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!

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.

DISCOVER YOUR OWN SECRET PARADISE IN THE BEAUTIFUL MALDIVES

More and more travellers are desiring unique and personal holiday experiences, further from the usual tourist hot spots. It’s not surprising therefore that an increasing number of people are consciously choosing to travel local.

Local travel allows us to discover the true essence of a destination. It connects independent and mindful travellers with local residents and provides opportunity to explore what life in a given place is truly like.

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Why Choose Local Travel In The Maldives?

The Maldives is generally regarded as an exclusive high-end tourist destination. Resort style vacations offer luxury and private holiday experiences. Yet one of the best-kept secrets of the Maldives is in fact local travel – a more affordable alternative to a resort style vacation.

Think white sandy beaches and sparkling tropical lagoons fringed with coconut palms. A local island vacation ticks many of the boxes of a typical resort experience, but has the added bonus of an authentic holiday rich in culture. Embarking on a local island tour not only has the big plus of a cheaper price tag, but also means discovering inhabited and uncrowded islands.

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Travel local and you are destined to access many places most tourists will simply not get to see. Cruise between sunny Maldivian islands on board a local ferry and be graced by the true natural beauty of the Maldives. Wander the surroundings of each tropical island and discover the Maldivian way of life. Gain real insight into Maldivian culture by tasting traditional foods like hedhikaa (afternoon tuna snacks) and learn a little of the local language, Dhivehi.Relish the perfection of uncrowded beaches and beautiful tropical temperatures. Island depending, it’s possible that you may just find yourself to be one of just a handful of tourists staying at a particular island at any one time. Staying local means there are also options to enjoy private sandbank excursions, fishing, snorkeling or diving trips, dolphin sunset cruises or full days of adventure activities.

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How Can Secret Paradise Help With Your Maldives Travel Plans?

Secret Paradise is an expert local travel and tour company in the Maldives, established in 2012. Our team specialises in providing unique and fun holiday experiences for travellers of all ages.

Whether it’s an adventure holiday you are looking for or a cultural tour, Secret Paradise will ensure that you gain the very most out of your Maldives vacation. Trips and tours include guided cultural adventure tours, diving and snorkeling packages, yoga retreats and daily excursions. Our team will help you to select a trip that’s right for you and your holiday budget. Here at Secret Paradise we aim to ensure that your special time in the Maldives is the perfect trip of a lifetime.

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Advantages Of Travelling With A Local Guide In The Maldives

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. You will gain personal and professional insight into Maldivian culture, history, traditions, food and language, fused with the exploration of picturesque islands. Travelling in the Maldives with a local guide also allows access to unique encounters that most tourists will not experience. These include spending time with local NGO Save The Beach and dining in the home of a local family.

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As the leading local tourism operator in the Maldives, the knowledge of our Secret Paradise guides is second to none. Our guides combine rich cultural insight and fun into every Secret Paradise holiday experience. Your English-speaking local guide will allow you to discover the ‘real’ Maldives in a memorable way and will answer any questions you may have along the way.

Each day our experienced guides will discuss with you the next day’s itinerary, ensuring that you are well prepared for the coming day’s activities and agenda. Our professional guides’ local know-how will ensure a smooth and hassle free holiday experience for you throughout your time in the Maldives.

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Come travel with us on our popular 7-Night South Malé Island Hopping Tour!

Why stay at just the one Maldivian island when you have the opportunity to discover two or three? Our 7-night South Malé Island Hopping Tour combines local life, excursions, watersports and relaxation, all with the essence of a beautiful tropical island escape.

Accompanied by your Maldivian guide, travel to Hulhumalé, Guraidhoo and Maafushi islands, in the stunning South Male Atoll. Enjoy your stay at a peaceful guesthouse, dine with local families in their homes, sample traditional Maldivian food, discover how the local ‘dhoni’ boat is built and learn the art of the Bodu Beru dance. Add in amazing snorkeling trips, private sandbank excursions, breathtaking sunsets and scenic cruises to picnic islands for a truly unforgettable local Maldives vacation of your own. Book now to discover your own secret paradise in the Maldives, on our popular 7-night South Malé Island Hopping Tour.

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