Become A Volunteer + Make A Difference In The Maldives

What better destination in the world is there to volunteer in than the beautiful Maldives? Embark on a once in a life-time trip – the type where you can island hop through paradise whilst making a difference!

Become A Volunteer In The Maldives

We at Secret Paradise can help you to become exactly that – a valuable volunteer here in the Maldives. As a volunteer, your contribution will help local Maldivians to gain better access to basic necessities such as food, water, housing, health and safety. Volunteering and helping to make a difference is a rewarding and gratifying experience.

When you travel to off grid places, you often find yourself graced by the generous hospitality of local people, even when these people appear to live a simple kind of life themselves. It’s often at these kinds of destinations that we are faced with ethical and moral challenges, and opportunities for giving back to people less fortunate. The Maldives offers valuable opportunities to connect with local Maldivian people and to make real differences to their small island communities.

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Image Nia Pontius

Volunteer With Secret Paradise

At Secret Paradise, we purposefully design our volunteer itineraries to be the perfect combination between leisure and work. Our volunteers experience the best of both worlds, whilst of course island hopping across the Indian Ocean to Hulhumale’, Guriadhoo, Maafushi and Gulhi Islands.

Part of the role of being a volunteer on these locals islands is to raise awareness about the welfare of the environment. As community awareness is generally low, locals often have a limited knowledge of the dangers and issues they face, such as climate change and waste management. Volunteers may give presentations and design materials such as leaflets and posters, liaise with guesthouses and hotels on environmental matters and offer advice and guidance based on learnings. The welfare of the environment in the Maldives is a supremely important issue, particularly if generations of locals and tourists alike are to enjoy for years to come.

Daily tasks of Volunteers are varied and may include:

  • Conducting reef surveys
  • Cleaning the coral frames/assessing coral health and updating online data base
  • Coral planting
  • Organizing community beach cleans
  • Organizing community/school marine or waste management awareness sessions
  • Tree planting/ care and maintenance of those planted
  • Volunteers with diving skills can assist in Crown of Thorn clean ups
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Image Nia Pontius

How Does Secret Paradise Ensures Volunteers Have A Memorable Stay In The Maldives

Secret Paradise offers several bespoke adventure itineraries to compliment the work placement schedules of volunteers, to ensure volunteer stays are as memorable as possible. We provide volunteers with an insight into the local culture and tradition of the Maldives, as well as experiencing the stunning natural beauty for which Maldives is famed, all whilst making a difference to local Maldives communities.

Here in the Maldives, our recreational activities for volunteers include local island tours and discovering of the underwater beauty of the Maldives. Stay in local guesthouses, visit family homes, mosques and boat yards, experience our SCUBA diving, snorkelling, surfing and fishing excursions, plus enjoy picnics at uninhabited sandbanks, sunset cruises and of course a day at a luxury resort! Volunteers also have the opportunity to spend time with local non-governmental organization ‘Save the Beach,’ to understand the environmental and conservational challenges local islands face here in the Maldives. There’s also plenty of downtime to sit back barefoot in the sand, relaxing – Maldivian style!

‘Secret Paradise Maldives provides an exceptional insight into local culture and aim to deliver unique local experiences to our volunteers, enabling them to immerse themselves in the real Maldives‘ says Travel Teacher founder Mat Ray.

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Secret Paradise Volunteer Partners

Secret Paradise also connects potential volunteers with reputable non-for profit Maldives organisations and local island communities who are in need. We aim to provide valuable information to our guests about possible volunteer collaborations. Secret Paradise Maldives partners with two global volunteer organisations, Teacher Travel and Sun sHADe Maldives. Together we aim to create meaningful work and travel initiatives and provide memorable local island experiences for volunteers, here in the Maldives.

What Is Sun sHADe Volunteers?

Secret Paradise works closely with Sun sHADe Volunteers to provide opportunities for responsible and meaningful working holidays in the Maldives. Established in 1987 by Huvadhoo Aid (HAD), a non-governmental youth organization located in Huvadhoo Atoll Maldives, HAD’s international volunteer program first began in 2009.

Sun sHADe Volunteer projects are based on education, community development, cultural exchange, healthcare and sport. Each project aims to develop community life whilst conserving each island and its surrounding marine life. The organisation works with each volunteer to design a program that is best suited to their individual skill level and volunteer interest, while filling a need within the wider community. Many international volunteers have been a part of the successful program and have had an authentic travel experience in the Maldives, all whilst making a difference and providing positive contributions to small island communities.

 

What Is Travel Teacher?

Our other partner Teacher Travel, is a UK based volunteer education program that provides ethical, low-cost volunteer programs throughout Fiji, The Cook Islands and The Maldives. Teacher Travel operates in the Maldives’ capital city, Malé.

The initiative offers a unique combination of education and holiday adventure. Volunteering with Travel Teacher gives individuals the opportunity to support the development of education in rural communities and make a genuine difference to the lives of the children in their partnered schools, through teaching, coaching and mentoring. This year, Teacher Travel will be working with educational partner Ghiyasuddin International School in Malé, to support and add value over a long-term period.

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Image Nia Pontius

A Recent Volunteer’s Experience

Nia Pontius recently participated in the Sun sHADe Volunteers program at Hoandedhdhoo Island, Maldives. Learn from Nia about her experience:

‘I was in the Maldives with the Sun sHADe program for almost a month and it was a good character building experience. I signed up to volunteer on a local island, Hoandedhdhoo, to work on the marine conservation program. I went snorkelling everyday with the local volunteers and surveyed the fish, as well as the corals. Together we created a PVC pipe configuration to sit on the bottom in the sand and revive some of the coral population.

After the construction of the PVC frame, we dropped the fixture into the water and used rocks to keep it in place. We broke off pieces of healthy coral and affixed them with zip ties. We created a frame with almost one hundred pieces of coral to help with the coral bleaching in the Maldives.

On the island of Hoandedhdhoo, almost seventy percent of the coral was bleached on one side of the island. It is an impending issue that volunteer groups are trying to rectify with new regrowth ideas. In addition to the marine conservation work, we also did some reforestation work on the island with the kadele trees and the mangroves. This experience was incredibly insightful and it gave an authentic feel for the local culture in the Maldives.’

 

Like Nia, you too can become a volunteer in the beautiful Maldives. Help make a difference on your travels, whilst making life long memories in paradise.

Find out more  about our Volunteer Programs  Secret Paradise today!

MALDIVES DIVING HOLIDAYS

Life beneath the surface in the Maldives is an underwater Disneyland, perfect for dive enthusiasts. The Maldives is renowned as one of the very best diving locations in the world. There’s not only an abundance of reef life here but also spectacular coloured coral and crystal clear water.

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WHY CHOOSE THE MALDIVES FOR YOUR DIVING HOLIDAY?

The Maldives ticks all of the boxes when it comes to diving holidays. This tropical location boasts visibility levels of up to 40 metres, making it a great destination for advanced divers. However diving in the Maldives is not just for the experienced. The shallow lagoons and channels make it the perfect location to try diving for the very first time. Plus what better destination in the world is there to gain your scuba-diving certifications?

The Maldives is also home to protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The presence of currents in this island nation means that open water channels are perfect for drift diving and it’s also possible to swim with gentle ocean giants like manta rays and whale sharks. Don’t forget the Maldives has year round water temperatures of 26 – 29 degrees Celsius!

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THE BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR DIVING IN THE MALDIVES

Fortunately, the diving season in the Maldives is open all year round with the calmest conditions from December through to June. As the Maldives is located in the tropics, it is susceptible to both wet and dry seasons. June to November is the south-west monsoon season, bringing with it with overcast and wet conditions, especially in June and July. During these months expect slightly less visibility and different currents, although there is still plenty of marine life on offer, as well as sunny spells. Generally reef life is more varied and visibility is better on the western side of any atoll from May to November and on the eastern side from December to April. Reef sharks, hammerheads and whale sharks are found in the Maldives year round, along with manta rays and sea turtles, you just need to know where to head at the time of year you plan to dive!

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DIVING OPTIONS

There are a number of diving options when it comes to Maldives. Here at Secret Paradise, we offer value for money diving holidays and tours that you will remember for a lifetime. Enjoy an all-inclusive guesthouse stay and be transferred by boat to incredible nearby dive sites, the same sites that you would dive from a resort but at half the cost! Our diving holidays are an affordable alternative to a resort stay and also allow you the flexibility of island hopping or if your budget is larger, atoll hopping to benefit from the best dive locations during your time of travel.

Liveaboards are a popular dive holiday option, allowing you to scour the waters for the ultimate dive spot each day. These days most Liveaboards operate a year round schedule offering 7 night, 10 night and 14 night cruises not only in the central atolls but to the deep south and deep north offering opportunities to discover less dived sites and pristine coral.

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OUR SECRET PARADISE DIVING HOLIDAYS

 Here at Secret Paradise, we offer six diverse one island based diving packages, all in different atolls allowing you access to what are some of the best dive sites in the world. Our packages include Dharavandhoo, perfect if you want to encounter 100s of manta rays in Baa Atoll, Hulhumale if you need to stay close to the capital, Maafushi, South Male Atoll, Dhigurah home of the whaleshark in Ari Atoll, Rasdhoo, the ideal location to spot a hammerhead and Gan in Laamu atoll.

Our island hopping itineraries in Male Atoll and Ari Atoll allow you to discover a range of dive sites and marine life whilst at the same time experiencing Maldives local life, tradition and culture, with or without a private dive guide.

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DIVE TEAMS

All our partners are PADI affiliated dive centres and are operated by both local and European dive professionals. A personal interest is taken in promoting scuba diving in the Maldives, through education and awareness about the underwater environment here. Their objective is to encourage underwater conservation and safe diving practices.

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Dives are generally conducted from the beach within an island’s inner reef for beginners or from a local dive boat, a dhoni, for certified divers. Dive sites are chosen daily based on both the weather and current conditions as well as diver ability.

The teams will take you to the best dive spots and willingly introduce you to the characteristics of the underwater world of the Maldives. All offer boat dives, NITROX, night dives and a full range of PADI courses and will always ensure you get the best out of your dive. If you are learning to dive, you can do anything from completing a try dive or just the open water dive section of your PADI Open Water certification to completing the full PADI Open Water certification. Whatever you choose to do you can be assured of fun and safe diving with us and our partners.

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Secret Paradise Co-Founder, Ruth Franklin a diver herself with over 1500 dives in the Maldives is always happy to share her own diving experiences and is on hand for honest dive advice.

Explore our range of magical Diving Holidays in the Maldives today!

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There is more to Ramadan than just fasting.

For most people when you mention Ramadan the association is with fasting from dawn until sunset. There is however far more to this blessed month and so we asked our guide Kokko Ibbe to explain.

Tell us more about Ramadan

Ramadan is always the ninth month of the Islamic calendar but will fall differently in the Gregorian calendar as the Islamic calendar is based on the phases of the moon. In order for Ramadan to start the first sliver of a new crescent moon has to be sighted and therefore it is common for people not to know if they will be fasting the following day until a few hours before! This yearly recognition is viewed as one of the Five Pillars of Islam which forms the foundation of the Islamic faith. Fasting is obligatory for an adult Muslim with the exception of individuals who are experiencing illness, travelling, are elderly people, pregnant or breastfeeding. Those who are unable to fast due to a certain condition still make up the days they have missed at a later date. Whilst fasting Muslims avoid eating, drinking, smoking and having sexual relations. Cafés and restaurants will be closed throughout this period of time, but will be open late in to the night. Our day is almost turned upside down!

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Some of you may think how can we not eat and drink for almost 13 hours for a whole month and how do you do it? Well, children start practicing at the age of 7 or 10. It is not a must but the parents should encourage them to do so in order that they can get used to it. Ramadan is not all about fasting though. Ramadan teaches discipline, self-control, showing sympathy to those who are less fortunate than ourselves and offering charity. Caring for your neighbors and friends, putting back the smile on their face. One of the main things most people will surely learn will be forgiveness.

What is Maahefun?

In the week running up to the start of Ramadan, The Maldives has a tradition known as Maahefun. This celebration marks the beginning of Ramadan where traditionally all islanders would gather to have their final meal before fasting. Everyone brings food and juices to share. Family members and friends usually celebrate this festival on the beach or an uninhabited island.

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How do you prepare for Ramadan?

Well in the Maldives people take things a bit different than in other countries. One thing which is really traditional will be the painting of the home.  In the capital and also in local islands you will find homes painted in an array of different colours. Most people will paint the exterior of their home every 2 years and and internally most probably annually. They get rid of their old kitchen appliances and buy new and it is common for furniture to be replaced. They buy supplies for the whole month of Ramadan which most shops will have on sale or promotion. In some islands the women will gather  in one place and prepare all the spices and snacks that they need for the whole month. All of it will be equally distributed amongst all who have helped to make.

The start of Ramadan

The first day of Ramadan will be a public holiday in the Maldives. Ramadan itself is really quiet and during the early morning you will find very few people on the road or out and about. Even working hours are reduced and government and public service offices will only be open for four hours daily. People start to go about their daily buisness and become active during the afternoon prayer time. Mosque’s are very often full and in local islands it is common to find people praying outside the mosque during these days.

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The local market and fish market will be one of the busiest places in the afternoon. Locally grown vegetables, fruits and fresh fish will sell at a fast speed.  Thoddoo island in North Ari Atoll is an agriculture island and is famous for its production of watermelon during Ramadan. Most homes will serve a juice when breaking fast and this is common to be watermelon to aid rehydration. Women will start cooking in the early afternoon preparing a wide range of food for Iftar (breakfast) and then a later evening meal known as Tharaavees. Men with their children and friends will ride around on their motor bikes for some fresh air and to waste some time! Elderly people may play chess games quite often with a crowd of onlookers waiting for the checkmate moment!

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All family members will gather near the food table waiting for sunset prayer to call. These last few minutes can be the longest of the day! In some countries Muslims will have to fast for almost 21 hours but in the Maldives it’s never more than 13 hours. The end of fasting begins with 3 dates and a glass of water, which is considered how it was done by the prophet. After a small meal people head off to mosque. After the prayers people meet with their friends for coffee and will often bring them home to eat the leftover food from the breakfast.

The occasion of Eid al-Fitr marks the finish of Ramadan and the start of the following lunar month, Shawwal. This first day of the next month is proclaimed after another crescent new moon has been located or the fruition of 30 days of fasting.

Whether you travel with Secret Paradise during Ramadan or at another time of the year, you can be sure to learn more about Maldives culture and traditions and have a holiday that is filled with unique local experiences.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR A MEMORABLE SURF TRIP TO THE MALDIVES

The Maldives offers two main draw cards when it comes to planning a surf trip … world-class waves and empty lineups. It doesn’t get much better! Throw in that the Maldives also boasts over 20 surf breaks and the water is a divine 28-degree Celsius. The Maldives is also a surfing destination that offers a large choice of both right and left hand surf breaks – there’s something for everyone!

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WHEN TO PLAN YOUR SURF TRIP?

The main surfing season of the Maldives starts in April and finishes in October. The biggest swells generally occur from June to September.

One of the biggest myths is that Maldives does not get swells as big as other renowned destinations like Indonesia. However this is not the case! The 2016 surfing season was the most consistent season of the last decade, with renowned Australian surf photographer and surf guide Richard Kotch calling 2016 his ‘most consistent season yet.’

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WHERE TO SURF?

Surf breaks in the Maldives are dotted over hundreds of kilometers of coral reefs. There are four main surfing regions in the Maldives:

  • North Male’ Atoll
  • South Male’ Atoll
  • The Central Atolls
  • The Southern Atolls

Each of these regions encompasses a number of surf breaks. Because of its location, North Male atoll has the most consistent swells. However this area also draws the largest crowds, including the surfing safari boats. Travel to the South, Central and Southern atolls and this is where the uncrowded line-ups and perfect almond shaped barrels are discovered.

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POPULAR NORTH MALE SURF BREAKS

  • Cokes
  • Chickens
  • Sultans
  • Jails
  • Honkeys

POPULAR SOUTH MALE SURF BREAKS

  • Quarters
  • Tucky Joes
  • Twin Peaks
  • Rip Tides
  • Foxys

POPULAR CENTRAL ATOLL SURF BREAKS

  • F1
  • Outside + Inside Mikados
  • Finnimas
  • Ying Yang
  • Machines

POPULAR SOUTHERN ATOLL SURF BREAKS

  • Beacons
  • Blue Bowls
  • Love Charms
  • Five Islands

The Maldives also has three exclusive waves Lohis, Pasta Point + Kandooma. These waves are reserved only for guests staying at the attached resorts.

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WHERE TO STAY ON YOUR MALDIVES SURFING TRIP?

The Maldives offers a variety of surfing trips, no matter your budget and preferred surfing experience. Generally speaking when it comes to a surf trip in the Maldives, you get what you pay for.

  • An exclusive ‘Surf’ Resort – enjoy the luxury of surfing a private and exclusive wave, reserved only for surfers staying at the property. These waves are also capped to a maximum number of surfers on any one-day.
  • Luxury Resort – enjoy the nearby surf breaks whilst staying in luxury accommodation.
  • Surf Safari / Live aboard – stay onboard a surfing vessel and enjoy the freedom of roaming the seas in search for perfect waves.
  • Guesthouse / Surf Camp – for surfers on a budget or who want the freedom of independently surfing in the Maldives.

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IS THE MALDIVES BEST FOR INEXPERIENCED OR EXPERIENCED SURFERS?

Most of the waves in the Maldives are for intermediate or experienced surfers. This is due to the fact that the waves break off shore, over large coral reefs. The Maldives is extremely tidal, meaning there is a big shift in the tide each day, causing strong currents. It may be necessary to do some fitness training before arriving in the Maldives on your surf trip.

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However, with a little know how, it’s certainly possible to learn to surf in the Maldives. What better destination is there to learn to surf than in the pristine tropical surroundings of the Maldives? This is certainly an activity to add to your bucket list!

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At Secret Paradise, we suggest surfing or learning to surf with an experienced local guide. Local surf guides offer their extensive knowledge of each surf break, the winds, tides, currents and swell direction that work best for each surfing spot. Every surf in the Maldives will be different from the next, even if surfing at the same spot each day. Surfing with a guide ensures that your session will be fun, safe and you will experience your own sense of tropical surf stoke!

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SECRET PARADISE’S TOP 5 SURF TRIP TIPS

  • Do some surf training and paddling before arriving in the Maldives for your surf trip – the currents can be strong!
  • Pack tropical wax as the water is around 28 degrees Celsius. The sun is also very extreme, as the Maldives crosses the equator.
  • Bring booties as they are great for protecting your feet from nasty urchin infections and reef cuts.
  • Learn how to tell which way the current is flowing. This can be a little challenging to determine. Look for nearby anchored boats. See which direction the back of the boats are facing and this will tell you the direction in which the current is pulling towards.
  • Pack a basic first aid kit and surfing kit with accessories like leg ropes, fins and repair resin.

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Dreaming of surfing and watersports in the Maldives?

Book our 7 Night Multi Activity Adventure Holiday

Guaranteed Fun + No Experience Needed

If you are a more active traveller with a sense of adventure and an interest in water sports, our multi activity holiday is just for you! Try your hand at sea kayaking, windsurfing, surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving. All activities include a coaching session with your own instructor should you be new to the sport or need a refresher.

Based on Gan in the southern atoll of Laamu, the island boasts an unusual red-tinted lake and an 8km stretch of white sand, making it the longest beach in the Maldives. With accommodation in a deluxe beach front hotel equipped with a plunge pool, gym and wellness centre you can be sure to add some relaxation!

Be A Responsible Tourist In The Maldives On Your Next Island Escape

Responsible Tourism is all about making locations around the world better for people to live in and better for people to visit. It requires governments, tourism operators, hoteliers and tourists to work together collaboratively to achieve this.

Here at Secret Paradise, we don’t take Responsible Tourism light-heartedly! We want to ensure that the Maldives remains an incredible tourist destination for all throughout generations to come. We have a responsibility to keep our environmental footprint small to minimise the negative impact on both the environment and local culture.

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The main aim for our Secret Paradise tours is to ensure that our guests have the very best of experiences in the paradise we call home, whilst making certain there is limited or no negative impact on the community or the environment. Our role in the development of local island tourism in the Maldives is to bring about a positive experience for both local people and tourists.

With the exception of our Sales Director, all our team here at Secret Paradise are local people, including our fabulous guides. On each of our scheduled group trips a local guide accompanies our guests from time of arrival to departure allowing them unrivaled access to culture, tradition, knowledge and unique experiences.

We pride ourselves on connecting our guests with local Maldivian people and we focus on providing memorable experiences, whilst giving a greater understanding of the local culture and traditions as well as the environmental concerns that are present here in the Maldives.

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Secret Paradise demonstrates to our competitors, our team, our partners and ultimately our guests that we are committed to following social and environmental best practices in the Maldives. We aim to use services developed and managed by locals where possible, to help put tourism profits back into the hands of the local people, so that they benefit directly. Where possible, our tours also capitalize on the use of public transport for our guests, like using local island ferries.

Read our full Responsible Tourism policy here

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We respect local customs and culture and want Secret Paradise guests to learn about and take part in Maldivian customs and cultural practices. This includes encouraging our guests to respect cultural dress requirements, teaching local language on our tours, the purchasing of locally made products to support the local communities, dining in the home of a local family, sampling some of the local Maldivian cuisine and eating in traditional style without the aid of cutlery.

At Secret Paradise we educate our guests on the local environments they will be visiting both before and during their visits be that land or ocean based. We provide our guests with pre-trip information to ensure they are prepared for their Maldives vacation and understand the requirements of travelling to a locally inhabited island.

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Here are Secret Paradise’s Top 5 Tips For Being A Responsible Tourist On Your Next Visit To The Maldives:

1. Communicate: Take the time to learn a few words or phrases of the local language. Most locals are patient and accommodating and appreciate you making the effort to communicate in their language.

2. Conserve energy: Use local resources in moderation. Remember to conserve energy by switching off lights, air-conditioners, fans and be water wise.

3. Be Environmentally Friendly: Choose environmentally friendly products and bio degradable sun creams, shampoos and detergents to help reduce pollution. Removing excess packaging from items before leaving home will help combat issues of waste management and be sure to refuse plastic bags when shopping locally.

4. Respect local customs and traditions: As you are a guest in the Maldives, it’s necessary to comply with the local customs like being sensitive to the local dress code. Being friendly, polite and well mannered will also heighten your experience with locals in the Maldives.

5. Don’t litter: Avoid littering. Waste management is an everyday challenge here in the Maldives. Taking home as much plastic waste as possible helps combat this issue.

 

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Why Not Join Us On One Of Our Local Day Tours?

Our local day trips allow our guests to learn more about Maldivian culture, beliefs and traditions. There is no better way to experience the ‘real Maldives’ than through the eyes of a local. Travelling by public ferry, exploring locally inhabited islands, exchanging stories of daily life, relaxing with a coffee in a local café and learning to cook Maldivian food are just a few of the local experiences we offer. Our local day trips include:

  • Discover Huraa The Local Way
  • 4 Hour Male City Waling Tour
  • A Taste Of Local Life Food Tour
  • Full Day Local Island Hopping
  • Full Day Male City Walking Tour
  • 4 Hour Villimale Walking Tour
  • An Insight Into Marine Conservation

 

Book your Secret Paradise Day Tour today!

DREAMING OF PARADISE? TAKE A GUEST HOUSE ISLAND ESCAPE IN THE MALDIVES.

Did you know there has never been a more affordable time to plan a vacation to the beautiful Maldives? The picturesque island nation currently boasts over 5000 beds across the country, throughout the newly established guesthouse industry.

In 2017, guesthouses in the Maldives are an affordable holiday alternative to luxury resort vacations. Located on local islands, guesthouses provide a bed and breakfast style accommodation experience for global travellers.

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Aside from the price tag, one main difference between resorts and guesthouses is the exclusivity. Resorts are located on entire private islands, ranging from 2.5km to 150m long, whilst guesthouses are located within the local communities of larger inhabited islands. Whilst guesthouse rates should not be compared with budget accommodation in Asia, a comfortable Maldives guesthouse experience can begin from as little as USD$50 a night during the low season.

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There is a great diversity of guesthouse facilities and services offered on local islands and these of course differ to the facilities and services on offer at luxury resorts. Essentially every guesthouse island is different with each individual guesthouse also providing a different accommodation experience for guests. While a selection of Maldives guesthouses resemble a small hotel-like environment and offer all-inclusive packages for their guests, others are more simplistic. However, you can expect hot and cold water showers, WiFi and air conditioning as standard.

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One big advantage of a guesthouse stay means you are free to explore the local islands independently. Travel by local ferry, book day excursions such as snorkeling, diving, surfing and fishing trips. Visit sandbanks and visit surrounding islands, all at an affordable price. We at Secret Paradise believe the best way to experience the stunning natural beauty of the Maldives and gain an insight into the local culture, is to stay on a local  island and travel with one of our professional guides.

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As the Maldives is a Muslim country and guesthouses are not located on private islands, travellers must be respectful of the Maldivian people, their local communities, traditions and customs. Consideration needs to be given in relation to the dress code on a local island. In particular, women will need to dress modestly and remember to swim in a t-shirt and shorts at all times, unless an island offers a designated bikini beach and swimming area.  Maldivians as Muslims are prohibited by law from consuming alcohol, meaning there is a total restriction of alcohol on local islands, including in the capital Male. However, should you not be able to survive without your favourite tipple, alcohol is available at resorts and safari boats for tourist consumption.

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A great tip to help stretch the budget and enjoy local travel yet indulge in a luxurious resort experience is to combine a stay in a guesthouse and a resort – yes it is possible to do both! Did you know resorts also offer day trip passes and transfers to guests staying at nearby local islands? This enables you to experience all of the luxuries of a resort, including the glamorous wining and dining facilities then return home to your chosen guesthouse accommodation at the end of the day. Rates for day visits range from $50 to over $200 per person dependent on the package offered by the individual resort and can be subject to availability especially during high season.

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With so many guesthouses to choose from it can be difficult to know which property is right for you and your style of holiday. Here at Secret Paradise, we carefully select and annually audit our partner properties to guarantee the best holiday experience for our guests. We ensure chosen guesthouses are locally owned and tourism certified and provide a 100% guarentee that all our guests are greeted on arrival at the International Airport regardless of the time of day you may arrive! We aim to ensure our guests experience a comfortable guesthouse stay, with the focus on service, safety, food, cleanliness and value for money. As we offer unique holiday experiences for all ages and budgets, we can assist you in determining the perfect guesthouse island that is right for you and your Maldives vacation desires.

Another worthwhile tip is don’t be fooled by a guesthouse containing the name ‘Ocean View,’ ‘Ocean Front’ or ‘Seaside.’ This does not necessarily mean the guesthouse will offer views of the Indian Ocean and if staying within the capital area bear in mind that with land space at a premium, views may cost extra!

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Why not experience our 7 night North Ari Atoll Island Hopping Tour?

The 7 night North Ari Island Hopping Tour provides the opportunity to travel independently but secure in the knowledge that there is a designated local host on hand to ensure your travels are smooth and problem free. Visit the breathtaking islands of Rasdhoo, Ukulhas and Mathiveri in North Ari Atoll – widely regarded as one of the best diving spots in the world and a great destination to snorkel with manta rays or dive with hammerhead sharks!

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With an abundance of green vegetation and beautiful white sandy beaches, our tour provides the ideal opportunity to indulge in the activities the Maldives is famous for as well as brushing shoulders with local culture and people. We book all accommodation, breakfast meals and organise your island transfers. There are plenty of additional activities for you to select, all of which can be organised during your trip or in advance, if you prefer a more scheduled holiday itinerary. Get in touch with us at Secret Paradise to find out more about an Indian Ocean local island escape today!

Discover my Secret Paradise

The local islands close to Male were the first to benefit from the advent of local guesthouses, their ease of proximity to the capital and the international airport has allowed transfer costs to be kept at a minimum and wherever possible Secret Paradise will always transfer guests by public ferry. This ensures that the journey itself is an experience, choose to sit up top and watch local islands and resorts pass you by and if you are lucky you may spot dolphins. Or sit inside amongst the locals returning from a shopping trip to Male and whilst it would be very unusual to share your seat with any live animals, more often than not there will be a few motor cycles, a mattress or two and boxes and bags of unknown purchases. On one of my first ferry journeys, I sat on the roof travelling from Male to Himmufushi, a 90 minute journey, during which time 3 local women chatted with me, eager to learn where I was going and what I was doing, eager to teach me a few local words of Dhivehi and eager to marry me off to one of their sons!

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How to dress

Staying on a local island verses a resort is not without its differences. The Maldives is a 100% Muslim country; therefore bikinis are a no-go on the local islands unless the island or guesthouse has a private garden or a tourist bikini beach. This, however, should not be a big deal as most excursions involve a boat or an uninhabited island where the law does not apply. To be honest the locals are far more tolerant now of western dress, t-shirts and shorts, sundresses and vest tops are not frowned upon. My advice however, to fellow female travellers is to dress modestly, keeping your chest and top of thighs covered, we are after all guests in another country. For tours that may involve wandering the sandy roads of a local island community, visiting a mosque or a family home extra care should be taken to respect Maldivian culture and cultural values.

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 Alcohol

One other big consideration regarding staying on a  local island is alcohol, or lack of it. Laws prohibit alcohol being drunk on local islands but this can be easily overcome by a day or evening visit to a resort. From some islands it is also possible to take dinner on a boat allowing access to your favorite tipple and should you choose to take the real budget option and stay within the capital area then a trip to the bar of the airport hotel is only a short bus journey away! It’s surprising however, how much fun you can actually have without alcohol even more so when you are visiting an island paradise and I have yet to come across a guest who has felt they were on a self enforced detox! If you are a coffee drinker then the Maldives should be your ideal destination! If there was a national drink it would be Nescafe, served strong and black. The likes of Costa and Starbucks would have a field day should they ever be allowed to get their foot in the door.

 

What to eat

Dining on a local island pretty much guarantees freshly cooked food on a daily basis. Tuna and reef fish will generally form some part of a meal especially if there has been a good catch had that day by the local fishermen, add to this chicken, beef, pasta, noodles, rice, salad and fresh papaya, water melon, banana and mango and you have a veritable feast! A word of warning, more often than not you will find guesthouses and local cafes offer a wide menu of western and European dishes and very little in the way of Maldivian food. Never be afraid to ask for a local dish you will find the chef to be accomodating and pleased to show off local cuisine.

Whilst we are talking about food, I should mention hedikaa. The Maldives equivalent of ‘tapas’ is how I would best describe this afternoon tradition. Walk into any coffee shop, café or restaurant between the hours of three and five pm and you will find an array of bite size savory and sweet delights. Certainly, not one of the healthiest snacks if you are watching your waistline, as most are deep fried but none the less I’m very partial to my afternoon treat!!! Savory ones are filled with vegetables, tuna, egg and chili. Whilst a few of the sweet ones will look familiar – pancakes, French toast, sponge cake you must try is coconut pirini. Select as many as you wish and then to follow true Maldivian tradition accompany them with a mug of black tea.

hedika

Chili incidentally is incorporated into pretty much everything so if this fiery spice is not your thing, ensure you ask for less or indeed none! Pork is forbidden so don’t expect bacon butties for breakfast but instead take the opportunity to try a traditional Maldivian breakfast dish: masshuni and roshi – flaked tuna, grated coconut, chilli and lemon mixed together and eaten with a flat style bread which makes a refreshing change and if like me you are converted it is very easy to make at home!
Before we move off the subject of food i should highlight that It is common practice for Maldivian’s to finish their meal off with beetle nuts and leaves. Plates are automatically placed on the table but beware there is an art to the preparation of this Maldivian equivalent of an after dinner mint! Flatten out your leaf, add slices of beetle nuts, a clove, a cardamom seed and sprinkle with a ground fruit and spice flavored powder. Fold up into a bite size parcel and pop into your mouth! Oops forgot to mention it’s an acquired taste and for many westerners the phrase that is commonly used is it’s like chewing cardboard!

Rubbish awareness

One final consideration is that local islands are not always as pristine as resort islands. Though they’re catching up and are still beautiful, be forewarned that there are still some growing pains and some room for improvement. The Maldivian’s would historically have thrown their waste into the ocean, however, that was in the days when waste would have been predominantly food waste and all biodegradable, then came along plastic and then came over one million visitors. Add all this together and we are presented with a country that has a significant challenge regarding waste removal. Some of you may have seen the BBC documentary on rubbish island, it’s existence as an island to purely burn the tons and tons of waste produced evokes much debate. Positively, there are a number of actions being taken to manage waste and over time a more environmentally friendly waste management process will come into being throughout the archipelago. As guests to the Maldives we can play our part by taking home plastic waste wherever possible and by leading by example.

It is also important to remember, especially if your first impression of the Maldives is the capital area of Male and Hulhumale that like most countries there is less of a community spirit in the city area, whereas on other local islands there is a real sense of community and the need to take care of their home island. But don’t get me wrong you are not going to visit rubbish strewn islands but also don’t expect every local island to be a perfect vision of that picture postcard image.

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Local Culture

What you cannot fault however is the friendliness and hospitality of the Maldivian’s. Nothing is too much trouble for them. It was this hospitality and eagerness to please that gave rise to the cultural aspects of Secret Paradise tours.
Sitting in the home of a local family for dinner can be a humbling experience. We encourage the local families that we work with to sit and eat with our guests. On my initial visits to a local home I would be provided with an array of food, enough to feed a small army, but as I sat and stuffed my face the family would sit and watch me and no amount of encouragement would get them to join me! Any young children at first can be a little shy of a group of strangers but they soon come out from behind their mothers legs and more often than not end up sitting on someone’s knee. The older generation sometimes may not be able to speak English but will do their utmost to understand your sign language which as you can imagine generally adds laughter to the proceedings. Learning to eat traditionally with your fingers is also another great ice breaker and to be very honest combining the components of local dishes – white rice, a clear tuna broth, pickled vegetables, chili paste, a squeeze of lemon as you would if you were making a cake does enhance the flavor enormously. It is also a great way of locating any fish bones!

One of the great things about staying on a local island is that you have the opportunity to see first hand how locals go about their daily lives. As I have already mentioned the Maldives is a Muslim country and therefore there is a call to prayer from the mosque 5 times a day. This compelling and melodious sound particularly at sun rise and sunset can be quite mesmerizing. As part of our local island tours we invite guests to visit a mosque and learn more about how the Islamic faith creates the foundation on how Maldivians live their daily lives.

Also as part of the tour wherever possible we will take you to see how a boat is hand crafted. I’m not just talking about a traditional fishing boat, I’m talking of large 10 cabin live aboard boats used by divers and cruising guests. The unique approach to the construction of boats was invented in the Maldives centuries back.

During the early days, palm trees were used as the timber to build a boat and only hand-crafted tools were used. Carpenters now use automatic tools to work but despite this automation, the skill that was inherited from their forefathers still brings the boats that we see in the Maldives waters today into existence.
A visit to the local school is also included and dependent on school term timings we invite our guests to observe a lesson and on occasion should our guests choose, join in! Schooling in the Maldives is not particularly different to the UK apart from the fact that children are up at the crack of dawn for a 7.30am start. Subjects include Dhivehi, Arabic, English, Math’s and Islamic studies.

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Evening activities

Evening’s on local islands are quiet affairs more often than not spent on the beach, chatting with friends over a cup of coffee. Early evening activities include cruising the Indian Ocean in search of dolphins as the sun sets on the horizon creating a hue of orange, pink and golds or try your hand at fishing Maldivian style. The Maldives is unique in that its history depends on tuna fishing and the locals are excellent fishermen using pole and line and are happy to share their line fishing skills with you. Your catch will be freshly prepared for you to enjoy as a BBQ dinner.

However, in my opinion nothing can beat those tranquil moments of sitting on a white sand beach looking out across the blue expanse of the ocean to the horizon with nothing else in sight. Or lying back under a star filled sky at night on the lookout for shooting stars. With little or no light pollution the night sky is filled with twinkling lights and on a full moon evening, the words ‘by the light of a silvery moon’ take on real meaning. Moments like these remind me of how small and insignificant I actually am in the big scheme of the universe.

Maldivian’s are great believers in a relaxing lifestyle! There is one thing I have come to know about the people of Maldives and that is that they enjoy a slow paced stress-free life; while foreign urban creatures of speed think Maldivians may be slow, they are actually perfectly on time according to their own schedules! The whole point of experiencing the real Maldives is to learn about new cultures and lifestyles and see how diversely people live elsewhere. If you are on holiday and you need to hurry, you aren’t on holiday.

Share my experiences on one of Secret Paradise’s local island hopping tours.