efforts. Thakurufaanu and his brothers fought the Portuguese for eight years, landing on different islands under cover of night to evade capture, and departing before daybreak. Eventually, they landed in Malé and defeated the Portuguese leadership in the capital. Freed from Portuguese rule, the people chose Muhammad Thakurufaanu as their Sultan.

Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu ruled the Maldives for 12 years until his death in 1585. He is remembered as a considerate and just ruler, concerned for the well-being of even the poorest citizens. He is also credited with establishing the country’s first formal military unit.

Back at Utheemu Island, visitors are immediately struck by the island’s tranquil beauty and its lush, green landscape. The journey to Utheemu Ganduvaru is a step back in time, where the echoes of history are palpable. The residence itself, a traditional wooden palace, is meticulously preserved, showcasing the architectural ingenuity and cultural richness of the period.

As you enter Utheemu Ganduvaru, the simplicity and elegance of the structure are apparent. Built from timber, the palace is a fine example of traditional Maldivian craftsmanship. The intricate woodwork, with its detailed carvings and polished surfaces, speaks volumes about the artisanship that flourished during Thakurufaanu’s time.

The main hall, with its open layout and cool, shaded interiors, offers a sense of serenity and reflection. It was within these walls that Thakurufaanu spent his formative years, and each room tells a story of his early life and the influences that shaped his destiny. The residence includes living quarters and storage spaces, all arranged in a manner that reflects the daily life of a prominent Maldivian family in the 16th century.

One of the most compelling aspects of Utheemu Ganduvaru is its connection to the larger narrative of Maldivian resistance against foreign rule. Guides at the site often recount tales of Thakurufaanu’s daring exploits and strategic brilliance. His knowledge of the archipelago’s intricate waterways and his leadership in naval battles are celebrated as key factors in the successful expulsion of the Portuguese in 1573.

Beyond its historical significance, Utheemu Ganduvaru offers visitors a deeper understanding of Maldivian culture and heritage. The site is a testament to the resilience and unity of the Maldivian people, embodying values that continue to inspire. For travellers, a visit to Utheemu Ganduvaru is an opportunity to connect with the soul of the Maldives, experiencing the essence of its history and the spirit of its people.

While on Utheemu Island, visitors can explore other points of interest, such as the island’s beaches and vibrant local community. Engaging with the locals offers additional insights into Maldivian traditions and hospitality, enriching the overall experience.

For those seeking a journey through time, Utheemu Ganduvaru in Haa Alif Atoll is a destination that should not be missed. It is a place where the past comes alive, where the legacy of a hero continues to resonate, and where the true essence of the Maldives can be discovered. As you walk through the halls of Utheemu Ganduvaru, you are not just a visitor; you are a part of a historical journey that defines the Maldivian identity.

So, when planning your next visit to the Maldives, venture beyond the beaches and dive into the rich history of these islands. Let Utheemu Ganduvaru be the highlight of your cultural exploration, offering a meaningful and memorable connection to the heart of Maldivian heritage.

Cover photo: Andreas Faessler

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Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives among the best hotels of 2024

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Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives has been named one of the world’s best hotels according to TripAdvisor, placing it among the top 10% globally.

This island paradise boasts a prime location just 13 kilometers from Malé, the capital of the Maldives. Reachable by a quick 20-minute speedboat ride, Cinnamon Dhonveli offers both accessibility and an abundance of activities.

Surfers flock to the world-famous Pasta Point break, while divers and beach lovers can also enjoy the vibrant underwater world and pristine sands. This exciting island caters to a variety of interests, making it a popular destination in the Maldives.

Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts’ summer campaign is the perfect opportunity to experience this paradise. Whether you crave adventure, culinary delights, or encounters with marine life, there’s something for everyone. Bookings of four nights or more come with a complimentary transfer and your choice of two exciting benefits:

  • Explore the vibrant capital with a Malé City Excursion.
  • Embark on a Dolphin Watching trip for an unforgettable encounter.
  • Savor a romantic four-course Beach Dinner under the stars.
  • Relax and rejuvenate with a 45-minute Spa Treatment.
  • Create lasting memories with the “1 Kid Stays Free” offer.

Don’t miss your chance to tick this dream destination off your bucket list. Visit Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives and discover why it’s among the best hotels in the world!

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Nika Island Resort & Spa offers unmatched privacy with private beach villas

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Nika Island Resort & Spa is redefining the tropical getaway with its exclusive private beach villas. This luxurious resort stands out as the only one in the Maldives offering all guests who book these exquisite accommodations direct access to a secluded stretch of beach.

Nika Island Resort’s allure lies in its unwavering commitment to providing an unparalleled experience. Their private beach villas cater to the most discerning travelers, offering a sanctuary of tranquility and luxury against the stunning Maldivian backdrop.

Guests choosing these exclusive villas are treated to unparalleled privacy and personalized service. From the moment they step onto the pristine sands of their private beach, meticulous attention to detail ensures every whim and desire is catered to.

The resort’s private beaches transform into secluded havens where guests can unwind and soak in the Maldives’ natural beauty. Imagine romantic sunset strolls, refreshing dips in crystal-clear waters, or simply basking in the sun on a plush lounger – all in complete privacy.

While these private beach villas may come at a premium, the unparalleled level of luxury, exclusivity, and personalized service they offer make them a worthwhile investment for travelers seeking an unforgettable escape.

Nika Maldives sets itself apart with a truly unique experience by seamlessly blending unparalleled luxury, exclusivity, and privacy with the Maldives’ natural beauty.

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