TRAVEL THE MALDIVES WITH YOUR OWN PERSONAL GUIDE!

Who knew that there’s far more to the Maldives Islands than transparent ocean waters and palm tree lined beaches? Travelling with a local guide in the tropical destination of the Maldives allows for the discovery of the ‘real’ Maldives, all whilst basking in the natural beauty of your island surroundings.

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Our Local Secret Paradise Guides

Our professional Secret Paradise local Maldivian guides have years, even decades of local knowledge and expertise to share about their island homeland. The guides are passionate in sharing their country, culture, history and personal experiences with our Secret Paradise guests. Our guides offer perceptions that travellers simply cannot gain from a reading guidebook, researching online or from travelling independently. At Secret Paradise, we believe that a great guide is the difference between a good holiday and a memorable one. Travel in the Maldives with one of our Secret Paradise local guides and you are bound to experience much more then the vast majority of travellers that journey here.

Enjoy The Convenience of Travelling With A Local Guide

Traveling with a Secret Paradise guide will save you the time and hassle of researching your own Maldives itinerary.  As we have been in operation for over 5 years in the Maldives – it’s safe to say that we have a little local ‘know-how.’ Our local guided itineraries are designed to offer the perfect combination of cultural immersion and holiday leisure, at significant local islands and sites.

Travelling with a local guide not only provides an opportunity to learn about a country and culture; it’s also safe and convenient. 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 a professional guide. This ensures a smooth and hassle free holiday experience for you throughout your time in the Maldives.

‘Kokko was our awesome local guide for the five days and he completely added to the whole experience. Being shown around by a Maldivian guide was great – he gave us a personal and professional insight into his culture, history, traditions, food and language. I really feel that having a local Maldivian guide was the best thing about the entire week! ‘Kristie October 2016

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Appreciate The Personalised Service Of Our Local Guides

Did you know that our local Secret Paradise guides are all multilingual and speak fluent English? They can offer translation assistance when communicating with local Maldivians to ensure better understandings, they can eliminate any cultural barriers and assure culturally rich holiday experiences.

Our Maldivian guides go above and beyond to ensure your every holiday needs are met, right from the moment of your arrival at the airport, regardless of the time of day you arrive! The guides understand that for many it is a once in a lifetime experience to travel to the Maldives and they aim to make sure that your island vacation is as memorable as possible.

The Secret Paradise guides offer a personalised service and will happily answer all of your questions or queries throughout your stay in the Maldives, plus they will offer lots of helpful tips and suggestions along the way. Each day our experienced guides will discuss with you the next day’s itinerary, ensuring that you are nicely prepared for the coming day’s agenda. Our packages and tours also incorporate free days for you to do as little or as much exploring of the local islands as you like, plus our local team can assist you in personalising your private tour program to fit your every Maldives holiday needs. With Secret Paradise, you are guaranteed a Maldives vacation that is fun, affordable and unique, giving you the best opportunity to experience the island paradise we at Secret Paradise call home.

‘Our guides were super funny, nice and caring. They took care of everyone both ones who can swim and those who are not experienced. They made sure we all had fun and that we are happy about everything. i loved every minute of it! ‘ Anna March 2017

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Experience Cultural Immersion At Its Best

One of the best elements of our Secret Paradise tours is without doubt the opportunities for cultural immersion. Gain exceptional insight into local Maldivian life, culture, history, traditions, food and language from the perspective of a local guide, fused with the exploration of picturesque islands. Our tours include privileges of being welcomed inside a local family’s home for a traditional dinner dining experience, trying ‘hedhikaa’ (local afternoon tea snacks) and spending time with local NGOs such as Save The Beach – experiences that are generally missed if travelling independently or staying at a Maldives resort. Our group tours also provide great opportunities to meet and travel with like-minded travellers, all with the comfort of a local guide.

‘Our tour guide had in-depth knowledge of the history of the city & we had an amazing time with him.’ – Pradhan P 22 May 2017

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‘Special mention our tour guide Kamey, not just a tour guide, he became a friend and that made our stay more fun. He always made sure that we were OK . there were no questions that he didn’t have answers that’s why we learned a lot about Maldives’ – Bonna 30 Jan 2016

Book Local To Ensure Local Profits

When you book a Secret Paradise tour with a local guide, you’re also contributing directly to the local Maldives economy and pockets of local people, as opposed to booking through a large global tour operator. At Secret Paradise, all of our guides and operators are locals, with the exception of the Sales Director.

See You In Our Local Paradise! 

Embarking on a Secret Paradise Tour with your own personal Maldivian guide ensures that your trip is fun, authentic and gives you real insight into local Maldivian life. Book your local Maldives island escape today with one of our professional English-speaking guides!

https://secretparadise.mv/tours-and-holidays/

 

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Secret Paradise Relax Local

There is more to Ramadan than just fasting.

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

Tell us more about Ramadan

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

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

What is Maahefun?

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

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How do you prepare for Ramadan?

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

The start of Ramadan

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

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

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

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

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

Discover my Secret Paradise

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

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How to dress

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

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 Alcohol

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

 

What to eat

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

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

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

Rubbish awareness

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

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

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Local Culture

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

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

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

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

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Evening activities

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

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

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

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

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.