Travelling Safely to the Maldives

Whether you are taking a family holiday, travelling with friends or on a solo trip, at Secret Paradise Maldives we believe that the following considerations should be made before embarking on your travels to ensure you travel with peace of mind.

Booking

Even before booking your holiday we would suggest that you book with a reputable and registered travel business like Secret Paradise Maldives.

Why?

Well firstly, you have the reassurance that the business has been vetted by governing authorities ensuring that they meet codes and standards required for registration. These codes and standards are set in place to protect you the traveller and make sure you are equipped with the right knowledge and support for your trip. It also provides confidence that financially you are paying who you think you are paying and your money is going to be secure.

Not all travel businesses, especially those outside Europe and the UK have access to register with well-known travel associations such as ABTA but if you do your homework you will find similar associations that support local travel businesses. An association specific for the Maldives is called MMRPC which is a state owned corporation promoting registered businesses in the Maldives.

Reputable travel and tour companies will have risk assessments, Standard Operating Practices, will very likely audit properties and suppliers and will hold insurance policies such as Public Liability Insurance. Whilst there is no definitive way to know whether a business processes any of these the simple answer is to ask your booking representative or point of contact. Established, reputable business will not bat an eyelid when you ask and will be willing to provide documentation or proof of such practices.

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Do You Need Travel Insurance?

Given the adventurous nature of many of our tours we do recommend that our guests hold travel insurance and we often get asked whether it is essential.Certainly if you are planning to dive or participate in motorised water sports; in our opinion it is a must have. Make sure when you are taking out insurance that you are covered for these activities as not all insurance policies automatically cover them.

Travelling outside of your own country is exciting, however if you fall into difficulties like getting injured or ill you may find it a costly lesson if you haven’t taken out travel insurance. It may also be worthwhile checking if you have private health insurance to see if they cover you for illness or injury abroad, this also applies for home owners if you have house insurance it might cover you for lost or stolen valuables outside of the home.

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Remember that travel insurance covers you for more than just illness or injury it also covers cancelled flights, lost luggage and even lost or stolen items. You are also covered prior to travel (as long as you take out insurance as soon as you booked your flights) just in case something unexpected happens and you cannot go.

There are many different types of travel insurance. If you will be travelling for more than one trip during the year it’s probably better value to purchase an annual plan. You will have options like single trip, multi trip, single, family, and couple.

Why Travel Insurance is important for the Maldives

Accessibility to airport – how weather can impact arriving on time for flight

The main airport in the Maldives is called Velana International Airport or Male International Airport (previously called Ibrahim Nasir International Airport) and is located on a separate island next to the capital Male. Some guests will visit Male or the adjoining island Hulhumale but will spend the majority of their vacation on an island which can be reached by local ferry, speed boat, sea plane or domestic flight. With this in mind when you are booking international flights, be sure to give yourself enough time to get from the island where you are staying to the airport island. Be mindful that is your flight arrives later in the evening you may not be taken directly to your chosen island until the next day so you will need to consider overnight accommodation. We recommend Hulhumale and our team can assist you with choosing a guest house and transporting you from the airport to your over night accommodation, plus we will ensure you are guided to your ferry/boat terminal the next day for your transfer.

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Cost of accommodation for missed flights

The Maldives is fairly consistent temperature wise all year round and wet season is usually between May to September. However this doesn’t mean that we don’t experience a possible 24 hours of torrential rain or high winds every once in a while. During this time boat transfers may be at a standstill as it may not be safe to travel. This is another reason for taking out travel insurance as it will protect you and ensure you are covered for possible missed flights. If you find you get into this situation please feel free to contact our office and one of our team will be more than happy to assist you. However if you are on a tour with us, this would have all been taken in to consideration by our team and we will make the necessary arrangements for you. But please remember you may incur additional costs for overnight emergency accommodation so check with us first before you book your flights and we can guide you on the best options.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Distance from hospitals – Geographic nature

If you require medical assistance that the local island medical centres cannot treat be mindful that you may have to get emergency transport to the capital Male via private speed boat or sea plane. The right travel insurance will have all this covered for you. If you do require medical treatment make sure you have all your travel and insurance documents to ensure the process is smooth. The hospitals may require some payments prior to some treatments and definitely prior to discharge

This information is not to scare you but rather prepare and forearm you with the right knowledge when you are travelling abroad. It is highly unlikely you will need to claim from your travel insurance but wouldn’t it be great to have the peace of mind knowing that for example if you did get sick or injured, if you had to fly home for a family emergency or your bag was lost or stolen in transit that you have insurance to cover you so you don’t incur additional and often hefty fees.

 

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What they say:

“Prepare for the unexpected”

“The people who work for Secret Paradise are fantastic! We thoroughly enjoyed our island hopping holiday. We loved having the chance to visit different islands and enjoyed staying in the guest houses. I had a serious illness while on the holiday, and the staff from Secret Paradise were wonderful! They helped with hospital issues, accommodation, insurance claims and even paid some of the bills up front for us. We definitely recommend Secret Paradise to book your Maldivian holiday!” Carol Lomax Travelled with us 2013

Need a travel insurance quote? Check out our recommended adventure travel provider World Nomads, more details here <<Quote Me>>

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The Opening of the Sinamale Bridge and What It Means to Tourists Visiting

The Sinamalé Bridge officially opened at the end of August 2018 with fanfare and fireworks! The bridge links the capital of the Maldives, Malé with Hulhulé and Hulhumale. The 1.39 km long bridge has two car lanes and separate lanes for motorcycles, and pedestrians.  It was originally called the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge due to funding having been received from the Chinese government. Accessing the bridge from Male you pass through the main entrance which depicts Islam, unity and nationalism of Maldives.

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Prior to the bridge being built, local island residents and tourists would have to take a local ferry or speed boat to commute between the two islands which are only 10km apart. With the opening of the bridge the daily commute for residents of Hulhumale working in Male and been cut dramatically. Whilst for the residents of Male it has allowed ease of access to Hulhumale and the beach front cafes and watersports.

For tourists it makes an interesting photo opportunity in a country where there has been no such structure previously.

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What does this mean for tourists visiting the Maldives?

Besides the photographic opportunities the bridge provides it also allows greater ease of access between the airport, Male and Hulhumale.

More Choice for Airport Transportation

Whilst speedboats and ferries will still continue their service between the airport and Male and the public bus service will operate between the airport and Hulhumale; like most international airports there will be for the first time the opportunity for tourists to make use of a taxi service.

It is now possible to take a private taxi to Hulhumale and Male from the taxi rank directly outside the airport arrival area. Previously only designated licensed vehicles could journey to and from the airport. Note that vehicles are currently not allowed to wait but from our experience there appears to be a steady stream of vehicles so you should not have to wait long. Charges are likely to fluctuate as this new airport services settles down. Expect to pay 100MVR to reach Hulhumale and 150MVR to reach Male, which also entails crossing the bridge!

We have learnt that potentially a ruling will be implemented that means a taxi from Male will only be allowed to drop at the bridge bus terminal in Hulhumale. Watch this space for updated information! For the moment we would advise that if you are getting a taxi at the airport it is worthwhile double checking if the vehicle can drop you to your hotel or guesthouse in Hulhumale.

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Need to know!

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Whilst there is a taxi call centre in both Male and Hulhumale, you can hail a taxi on the road in both Male and Hulhumale. Look out for the green lights on the roof of the cab.

The bridge bus terminus in Hulhumale is at the very end of the main road to the airport – Nirolhumagu. Currently the bus across the bridge is free with rates still to be finalised. The bridge buses are pink, where as the standard buses are red!

In Male the bridge bus stop is near to Mary Brown restaurant on the south west side of Male.

It is possible to walk across the bridge with access being easier from Male side.

The best place to view the bridge if you want to take photographs is from Male artificial Beach or near the previous surf point (Raalhugandu).

Airport Arrival

If you have booked with a tour company like Secret Paradise or with a hotel, guesthouse or resort it is likely that you will have provided them with your flight arrival details. If this is the case then it is usual for them to send a representative to meet with you at the arrival gate. They will then take care of your onward transfer meaning less hassle for you!

If you are travelling independently you can find more information on transportation from the airport as well as other important pieces of information to assist you travelling through the Maldives in our previous blog 10 Things you should know if you are travelling to the Maldives on a budget

Why You Should Visit Ukulhas the Fishing Island

If you have travelled with our guide Kokko Ibbe you will know that he is passionate about fishing. You may also have discovered that before he forayed into the tourism field he spent a year as a fisherman. With plenty of fishing tales to tell (especially about the one that got away!!) we asked him to share more about the industry that has forever been associated with the Maldives.

The Maldives is well known for its luxury resorts, stunning turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, tall palm trees and is renowned for being the perfect honeymoon destination.

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The tourism industry has been the main economy of the Maldives since it was introduced in 1972 and in 2017 1.39 million tourists arrived to enjoy this island paradise.

If you search online about the Maldives you will generally be able to find all the classic tourist information. However every island has a different story to tell and I wanted to share the story about one of our local islands famous for fishing.

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Ukulhas, a beautiful island located in North Ari atoll 72km from Male is famously known as the fishing island. People of the island are well known for big yellow fin tuna fishing. Most local island residents own a dingy and as a hobby go out to fish for Marlin, Dogtooth (Mahi Mahi), Trevally and more. Early morning after prayers elderly people will gather around near the jetty looking at the ocean and talking about fishing. Our third president Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said “Fishing is the lifeblood of our nation, it is inborn. From the soil on which we live, to the sea around us, it remains an integral part of our existence“. These words will always be in the fisherman heart.

 

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I have personally experienced Yellow fin tuna by joining a fishing boat for a year with these brave people. The local island fishermen take long journeys often not seeing their loved ones for long periods of time and with no communication while on the sea, this takes a lot of courage and faith when they first step on to the boat. It is almost as though they step into the fishing bubble which to them becomes everyday life and their families and friends will remain outside this bubble until they return home to their island. They don’t mind the big waves, no need of holidays, they don’t shiver in the rain, all their focus is on fishing.

The boat captain will say to start a fishing journey you require the resources from other fisherman, including bait and information as to where the best fishing locations are at that time. Typically there is an average of 16 people in a boat for fishing according to other islands, but almost every boat in Ukulhas there will be an average of 24 people. The reason for this I believe is because the elders will take their children (on holiday) to teach them how the traditional fishing practices are done. Once the journey out to sea starts, the people in the boat are considered their family and everyone depends on the captain. In peak season some fisherman will only come to their island once a month, but the average would be twice a week to see their family. With the first bite on the fishing line people hurry with other lines to catch more, the feeling is something else. In other words, only a fisherman truly understands this feeling and believe me this feeling is good!

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You may not know, but yellow fin tuna is caught by line only and fishermen are prohibited to use nets. This way the fish that is caught is of good quality plus it is also a sustainable way for the yellow fin tuna growth. Boats will sell to factories if they don’t have enough ice and bait, and they can also sell their catches at a higher price to the re-sellers at fish markets.

A local fisherman once said to me:

“Time changes, people are educated, they are in decent jobs, even my kids I want them to study and choose their career and go on, but I don’t want fishing to vanish from Maldives, this is how we raised our kids with the money we earned from fishing and this is a hard life. You cannot compare us with a desk job.”

And with a smile he quoted to me

“It is the Fisherman who eats the fresh fish, no one else”

Ukulhas is also known for its beautiful white sandy beach which attracts a lot of tourists to the island. With the local tourism introduced in 2009 the island is getting a lot of visitors from all around the world. Like most local islands there are excursion’s to sandbanks, snorkeling with manta and picnic island visits but many tourists who visit Ukulhas are looking for fishing trips. Big game fishing for Marlin, Yellow fin tuna, Wahoo and Dogtooth Tuna which are widely caught. Youngsters who learned to fish from their forefathers are now part of the guest house industry and teach tourists how to fish the local way.

Why not join us on our North Ari Island Hopping tour and take the chance to join the fishermen of Ukulhas yourself?

Solo Travel is on the Rise in the Maldives!

At Secret Paradise over the past few years we have seen an increase in solo travellers booking their trips with us. People are becoming more confident with exploring the world alone; gone are the days when we only book a trip if we have a travel buddy; sometimes spending months planning and plotting new adventures. These days people tend to be well travelled and have no problem jumping on a plane and heading off on new adventures alone.

However solo travel can still be met with some reservations; a recent survey commissioned by Intrepid Travel of 2,000 American travellers found that 73 percent of respondents worry about safety while travelling completely alone, 53 percent worry about getting lost, and 39 percent worry about the stress of planning a trip.

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Not all travellers are alone through choice, some have had friends cancel at last minute, and some don’t have friends who have the same travel interests. So whether you are travelling by choice or through other circumstances, Secret Paradise is the perfect tour and travel company to help you plan your perfect trip to the Maldives.

Safe Travel

The Maldives is considered a fairly safe place to travel and even on local islands as a solo traveller you will feel relaxed and at ease. Maldivians are known for their warm hospitality and are very well accustomed to tourists so are more than happy to help you.

November 3rd 1988 Memorial Maldives

Getting Lost

Getting around from island to island can be a little confusing if you are unfamiliar with the Maldives and this is where a pre planned trip can make travelling solo a little easier. Our team of expert tour guides will give you as much assistance as you need throughout your trip. If it is simply assisting with transfers from the airport to the islands/your accommodation, this can be arranged, or if you would like someone with you throughout your trip to guide you on the local islands, this can also be part of the service. Our bespoke tours and packages mean you can feel safe and secure knowing every part of your trip to the Maldives will be looked after. The great thing about booking a private tour guide with us is that you don’t have to worry about any aspect of your holiday and you can just focus on enjoying our island paradise.

Planning Your Trip

If you like to travel alone but just need assistance with the logistics, we can organise your trip from start to finish and offer support with island transfers with one of our tour guides on hand to collect and drop you to the right jetty.

There are also opportunities to join group tours should you wish to hook up with like minded people. You may get the opportunity to share a room so the costs can be split rather than paying single supplement but remember once again the local island guest house prices are not like the resorts so you may be able to afford to book a single room on your budget.

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No Single Supplement

It can be a gripe of solo traveller having to pay extra for travelling alone, but with our 7 night South Male Island hopping tour, there is no single supplement if you book on the scheduled departure dates. This tour to us is best way to experience the natural beauty of the Maldives and gain an insight into the Maldivian culture and tradition of an inhabited local island. You will experience local life with popular excursions, watersports and even a little relaxation. Accompanied by your Maldivian guide, travel to four local islands in South Male Atoll; Hulhumale, Guraidhoo, Maafushi and Gulhi. Staying in guesthouses you will have the chance to visit local homes, share traditional meals and stories with the family. Discover how the local dhoni boat is built and perhaps learn the art of the BoduBeru dance. Add in snorkelling, sandbanks, breathtaking sunsets, great company and you have the perfect Maldives local experience.

Set the Cultural Scene for Your Holiday

You may not want a full trip organised by a tour company, you may be ready to embark on your own solo trip, but when visiting a new country where do you start? Why not book a day tour or activity with us to find your footing. Discover history and culture on on a half day Male City walking tour or take a day trip around North Male where our experienced guides will accompany you on a tour of two local islands, Himmurfushi and Huraa, sharing information on their culture and tradition. In-between islands we offer the opportunity to snorkel and discover the underwater world. Take the time to quiz your guides on what are the must do’s during your stay and what top tips they have for your onward travels.

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Eat Local, Try New Foods, Meet New People

Its one thing we think you should try in every country – the local cuisine. Here in the Maldives a local restaurant does not always mean you will be able to taste authentic local dishes as many places focus on Western and Asian foods. Why not come join our local family and your guide for an authentic Maldivian dinner in their home. Maldivian meals include the staple ingredients of fish, coconut and chilli.  Rice and curries have also become an integral part of Maldivian food. Our lunch or dinner will provide the opportunity to savour the exotic flavours of home cooked Maldivian cuisine not found  in local restaurants and in the traditional way we finish our evening dinner on the beach for coffee under the stars!

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Reviews from Lone Travellers:

But don’t take just our word for how much fun it is to travel solo in the Maldives check out what some of our past guests have said:

“Secret paradise is the perfect organisation for anyone on a budget and/or wishing to see the real Maldives. Lovely Ruth was so helpful in organising all my activities when I emailed her my stay duration and interests just a few days before (having already booked a hotel and flights). She also gave a lot of honest, simple information about local customs, costs and getting around the islands etc. During my brief stay (I was travelling onwards) I went on a city tour of Male, snorkelling trip and picnic island, all of which were fabulous the perfect balance of full of Maldivian culture, wildlife and total tranquillity. I would liken the experience to being shown around the Maldives by a friend, (taking you on public ferries and to local dive centres and Maldivian restaurants) which was ideal for me being a (first time) lone traveller. My guide Kamey was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic but also super laid back and easy to talk to. He came to collect me and walk me back to my guesthouse every day and was even kind enough to invite for meals and coffees with his friends in the evenings. Wonderful company, well done Ruth! I will certainly be back for a longer stay next time!” Lizzy Kaye

 

“After getting an incredible flight deal from JFK to the Maldives, I started researching and looking to put together a trip to the Maldives. As an experienced solo traveler, I knew I did not want to stay on resorts. Shortly into the planning process, I was extremely overwhelmed with the huge number of islands and challenges of getting between them. I found Secret Paradise. I reached out to Ruth, and her replies were extremely quick and extremely thoughtful. I gave her an idea of my budget and that I am an avid diver and what I was looking to do. I knew I wanted a bit of island hopping and to see different aspects of the Maldives. She was able to discuss the different atolls/reefs/islands and what each has to offer. She addressed questions and concerns as well. I was concerned as the Maldives is usually promoted as a “couples” destination and I was going to be doing it solo. Originally I also had a need to be able to telecommute several of the days I was in town. She took everything into account and put together a wonderful package, well detailed and well priced. She never seemed to tire of my endless questions including things like a realistic budget and her replies were almost instant. Her blog was really helpful too. From the moment I contacted Ruth to getting on the plane to fly back to the US, Ruth made sure everything was taken care of.  From the moment I got off the plane to the moment I departed, the Secret Paradise team seamlessly took care of the logistic.” Shannon

 

Want to know more about solo travel in the Maldives? Contact one of our team sales@secretparadise.mv

10 Historical Facts of Maldives

For those of you who have been fortunate enough to explore Male with our guide Maahee, on one of our popular walking tours, you will know the reason why he is referred to as a ‘walking Maldives encyclopedia!’

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For those who have yet to meet Maahee or indeed visit the Maldives we asked him to share a few key facts about the Maldives and it’s history.

Geography and Climate

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The Maldives is an archipelago of 21 atolls and a total of now over 1192 inhabited and uninhabited islands. I have not visited even half of them, so I have plenty of islands still to explore. Islands are spread from North to South covering 820km length and 130km width, with the ocean covering 90,000sq km. The islands are formed on top of stone crusted bed rocks which are called the coral reef islands; 5% of the world’s coral reefs are found in the Atolls of the Maldives.

The ecosystem in the Maldives is a subtropical area to the central equator of the world. From January to December the Maldives experiences a monsoon climate and the temperature of the Maldives is stable in between 24″ degrees to 33″ degrees centigrade. June and July will experience the heaviest monsoon rain showers across the region.

The Maldives is known to be the lowest altitude to sea level and the islands are under threat with global warming and sea levels rising.  President MaumoonAbdhulGayoom called upon the United Nations to unite for a global warming campaign for all low altitude island such as the Maldives. Whilst this remains an issue coral reefs bleaching and the crown of thorn starfish are additional obstacles that we face today.

Religion

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I were born and raised asa Muslimand the country’s official religion is Sunni Islam. The Maldives is 100% Muslim and is believed to be one of the few countries in the world with this status. The practise of other religions is denied; being found doing to do so is punishable by law. According to the first settlement, the early civilisation were seafarers travelling across the continent of India and Sri Lanka, this is where the influence of the Buddhist religion is believed to originate from, The remains of Buddhist monuments can still be seen on some islands. The Islamic religion were brought by the Arab traderAlhafisAbullbarakaathulBarrbaree,who came sailing from Morocco in 12th century 1153 AD. Would you believe it took almost a century of time for the Islamic religion to spread across the country.

Language

Whilst today we also speak English and mine is quite good, during early civilisation the spoken language in the Maldives was sanscript which was practised by Buddhist priests using Brahmi scripts for written communication. When the Maldivesconverted to Islam the language was then transformed to a new form of letters combining Arabic and san script. The transformation of the new letters were initially written from left to right and by the Islamic revolution changed the scripts from right to left and through time the language was transformed to new characters. The modern day language used in the Maldives isDhivehiThaana with 24 different letters and spoken on all local islands. There is evidence of copper plates which were kept safe in the old coral stone mosques with written letters ofevelaaakuru,dhivesakuru proving the written and spoken language.

Population

As you will know we welcome visitors from all around the world to the Maldives but did you know that from as early as the 5th century early civilisation in the Maldives bought a mix of nationalities. People travelling from countries like East Africa, South Asian India and Sri Lanka sailed across the Indian Ocean. Why they arrived it is unsure but there is suggestion that they may have been traders or even ship wrecked.  Central Male Atoll was considered to have the largest population of migrants in the Maldives, with most living in the capital Male. During the time of conversion from Buddhism to Islam the population of Male was around 5000 people. In contrast today the City of Male’s population is over 150,000 people bringing the total population of the Maldives to 400,000 with people spread across 26 Atolls in the archipelago.

Government

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The Maldives was originally ruled by Kings and their families across different parts of the Atolls. The Maldivian Kings were called Sultans but by the 16th century the nation was brought together by one ruling family Sultanate. The Maldives ruling family Sultanate changed the constitution of Maldivian law to Republican and the monarchy ended when the countries first president Mohammed Ameen Didi was voted into office in 1953. He ruled for a total of eight monthsbefore the republic was abolished and replaced by the ruling monarchy again headed by his Royal Majesty King Mohamed Fareed. Fareed stayed in power from 1953 to 1967 whenIbrahim Nasir, the Maldives second republican President was then voted into power. This again saw the end of the ruling kings in the Maldives.

Economy

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Early trade was made widely by a barter exchange using corrie shells. These were considered the 5th most valued currency and used for trade as early at the 5th century. Metal, iron, gold, silver and bronze were also considered high value and used for exchange.

High value items for barter included spice trade, lacquer work items, coir rope, coconut, coral, turtle shells, Triton shells, dry fish, smoked fish, slated fish and shark fin. Thank fully we don’t trade many of these items today and trade of turtle shells and shark fins is prohibitive. A great relief to me.

By the end of the middle age in early 16th century, gold and silver coins were being used for currency. The economy was driven by pole and line fishing,a traditional method introduced by older generations and still widely used to this day. With infrastructure developments a change was brought about to the fluctuating economy as the Maldives embraced the tourism industry. Over a period of 40 years this was to was to grow the Maldives from a third world country to a developing country with a GDPcontribution of 34% from the tourism sector.

Colonial history

In 1558 trade and economy was influenced by the Portuguese after their fleets sailed to the west shore line beach of Malé and fought the ruling Sultan army. Ali Rassgefaanu was martyred by the Portuguese army who took control of the spice and economic trade of the Maldives. The country’s liberation was undertaken by Mohamed Takurufaanu and his compatriot took a powerful base in Mulaku Atoll Kolhufushi where he started a guerrilla campaign in the island against the Portuguese. In an attempt to block the ports built in Malé Mohamed Takurufaanu and his fleet attacked in 1573 AD which became the 1st Islamic month rabee’lawwal and brought an end to the foreign occupation. The Malabars tried to capture Maldives during the reign of Ibrahim Kalaafaanu who took power following the end of Muhamad Thakurufaan’s rule. The Malabars made two more attempts but Dhon Hassan Manikufanu, with the help of the French in Pondichcherry, India, defeated the Malabars. On the 16th of December 1887, the ruling monarch, Sultan Muinuddheen II, signed an agreement with the British governor of Sri Lanka Mr. A.H. Gordon, rendering the Maldives a British protectorate until independence from the British was declared on 26th July 1965 by Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir. A day which we now celebrate as a holiday on an annual basis.

Constitution

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The first constitution was made in HakuraaGanduvaru in 1932 during the reign of Sultan ShamsuddinlllMajlis’, laying the groundwork for a representational form of government and law which abolished the Islamic Sharia law. The new constitutions were made by the parliament of Maldives called peoples Majilis. The laws were made to bring order as well as benefits to the population of the Maldives. A voting system for public election for president and parliamentary members was introduced as well as for island and city councils. The first parliament reception assembled on the Hakuraaganduvaru in Malé, one of the palaces of the Sultanate. The new Majilis building as you will see it in Male now was a gift from Pakistan in 1982.

Culture

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The Maldives has a culture of Islamic celebrations. The tradition of Ramadan fasting was introduced by early generations and has brought the fashion of dressing for the special EID occasions. Women and men wear unique traditional dress; the woman’s clothing is called rai libaas (a red dress decoratedwith silk thread from the left shoulder to the right shoulder) and the men will wear a kalufeyli and hudhugamees( black kilt and a white shirt). The special Eid traditions include music played with big drums built on goat skin and trumpet flutes where men and women dance to the beat and sound of the music. I am always happy to join in the fun joy and laughter and to watch or even participate in these celebrations.

Food

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Let’s finish with a fact about food, as in my experience everyone loves food! The Maldives traditional cuisine is mainly based on tuna. A very common meal at home is Garudhiya which is a clear soup with a salty sour taste cooked with fresh tuna, rice and side dishes including rihaakuru (fish paste) and fihunumas (baabacu fish). In the time of the spice trade the flavours of cinnamon, cardamom were imported across from India and Sri Lankan introducing different varieties of curries which were made in local homes. The thelhihavaadhu (ground spice with grated coconut) was one of the products used to make the curries. Musamaariha, masriha, valhomasriha are popular Maldivian dishes served with rice or roshi (thin flat bread).When I loved on a fisherman Island one of our family members or a friend who worked on the fishing boats would bring fresh tuna to my home for special occasions.  I still sometimes buy fish direct from the fishing boat or failing that I visit Male fish market. Perhaps if you join me on a Male tour I can take you there.

Want to learn more about Maldives history, culture and tradition, join us on our daily half day Male City walking tours, departing at 09:00 and 14:00.

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Are Our Efforts in the Maldives to Reduce Plastic Waste Really Worth It?

We are overwhelmed with the fantastic response from businesses and like minded travellers looking at ways to improve sustainability through sustainable initiatives like banning single use plastic straws in the Maldives and around the world. Everyone is discussing what we will lose if we don’t take action now, but what will we gain? Is there really any benefit to this massive international surge of environmental awareness and initiatives? We discuss here some exciting things we will gain from all our efforts:

Creating Employment

Once people get into the habit of bringing reusable bags when they are shopping people will seek more durable bags so they last longer, thus creating new job opportunities for manufacturing durable sustainable shopping bags, thus creating employment! In Male Maldives Authentic Crafts Cooperative Society (MACCS) an advocate for alternatives to single use plastic bags in the Maldives are producing bags for life and  working with corner stores, supermarkets and households to reduce the usage of single use plastic bags.

Image from Maldives Authentic Crafts Coop Society

 

Saving Energy with a More Efficient Production Process

To produce nine plastic bags it takes the equivalent energy of driving a car 1km. Considering the typical life span of a plastic bag is about 12 minutes of use, this is a very inefficient use of time, energy and products. Creating sustainable, reusable bags makes more sense and uses far less energy.

Happy Marine Life!

There is an estimated 46,000 to 1,000,000 plastic fragments floating within every square mile of the world’s ocean. Often they are mistaken for food by animals, birds, and marine life like fish and sea turtles. The consumed plastic then congests the digestive tracts of these animals, and can lead to health issues such as infections and even death by suffocation. By us all working together to reduce this waste, marine life, birds and other animals won’t have to suffer these terrible infections or slow painful deaths from excessive plastic waste. Meaning they will have a safer, happier environment to live in and both guests as well as those who live in the Maldives can continue to enjoy our marine life bio diversity.

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Healthy Humans

Plastic fragments in the ocean can absorb pollutants like PCBs and PAHs, which are known to be hormone-disrupting chemicals. These chemicals can be consumed and make their way through the ocean’s food chain which then pass into humans who eat fish and other marine organisms.Given that tuna forms part of the staple diet of Maldivians and that the fishing industry is also a key exporter of fish products, less pollutant means healthier humans!

 

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Money Saved on Clean Up Can Be Used For Other Things

A lot of time, money and selfless effort from individuals and groups are contributed to the efforts of ocean and beach clean ups. Image what this money could be spent on if we were no longer fighting the plastic battle. Not to mention the extra time we would all have on our hands! A week doesn’t go by where there is not a beach clean-up organised on at least one island in the Maldives. Let’s estimate that there is 50 people cleaning for 4 hours once a week;our conservative estimate is over 10,500 hours a year being donated for free time by locals and tourists. Together with the expense of rubbish collection bags, gloves and travel.

Saving Money on the Weekly Shopping

Plastic bags cost about 3-5 cents each to produce, and that cost is either incorporated into prices of the items sold at stores or you as the shopper have to pay for the bag, either way you as the consumer are absorbing all the costs of these plastic bags.  It is said that the average American shopper will use 500 bags per year, 80% of these are plastic. Image the money you will be saving if stores didn’t need to apply these additional costs into your shopping. More money to save for your vacations to the Maldives!

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Some Top Tip on Staying Plastic Free on Your Holiday to the Maldives

Reusable Containers

The popular traditional afternoon snack hedhikaa is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. However take outs are often presented in the blue plastic bags. So by bringing your own reusable container you are refusing a single use plastic bag.

Refuse Plastic Straws

Let’s face it most of us don’t need to use a straw and those that do can use alternatives. So the next time you order a drink or enjoy a local coconut, refuse the plastic straw and tag us online #strawwarMV

Today on the last day of their Beach Break tour, Kavitha and her family were happy to join strawwarsmv and enjoy a coconut the traditional way, drunk without the aid of a plastic straw

Re-useable Water Bottles

So many more places are offering fresh, clean drinking water to re-fill your water bottle. So instead of drinking small bottles of water and throwing them out, re-fill your own water bottle.

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Join a Beach Clean Up

We know you are on your holidays when you visit the Maldives but as you will be visiting the local islands why no find out if there is a beach cleanup organised during your stay. We work closely with Save the Beach and The Cleaning Quest, if you let us know before you arrive we can incorporate it into your tour package.

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If you are yet to join the #strawwarMV campaign with us, then check out our blog here

Make sure you tag us in your efforts to refuse single use plastic straws and use the #strawwarMV and #letusguideyou. We will give you a re-tweet and shout out as a thank you.

 

Ref following website for info

https://www.quora.com/Why-cant-we-ban-plastics

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/reasons-why-plastic-bags-should-be-banned.php

Facebook Live Chat – Secret Paradise Interview with Go to the Maldives

Heidi from Go to the Maldives recently interviewed Ruth from Secret Paradise Maldives via Live Facebook chat. Heidi wants to dispel the myth about the Maldives being an expensive holiday destination, so she asked Ruth if she could run a live interview and ask her the pressing questions on everyone’s lips about visiting the Maldives.

 

 

Many people still consider the Maldives a holiday destination for a once in a life time trip or if they win the lotto. How has that now changed?

Indeed that still remains the perception for many. However, since local island tourism and guesthouses were introduced in 2011 the Maldives has become a far more affordable destination. There are now opportunities to island hop and discover history and culture as well as the beautiful beaches and amazing marine life that it is already known for.

Why was Secret Paradise introduced?

In a nutshell I was in the right place at the right time!  I had visited the Maldives on over 30 occasion after being introduced to the country by my dive buddy, Romney, who you will know from Boutique Beach! Following a stay of almost three months to complete a diving course I was provided the opportunity to start a travel agency with a local business man,  but being me I said let’s not do resorts let’s do something different!

Our tours are designed to allow guests to engage with local people and experience the best from a paradise that as we said a moment ago is generally known as a luxury resort destination. As well as at the time providing the platform to market and promote the newly formed guesthouse industry.

What kind of customers do you get?

We are fortunate to welcome guests from all over the world, of all ages and from all walks of life. We have even welcomed a celebrity or two! Guests may be travelling solo or with family or friends. They may be on a tight budget or have no restraints. However, the one thing they have in common is that they are looking for a memorable experience.

Many people tell me that if they are only paying $100 a night for bed and breakfast in the Maldives the accommodation must be terrible. What do you say to those people?

Accommodation certainly isn’t terrible and as local tourism has developed so has the range of guesthouses and hotels on offer. For under $50 a night you can generally expect a basic standard room with ensuite shower room, AC and access to Wifi. I believe the saying you get what you pay for is quite apt. Expect to pay between $90-$140 for an ocean view room with modern décor and facilities.  At the other end of the scale there are some fabulous boutique style properties where the level of service equals or surpasses that of some resorts.

My advice – Check out online reviews or for real peace of mind book with a company like us who audit their hotel and guesthouse partners on an annual basis.

What will people experience in the local islands?

Local islands certainly offer the opportunity to see the real Maldives and observe Maldivians go about their daily life. But like resorts every local island is slightly different and with a little bit of research or advice from Secret Paradise you can find one that meets your holiday needs be that surfing, diving, relaxing or discovery!

One thing every island though has in common is the warmth and hospitality of the locals who will take great delight in welcoming you to their island home.

What tips would you give someone visiting the Maldives for the first time?

Read the small print when making a booking or payment – is all local tax included GST, service charge and green tax for accommodation.

If you are booking independently understand the cost of transfers to the island you have selected. You may have got a real bargain for accommodation only to find you need to take a $400 domestic flight to reach your holiday home.

Don’t over pack, you need very little in the way of clothes and shoes! Sun screen, mozzie repellent and a rash guard if snorkelling are essential.

You offer tour guides on your trips, surely that is only for the wealthy how can I afford a private tour guide in the Maldives?

Certainly you don’t need to break the bank to have a tour guide, although expect to pay more for a tour including their services than if you were just to book accommodation online.

However, travelling with a local guide not only provides an opportunity to learn about the country and culture it allows you access to experiences or places that many tourists may not encounter. Plus it’s safe and convenient and ensures a hassle free holiday experience.

Where can people find more information about your trips and tours?

Take a look at our website www.secretparadise.mv. Plenty of information regarding our day tour sand multi days tours as well as travel advice. Follow the link to our blog which has loads more travel advice and information on what to expect when travelling in the Maldives.

We are hearing a lot in the news about plastic pollution what are the challenges the Maldives are facing with this?

Sadly, plastic pollution has become a key environmental issue in the Maldives as well as Worldwide. We see evidence of plastic bottles, straws, carrier bags and other plastic waste scattered on our islands and washed up regularly on our beautiful beaches and of course this waste has a negative impact on our environment, our marine life and the impression we give visitors.

The positive news is that local NGOs, island communities and environmental groups are working hard to deal with plastic issue with initiatives including beach clean ups, reduction of plastic bag use and environmental awareness campaigns.

But we also need effective policies to be implemented for meaningful long termchange.

Why did you introduce the #strawwar initiative?

There was so much international coverage regarding single use plastic that I felt Secret Paradise was in a position to influence and encourage our partners to lead a change in the Maldives.

We have had a terrific response from our partners as well as guests. Currently we are in the process of obtaining EPA approval which will hopefully assist us in taking #strawwar to the next level.

Surely banning single use straws is a small feat for such a large problem, wouldn’t it be better to ban plastic bottles?

In the ideal world yes and I would love to think that this could be achieved in the future, but unfortunately for the time being both locals and tourists have become reliant on bottled water as tap water is not promotedas being perfectly okay to drink.

This together with the fact that a new water bottling plant that will produce 10,000 plastic bottles every hour, is being opened makes single use plastic bottles a real challenge.

What are local business do to work with you on the strawwar?

It’s easy, contact Secret Paradise and pledge to stop using plastic straws!

How can tourists get involved?

Take a photos and tag @Secretparadisemaldives and use #strawwarmv when they refuse a straw or find a property or café who do not use plastic straws.