Women in Business, Eco Tourism & Sustainable Travel

Ruth Franklin is the co-founder of Secret Paradise Maldives and together with her energetic and engaging team of local guides, they have been leading local island Maldives tours since 2012. Ruth was recently interviewed about being a women in business in the Maldives and here is what she said:

Tell us more about Secret Paradise Maldives

We partner 25 guesthouses on 15 islands across 8 atolls. The properties we partner are owned and in the main operated by local island families where everyone is instrumental in the day to day running of the guest house ensuring profits are directed back into local hands. We are also using services developed and managed by locals which in turn provides employment and business opportunities for local people.

Sustainability What are your key communities? How does your organization actively support and strengthen these communities? 

Local communities are crucial to sustainable tourism and this has always been the foundation of the Secret Paradise offer.

We have built over a period of time what I would see as three key communities.

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Our local island partner community

We chose to work with only selected guesthouses in order that we could build strong relationships. This has resulted in us being able to support them from a business management and marketing perspective in the very beginning, to them supporting us in our sustainable tourism wish list such as the removal of plastic straws, the introduction of water coolers to minimize the use of plastic bottles which is a project we are working on this year.

The feedback we have received from the families with whom we work closely is that they are proud to be able to provide such opportunities . At first they could not understand why we would want our guests to interact with them, share meals and visit their home.  Now they understand that their everyday practices are of interest to international visitors. Our role with the local communities has been to highlight that not all tourists are visiting for an affordable beach holiday and that many are looking to get under the skin of the country and learn about culture and traditions. For me this is important as these traditions need to be kept alive.

Our NGO community  

We seek out ways to open up channels to allow NGO organisations the opportunity to interact with guests and in so doing increase their exposure to a wider audience. Many of our tours involve some form of conservation awareness or activity. Our guests spend time with NGOs gaining an insight into the conservation challenges that face local islands or social challenges that people within the local community may face. We offer opportunities for guests to get involved if they wish, supporting local conservationists on coral nurseries,  attending beach cleans or events held within the community. Even on our Villimale day tour our guides and guests can be seen collecting rubbish as they explore the island. As a business we try where ever possible to support environmental events organised by our NGO partners both financially and in person and a proportion of the tour cost is provided in the form of a donation to their funds.

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Our employee community  

Tourism has seen an increase in demand for experiential travel opportunities. Meeting and travelling with local people and seeing the Maldives through their eyes allows guests to connect with locals and enhance their trip. No one should know the Maldives better than a Maldivian and hence why with the exception of myself the Secret Paradise team is 100% local.

We provide good working  conditions, the opportunity to travel, a fair wage and performance reviews for local employees. Our guides achieve personal development through interaction with guests from different cultures and backgrounds. They also have the opportunity to participate in tour leader development programs available from our international partners.

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How do you consider societal well-being and benefit as part of your strategy and daily operations?

I came from a 30 year retail background and therefore my tourism knowledge was based on my own experiences as a traveler as well as my desire to give back to the people who had welcomed me into their homes when I visited the Maldives myself as a tourist.

When Secret Paradise was formed in 2012 local tourism was at the beginning of it’s journey and I was conscious that however we developed the business we needed to be mindful of ensuring we promoted local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs. With this in mind our core strategy was formed and has over time developed on the basis of three values – economic responsibility, social responsibility and environmental responsibility.

I am a great believer in keeping it simple and as a small business we needed to recognize that it was far better to build a solid foundation of a few key principals that could be followed through and kept alive than produce a manifesto or sustainable tourism standard operating practice that would gather dust on a shelf.

We drew up three key actions for each value.

Economically:

To use locally owned and operated tourism infrastructure.

To use wherever possible business services in country which are operated by locals and not out source to businesses aboard.

To provide employment for local people.

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Socially:

For a local guide to travel with our guests from time of arrival to departure.

To educate our guests on local history, customs and cultural practices and provide opportunities for guests to engage with the local community in some format.

To actively support local communities, NGOs and environmental organisations.

Environmentally:

To limit the physical impact of trips and work with our partners to educate and improve awareness within local the community.

To brief all our guests on the Green fin snorkeling etiquette

To encourage our guests to deal with waste appropriately, to lead by example and where possible take plastic waste home.

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We are fortunate that we are in a position that our business model allows societal well being to form part of our day to day practice.

Our guests stay in local island guest houses. We utilise local transportation providers as opposed to owning our own vehicles.

Our guests eat at local cafes, regularly enjoy evening tea – hedikaa, we buy food items for our tours from the local market and we encourage guests to purchase locally made souvenirs, all this mean means that local individuals and small businesses benefit.

We encourage our guests through briefings and general conversation to respect the environment and lead by example, for example to refuse plastic straws and bags.

We carry out annual audits of our guesthouse properties that includes a review of responsible and sustainable practices and we offer support and advice on improvements. Our guides provide a trip report following each tour which amongst other things will highlight best practice or improvement opportunities. Our guests complete feedback forms which again include the opportunity to feedback and comment on sustainable practices.

We hold regular training sessions with our guiding team and provide opportunities for their education and development. For example the team recently spent two days with Coral Doctors learning more about coral and reef rehabilitation and we have a planned session on the importance of seagrass up and coming.

Our social media feeds include images and information that are locally inspired. We highlight historical facts, religious festivals, national holidays, food, wildlife and overviews of local islands. We share and celebrate environmental best practices such as beach cleans by local communities, awareness days and community news that we feel would be of interest to our followers.

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We provide guests with pre trip information as part of the booking process to ensure they understand the requirements of travelling to a locally inhabited island. Content provides information on local customs and requirements, particularly in relation to religion, dress, food and beverages and upon arrival they receive a further briefing from one of our guiding team which includes environmental and cultural awareness and highlights the opportunities they may have during the time with us to support local environmental initiatives.

With local island tourism continuing to grow my dream would be that government policies would be brought into place to regulate and provide accreditation to properties across a number of standards but with sustainable practices playing a significant role.

For more details about Secret Paradise <<contact us here>>

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What You Need To Know: Maldives Culture and Traditions

Maldives is composed of a few thousand small islands located south of India. These diverse islets make the Maldives quite a fascinating and undoubtedly picturesque destination. It is safe to assume that Maldives can be found on almost everyone’s travel bucket list. It’s truly a piece of paradise here on Earth. The Maldives is also considered as an important crossroad in the Indian Ocean trade routes. Through the years, the country’s population has steadily increased and has become more diversified.

The culture and traditions of the Maldives and Maldivians in general have been greatly influenced by the Indians, Sri Lankans, Arabs and North Africans who visited the Maldives while on these trading routes of the central Indian Ocean. Maldivian culture is incredibly rich and vibrant due to the infusion of several other cultural elements from neighboring countries.

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Location and Geography

(Source: https://www.everyculture.com/Ja-Ma/Maldives.html)

The Republic of Maldives is an archipelago consisting of twenty-six coral atolls, in the northern Indian Ocean. The chain of islands extends 510 miles (820 kilometers), but occupies an area of just 116 square miles (300 square kilometers), roughly 1.5 times the size of Washington D.C. The closest neighbors are India and Sri Lanka. The capital is Malé.

The twenty-six coral atolls contain 1,190 very small islands of which 198 are inhabited. Most of the islands are close to the atoll enclosure reef, and some are still in the process of forming. The longest is Gan in Adu atoll. Because the islands are coral-based, they are flat and low-lying. As a result, the water table is high. However, the islands are protected from the elements by the reef and rarely have major storms. In the older islands a larger layer of topsoil has formed, and these islands are covered with coconut trees, breadfruit, and dense shrubs. Agricultural potential is limited by the high alkalinity of the soil and its poor water retention. However, people grow vegetables, fruits, and yams.

The climate is warm and tropical. Seasonal changes are determined by the two yearly monsoons. The season of the northeast monsoon is characterized by dry, mild winds, and generally extends from December to April. The southwest monsoon, although irregular, extends from May until August and brings heavy rains and wind. The northern atolls are drier, while the southern atolls are wetter. The humidity is fairly high throughout the year.

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Maldivian Culture and Traditions

(Source: https://visitmaldives.com/culture/)

Maldivians have built and preserved an exclusive cultural identity amidst the many different factors that shaped it in the past up to the present. Other traditions have been inculcated and adapted through the years largely brought about by population migration and commerce.

Accordingly the Maldivians converse using a language of their own; In 1153 AD Maldivians converted to Islam and the religion has transformed and introduced new fundamentals to the Maldivian culture.

Traditionally the island communities were very close-knit. This togetherness is still prevailing in the small island societies. Accordingly men will be mainly engaged in fishery, carpentry and toddy tapping. Women were mainly engaged in household duties and raising families. Certain rituals and practices were followed in the islands on special occasions like weddings. Some of these rituals survive to this day. The advent of tourism in the 1970’s accelerated the modernisation process of the country. Today an increasing number of women hold crucial positions within the public and private sector. As a result of economic growth, dramatic lifestyle changes were introduced.

Maldivian culture is rich and varied, and influenced by the cultures of the people of different ethnicity who have settled on the island over the years.

The state religion of the country, Islam, also dictates various cultural aspects of the people. Elements of African culture can also be observed in the Maldivian culture.

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Origins of the Maldives

(Source: https://www.villanovo.com/guides/maldives/culture-traditions)

Established in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives islands are multi-faceted. The culture, traditions and customs of the country are influenced by Indian, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Arab, Persian, Indonesian and even African influences. A fabulous cultural mix that makes all the richness of the Maldives.

In music and dance, for example, you will be surprised to recognise a purely African rhythm. The Boduberu, a traditional Maldivian dance, illustrates this perfectly. The language accompanying this dance, followed by the rhythm of the drums, will take you to East Africa.

Other music as well as some culinary specialties refer to the South African or Indian origins of the Maldivians. Local island residents of the Maldives consume a lot of spices, including curry. Coconut milk and fish also find their place in the traditional dishes of the country such as in the Roshi.

Daily life in the Maldives

Besides their origins, the other peculiarity of the inhabitants of the Maldives lies in their attachment to the sea. During the day, women take care of the home while men go fishing for tuna. The way of life of the Maldivians depends very much on the sea. When the fishermen return, people gather on the beach to collect the catch that will be cooked by the women. In short, sea fishing takes an important place in the economy of the archipelago in addition to tourism.

As for religion, if the Maldivians were originally Buddhist, today Islam is the only religion allowed. You will have the opportunity to contemplate a high number of mosques especially in the capital, Male. The Islamic centre, Old Friday Mosque and Rasrani park are among the must-see attractions and will delight lovers of beautiful architecture.

As well as handicrafts, you can bring back from your Maldives trip, braided mats and various jewelry. You will also find beautiful lacquered vases and small wooden boats evoking your beautiful walks in the sea an inexhaustible memory of your holidays in the Indian Ocean!

If you want to experience the culture and traditions of Maldives, why not book a day tour or a multi-day tour with Secret Paradise Maldives? Are you ready to book your holiday to Maldives? #letusguideyou

Why Travel With Secret Paradise?

It is no secret that wherever in the world you plan to travel it will result in happiness and satisfaction, because apart from the obvious truth that you are not going to be working while on vacation, your travel will allow you to recharge, renew and just step away from the realities of your daily life. You may travel with your family, different groups of friends or simply travel solo – whatever floats your boat and whatever you think will make you enjoy your time away, will be entirely up to you.

Just recently, Dina M. finally decided to book her flight to Maldives and this is what she has to say – “I have wanted to go to the Maldives for some time but was of the impression that it was not really a place to go as a solo traveller. That was until I stumble on the Secret Paradise website.

With the range of activities/ programmes they offered I decided to give it a go and I absolutely am not sorry I did. I have travelled a lot and always as a solo traveller, both guided tours and trips with no guide, and I have to say the level of service provided was something I had not experienced previously. It started from the minute I landed in Male where UB met me at the airport and advised me that due to a delay in my flight from Singapore to Male I arrived too late to board the flight I was scheduled to take to Laamu GAN and had to wait 3 hours for the next flight. UB stayed with me at the airport until I was able to board the later flight and then dealt with the airport staff on my behalf to get me through the airport procedures with no drama. It was totally unexpected though very much appreciated as I had already had a long day of travel to get to that point having travelled there from Sydney.

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When I finally arrived at the Reveries guesthouse, after the flight had been delayed another 3 hours I was met by Kokko who made sure I got dinner even though I arrived well after dinner had finished. Kokko proved to be an absolute superstar. He obviously loves his work and his country and the enthusiasm with which he shared it with me allowed me to also develop a love for his country. As I was alone he joined me for every meal without me feeling like I was imposing on his time and I am very grateful for the generosity he showed me over the week.

The programme developed for this trip was the perfect balance of enough activities to prevent me from getting bored as I am not the type who can happily sit on a beach for a week and do nothing else, and enough free time to allow for flexibility if I wanted to go off programme without missing out on any activities planned, which is exactly what I did. After taking the introductory scuba dive, at the encouragement of the staff of Emperor Divers I decided to take two days to gain my open water diving certification, so Kokko worked his magic to ensure I could manage that and still complete all the activities that had been planned. I could not be more grateful.

 

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The accommodation was not the resort style you think of when you think of the Maldives but I do not think I missed out on anything as a result. The room was very comfortable and clean and the staff were very friendly and accommodating. I was there for New Year’s Eve and although there was not an option of alcohol as I was not in a resort I really did not notice as the staff arranged a party on the private beach for all the guests and it look amazing after they had worked all day stringing lights and transforming the beach in a way only photos can explain.

 

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It was very apparent that the main goal of everyone involved was that I had the holiday I hoped for and they were prepared to be as flexible as necessary to ensure that happened. I was able to get a feel of how the Maldivians lived and got a real feel for island life rather than being in the more artificial environment of a resort. There is a real chance I will return to the Maldives and when I do I will absolutely do so with Secret Paradise. I cannot thank Ruth and her team enough for ensuring I had an awesome holiday and this is not the last you will hear from me.”

 

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Can you imagine how wonderful our guest must have felt to write such a thoughtful and heart warming review?

So why then should you travel with Secret Paradise Maldives? Let us count the ways…

  1. Secret Paradise specializes in individual and group travel for people of all ages. It is not just for young adventurers, it is also for the young at heart! Our passionate and experienced guides will be ready to provide you the best service you deserve. Come and #letusguideyou!
  2. The basis of our tours has always been to allow guests to learn about the Maldives, its culture, beliefs, and traditions and what better way to do this than to see the country through the eyes of a local and experience daily life by travelling by public ferry, staying on a locally inhabited island where the local community benefit directly from the income gained from local island tourism, sharing breakfast with a family in their home, exchanging stories of daily life, relaxing with a coffee in a local café with their local host. Secret Paradise guides can open doors that may remain closed as an independent traveller and you’ll never be left wanting with authentic experiences.
  3. Responsible travel is at the core of our system. Secret Paradise Maldives fosters social and cultural awareness among its employees and the clientele that they cater to as well. They make it a point to be in tune with understanding their effect on places you visit that they bring you to and ensure that each visit will be a meaningful one – something for the books.
  4. Every guide has completed the Lead Amazing Tours Online Academy as well as first aid and rescue certification and you can therefore be assured of both your safety and comfort.
  5. We offer more than just day tours. We also have multi-day tours with itineraries that can’t be beat. https://secretparadise.mv/product/maldives-day-tours/

Are you ready to book your flight to Maldives? #letusguideyou

Have You Tried a Discover Scuba Dive in the Maldives?

I am sure if you are a SCUBA diver you will recall where and when you had your first underwater experience. It’s a magical moment of in-trepidation, discovery and wonder.  A moment that for many leads to new opportunities as well as new holiday destinations. The Maldives with year round warm waters and good visibility is perfect for your first SCUBA diving experience as our guide Maahee discovered recently.

 

“DSD or Discover Scuba Diving is as program from PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), the world’s leading scuba diving training organization. A quick and easy introduction into what it takes to explore the underwater world. Although this is not a scuba certification course, you’ll learn all the steps it takes to be a PADI certified diver.” https://www.padi.com/courses/discover-scuba-diving

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When I first joined the team at Secret Paradise Maldives as a tour guide, one of the tours I found myself leading regularly for our guests were the morning or afternoon snorkeling tours.

I love taking guests into the crystal clear blue waters in the Indian Ocean and exploring the coral reefs. I always make extra time during my tours to take our guests to the edge of the coral reef to see the beautiful deep blue sea and reef wall that is known as the terrace.

We always see many different types of fish and colourful coral whilst snorkeling on top of the reef but I always wondered what it would be like to dive deep down to the bottom of the ocean, was it really so different than this? What more could I really see?

I have seen many of our guests join a scuba dive day trip but had never had any experience of scuba diving myself.  I always dreamed of one day making a dive and I was so happy when my boss, Ruth the founder of Secret Paradise Maldives suggested I tried a Discover Scuba Dive (DSD).

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I was lucky enough to join a trip to Maafushi with the Secret Paradise team in September 2018. Secret Paradise runs regular team training trips staying at our partnering guest houses so that we can all experience where our guests are may stay and be able to talk knowledgeably about a location. We combined the trip with an opportunity to do a DSD dive so that I could finally experience what some of my colleagues have been doing for years.

In the afternoon we all went to the Eco Dive Club, Maafushi for registration and when we reached there I went in to the dive center to request an enrolment for the DSD dive. The dive instructor gave me a form to read carefully and fill in and then he asked me” Is this your first time?”

I said YES! The registration was easier than I thought.

After I registered my dive instructor gave me theory instruction on how to use the equipment. There was information about:

  • How to use the regulator
  • How to breath
  • How to inflate the jacket
  • Remind me not to hold my breath
  • How to clear water from the mouth by sharply breathing out from the regulator or I can press the mouth piece rubber of the regulator
  • How to clear water from the face mask
  • Plus much more

I then was fitted for the right size jacket, face mask and fins. My dive instructor ensured me he would stay close by to help me descend into the water.

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We then went down to the jetty at Maafushi harbour where we were met by the boat crew and captain. The crew were really friendly and reassuring. The boat captain explained we would be traveling about 20 minutes to get to our dive location.  The dive location was called ‘Sexy reef’! It’s a house reef of a sand bank.

When we arrived we were told to get ready with our dive gear. I was assisted to put my equipment together, about how to adjust the oxygen tank to the buoyancy control device (BCD)so that I wouldn’t bang my head on the tank and how to inflate air into the BCD. Finally we checked the regulator to make sure it was properly working and we were ready to dive.

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Whilst the rest of the experienced team got in to the water, I held back with my dive instructor so he could guide me into the water to do a practical test in the lagoon in about 5 meters depth. When we had completed this successfully my guide asked me “Are you ready?” I strapped on my face mask and said “YES!”

As you can’t talk when diving, there is special sign language to use so divers can communicate at all times. Once we touched down on the seabed we practiced this, how to breathe, how to clear water from the mask and how to equalize the pressure. At this stage we were 5 metres deep and when I said I was ready to go my guide slowly took me down to 12 metres into the deep sea I had longed to visit for so long. He helped me inflate air in to the jacket and balance my body using extra weight hanging on a belt on my waist.

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I was thrilled and excited to see the colorful coral, amazing fish swimming in the ocean and huge caves! I felt confident enough to try swimming in one of the overhangs to explore more and we both went through and out the other side, it was an amazing experience. The reef terrace was very rich in life even more than I could have imagined. There were sea anemones, different types of clown fish, lionfish and Giant grouper and these were just some of the exciting marine life I saw.

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I was so busy enjoying this dive experience I almost forgot about my oxygen tank, until my dive instructor told me in sign language that it was running low and it was time to slowly ascend to the surface. We made a 3 minute safety stop during the accent to equalize the pressure and then in a short time we both came up to the surface.

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This is a life time achievement for me to try and I am so pleased Ruth provided me the opportunity to try such great experience!

I can personally recommend trying a Discover Scuba Dive if you are visiting the Maldives, it will really open up a whole new world for you.I can’t wait to get back in the water and explore more of my underwater paradise home!

For more details about dive holidays for beginner and experiences divers contact our sales team sales@secretparadise.mv

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.

Which Local Islands to Visit in the Maldives – Part 3

Although this is our third and final part for this blog series, there are certainly plenty more local islands to visit  and explore and by no means are you limited to just the ones we have mentioned! What we hope we have done however, is to give you a snapshot of some of our favourite islands that will allow you to select an island  destination that will provide the style of holiday you wish to experience. Some of us enjoy adventure, some of us want to learn more about the environment, some want to surf, dive, snorkel and some simply want to relax on a white sandy beach and read a book. We are so lucky in the Maldives that we have it all.

 

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Live Like a Local on Guraidhoo Island

This quiet fishing island in South Male Atoll is ideal if you are looking for a culture based holiday. Local ferry transfers from Male mean it is ideal for the traveler on a budget and is popular with divers and surfers as well as those looking to experience the real Maldives.Wander the sandy roads of this island and observe locals going about their daily routine. Sit and watch the sunset alongside the locals on the public beach or kick back in a traditional seat called a ‘jolie’ and watch the world slowly pass by.

What the island lacks in the way of a tourist bikini beach it makes up for with a fantastic house reef accessible direct from the island. There are chances of encountering Turtles, Stingrays, Octopus and many more fish among the many types of coral.

A newly built water sports and diving centreprovides plenty of activities and excursions. There are some great dive sites and surf breaks within easy reach, as well as numerous luxury resorts should you wish to indulge in a resort day visit.

Guraidhoo is a regular stopping point for safari boats and local shops have quickly adapted by offering all kind of souvenirs making it an ideal location to pick up a memory of your holiday.

UB’s TOP TIP: Look for locally crafted souvenirs made from coconut wood and avoid purchasing shells and coral product.

https://secretparadise.mv/product/3-night-budget-cultural-break

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Fuvahmulah, a very unique island adventure

Fuvahmulah is perfect if you are looking for a Maldives escape that is more than just a beach holiday. This island has many distinct features setting it aside from the other local Maldivian islands. Set just south of the equator Fuvahmulah is the only one island atoll in the Maldives and the locals even speak their own distinctive form of the Dhivehi language, known as “Mulaku bas”.

With an island that is so unique it is not hard to understand why you may also come across marine species unique to Fuvahmulah and not found in other parts of the Maldives. Promethichthys Prometheus, locally called Kattelhi, is native to the waters around Fuvahmulah, with Kattelhi Rarudhiyabeing the locals’ favourite soup and definitely a dish you must try when you visit.

For SCUBA divers close encounters with tiger sharks and thresher sharks are possible and in season whale sharks and oceanic manta rays, you never know what is out in the blue.

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Take time to explore in and around this wonderful island and discover tropical woodlands, wetlands and even fresh water lakes; from the unique Thundu shiny pebble beach to the tropical woodlands you will never be bored on an island that gives you so much to discover.

Immerse yourself inhistory, culture and tradition. Swim, kayak or fish the fresh water lakes. Take a mud bath! Surf the waves direct from Fuvahmulah’s beaches or snorkel the Indian Ocean. There is so much to do you will wish you had booked to stay longer!

Ruth’s TOP TIP: Fly from Male and collect a certificate for crossing the equator line!

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Thoddoo Island a culinary adventure!

Thoddoo is a paradise island for fruit and vegetable lovers and you can even access it by taking the overnight fruit ferry from Male (not for the faint hearted)!Thoddoo is the largest producer of watermelon in the Maldiveswith papaya a close second. Watch the fruit ferry being loaded at the harbourside and see how many varieties of fruit and vegetables you can identify. Many guesthouses will organize an island tour where you get to pick your own fruit and vegetables which will be cooked for your dinner later that evening.

One third of the island is given over to agricultural farm land with an abundance of fruit and vegetables grown all year round. The village with a number of guest houses, cafes and small shops sits in a further third and the remaining third of the island is left to its natural beauty and vegetation. In order to explore and discover the full island hop on a bicycle or hitch a lift on a scooter!

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Thoddoo hosts a wonderful house reef where marine life is abundant as well as access to some good dive sites and in season manta encounters. There is a bikini beach tucked away on the west side of the island and with water sports, snorkeling and diving trips on offer, those who enjoy a more active holiday are well catered for. Evening fishing trips followed by BBQ dinners with your catch are a popular excursion.

Kokko’s TOP TIP: Visit during EID celebrations and experience traditional dancing and games.

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Gulhi Island a haven of peace and relaxation

Gulhi island is located in South Male Atoll, easily accessible from Male and is close by to Guiradhoo and Maafushi. Visiting any one of these islands means you can island hop with local ferries (except Friday where there is limited transport). Gulhi is unique because you will not see any vehicles and because the island is only 700×500 you really don’t need one!

This tiny quiet island’s main economy is fishing and it also hosts the oldest dry dock boat yard in the Maldives. Wander round the dock yard and see the locals hard at work developing, refurbishing and fixing all different types of vessels.

Gulhi has two beautiful white sand tourist bikini beaches equipped with sun loungers and parasols and is ideal for a holiday where relaxation and sun bathing is the priority! Gulhi was one of the few islands that hosted tourists during the early 80’s, when local islands were allowed to provide a bed and breakfast service. The locals are friendly by nature and readily welcome visitors to their charming island.

The house reef is worth getting up off your sun lounger for, enter directly from the bikini beach but be aware there can be a strong current. Watersports and diving currently offered by one operator so ensure you plan ahead to avoid disappointment due to prior bookings.

Zaff’s TOP TIP: Evenings on Gulhi are very quiet so pack a book, a pack of cards or have a few films downloaded.

Where do I find more information about the best vacation for me?

At Secret Paradise Maldives we are always available to answer questions for you.  We work with many guest houses and islands across the Maldives and we can offer a wide range of vacation packages for all types of travellers and budgets. Drop us a line today and say hi!

https://secretparadise.mv/contact-us

Check out our ‘Responsible Tourism Policy’ on our website.

 

 

Which Local Island to visit in the Maldives Part 2

As we continue our series of three blogs, our guiding team share their personal recommendations in order that you can find a local island to suit your needs in the Maldives.

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Visit Dhigurah Island and encounter Manta and Whale Sharks

Dhigurah in Ari Atoll is not just one of the prettiest local islands you can visit, it has a gorgeous expanse of white sand and is located in the heart of some of the best sites in the world for snorkeling and diving. If your ideal holiday is an under-the-sea adventure, then start planning your trip to this gem of an island.

Select your time of stay correctly and swim with the resident Manta Rays and Whalesharks of Ari Atoll. These bucket list ocean-farers are frequently spotted in this areaand that’s just one of the reasons why Dhigurah has become such a popular island.

From January till end of April visits to manta sites are made several times a week.  Whilst at any time of year there is a good chance of encountering whale sharks if conditions are right. So regular are their visit’s that this is where the Maldives Whale shark Research Program is based.

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Aside from Manta Ray and Whale shark sightings, Dhigurah Island also offers easy access to some amazing dive sites including the famous Kudu Rah Thila and Five Rocks. You will find an abundance of marine wildlife and breathtaking coral formations. Whether you’re an experienced snorkeler and diver or a total beginner, we can find a dive or snorkeling package that suits you best.

Kamey’s TOP TIP: Local dining options are limited on Dhigurah so book half board.

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Soak Up the Sun on Dhiffushi Island 

Are you a solo traveler, a group of friends or a couple looking for a short beach getaway? Then this island is for you.

Soak up the sun and relax on the beautiful beaches of Dhiffushi Island. Located in North Male Atoll this island boasts two white sandy tourist beaches and a picturesque blue lagoon. As with all local islands there is no need to spend all your time on land and a range of half day tours including visiting a sandbank and snorkeling are on offer. Whilst beach BBQs are a great way to finish the day, for couples many guesthouses will offer a romantic beach dinner which is ideal way to celebrate an anniversary or even a proposal.

With only a dozen tourist properties Dhiffushi still maintains its local island feel whilst providing a choice of both premium hotels and smaller guesthouses. There is even a private luxury villa ideal for a family stay.

Kokko’s TOP TIP: Take traditional evening tea and enjoy sunset at the local café on the west side of the island.

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Have an Adventure of a Lifetime in Gan, Laamu Atoll

Gan is a Maldivian adventure like no other. Not only is it the largest island in the Maldives but it is also connected with three other islands called Fonadhoo, Kadhdhoo and Mandhoo. The four islands are connected with a road so it is easy to explore by bicycle. Take a tour around the big fishing factory on Mandhoo Island, which produces canned tuna or a short speed boat ride from Ganto Baresdhoo Island, which became famous as the filming location of Star Wars Rogue One in 2016.

Prepare to have an adventure-filled holiday in this exciting island and the longest beach in the Maldives. Gan Island offers plenty of activities so you’ll never have to worry about running out of things to do. Try your hand at a whole range of water sports such as paddle boarding, sea kayaking, windsurfing, surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. First time trying some of these activities? No problem! Coaching sessions are available. Experienced instructors will be happy to assist you with any of the activities.

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What else does Gan have to offer? The island has some unique sights – like a fresh water red-tinted lake which is caused by leaves falling in and colouring the water. For those who are interested in knowing more about local Maldivian culture and history join a guided tour of the ancient Buddhist ruins and other historical places.

For beach lovers there is a private tourist beach and access to a Robinson Crusoe style uninhabited island where you can laze away your day with a picnic or BBQ lunch.

Kamey’s TOP TIP: Take a sunset cruise in a traditional sail dhoni.

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Still not sure which island is for you? Contact the Secret Paradise team who will help you to select an island or even islands that are right for you and your holiday budget.