South-west of India, in the midst of the Indian Ocean, lies one of our favourite holiday destinations – the island archipelago of Maldives. With a welcoming people, a wealth of amazing natural wonders, truly sensational food and, of course, some of the finest boutique hotels, you might be wondering where to start. Fear not, we’ve come up with our top ten things to do in this wonderful, secluded paradise.
1. Dive with manta rays
Between May and November, spots such as Hanifaru Bay and Bathaala hold host to large gatherings of up to 100 manta rays at a time. Snorkelers are able to dive in and swim amongst these magnificent creatures as they dive, swoop and wheel about in the water, seemingly without effort. Excitingly, mantas have begun to be spotted off Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, and researchers from the Manta Trust regularly take guests to track them.
2. Picnic on a sandbank
Want to feel as if you have the whole world to yourself? The Maldives houses thousands of square kilometres of sandbanks – just peeking over the waterline – which are perfect for a gourmet picnic for two. A boat will take you out to just the right spot and, with recliners, parasol and trays, you will be treated to either haute cuisine, or traditional island dishes – your pick! For a real sense of peace and isolation, we recommend those surrounding the small island of Dhiggiri.
3. Hit the fish markets
As Male’s bustling heart, you simply cannot miss the Fish Market. Here, fishermen come to sell their catch after months at sea. Hotels, restaurants and everyday customers come to buy the fresher-than-fresh tuna, skipjack, yellowfin, and octopus. Consequently, the place is a riotous mix of shouting, gesturing and glittering fish. It’s a real glimpse into the way of life of many Maldivians and their vital reliance on the ocean around them.
4. Catch a traditional performance
Boduberu is the traditional dance music of the Maldives and you won’t have to travel very far to encounter it – there are often performances at each of our hotels. However, another great place to take in a performance is the tiny island of Feydhoo, which also hosts amazing seafood restaurants. A mix of the traditional rhythms of the island’s indigenous inhabitants and the songs of later Arab arrivals: boduberu is hypnotising stuff. Some groups will even let you have a go at playing along – don’t worry if you’re no musician, drums and bamboo sticks are the main instrumentation.
5. Eat the perfect ice cream in Male
As an island nation blessed with abundant sunshine, the Maldivians do love their icecream – you’ll find a wealth of flavours that puts your local Gelateria to shame, some using distinct ingredients such as jackfruit, noni and native varieties of passionfruit. Our favourite place for a large serving of cool, fresh flavours is the Seagull House Cafe in Male (Fareedhee Magu, Maafannu) where you’ll have amazing views of the city and harbour.
6. Visit the sea turtle rescue centre
Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu is the home of the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre, an island base for conservation and care of these wonderful creatures. Guests can get up close and personal to the turtles and talk to the biologists who work to protect these wonderful creatures.
7. Go big game fishing
If you love the thrill of reeling in huge snapper and bluefin tuna, our villa, Coco Prive Private Island is well-versed in organizing big game fishing expeditions, pairing you with the experts in tracking the big catches. You won’t have to worry about a thing – they’ll sort a boat (well-stocked with cold drinks), big game rods and everything else you’ll need for a fishing adventure like no other. Back at the villa, you can organise your own private chef to create a delicious feast from your catch!
8. Shop for traditional handicrafts at Thulhaadhoo
Thulhaadhoo is famous across the Maldives as the home of lacquered wood products that were once the sole enjoyment of aristocrats. Now, guests from across the world can pick up beautiful bowls, vases, cups and other pieces of woodwork decorated with red, black and gold designs, at the open workshops found across island. It’s a fantastic day trip and you’ll bring home something truly special, unavailable anywhere else.
9. Enjoy authentic Maldivian dishes
Hungry? The Maldives boasts a cuisine that takes the best aspects of those who have settled there and adds a certain tangy zing. Coconut is a staple, either grated or as milk, along with Garudhiya, a tasty fish broth. Barbecued fish reigns supreme, spiced liberally, alongside Mas Huni – shredded skipjack tuna or yellowfin cooked with onions. Food is traditionally served with roti and other delightful savoury pastries.
The Air restaurant at Coco Bodu Hithi is one of the nation’s finest restaurants and every Friday night you’ll find some of the Maldives best chefs come to cook for you, showcasing their specialties. Make sure you take photos -there’ll be an abundance of ‘Instagrammable’ dishes.
10. Sail on a traditional Maldivian boat
The Dhoni is the traditional fishing craft of the Maldives, with magnificent curved prows and wide sail for slicing through the shallow waters of the archipelago. They’re probably one of the best ways to experience travelling between the atolls of the Maldives and at Coco Bodu Hithi, you can organise a dhoni to sail through the islands. What better way to mark a special occasion than with a romantic sailing trip and dinner?
The Maldives is renowned for luxurious hotels with the finest service; however, sometimes the giant resorts can seem vast and impersonal. We’ve handpicked our favourite boutique accommodation on the islands, to ensure your visit is filled with friendly faces and unforgettable memories.
Enticed and excited by our top ten Maldives experiences? Get in touch with Anna Dixon to organise your next magical escape.