No doubt when you hear the words “The Maldives” you immediately picture sparkling white sand, crystal clear waters of amazing shades of blues and over water villas commonly portrayed in the promotional photos. We had an amazing opportunity to visit one of the many islands within the Maldives archipelago so we were lucky enough to experience what everyone wishes for when they visit this Indian Ocean paradise, but we also saw another side that is definately not shown in the marketing brochures.
After seeing a private apartment, sub-rental opportunity on a Facebook group we are a part of, we couldn’t pass up the chance to visit this beautiful part of the world. The apartment (read our review here) was on a little local island named Villingili, a short ferry trip from the capital island of Malé. Although before this ferry trip we had to make another from the airport island, this was easy and the ferry runs constantly during the day so we didn’t have to wait long after we purchased our $10 MVR/$0.96 NZD tickets each and take a 10 minute trip to the capital. We then had to travel across the capital island to the Villingili Ferry Terminal, which was an interesting trip on the back of a pick up truck “taxi” for $50 MVR/$4.79 NZD. This island is only 5.8 km2 and with a population of more than 130,000 people the streets are hugely congested with many one-way streets, pedestrians, scooters, bicycles, cars and very little traffic management. Some streets were so thin that from the back of our pick-up we could touch the buildings and had to keep our limbs and elbows off the sideboards so we didn’t hit anyone or anything. So after about 30mins to get about 3kms we made it to the other side of Malé and the Villingili ferry. Again this service runs continuously and we purchased our tickets ($3.25 MVR/$0.31 NZD for adults and $1.75 MVR/$0.17NZD for children) and only needed to wait a few minutes for the next service. About 5-7 minutes later we had arrived on our Maldivian island for the next week. We walked the 600m to our apartment and got ready to explore our little 0.27 km2 island as it was only 800m in length and 600m in width.Just before heading to the Maldives we found that it is a very strict Muslim country and there was no alcohol available to purchase and you could also not bring any in via duty-free. This was a little different for us and while it is sometimes hard for us to remember what day of the week it might be, we have still enjoyed some weekend drinks to celebrate the week’s adventures. However, we had a forced detox during our week here which gave our livers a little break. I wondered then, “how are the resorts able to supply alcohol to their guests??” I found out via a TripAdvisor forum that “resorts in the Maldives are private islands, therefore Sharia/Islamic Law is not enforced and the sale of alcohol is permitted”. Apparently you can get alcoholic drinks at the Hulhule Island Hotel as it is located by the airport and classified an “international”, but we didn’t feel the need to make the ferry rides to check. No doubt, we could survive the week!!
The first main thing we noticed was the gorgeous colours of the water, hard to describe in words, but this stunning light turquoise in the shallow areas and then straight into the deepest of blue when there is a drop off. Looking out you can see the waters changing back and forth between the two, it is just incredible. I now know why blue is my favourite colour. 💙Besides the craziness of driving across Malé, the second major thing we noticed when we arrived on Villingili was the rubbish. Large piles of mostly plastic bottles and cans of coffee and energy drinks lying around the streets, playgrounds, football pitches and of course, the beach. There were no rubbish bins on the streets but there were numerous large wheelie bins at the beaches and plenty of signs about keeping the beach clean. This makes us very sad to see this and we continue to wonder why the local residents don’t do more about keeping their island clean. I know these developing countries can have poor infrastructure around things like rubbish collection but we quickly learnt there was in fact a transfer station on the island. We also saw teams out sweeping up leaves and putting them into large rubbish bags (that ended up at the transfer station) but mostly avoided the rubbish.
Villingili has two main areas for swimming, One Love Beach and Villingili Public Beach (VPB), so we had plenty of time to check them out and on multiple occasions. One Love Beach is on the west side of the island and had an incredible drop off and snorkelling. VPB faces back towards Malé and had lots of small sections made up by man-made sea walls and a little further round towards the south gave the boys some fun waves to play in one day when the wind was up a little.
Besides the rubbish, incredibly beautiful beaches and crystal clear water. Each time we visited the beaches we made sure we picked up a good amount of rubbish to try to do our part, but sadly it felt like a drop in the ocean (excuse the pun).
We weren’t really planning to go very far from our little island but we decided to hire a boat, as the cost wasn’t too excessive, and explore a little further. There are two dive shops on the island and one was very helpful in trying to get us a small private boat to hire for a few hours. Nothing was completely confirmed about whether it would in fact be a speed boat rather than a slow boat but we wandered down to the shop at 9am on the designated day and in true laid back island style, all was good. Three guys were ready to take us out in their boat, usually hired for fishing trips, but it was the low season so we were pleased we hadn’t been stuck with a slow boat. We set off and headed west from Villinigili, out through some of the resort islands with rows of over water villas stretching out into the sparkling waters of the Indian Ocean. Around 20-30 minutes later we began to see a patch of white sand sticking out of the water and as we pulled up two of the team jumped out into the water and helped the captain gently guide the boat closer in to our own private little island.Again, more of the beautiful blue waters and the boys were excited that we had the place to ourselves. We donned our snorkelling gear and dived in, the water was an amazing temperature and it was easy to drift through the lapping waves checking out the sea life. A couple of hours passed quickly and just as we were getting ready to head off another larger group turned up. Our captain informed us that this sandbank can get quite busy in the afternoons so we had excellent timing to experience this little dot on the globe and add another very cool item to our ever-growing list of awesome world adventures.While we found a few local restaurants and dishes that we liked (check them out here) (and the prices were pretty reasonable), the boys were keen to do some cooking as we had a full kitchen at our disposal. So Lincoln prepared us an evening meal, including dessert (with a little help from his sous chef Logan) and Braxton (with my help) whipped up a tasty breakfast which we had to pre-order with him the afternoon before so he could go out and purchase the correct ingredients required. Can’t wait for them to do more of this when we are back in bigger accommodation spaces.We had a late flight out of Malé heading to Sri Lanka, so our last day was spent getting one more lot of beach time in and a bit of a clean up of the apartment ready for the next guests. We allowed a good hour to make the ‘ferry – pick up truck taxi – ferry’ journey to the airport and Logan and I grinned to ourselves as we approached the airport in the cheap, local ferry, while others were being dropped off by their resort’s private luxury boats. Our one week’s accommodation cost could have easily been what they had been paying per night. Two completely different styles for a visit to the Maldives but one we would never change and will never forget. We are so pleased we grabbed this opportunity and maybe we’ll come back and do the ‘resort life’ trip once the boys have branched out on their own….
Average Daily Spend – $223.01 NZD ($50.51 over budget per day) (Without the boat trip we would have only been about $10 over our daily budget)