Volunteer and Experience the Real Maldives

We are delighted to share that Secret Paradise Maldives has partnered UK based Travel Teacher in order to support a volunteer education program within Male the capital city of the Maldives.

Secret Paradise will be providing Travel Teacher volunteers with an insight into the culture and tradition of the Maldives as well as providing access to some unique local life experiences, as well as the activities for which the Maldives is famed. Volunteers will also spend time with local NGO Save the Beach to understand the environmental and conservation challenges local islands face.

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Secret Paradise Maldives offers both group and individual tour packages, with a wide range of guided and non-guided local island tours to choose from. Accompanied by experienced local tour leaders they combine activities and relaxation with culture and tradition all designed to let travellers get a taste of the real Maldives.

Ruth Franklin, Co-Founder and Sales Director comments ‘‘we are delighted to partner Travel Teacher and hope to become actively involved alongside them in their projects . It is a great way for us to give back to the community in which we live and operate. As a business we are committed to following responsible and sustainable tourism best practises and these partnerships really under pin our values.”

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Travel Teacher is a unique combination of education and adventure. They provide ethical, low-cost volunteering programmes in Fiji, The Cook Islands and now The Maldives. 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 . Their bespoke adventure itineraries compliment the volunteers work placement schedule and will assist in broadening horizons, gaining transferable skills vital for the world of work and will also provide an unforgettable experience and lifelong memories.

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Travel Teacher founder Mat Ray comments  ”I spent a great day recently in Male with our friends from Secret  Paradise Maldives. They provided an exceptional insight into local culture and we aim to deliver these unique local experiences to our volunteers enabling them to immerse themselves in the real Maldives. We are looking forward to supporting the Ghiyasuddin International School – our education partner in the Maldives next year and we hope to support and add value over a longer term project period.”

Volunteer applications are already being accepted for next year’s inaugural trip scheduled for the 21st – 29th October 2017. Interested applicants can find further information online at http://www.travelteacher.co.uk/maldives

Secret Paradise Maldives earns 2016 Tripadvisor certificate of excellence

Maldives Travel News

large_57467b59-51e8-488a-8469-6318482fefbbSecret Paradise Maldives today announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence. Now in its sixth year, the achievement celebrates hospitality businesses that have earned great traveller reviews on TripAdvisor over the past year. Certificate of Excellence recipients include accommodations, eateries and attractions located all over the world that have continually delivered a quality customer experience.

“Being awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence is a proud moment for the team at Secret Paradise and we’d like to thank all of our past guests who took the time to complete a review on TripAdvisor,” said Ruth Franklin, Co-Founder and Director of Sales at Secret Paradise. “Having worked in the public sector for over 30 years there is no greater seal of approval than being recognised by your guests. With the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence based on guest reviews, the accolade is a vote of confidence to our business and…

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Dive Local in the Maldives

When it comes to diving, the Maldives is in a class of its own, but the best dive spots do not have to cost a fortune. Secret Paradise has teamed up with local guesthouses and PADI dive centres to offer great diving at affordable prices.Staying at guesthouses on local islands allows you to dive the same sites for less, whilst experiencing the local life of the Maldives, adding a new dimension to your holiday.

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Island Divers Dive Base

Professional, experienced dive instructors lead the dive teams based at each local dive centre. They will take you to the best dive spots and introduce you to the characteristics of the underwater world of the Maldives. All dive centres offer boat dives, equipment hire and a full range of PADI courses. The teams will always ensure you get the best out of your dive. If you are learning to dive, you can do anything from completing the open water section of your PADI certification to completing the full PADI Open Water course. Whatever you choose to do you can be assured of fun and safe diving.

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Dive briefing with Maldives Passions

Diving in the Maldives is a unique experience for both experienced divers and beginners. Once you have discovered the underwater world here, it will be difficult to find others of its kind. The water is azure blue, warm, and the varieties of dive spots are stunning. You can enjoy drift dives, discover wrecks, caves, overhangs, and beautiful reefs. Renowned for the abundance of big aquatic animals including Whale Sharks and Manta Rays, together with the diversity of corals, sharks and fish of all sizes, the Maldives sets itself apart from other worldwide dive locations.

Dive sites in Maldives are broadly divided into ‘Thilas’ – an underwater pinnacle; ‘Kandus’ – a corridor or passage in the atoll between two reefs. The ’Kandu’ and the ‘Thila’ are commonly affected by strong currents, whilst the reefs  inside the lagoons are more protected areas. A ‘Faru’ is a reef partially exposed at low tide, whilst a ‘Falhu’ is a reef that encircles a lagoon. All diving is dependent on the prevailing weather and current conditions. You will however be in the hands of experts who will choose the most suitable dive site for the conditions and level of diver experience.

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Whale shark spotting on board Boutique Beach Dive Dhoni

Divers are transported to dive spots by a traditional local boat known as a dhoni. The dhoni is equipped with everything required for diving – tanks, weights, emergency equipment, life vests, First Aid & emergency oxygen. Between dives, there is the opportunity to relax on deck, snorkel or swim and sometimes dependent on location visit a local island.

Secret Paradise offers dive local packages in 6 atolls providing a wide range of both dive experiences and local island life.

The presence of deep, clear waters all around North Male Atoll means excellent visibility, especially with incoming currents. Pelagics such as barracuda, trevally and tuna and big schools of fusilier, snapper and sharks all congregate at the entrance to the channels. Most of the diving in North Male Atoll is in channels and drift diving is the most common method. Popular dive sites include HP Reef, Okobe Thila, Nassimo Thila, Lankan Caves, Maagiri Caves, Banana Reef and Maldives Victory.

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South Male Atoll offers many dive sites with spectacular drop offs and caves along both sides of the channel that separates North Male and South Male Atoll, as well as a further 18 channels located along the eastern and western sides of the atoll. Predictably currents at the channel entrances attract barracudas, grey reef sharks, white tip sharks, groupers, jacks, trevally, napoleon wrasse and eagle rays.  Popular dive sites include the protected marine area of Embudhoo Kandu, Embudhoo Express, Kandooma Thila, Guraidhoo Corner, Kandooma Caves.

Stunning coral formations, incredible colours and a huge variety of fish life have made Ari Atoll one of the top diving destinations around the world. Add into the mix regular Manta Ray and Whale Shark sightings, and it’s clear why people keep coming back for more. From January till end of March visits to manta dive sites are made several times a week and in April, May and then again September through to November there is a good chance of seeing whale sharks in the area. In fact currently whale shark sightings are common almost all year round. Popular dive sites include Broken Rock, Protected Marine Area Kudarah Thila, Panettone and Angaga Thila.

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Baa Atoll  is blessed with a varied selection of diving sites: thilas, channels and coral reefs. The tranquil atmosphere, warm crystal clear water, rich coral gardens and colorful reef fishes make the atoll one of the top diving choices in Maldives. Maaddoo Giri, Dhonfan thila, Horubadhoo thila and Baiypolhi Mas are some of the diving sites with flourishing aquatic life. Among all these sites, Baiypolhi Mas is the most exciting and challenging dive spot with several batfish, here you can also spot sharks throughout the year. The famous Hanifaru Bay, a unesco protected zone, regularly sees some of the largest gatherings of Manta rays worldwide with up to one hundred individuals in the small inlet when the tide pushes plankton into the bay usually between July – September.

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Laamu Atoll is an untouched paradise for snorkelers and divers. With relatively few channels, great visibility, beautiful hard coral formations and weak currents, this area is perfect for photographers and inexperienced divers. Inner reefs are home to both small macro and larger animals such as turtles. The channels to the north provide adrenalin-charged current diving for the more experienced and are packed with fish, sharks and eagle rays while on the outer reef; you may encounter mantas and whale sharks.

As with Laamu in Haa Alif in the deep north you are unlikely to see many other divers or boat traffic. Because of this the marine life seems to revel in the minimal interference from humans with flourishing coral growth. Fish life thrives in the nutrient-rich waters bringing in the reef predators: white and black tip reef sharks and large numbers of manta rays. The area offers drift dives, cave diving and even the Maadhoo wreck. Wall dives are among some of the best you will find and clear waters make for great visibility.

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Diving is good all year-round, although a basic rule is that 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.
Dive Local packages are suitable for families, groups, couples or just diving buddies. Itineraries  can be customised to suit your needs and length of stay and can even be combined with a more traditional resort or liveaboard stay.

The World’s First Maldives Swimming Tour

If you’re looking for a swimming paradise look no further; SwimTrek in conjunction with Secret Paradise Maldives are heading to the Maldives on board Ensis Felicity !  Join them for a liveaboard escape to the country of 26 coral atolls containing well over a thousand palm fringed islands.

SwimTrek was founded in 2003 by Simon Murie who was planning for his 30th birthday. He remembered as a boy growing up, reading about Byron’s crossing of the fabled Hellespont which divides Europe and Asia in north-west Turkey way back in 1810. Simon took himself off to Turkey to attempt it himself, but it was anything other than easy to organise. It took him around a week to get the requisite permissions from the local council, the army and the coastguard as well as finding a pilot willing to escort him across. The swim itself took just under an hour to actually swim it. This total imbalance between time organising and time swimming made him realise that there must be other swimmers out there who also wanted to do these great swims but didn’t want to spend the time organising it all. Hence the idea behind SwimTrek was born!

Simon Murie

‘Since those days we have organised swims in over 40 locations worldwide’ states Simon. ‘We don’t just swim for the sake of swimming. As for the Hellespont all those years ago, we at SwimTrek feel that there needs to be a reason to do it. Hence all our locations have something special about them and we are delighted to add the Maldives paradise to our trip portfolio.’

With crystalline waters, blue lagoons and extensive reefs, Vaavu and South Malé atolls offer a peaceful sanctuary for a week of swimming and cruising. It’s the ultimate way to explore this archipelago that lies above and below the Equator. Float, gaze or swim with turtles and shoals of eagle rays during many of our crossings. Hunt out the wonders the Maldives has to offer and during the week complete a full crossing of Vaavu Atoll.

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Circumnavigate islands, cross between islets, float along reefs and all the while take in the abundance of coral and magnificent marine life below. All this is done on-board our traditionally crafted 28m gullet MV Felicity which journeys between, within and around these atolls picking the day’s best swimming opportunities. As well a great boat, the trip is fully catered with all meals provided by an on-board chef.

SwimTrek offer you a wonderful swimming experience and an unforgettable trip. You will be swimming in some of the most stunning water in the world. Each tour has a selection of swims, some of which may challenge you and others which will undoubtedly enthrall you. There is simply no safer way for you to swim in open water. With qualified and experienced guides and sufficient safety escort boats, you will be looked after  every stroke of the way. Even your swimming stroke will be videoed for analysis and swimming tips!

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https://www.swimtrek.com/packages/oman-fjords

With four trips already scheduled between February and April 2017 dig out your swimwear and goggles and get yourself booked to join SwimTrek on one of these fabulous trips.

 

 

Help support Maldives local conservation projects

Secret Paradise Maldives has joined forces with NGO Save the Beach to promote local conservation projects and responsible tourism.

We are delighted to share that Secret Paradise Maldives has partnered Villingili based NGO Save the Beach in order to support local conservation projects within the capital area of the Maldives.

Secret Paradise have added two daily tours to their excursion offer both of which provide an insight into the conservation challenges that face an island during development. A presentation shows how Villimale’ has transformed from an island with a rich biodiversity on land and in the sea, to one that is struggling to maintain its natural ecosystems.  Guests as well as spending time with Save the Beach and the local community also have the opportunity to witness these impacts first hand by snorkeling or diving with the local conservationists on their coral nursery maintenance trips.

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Coral Nursery

Secret Paradise specializes in cultural & adventurous, private and small group Local Island daily and multi day tours. Accompanied by experienced local guides they combine activities and relaxation with culture and tradition offering travelers the Maldives experience of a lifetime.

Ruth Franklin, Co-Founder and Sales Director comments ‘we are delighted that our team and our guests can become actively involved in local conservation efforts. It is a great way to give back to the community in which we live and operate. As a business we are committed to following social and environmental best practices ensuring that there is limited or no negative impact on the community or the environment within which we operate’’

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Learning about conservation over afternoon tea

Save the Beach started in 2008 as a youth movement in Vilingili to conserve the beaches on this particular local capital island. Save the Beach aims to conserve and maintain the beaches and reefs of Villingili. Since natural processes of environmental growth take time, their Conservation and Beautification Project is proposed for a period of ten years.

Hassan Ahmed, President of the group comments ‘Thanks to Secret Paradise Maldives we’re able to share our messages with visitors to our country on how they too can be responsible during their stay’

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Supporting responsible tourism

Both excursions are offered daily. Guests are met at their guesthouse or hotel in Male Hulhumale or Villingili and are accompanied by a Secret Paradise representative to meet with the Save the Beach team.

Enjoy a tour of the island of Villingili and observe local island life as well as sharing traditional Maldives afternoon tea ‘hedika’ at a local tea shop with the Save the Beach reef conservation group

Contact sales@secretparadise for more information or bookings.

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Exploring Villingili

 

 

 

 

 

5 Fun Facts about Maldives beaches

Everyone knows that the Maldives is famous for picture perfect white sand beaches. What most people don’t realise though, as they relax on their sun lounger, is that there is more to our beaches than first meets the eye!

These 5 fun facts may just surprise you!

  1. Maldives beaches never get hot!

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Unlike ordinary quartz based sand, sand formed from coral does not heat up and therefore is comfortable to walk on even on the hottest day.

2. Maldives beaches are always on the move!

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Beaches move twice a year, once with each monsoon. During the northeast monsoon, January – March, the bulk of the sand moves around to the southwest and then the pattern is reversed during the southwest monsoon, May – September.

3. Maldives beaches are created by parrot fish!

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A large proportion of the coral grains that form our beaches is undigested coral that has been disgorged by the colourful parrot fish. The parrot fish spends most of it’s time eating seaweed and polyps from the surface of the coral. But due to its sharp beaked mouth it also takes chunks of hard coral which it then breaks up with the teeth in its throat and disposes of.

4. Maldives beaches are cleaned by crabs!

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Crabs in all shapes and sizes come out at night. Many, like the ghost crab, live on the beach burrowing holes in the sand. These are the crabs that you will see scuttling away if you take a late night stroll. This army of crustaceans eat small particles of food and waste and assist in keeping the beach clean.

5. The Maldives has a unique shiny beach!

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The sands of Thundi in Fuvahmulah are famous not only in the Maldives but to the world. The shiny pebbles and shells in whites, browns, pinks and purples stretch to form the largest beach in the country. Voted by Wanderlust as the 9th Secret beach in Asia, maybe you need to come and see for yourself!

Isn’t it time you got the sand between your toes?

10 Things you should know if you are travelling to the Maldives on a budget

With the advent of local island guesthouses and low cost flight carriers there has never been a more affordable time to travel to the Maldives. At Male International airport it is becoming a far more common sight to see guests arriving with backpacks and not matching Louis Vuitton luggage. These travellers are here to experience a destination previously perceived to be only for those seeking luxury. So may be it’s time you considered putting the Maldives on your travel map!

Whilst budget travel in the Maldives is a growing sector of the tourism industry there still remains limited information available for would be travellers and backpackers. So the team at Secret Paradise put our heads together to provide what we feel are the Top 10 tips every budget traveller should be aware of.

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  1. Clearing Immigration and security

To enter the Maldives no pre-arrival visa is required, a thirty day free visa is issued on arrival to all nationalities, provided the following conditions are met:

  • Be holding a valid passport and have a valid ticket to continue your journey out of the Maldives
  • Confirmation of a reservation in a tourist resort or a hotel either in the form of a hotel voucher or online reservation and have enough funds to cover the expenses for the duration of your stay (US$100 + $50 dollars per day)

The right to refuse entry lies at the discretion of the Immigration official, so make it easier for yourself and organise your accommodation prior to your arrival. Online sites such as Booking.Com, Airbnb and Trip Advisor are a great place to start or if you are looking for more of an experience and not just accommodation contact Secret Paradise.

Once you have cleared immigration, collect your luggage and enter the arrivals hall where a representative of the guesthouse or resort should be waiting for you. Importing goods such as alcohol, pork items, pornography, idols of worship and narcotics into the Maldives is strictly forbidden. To make life easier declare the Buddha that you have purchased in Sri Lanka and the bottle of vodka picked up in duty free, the authorities will hold any items declared or undeclared for you to collect as you depart at the end of your stay.

2. Currency Exchange

The Maldives has a non-convertible currency – Maldivian Rufiyaa – this cannot be purchased beforehand. One Rufiyaa is 100 Laari and is available in 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 Rufiyaa notes. The US Dollar is accepted as legal tender throughout the Maldives. Should you arrive with no USD$ then other major international currencies can be exchanged at the Bank of Maldives Foreign Exchange counter located in the arrival hall. This is the only dedicated foreign exchange counter in the Maldives. It is advised not to exchange currency in Male where bank queues are common and waiting time lengthy.

All foreign currency will be exchanged for local currency MVR. Hold on to your exchange receipt as you will need to present this upon departure at the exchange counter if you wish to change local currency back to foreign currency.

3. Paying in USD$

One US Dollar is equivalent to 15.42 Rufiyaa. However, the exchange rate offered on US$1 and US$5 notes by local businesses may be lower.This is because there is a 3% handling charge made by the bank on the deposit of US$ notes of US$5 or less.

The banks in the Maldives are very particular about the condition of bank notes and will refuse deposits of old style US$, even though still an active currency, damaged notes, badly creased, well-worn, or defaced notes will also be rejected. Therefore, if presenting such a note as form of payment you may be requested to change to a note of better condition. Please do not take offence, it is purely that the note will have no worth to the individual to whom you are paying.

Generally, any change given on a purchase made in US$ will be given in local currency MVR.

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4. ATMs and Credit Cards

Most banks represented in Malé provide ATM services. The Bank of Maldives has several branches in Male as well as other major population hubs such as the Male International Airport, Hulhumale and Gan. Several other regional banks also operate in central Male, including the State Bank of India, Bank of Ceylon, and HSBC. There are no banks on resort islands nor on the majority of local islands. Only local currency MVR will be dispensed from ATMs. There is an ATM at the Male branch of the Bank of Maldives dispensing US$, however, it only dispenses to Bank of Maldives cardholders.

All major credit and debit cards can be used at resorts, hotels and many shops and restaurants in Male as well as on local islands. Note however, that a credit card payment fee may be applied to the total value of your bill. This charge can fluctuate dependent on the credit card payment processing company and may be up to the value of an additional 5%.

5. Local Tax

All services directly related to guests will incur 10% service charge and 12% T-GST (Tourism Goods and Service Tax). The 10% service charge is applied to the total value and 12% T-GST applied to the total value + service charge.

On local islands GST (Goods and Service Tax) is imposed on the value of goods and services supplied by a registered business such as a local cafe, local restaurant or local shop.

Environmental ‘Green’ tax will be applied to all stays in accommodation registered as a hotel, resort or liveaboard from 1st November 2015. This adds a further US$6 per person per night and is not subject to T-GST/GST.

From November 2016 it is also very likely that $4 will be charged per person per night for guests staying on local islands in guesthouses. The bill has been presented and currently we are waiting to learn of it being passed.

Always check the small print online or ask if it is not clear to ensure that all appropriate local tax is included. What at first appears to be a great deal may not turn out to be.

6. Tourist Information

Unlike most destinations, don’t expect to find a tourist information centre that will provide answers to all your questions. There is an Information Desk within the arrival area of the airport who are happy to point you in the right direction, assist you if you need to contact your accommodation provider and provide you an information booklet. They are not there, however, to organise accommodation, excursions or transfers. Once you arrive at your hotel, guesthouse or resort they will be able to offer advice on excursions and activities or check out Trip Advisor for local operators providing these services.

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7. Transferring from the airport

Unlike other International Airports don’t expect to be able to hail a taxi as there is no taxi rank. If you have booked with a hotel, guesthouse or resort and provided them with your flight arrival details it is usual for them to send a representative to meet with you.

To reach Male independently you can choose to take the Airport Express Speedboat, the charge is MRF30 or US$2 for a one way transfer per person, leaving every 15 minutes. Or the airport public ferry, charge MRF10 or US$1 per person one way, leaving every 10 minutes. Both leave from the jetty opposite the Domestic Terminal. When you arrive in Male, just a 10 minute public ferry ride, you will be able to hail a taxi from the ferry terminal to your destination, guesthouse or hotel. A one stop drop regardless of distance is 25MVR plus an additional 5MVR per item of luggage.

To reach Hulhumale independently you can either enquire as to if a guesthouse vehicle has room on their return journey, the charge would usually be around US$10 one way or take the public bus. The airport bus departs every 30 minutes from the airport and Hulhumale on a 24 hour timetable. On the hour and on the half hour except on Fridays during Friday Prayer when there are no busses between the hours of 11:30 and 13:30. The charge is 20MVR per person one way and it is a journey of 15 minutes. Luggage is accepted and stored in the luggage compartment. At the airport the bus stop is located outside of the International departure area to the left of the food court as you face the ocean.In Hulhumale the bus stop is at the T Junction of Nirolhumagu and Huvandhumaa Higun.

Due to the location of the airport terminal it is not possible to walk to Hulhumale.

If you are transferring on to an island outside of the immediate capital area it is likely that transfer arrangements offered will include speedboat or for islands further afield a domestic flight. These methods will add a minimum of $25 per person one way dependent on distance and if the service is scheduled. Note the Maldives covers a distance of 500KM north to south. If you have done your homework it is possible to take a local ferry to many central atoll islands. These local ferries depart from one of a number of jetties in the capital Male so ensure you have allowed time to cross to the capital and locate the correct jetty.

8. Business Hours

It is important to know that the Maldives follows a business week from Sunday to Thursday.  Most places are closed on a Friday until after Friday prayer. No public ferries operate on a Friday with the exception of those operating in the capital area between Male, Hulhumale and Villingili. These ferries also stop operation between 11:30 and 13:30 for Friday prayer.

The shops in the Maldives open at different times in the morning but usually before 09:00. Most shops close for prayer times for an interval of 15 minutes. The latest time for the shops to close business is 22:00 and cafes and restaurants 23:00.

9. The Maldives is a Muslim country

The Maldives is a 100% Muslim country and care needs to be taken in relation to the dress code on local islands. Whilst it is acceptable for men to wear T Shirts and shorts or swim shorts; females should avoid causing offence by maintaining a more conservative approach to clothes by wearing T Shirts, loose shorts or sarongs and avoid wearing bikinis and swimwear unless on an uninhabited island, picnic island, sandbank, dive boat or resort island. Whilst the law restricts the wearing of bikinis on local islands, many guesthouses now provide dedicated tourist beaches or private gardens and sunbathing terraces.

Most hotels and guesthouses can arrange visits to nearby resorts where bikinis can be worn freely and alcoholic beverages are available. Note that resorts charge an entrance fee and access is subject to availability.

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10. Don’t be afraid to travel in low season

With a tropical climate, plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 30°C throughout the year, there is never a bad time to visit the Maldives. There are however two distinct seasons; dry season (northeast monsoon) and wet season (southwest monsoon), with the former extending from January to March when rates will be at their highest and the latter from mid-May to November. The rare thunderstorm in the Maldives (especially around the southwest monsoon months) can be a welcome respite from the sun.
There can be heavy rain showers pretty much any time of year, but they tend to be short and cannot be accurately predicted seasonally (in other words – don’t worry too much about them – you will quite possibly experience some rain showers, but the majority of the weather should be great, and you will be unlucky to get several consecutive days of heavy rain).

Diving is good all year-round, although a basic rule is that 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 of any atoll from December to April.

As the Maldives is situated so close to the equator it is possible to burn even on a cloudy day and sun screen should be applied as a matter of course.

For those travelers who are looking for a helping hand to arrange a budget trip to the Maldives, require advice on which island or guesthouse to choose or want to experience more of the cultural elements of the Maldives the Secret Paradise team are just an email or phone call away!

Let your Maldives adventure begin!