Island Hop and Help Clean Up the Environment in the Maldives

One of the tours we offer at Secret Paradise Maldives is an island hopping experience that allows guests to assist in local environmental projects. As part of our commitment to Eco Tourism and Responsible Tourism Policies we bring international tourists to the Maldives each year to become more educated about the growing environmental issues not only specific to the Maldives but around the world.

We were delighted to welcome a guest from the UK in January 2018, Sandra, island hopped between 4 islands and whilst on Maafushi spent time with the team at Eco Dive Club along with her guide Kamey.

Sandra’s trip included:

Snorkeling and Beginner Dive

Snorkeling with her guide Kamey to enjoy the wonders of the beautiful Indian Ocean. Sandra also over came her fear of diving completing a Discover Scuba dive, not only was she so delighted with her accomplishments but also we were so glad she got to try something she actually said she would never do!

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Beach Clean Up

Another day they went to Lily Rest beach front to do a beach cleanup. What they found was very concerning and a continuing problem on the beaches. They found bottle tops from water bottles, drinking straws and plenty of Supari papers (Supari is a fruit nut called Acrea, many locals chew this like many Westerners chew gum). A further beach clean of the same area is conducted later in the week to highlight how quickly rubbish can accumulate.

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Coral Watch

This exercise teaches our guests about the health of the coral reef. You don’t have to be a marine biologist to recognize and register your findings with the Australian Coral Watch database. There is a comparison table where you can check the health of the coral you find, the darker the colour of the coral the healthier it is.

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Learning About the Indian Ocean

Sandra met the team daily at the dive centre where she learned more about how the Maldives was ‘born’, the importance of fish species and so much more. The team love sharing their passion and knowledge with visitors.

Coral Nursery

At the Eco Dive Centre in Maafushi they have a coral project. The coral nursery in the lagoon is being regrown by attaching pieces of coral with cable ties to create a new coral frame! It’s initiatives like this thatallow guests to learn as well as assist with projectsthat keep the eco development alive in the Maldives. We hope that many more islands follow suit.

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During Sandra’s stay she learned so much about what they do at the Eco Dive Club. We asked Renee Sorensen, whose first experience of the Maldives was with Secret Paradise, from Eco Dive Club a few questions:

What is Eco Dive Club and how does it differ from a regular dive club?

Eco Dive Club, Maafushi is different from others – we are more environment oriented. We have a big passion for the ocean and the environment… we want to make a difference. We use nature every day when we are diving, so we want to give back to nature and especially the ocean. The ocean doesn’t need people, people need the ocean.  We arrange beach cleanups, reef clean ups, Crown of thorns clean ups, coral planting and work hard to inform everyone possible about the importance about the corals and the problem with trash and plastic.

What do you find have been the biggest changes to the ocean in the last 10 years?

The biggest change is that there is so much more plastic and trash

Far more dead corals, because of bleaching in 2015 and more recently, as well as due to reclamation and construction.

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Can tourists visiting the Maldives make a positive impact on the environment during their visit?

Tourists who are coming to the Maldives can make a big and positive impact. Tourists that are diving with us and assisting with projects are an inspiration for other tourists and locals. They spread the word both in the Maldives when they are here and when they come home. Then other tourists come, because they also want to help or join on coral planting and other environment activities.  Locals see that it will make a difference if we work together. Tourists that come will spread the awareness.

What suggestions would you make when someone is looking to book an eco friendly vacation?

If you want to make a difference, contact us for Eco active diving or Secret Paradise Maldives. We are both passionate about the environment. Secret Paradise has a lot experience here in Maldives and Ruth knows where to book your holiday eco friendly, or even if you want to join to assist in projects. You can be a diver or non diver, there is plenty to achieve both above and below the water!

Book your eco holiday now

Dreaming of Paradise? Take a guesthouse local island escape in the Maldives.

Did you know there has never been a more affordable time to plan a vacation to the beautiful Maldives? The picturesque island nation currently boasts over 8500 local island beds across the country, throughout the growing guesthouse industry.

In 2019, guesthouses in the Maldives are an affordable holiday alternative to luxury resort vacations. Located on local islands, guesthouses provide a bed and breakfast style accommodation experience for global travellers.

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

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There is a great diversity of guesthouse facilities and services offered on local islands and these of course differ to the facilities and services on offer at luxury resorts. Essentially every guesthouse island is different with each individual guesthouse also providing a different accommodation experience for guests. While a selection of Maldives guesthouses resemble a small boutique hotel-like environment and offer all-inclusive packages for their guests, others are more simplistic. However, these are not home stays and you can expect  private en-suite bathrooms, hot and cold water showers, WiFi and air conditioning as standard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 ( requires to be valid for 6 months from date of arrival) 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. In Hulhumale, foreign currency can also be exchanged at the Currency Exchange counter at Newtown Inn. It is advised not to exchange currency in Male where bank queues are common and waiting time lengthy.

Only major 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 Male and Hulhumale, including the State Bank of India, Bank of Ceylon, and MCB. There are no banks on resort islands nor on many local islands. However, there are now a greater number of local guesthouse islands with an ATM, these include Maafuishi and Thulusdhoo. Only local currency MVR will be dispensed from ATMs. There is an ATM at the Male and airport 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 October 2016 $3 will be charged per person per night for guests staying on local islands in guesthouses.

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

If you have booked with a tour company such as 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!

The opening of the Sinamale Bridge at the end of August 2018, linking Male with Hulhule Island and Hulhumale, has brought about a number of changes to transfer choices to and from the airport.  It is now possible to take a private taxi to Hulhumale or Male from the taxi rank directly outside the arrival area. 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. The current charge is 65MVR to reach Hulhumale or Male, which also entails crossing the bridge!

To reach Male independently you can also take the airport public ferry, charge MRF10 or US$1 per person one way, leaving every 15 minutes. The ferry leaves from the new water front jetty, beneath the waterfront food court and opposite the domestic terminal. When you arrive in Male, after 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 or a taxi as detailed above. 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 buses 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 in front of the domestic terminal, which is to the right hand side of the  International arrival area 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 currently not possible to walk to Hulhumale, although this will change with the final development of the airport area.

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 over 800KM 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!

10 things to do in the Maldives on a Backpacker Budget

For a long time the Maldives has not been considered a destination suitable for back packers, yet alone affordable. But with the introduction of local island guesthouses and budget airlines flying from Asia, the Maldives is beginning to find itself on the backpacker map.

So how do you enjoy the Maldives without breaking the bank? Here are our top ten budget ideas to enjoying the Maldives the local way.

1. Jump aboard the ferry

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With daily ferries from Male to many nearby local islands travelling by public ferry is a cheap and fun way to discover the Maldives. Sit up top and enjoy the view or sit inside and chat with the locals.

2. Explore the capital

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We don’t just mean the cosmopolitan world of Male, where modern technology sits beside tradition and culture. Travel to the quieter side of city life and explore the suburbs on the islands of Hulhumale and Vilingili.

3. Discover the underwater world

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Got your own snorkel and mask then head to the east beach in Vilingili. Wanting to venture a little further afield Secret Paradise offer daily snorkelling trips from $40 to close by coral reefs.

4. Join the coffee culture

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If the Maldives had a national drink it would be coffee! Join the locals in one of the many coffee shops and watch the world go by.

5. Ride the waves

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The surf break on the eastern side of Male is a popular spot with the locals. The break known as Towns is accessible from the shore and is one of the few spots in the Maldives that you don’t need a boat to get to.

6. Hang out at the beach

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In Male head to Artificial Beach or the local beaches on Hulhumale and Vilingili. At weekends and also late afternoon the beach is a popular destination for locals to enjoy an evening walk, swim or relax with friends and family.

7. Contribute to the environment

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There are plenty of ways in which you can volunteer for Save the Beach.You can choose when and how to volunteer. Come and clean the beach any day, or volunteer to assist with any of their projects. Whether you want to get your hands dirty or be part of different projects, the degree of involvement is totally up to you.

8. Count your lucky stars

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With minimal light pollution and the many days of clear skies, the Maldives are a great venue for star gazing. Just lie back and watch for shooting stars,

9. Watch the sun go down

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Sit back and enjoy a magical sunset. Top locations in Male to sit back and watch the sun go down include West Park Café and Salt Café.

10. Check out a local band

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With no clubs or bars in the capital you have to be a little more savvy about seeking out musical vibes. Check out Facebook pages for local cafes and restaurants and for our favourite local group Hiyani.

5 Top Tips for a Rainy Day in Male

Should you be unlucky enough to get caught in the capital area of the Maldives on a rainy day all is not lost! You may not be able to take advantage of many of the excursions and activities on offer or relax on a white sandy beach but our top five tips will ensure you still make the most of your time in Male.

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1.Soak up some culture

Museums are always a great destination for a rainy day. Not only do you get to spend time in the dry you also get to learn more about the history and culture of the city or country you are visiting. The National Museum of the Maldives located on Chandhanee Magu is no exception. The museum has a large collection of historical artifacts, ranging from stone objects to fragments of royal antiquities. Pick up a museum guidebook at the admission counter.

Opening Times and Admission Prices:
9am – 5pm, Sunday-Thursday (closed Friday and Saturday)
Admission tickets available at Museum entrance from 9am – 4pm
Tourists – Adults US$5, children $2.50.

2. Eat like a local

It has to be said you can’t beat home cooked food. At Secret Paradise we offer a half day tour providing a taste of local life. Not only do you assist in selecting the ingredients from the local market in Male you get to spend time with a local family preparing local dishes which you then get to enjoy alongside the family in their home.

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3. Head to the cinema

What isn’t there to like about watching a newly released movie and munching your way through an extra large bucket of popcorn! Schwack Cinema located on Haveeree Hingun shows a range of Hollywood and Bollywood movies daily. Whilst if you fancy more of a virtual reality experience head to X D Cinema located on the first floor of the STO Centre. Here with the aid of a simulator you get to feel as though you are part of the movie!

4. Pamper yourself

The local beauty salons in the capital may not equal the elegance and ambiance of a luxury resort spa environment, however, at a fraction of the cost you can indulge in a range of hair and beauty treatments. Our tried and tested personal favourites include Glam Salon, Male and Sheri Salon now in Hulhumale and Male.

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5. Hit the water

Enjoy the experience of stepping into a giant warm bath! There’s something special about being in the water whilst it’s raining, providing you’re not in the ocean during a major storm of course! Wear a pair of swimming goggles and watch the rain hitting the surface from below.  Beaches available at Artificial Beach, Male, Villingili and Hulhumale. Ladies just remember the dress code is shorts and a T-Shirt.

10 Guidelines for visiting Maldives Local Islands

Part of the enjoyment of travel is experiencing local culture. Learning how others live. Understanding through history and religion how a country was established. Tasting new cuisines. Observing daily life. Meeting new people. Sharing stories and developing new friendships.

In the excitement of visiting a new country or booking your dream Maldives holiday at a fantastic price it can be easy not to consider the different customs, laws and regulations that you are likely to encounter. So if you find you haven’t had time to do your research follow our guidelines below. They will ensure you get the most out of your Maldives local island holiday without causing offense or being disrespectful to those who welcome you.

1. The Maldives is a 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 un- inhabited island, picnic island, sandbank, dive boat or resort island. Some guesthouses do provide private sunbathing areas on a tourist beach or on the terrace of the guesthouse, however, it is not acceptable to walk around the island wearing a bikini.

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2. Who wouldn’t want to get into the water in the Maldives, be that for a paddle, to swim or just to float. Bikini or swimming costumes should be limited to resorts, boats and designated tourist areas on local islands. In the majority of cases on a local island we advise T Shirts and shorts as the norm for all female travelers. If you are not travelling with Secret Paradise and are unsure ask for advice from your guesthouse. It is their responsibility to ensure guests are dressed appropriately.

3. Maldivians, as Muslims, are prohibited from consuming alcohol; hence there is a total restriction on alcohol being available on inhabited local islands, which includes the capital Male. Please don’t bring alcohol through the airport as it will be confiscated. Don’t even try the vodka in a water bottle trick! If you are visiting a resort or a safari boat where alcohol is readily available for tourists, consume and enjoy whilst you are there but avoid bringing it back with you to your guesthouse.

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4. Pork is also forbidden so don’t expect bacon butties for breakfast, Instead take the opportunity to try a traditional Maldivian breakfast dish: masshuni and roshi – flaked tuna, grated coconut, chilli and lemon mixed together and eaten with a flat style bread which makes a refreshing change and should you be converted it is very easy to make at home!

5. Staying on a local island means that you will be staying within the community and will witness many aspects of daily life. One of these will be the call to prayer. This compelling and melodious sound, particularly at sun rise and sunset can be quite mesmerizing. Should you have the opportunity to visit a mosque men should ensure their legs and body are covered. Whilst women should also ensure their head and shoulders are covered by a shawl or sarong for example.

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6. When meeting a local for the first time, a handshake is the most common form of greeting. The greeting, however, between a man and a woman can be slightly different as many men and women generally do not engage in physical contact. On these occasions a simple nod or a slight bow will do. If unsure let the woman offer her hand first.

7. Learn a few simple words and phrases. If you can say ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ for example locals will respect the effort you have made to be polite in their language

8. Should you be fortunate enough to visit the home of a Maldivian be sure to remove your shoes before entering, leaving them at the front door or where you see others have left theirs. As you enter the home it is usual to express the following greeting ‘as-salaam alaykum’. Gifts are by no means expected when you visit a family home however, they are always gratefully received. If you know you are going to visit a family home consider bringing a small item from your home country or something that is not available in the Maldives. Hot Cross Buns and apple crumble have always worked for me!

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9. If you choose to invite your new Maldivian friends for a coffee or a meal at a restaurant, you will most likely be expected to pay so don’t be surprised when the bill is presented to you!

10. Finally, we all want to take home memories of our travels in the form of photographs but do always ask permission if you wish a local to be the subject of your image. Not only is it the polite thing to do  – it is likely to lead to a far more rewarding experience for you both.

If you remember nothing else remember this:

You are a guest in the country you are visiting. Guests respect the places where they visit and act in a way that makes them a welcome guest. By following this small piece of advice you will not only find that you fit in with the culture, but that you are treated with respect and made welcome wherever you go.

When you travel on a Secret Paradise tour the above points will always be honoured. Our  local representative will offer advice and guidance and ensure that your experience is one to remember for the right reasons.