Volunteer and Experience the Real Maldives

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

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

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

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

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Travel Teacher is a unique combination of education and adventure. They provide ethical, low-cost volunteering programmes in Fiji, The Cook Islands and now The Maldives. Volunteering  with Travel Teacher gives individuals the opportunity to support the development of education in rural communities and make a genuine difference to the lives of the children in their partnered schools through teaching, coaching and mentoring . Their bespoke adventure itineraries compliment the volunteers work placement schedule and will assist in broadening horizons, gaining transferable skills vital for the world of work and will also provide an unforgettable experience and lifelong memories.

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

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

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.

Help support Maldives local conservation projects

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

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

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

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Coral Nursery

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

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

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Learning about conservation over afternoon tea

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

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

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Supporting responsible tourism

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

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

Contact sales@secretparadise for more information or bookings.

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Exploring Villingili

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Visiting the Maldives during Ramadan

Ramadan falls in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar which in 2020 begins on the 23rd April. Muslims all over the world abstain from food, drink, smoking and other physical needs during daylight hours. It is not just a time to purify the soul and refocus attention on God. It is a time of reflection and consideration to give thanks for what you have in your life. It is also an important time to think of others and perform good deeds. This observance is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam.

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Guests visiting Maldives’ resorts during the holy month are unlikely to be ‘inconvenienced’ by Ramadan, however, for those visiting local islands the following will assist you to make the most of your holiday and plan accordingly.

  • Local cafes and restaurants are closed during daylight hours until sunset at approx. 18:15.
  • Guesthouses and hotels that have in house restaurants however, offer food and beverages to both in house and non resident guests. In Male , Seahouse, Hotel Jen and at the airport Hulhule Airport Hotel all serve non residents.
  • Public bus and ferry services do not operate between 17:30 and 19:00. Some ferry timetables may change to take this into account.
  • Public service companies such as banks and the post office open only between 10:00-14:00.
  • Shops close at 18:00 for Iftar and evening prayer and re-open between 20:00 and 20:30.

It is also possible that the first day of Ramadan is given a public holiday, so make sure you check the ferry and public speedboat timetable as services may be altered if you are planning to travel on this day.

Whilst there are no rules and regulations for non-Muslims in the Maldives during Ramadan, it is courteous and respectful to refrain from consuming food and drink and smoking in public during the fasting hours of the Holy Month of Ramadan.

In general it a period of time when life on local islands during the day is quieter and the pace of life a lot slower, but isn’t that what holidays are about?

Whilst some may find visiting the Maldives a challenge during this time for others it provides the perfect opportunity to gain a unique insight into the country’s faith and culture.

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