Island Hop the Maldives with Secret Paradise

Island hopping in the Maldives does have its logistical challenges but makes for a far more exciting and interesting way to explore our paradise home. Why not allow us to make life easier and join  our 7 night South Male Island Hopping tour to discover culture and tradition as well as all the best the Maldives has to offer.  Accompanied by your Secret Paradise guide discover Male, Guraidhoo, Maafushi & Gulhi on a 7 night trip that provides the perfect opportunity to combine local life with popular excursions, water sports and relaxation.

Male City

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Male is the capital city of the Maldives. It is the ideal place to enjoy local culture and the hustle and bustle of our nation’s capital before being whisked away to tropical paradise. Accompanied by one of our tour guides you will visit the fish market and local market, Presidents Palace, Sultan Park and Friday Mosque as well as a few hidden gems off the main tourist path.

Guraidhoo Island

 

 

 

Guraidhoo island located almost on the southern tip of South Male Atoll is recommended for scuba diving, snorkeling and surfing. It is a perfect island to experience and learn more about local culture and traditions. A 60 minute tour around the island highlights locals going about their daily routine; carpenters at the small boat yard traditionally constructing typical dhoni boats, locals drinking coffee in the many small coffee shops and children playing simple games in the street. Sit and watch the sunset alongside the locals on the public beach or kick back in a traditional seat called a ‘jolie’ and watch the world slowly pass by. You will also get to enjoy dining at a local family’s home with traditional Maldivian food that you will not experience in a café or restaurant.

Maafushi Island

 

 

 

 

Maafushi was once a very typical Maldivian local island but since the introduction of local tourism it is proving a popular destination for those wishing to experience the Maldives without paying resort prices. Maafushi is located only 90 minutes away from Male by ferry boat or 30 minutes by speedboat. There are two beaches on opposite sides of the island, one of which is a tourist bikini beach. With over 70 guesthouses some with 6 floors there are plenty of accommodation options to meet all budget needs. There are a variety of local cafes and guesthouse restaurants, some situated on the harbor and with water sport and excursion providers all eager for your business Maafushi provides the ideal destination to discover the Maldives on a budget and mix with other tourists.

Gulhi Island

 

 

Gulhi island is practically next door to Maafushi  but is a much different island to its close neighbour. This island has hardly any vehicles as it is only 5.8 sq km. You can walk around the whole island in maybe 10-15 minutes and it is really quaint and retains it’s local feel. This island is ideal for people who love the quite life with a little bit of R&R. It has two beautiful bikini beaches and is ideal for a holiday where relaxation and reclining on a sun lounger is the priority!  You can still enjoy a range of water sport activities, snorkeling, scuba diving and even surfing here just ask your tour guide who will be pleased to assist you with arranging this.

What our guests think

“Best holiday ever”

“Just got back from our first visit to the Maldives. Me and my husband chose to spend our honeymoon in the Maldives after we found a nice flight offer I was so overwhelmed by the amount of information and things to do, how to choose activities, resorts I decided to contact a local agency who could advise us better.

I have found the Secret Paradise contact details in the book along with Ruth’s name and contacted her via the online form on their website. She replied very quickly proposing different options. We wanted to experience the true Maldivian culture so we chose the South Male Island Hopping Tour for the first week and then Ruth helped us choose a resort for our 2nd week and we chose Olhuveli.

We had the two most amazing guides taking care of us UB and Mashir. We bonded straight away, we felt like traveling with old friends and not two guides we have just met 1 day ago 🙂 Everything was perfect: from the local guesthouses to the food, to the people on the different islands, the activities, absolutely everything. It was my first time snorkelling but UB made it a lot easier for me by explaining what I needed to do in detail and even holding my hand for the first 10-15 minutes or so (thanks UB). I must admit I absolutely love snorkelling now and I am not that scared of the water anymore.

I am sure we would not have had the same experience without Ruth and her priceless guidance and the company of both Mashir and UB. Without any hesitation, I would recommend them to anyone wanting to experience the Maldives and have a perfect holiday. Also, I am sure that we will return very soon for part 2.”

Iona ~ Trip Advisor July 2018

This 7 day/8 night tour departs every Sunday, book before end of January 2019 and save 10%. Quote XMAS18. Private and tailor made tours available upon request

For more information on this tour or other trips contact our sales team here sales@secretparadise.mv

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Where to Eat and Drink in Male Part 2

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When I first visited the Maldives places to eat and drink in Male for tourists were few and far between. However, Male has flourished over the years since and whilst there are many cafes and restaurants popular with tourists, we know there are a number more difficult to locate that are worthy of a visit giving you the chance to rub shoulders with the locals.

This week Mashir another of our fabulous local tour guides shares his three personal favourite Male cafes.

Shawarma

In 2009, Ali Raeef opened up this café with the idea of offering fast food and good coffee. A middle aged man, but young at heart Ali loved cooking and was always creating unique dishes and drinks that no one would ever think of – like who would ever have thought a milkshake tea would taste good?! But it does!

The most popular dish and my favorite also is the Chicken Shawama, which is freshly made in less than ten minutes. A Chicken Shawama includes grilled chicken breast with cabbage, tomato, chili (optional), cheese and fries, with fresh home made mayonnaise or chili infused mayonnaise wrapped in a flat bread. Delicious! There is a wide variety of drinks including tea, coffee, fresh juices and milk shakes. Ali recently introduced a desert to the Shawama menu called Gluabu-gulab jamun and ice cream.

So if you have an hour to kill before your departure flight or just want to grab a quick bite, I recommend Shawama. Sit inside the air conditioned restaurant or open air dining. They have speedy service and good food at affordable prices. Located on the main street of Male-Majeedhee Magu in front of the football grounds close to the artificial beach.

Average cost of a meal here is $8

Thoum

Thoum brings the best of Middle Eastern Cuisine with a focus on authentic, traditional foods. They offer a wide range of aromatic grilled meats including chicken, lamb and beef served with a side of traditional Yemenu bread Mulawwah or Arabic rice which is an infusion of basmati rice, Arabic spice blend and saffron. Tantalize your taste buds with tasty, aromatic foods such as hummus, ful mudammes, heneeth and kebabs. Thoum is an amazing Arabic themed restaurant located at the end of the main street Majeedhee Magu overlooking the beach with the most amazing view of the ocean. Whenever I visit Thoum I love to order a plate of their delicious homemade hummus with a side of flatbread, plus a mixed spice chicken leg – this meal makes a light yet filling meal. Try something different to drink like a pot of Adani tea (native to Yemen) or a cup of traditionally brewed saffron infused Arabic coffee to complete your meal.

Entice your taste buds with Arabian flavors from $9.

Odegalla Coffee

I just happened to stumble upon this place after walking around Male for a few hours. The heat was getting to me and I needed a place to rest and relax for a bit. My preferred spot would be upstairs on their balcony so I can feel the breeze. One way to beat the heat and get some energy is by ordering their Ferrero milk shake. Who doesn’t love Ferrero Rocher. So a Ferrero milkshake is bliss. Located at a corner of cross roads near Billabong High school.

Chocolaty goodness $5.

Want to discover more off the beaten track locations in the capital, join Mashir or one of our other great guides on a Male City Walking Tour.

The Opening of the Sinamale Bridge and What It Means to Tourists Visiting

The Sinamalé Bridge officially opened at the end of August 2018 with fanfare and fireworks! The bridge links the capital of the Maldives, Malé with Hulhulé and Hulhumale. The 1.39 km long bridge has two car lanes and separate lanes for motorcycles, and pedestrians.  It was originally called the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge due to funding having been received from the Chinese government. Accessing the bridge from Male you pass through the main entrance which depicts Islam, unity and nationalism of Maldives.

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Prior to the bridge being built, local island residents and tourists would have to take a local ferry or speed boat to commute between the two islands which are only 10km apart. With the opening of the bridge the daily commute for residents of Hulhumale working in Male and been cut dramatically. Whilst for the residents of Male it has allowed ease of access to Hulhumale and the beach front cafes and watersports.

For tourists it makes an interesting photo opportunity in a country where there has been no such structure previously.

Bridge 1

What does this mean for tourists visiting the Maldives?

Besides the photographic opportunities the bridge provides it also allows greater ease of access between the airport, Male and Hulhumale.

More Choice for Airport Transportation

Whilst speedboats and ferries will still continue their service between the airport and Male and the public bus service will operate between the airport and Hulhumale; like most international airports there will be for the first time the opportunity for tourists to make use of a taxi service.

It is now possible to take a private taxi to Hulhumale and Male from the taxi rank directly outside the airport arrival area. Previously only designated licensed vehicles could journey to and from the airport. 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. Charges are likely to fluctuate as this new airport services settles down. Expect to pay 100MVR to reach Hulhumale and 150MVR to reach Male, which also entails crossing the bridge!

We have learnt that potentially a ruling will be implemented that means a taxi from Male will only be allowed to drop at the bridge bus terminal in Hulhumale. Watch this space for updated information! For the moment we would advise that if you are getting a taxi at the airport it is worthwhile double checking if the vehicle can drop you to your hotel or guesthouse in Hulhumale.

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Need to know!

Hulhumale to Male by taxi – currently individual taxi’s are charging anything between MVR45 and 150MVR.  Our advice would be to determine the cost before getting in the vehicle. Luggage will be charged in addition to the fare.

Whilst there is a taxi call centre in both Male and Hulhumale, you can hail a taxi on the road in both Male and Hulhumale. Look out for the green lights on the roof of the cab.

The bridge bus terminus in Hulhumale is at the very end of the main road to the airport – Nirolhumagu. Currently the bus across the bridge is free with rates still to be finalised. The bridge buses are pink, where as the standard buses are red!

In Male the bridge bus stop is near to Mary Brown restaurant on the south west side of Male.

It is possible to walk across the bridge with access being easier from Male side.

The best place to view the bridge if you want to take photographs is from Male artificial Beach or near the previous surf point (Raalhugandu).

Airport Arrival

If you have booked with a tour company like 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!

If you are travelling independently you can find more information on transportation from the airport as well as other important pieces of information to assist you travelling through the Maldives in our previous blog 10 Things you should know if you are travelling to the Maldives on a budget

Solo Travel is on the Rise in the Maldives!

At Secret Paradise over the past few years we have seen an increase in solo travellers booking their trips with us. People are becoming more confident with exploring the world alone; gone are the days when we only book a trip if we have a travel buddy; sometimes spending months planning and plotting new adventures. These days people tend to be well travelled and have no problem jumping on a plane and heading off on new adventures alone.

However solo travel can still be met with some reservations; a recent survey commissioned by Intrepid Travel of 2,000 American travellers found that 73 percent of respondents worry about safety while travelling completely alone, 53 percent worry about getting lost, and 39 percent worry about the stress of planning a trip.

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Not all travellers are alone through choice, some have had friends cancel at last minute, and some don’t have friends who have the same travel interests. So whether you are travelling by choice or through other circumstances, Secret Paradise is the perfect tour and travel company to help you plan your perfect trip to the Maldives.

Safe Travel

The Maldives is considered a fairly safe place to travel and even on local islands as a solo traveller you will feel relaxed and at ease. Maldivians are known for their warm hospitality and are very well accustomed to tourists so are more than happy to help you.

November 3rd 1988 Memorial Maldives

Getting Lost

Getting around from island to island can be a little confusing if you are unfamiliar with the Maldives and this is where a pre planned trip can make travelling solo a little easier. Our team of expert tour guides will give you as much assistance as you need throughout your trip. If it is simply assisting with transfers from the airport to the islands/your accommodation, this can be arranged, or if you would like someone with you throughout your trip to guide you on the local islands, this can also be part of the service. Our bespoke tours and packages mean you can feel safe and secure knowing every part of your trip to the Maldives will be looked after. The great thing about booking a private tour guide with us is that you don’t have to worry about any aspect of your holiday and you can just focus on enjoying our island paradise.

Planning Your Trip

If you like to travel alone but just need assistance with the logistics, we can organise your trip from start to finish and offer support with island transfers with one of our tour guides on hand to collect and drop you to the right jetty.

There are also opportunities to join group tours should you wish to hook up with like minded people. You may get the opportunity to share a room so the costs can be split rather than paying single supplement but remember once again the local island guest house prices are not like the resorts so you may be able to afford to book a single room on your budget.

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No Single Supplement

It can be a gripe of solo traveller having to pay extra for travelling alone, but with our 7 night South Male Island hopping tour, there is no single supplement if you book on the scheduled departure dates. This tour to us is best way to experience the natural beauty of the Maldives and gain an insight into the Maldivian culture and tradition of an inhabited local island. You will experience local life with popular excursions, watersports and even a little relaxation. Accompanied by your Maldivian guide, travel to four local islands in South Male Atoll; Hulhumale, Guraidhoo, Maafushi and Gulhi. Staying in guesthouses you will have the chance to visit local homes, share traditional meals and stories with the family. Discover how the local dhoni boat is built and perhaps learn the art of the BoduBeru dance. Add in snorkelling, sandbanks, breathtaking sunsets, great company and you have the perfect Maldives local experience.

Set the Cultural Scene for Your Holiday

You may not want a full trip organised by a tour company, you may be ready to embark on your own solo trip, but when visiting a new country where do you start? Why not book a day tour or activity with us to find your footing. Discover history and culture on on a half day Male City walking tour or take a day trip around North Male where our experienced guides will accompany you on a tour of two local islands, Himmurfushi and Huraa, sharing information on their culture and tradition. In-between islands we offer the opportunity to snorkel and discover the underwater world. Take the time to quiz your guides on what are the must do’s during your stay and what top tips they have for your onward travels.

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Eat Local, Try New Foods, Meet New People

Its one thing we think you should try in every country – the local cuisine. Here in the Maldives a local restaurant does not always mean you will be able to taste authentic local dishes as many places focus on Western and Asian foods. Why not come join our local family and your guide for an authentic Maldivian dinner in their home. Maldivian meals include the staple ingredients of fish, coconut and chilli.  Rice and curries have also become an integral part of Maldivian food. Our lunch or dinner will provide the opportunity to savour the exotic flavours of home cooked Maldivian cuisine not found  in local restaurants and in the traditional way we finish our evening dinner on the beach for coffee under the stars!

Secret Paradise Relax Local

Reviews from Lone Travellers:

But don’t take just our word for how much fun it is to travel solo in the Maldives check out what some of our past guests have said:

“Secret paradise is the perfect organisation for anyone on a budget and/or wishing to see the real Maldives. Lovely Ruth was so helpful in organising all my activities when I emailed her my stay duration and interests just a few days before (having already booked a hotel and flights). She also gave a lot of honest, simple information about local customs, costs and getting around the islands etc. During my brief stay (I was travelling onwards) I went on a city tour of Male, snorkelling trip and picnic island, all of which were fabulous the perfect balance of full of Maldivian culture, wildlife and total tranquillity. I would liken the experience to being shown around the Maldives by a friend, (taking you on public ferries and to local dive centres and Maldivian restaurants) which was ideal for me being a (first time) lone traveller. My guide Kamey was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic but also super laid back and easy to talk to. He came to collect me and walk me back to my guesthouse every day and was even kind enough to invite for meals and coffees with his friends in the evenings. Wonderful company, well done Ruth! I will certainly be back for a longer stay next time!” Lizzy Kaye

 

“After getting an incredible flight deal from JFK to the Maldives, I started researching and looking to put together a trip to the Maldives. As an experienced solo traveler, I knew I did not want to stay on resorts. Shortly into the planning process, I was extremely overwhelmed with the huge number of islands and challenges of getting between them. I found Secret Paradise. I reached out to Ruth, and her replies were extremely quick and extremely thoughtful. I gave her an idea of my budget and that I am an avid diver and what I was looking to do. I knew I wanted a bit of island hopping and to see different aspects of the Maldives. She was able to discuss the different atolls/reefs/islands and what each has to offer. She addressed questions and concerns as well. I was concerned as the Maldives is usually promoted as a “couples” destination and I was going to be doing it solo. Originally I also had a need to be able to telecommute several of the days I was in town. She took everything into account and put together a wonderful package, well detailed and well priced. She never seemed to tire of my endless questions including things like a realistic budget and her replies were almost instant. Her blog was really helpful too. From the moment I contacted Ruth to getting on the plane to fly back to the US, Ruth made sure everything was taken care of.  From the moment I got off the plane to the moment I departed, the Secret Paradise team seamlessly took care of the logistic.” Shannon

 

Want to know more about solo travel in the Maldives? Contact one of our team sales@secretparadise.mv

10 Historical Facts of Maldives

For those of you who have been fortunate enough to explore Male with our guide Maahee, on one of our popular walking tours, you will know the reason why he is referred to as a ‘walking Maldives encyclopedia!’

Mahee Tour

For those who have yet to meet Maahee or indeed visit the Maldives we asked him to share a few key facts about the Maldives and it’s history.

Geography and Climate

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The Maldives is an archipelago of 21 atolls and a total of now over 1192 inhabited and uninhabited islands. I have not visited even half of them, so I have plenty of islands still to explore. Islands are spread from North to South covering 820km length and 130km width, with the ocean covering 90,000sq km. The islands are formed on top of stone crusted bed rocks which are called the coral reef islands; 5% of the world’s coral reefs are found in the Atolls of the Maldives.

The ecosystem in the Maldives is a subtropical area to the central equator of the world. From January to December the Maldives experiences a monsoon climate and the temperature of the Maldives is stable in between 24″ degrees to 33″ degrees centigrade. June and July will experience the heaviest monsoon rain showers across the region.

The Maldives is known to be the lowest altitude to sea level and the islands are under threat with global warming and sea levels rising.  President MaumoonAbdhulGayoom called upon the United Nations to unite for a global warming campaign for all low altitude island such as the Maldives. Whilst this remains an issue coral reefs bleaching and the crown of thorn starfish are additional obstacles that we face today.

Religion

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I were born and raised asa Muslimand the country’s official religion is Sunni Islam. The Maldives is 100% Muslim and is believed to be one of the few countries in the world with this status. The practise of other religions is denied; being found doing to do so is punishable by law. According to the first settlement, the early civilisation were seafarers travelling across the continent of India and Sri Lanka, this is where the influence of the Buddhist religion is believed to originate from, The remains of Buddhist monuments can still be seen on some islands. The Islamic religion were brought by the Arab traderAlhafisAbullbarakaathulBarrbaree,who came sailing from Morocco in 12th century 1153 AD. Would you believe it took almost a century of time for the Islamic religion to spread across the country.

Language

Whilst today we also speak English and mine is quite good, during early civilisation the spoken language in the Maldives was sanscript which was practised by Buddhist priests using Brahmi scripts for written communication. When the Maldivesconverted to Islam the language was then transformed to a new form of letters combining Arabic and san script. The transformation of the new letters were initially written from left to right and by the Islamic revolution changed the scripts from right to left and through time the language was transformed to new characters. The modern day language used in the Maldives isDhivehiThaana with 24 different letters and spoken on all local islands. There is evidence of copper plates which were kept safe in the old coral stone mosques with written letters ofevelaaakuru,dhivesakuru proving the written and spoken language.

Population

As you will know we welcome visitors from all around the world to the Maldives but did you know that from as early as the 5th century early civilisation in the Maldives bought a mix of nationalities. People travelling from countries like East Africa, South Asian India and Sri Lanka sailed across the Indian Ocean. Why they arrived it is unsure but there is suggestion that they may have been traders or even ship wrecked.  Central Male Atoll was considered to have the largest population of migrants in the Maldives, with most living in the capital Male. During the time of conversion from Buddhism to Islam the population of Male was around 5000 people. In contrast today the City of Male’s population is over 150,000 people bringing the total population of the Maldives to 400,000 with people spread across 26 Atolls in the archipelago.

Government

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The Maldives was originally ruled by Kings and their families across different parts of the Atolls. The Maldivian Kings were called Sultans but by the 16th century the nation was brought together by one ruling family Sultanate. The Maldives ruling family Sultanate changed the constitution of Maldivian law to Republican and the monarchy ended when the countries first president Mohammed Ameen Didi was voted into office in 1953. He ruled for a total of eight monthsbefore the republic was abolished and replaced by the ruling monarchy again headed by his Royal Majesty King Mohamed Fareed. Fareed stayed in power from 1953 to 1967 whenIbrahim Nasir, the Maldives second republican President was then voted into power. This again saw the end of the ruling kings in the Maldives.

Economy

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Early trade was made widely by a barter exchange using corrie shells. These were considered the 5th most valued currency and used for trade as early at the 5th century. Metal, iron, gold, silver and bronze were also considered high value and used for exchange.

High value items for barter included spice trade, lacquer work items, coir rope, coconut, coral, turtle shells, Triton shells, dry fish, smoked fish, slated fish and shark fin. Thank fully we don’t trade many of these items today and trade of turtle shells and shark fins is prohibitive. A great relief to me.

By the end of the middle age in early 16th century, gold and silver coins were being used for currency. The economy was driven by pole and line fishing,a traditional method introduced by older generations and still widely used to this day. With infrastructure developments a change was brought about to the fluctuating economy as the Maldives embraced the tourism industry. Over a period of 40 years this was to was to grow the Maldives from a third world country to a developing country with a GDPcontribution of 34% from the tourism sector.

Colonial history

In 1558 trade and economy was influenced by the Portuguese after their fleets sailed to the west shore line beach of Malé and fought the ruling Sultan army. Ali Rassgefaanu was martyred by the Portuguese army who took control of the spice and economic trade of the Maldives. The country’s liberation was undertaken by Mohamed Takurufaanu and his compatriot took a powerful base in Mulaku Atoll Kolhufushi where he started a guerrilla campaign in the island against the Portuguese. In an attempt to block the ports built in Malé Mohamed Takurufaanu and his fleet attacked in 1573 AD which became the 1st Islamic month rabee’lawwal and brought an end to the foreign occupation. The Malabars tried to capture Maldives during the reign of Ibrahim Kalaafaanu who took power following the end of Muhamad Thakurufaan’s rule. The Malabars made two more attempts but Dhon Hassan Manikufanu, with the help of the French in Pondichcherry, India, defeated the Malabars. On the 16th of December 1887, the ruling monarch, Sultan Muinuddheen II, signed an agreement with the British governor of Sri Lanka Mr. A.H. Gordon, rendering the Maldives a British protectorate until independence from the British was declared on 26th July 1965 by Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir. A day which we now celebrate as a holiday on an annual basis.

Constitution

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The first constitution was made in HakuraaGanduvaru in 1932 during the reign of Sultan ShamsuddinlllMajlis’, laying the groundwork for a representational form of government and law which abolished the Islamic Sharia law. The new constitutions were made by the parliament of Maldives called peoples Majilis. The laws were made to bring order as well as benefits to the population of the Maldives. A voting system for public election for president and parliamentary members was introduced as well as for island and city councils. The first parliament reception assembled on the Hakuraaganduvaru in Malé, one of the palaces of the Sultanate. The new Majilis building as you will see it in Male now was a gift from Pakistan in 1982.

Culture

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The Maldives has a culture of Islamic celebrations. The tradition of Ramadan fasting was introduced by early generations and has brought the fashion of dressing for the special EID occasions. Women and men wear unique traditional dress; the woman’s clothing is called rai libaas (a red dress decoratedwith silk thread from the left shoulder to the right shoulder) and the men will wear a kalufeyli and hudhugamees( black kilt and a white shirt). The special Eid traditions include music played with big drums built on goat skin and trumpet flutes where men and women dance to the beat and sound of the music. I am always happy to join in the fun joy and laughter and to watch or even participate in these celebrations.

Food

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Let’s finish with a fact about food, as in my experience everyone loves food! The Maldives traditional cuisine is mainly based on tuna. A very common meal at home is Garudhiya which is a clear soup with a salty sour taste cooked with fresh tuna, rice and side dishes including rihaakuru (fish paste) and fihunumas (baabacu fish). In the time of the spice trade the flavours of cinnamon, cardamom were imported across from India and Sri Lankan introducing different varieties of curries which were made in local homes. The thelhihavaadhu (ground spice with grated coconut) was one of the products used to make the curries. Musamaariha, masriha, valhomasriha are popular Maldivian dishes served with rice or roshi (thin flat bread).When I loved on a fisherman Island one of our family members or a friend who worked on the fishing boats would bring fresh tuna to my home for special occasions.  I still sometimes buy fish direct from the fishing boat or failing that I visit Male fish market. Perhaps if you join me on a Male tour I can take you there.

Want to learn more about Maldives history, culture and tradition, join us on our daily half day Male City walking tours, departing at 09:00 and 14:00.

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Facebook Live Chat – Secret Paradise Interview with Go to the Maldives

Heidi from Go to the Maldives recently interviewed Ruth from Secret Paradise Maldives via Live Facebook chat. Heidi wants to dispel the myth about the Maldives being an expensive holiday destination, so she asked Ruth if she could run a live interview and ask her the pressing questions on everyone’s lips about visiting the Maldives.

 

 

Many people still consider the Maldives a holiday destination for a once in a life time trip or if they win the lotto. How has that now changed?

Indeed that still remains the perception for many. However, since local island tourism and guesthouses were introduced in 2011 the Maldives has become a far more affordable destination. There are now opportunities to island hop and discover history and culture as well as the beautiful beaches and amazing marine life that it is already known for.

Why was Secret Paradise introduced?

In a nutshell I was in the right place at the right time!  I had visited the Maldives on over 30 occasion after being introduced to the country by my dive buddy, Romney, who you will know from Boutique Beach! Following a stay of almost three months to complete a diving course I was provided the opportunity to start a travel agency with a local business man,  but being me I said let’s not do resorts let’s do something different!

Our tours are designed to allow guests to engage with local people and experience the best from a paradise that as we said a moment ago is generally known as a luxury resort destination. As well as at the time providing the platform to market and promote the newly formed guesthouse industry.

What kind of customers do you get?

We are fortunate to welcome guests from all over the world, of all ages and from all walks of life. We have even welcomed a celebrity or two! Guests may be travelling solo or with family or friends. They may be on a tight budget or have no restraints. However, the one thing they have in common is that they are looking for a memorable experience.

Many people tell me that if they are only paying $100 a night for bed and breakfast in the Maldives the accommodation must be terrible. What do you say to those people?

Accommodation certainly isn’t terrible and as local tourism has developed so has the range of guesthouses and hotels on offer. For under $50 a night you can generally expect a basic standard room with ensuite shower room, AC and access to Wifi. I believe the saying you get what you pay for is quite apt. Expect to pay between $90-$140 for an ocean view room with modern décor and facilities.  At the other end of the scale there are some fabulous boutique style properties where the level of service equals or surpasses that of some resorts.

My advice – Check out online reviews or for real peace of mind book with a company like us who audit their hotel and guesthouse partners on an annual basis.

What will people experience in the local islands?

Local islands certainly offer the opportunity to see the real Maldives and observe Maldivians go about their daily life. But like resorts every local island is slightly different and with a little bit of research or advice from Secret Paradise you can find one that meets your holiday needs be that surfing, diving, relaxing or discovery!

One thing every island though has in common is the warmth and hospitality of the locals who will take great delight in welcoming you to their island home.

What tips would you give someone visiting the Maldives for the first time?

Read the small print when making a booking or payment – is all local tax included GST, service charge and green tax for accommodation.

If you are booking independently understand the cost of transfers to the island you have selected. You may have got a real bargain for accommodation only to find you need to take a $400 domestic flight to reach your holiday home.

Don’t over pack, you need very little in the way of clothes and shoes! Sun screen, mozzie repellent and a rash guard if snorkelling are essential.

You offer tour guides on your trips, surely that is only for the wealthy how can I afford a private tour guide in the Maldives?

Certainly you don’t need to break the bank to have a tour guide, although expect to pay more for a tour including their services than if you were just to book accommodation online.

However, travelling with a local guide not only provides an opportunity to learn about the country and culture it allows you access to experiences or places that many tourists may not encounter. Plus it’s safe and convenient and ensures a hassle free holiday experience.

Where can people find more information about your trips and tours?

Take a look at our website www.secretparadise.mv. Plenty of information regarding our day tour sand multi days tours as well as travel advice. Follow the link to our blog which has loads more travel advice and information on what to expect when travelling in the Maldives.

We are hearing a lot in the news about plastic pollution what are the challenges the Maldives are facing with this?

Sadly, plastic pollution has become a key environmental issue in the Maldives as well as Worldwide. We see evidence of plastic bottles, straws, carrier bags and other plastic waste scattered on our islands and washed up regularly on our beautiful beaches and of course this waste has a negative impact on our environment, our marine life and the impression we give visitors.

The positive news is that local NGOs, island communities and environmental groups are working hard to deal with plastic issue with initiatives including beach clean ups, reduction of plastic bag use and environmental awareness campaigns.

But we also need effective policies to be implemented for meaningful long termchange.

Why did you introduce the #strawwar initiative?

There was so much international coverage regarding single use plastic that I felt Secret Paradise was in a position to influence and encourage our partners to lead a change in the Maldives.

We have had a terrific response from our partners as well as guests. Currently we are in the process of obtaining EPA approval which will hopefully assist us in taking #strawwar to the next level.

Surely banning single use straws is a small feat for such a large problem, wouldn’t it be better to ban plastic bottles?

In the ideal world yes and I would love to think that this could be achieved in the future, but unfortunately for the time being both locals and tourists have become reliant on bottled water as tap water is not promotedas being perfectly okay to drink.

This together with the fact that a new water bottling plant that will produce 10,000 plastic bottles every hour, is being opened makes single use plastic bottles a real challenge.

What are local business do to work with you on the strawwar?

It’s easy, contact Secret Paradise and pledge to stop using plastic straws!

How can tourists get involved?

Take a photos and tag @Secretparadisemaldives and use #strawwarmv when they refuse a straw or find a property or café who do not use plastic straws.

Kamey’s Top 5 Tips on Visiting the Indian Ocean in the Maldives

At Secret Paradise we hand pick only the best tour guides to give our guests the most authentic experience of the local islands in the Maldives. All our tour guides are given specialist training to ensure they have in-depth knowledge of the local islands and their people, to give you, our guests the best experience. However many of them already have extensive knowledge of the islands and surrounding ocean as they have grown up here. All our tour guides have areas they are especially passionate about. Here one of our guides gives you his top 5 tips when visiting the Indian Ocean in the Maldives.

Kamey

Meet Kamey who has been with us at Secret Paradise from the beginning. Kamey has been working as a tour guide in the Maldives for almost 8 years, where he started on the safari cruises and then moved to us. He has an innate love for the ocean, diving and snorkeling and we wanted to know a little more about why he is drawn to the big blue.

The ocean has been my backyard since I was born so it came as no surprise that it would become my office and place of work and has been for more than 10 years. I am so fortunate to work in my favorite place on earth – the ocean, where I get the opportunity to learn more about the wonders of this amazing place. I love meeting people on my tours and teaching them about the ocean, sharing my knowledge and life experiences of the sea.

  1. The Maldives Marine Wildlife Tour is particularly special as we come across the most amazing places for snorkelers. We choose places that will give you the most memorable experience and you don’t have to dive to encounter the amazing marine life that the Maldives has to offer. The best part about this tour for me is that the ocean is my home for the week; it’s an amazing adventure for everyone.

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2. I’m sure you have heard the expression ‘white sandy beaches’ when people are describing the beaches in the Maldives. But have you ever wondered why they are so beautifully bright or how they even came to appear on our small islands? Well first and foremost we need to thank Mr. Parrot fish for their hard work and generous kindness to their surroundings. Parrot fish are beautifully bright and colourful they live anywhere from 1 – 20 metres depth in the water, and are a common finding in the Maldives. Adult parrot fish are busy fish creating a ton of sand each year; it’s crazy to think that something so small can create such a massive amount of sand, Mother Nature truly is amazing. Some say having parrot fish close by is a sign of a healthy reef. But parrot fish aren’t the only hard workers in the ocean, Surgeon fish also help keep the reef clean and tidy by feeding on the algae that grows around the coral. It’s common to see herbivores(eating plants) fish that are common on the top reef and few carnivores(eating animal) fish that live among other and studies show more omnivores (eat plant and animal) are getting more on the slope of the reef.

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3. The Maldives is famous for its colorful underwater beauty. The pictures that people take under water have high exposed light and maybe a little touch of Photoshop magic. However before we had such complex technology in the earlier days their techniques were much simpler. They would physically filter the colors by brightening the colors of the coral with artificial light, that’s reality and we are thankful it doesn’t happen today. Coral carries photosynthesis cells that create these beautiful, bright colors, so they need proper sun light not above or below their suitable temperature. When the temperature is too high or too low the coral starts getting stressed and starts losing color. Sad but true. The good thing is some new generation of coral are resilient to its surrounding temperature and they have more adaptation and mutation methods although they are a little dull in color. There are so many colorful coral in the reef depending on the sun light and even though some light may not reach [parts of the reef the coral is still beautiful but fragile. It’s common to find dusty brown, dark brown, light faded green and dark green that looks almost black in the day time and it can be hard to tell its original color especially when at depth which changes the color.

4. If anybody asks, what the biggest fish in the world is, you can tell them it is the Rhincodontypus or we fondly know them as the whale shark, one of the most magnificent fish on earth. The largest confirmed size was 14.3m (47.2 ft.) weight of 22.8 t (20683.8 kg). The most amazing part is they eat the smallest living plant in the world. They eat a lot more then even I expected a massive 30,000 calories a day to service their large body. That’s a lot for the big guy. Lots of research is going on but we still have a million questions we want answered, like how they breed and how many times they deliver their eggs. It’s still a mystery. Funnily enough they are amazing deep divers. They can dive up to 2km and even deeper. They come up to surface to heat their body because the big guy doesn’t have much oil stored in its body so they need to recharge before deep dives. We are so lucky they do this because while they are filling up their tanks with warm temperature blood, that’s the time, we can swim with them. Isn’t this an amazing creature?

5. Next on my list are giant slow moving butterflies. What a breathtaking movement that’s gonna be – Manta rays. The way they move and communicate is amazing it’s unbelievable how a creature can do that. Their feeding patterns and how they move while they feed is orchestrated by so brilliantly that you can’t find a flow. From November to April a higher number of manta can be encountered from the Western side of Maldives. Unlike in May to October they change to be on the Eastern side of Maldives due to high presence of plankton in the area.

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Even now, the ocean still amazes and surprises me with its beauty. I never get used it, I’m always excited to be in the water you never know what next will surprise you, turtle sharks, mobiles’, moray ells,Gianttrevallies, I can go on with a long list. The ocean holds so many secrets and stories I been learning about them for long time. I’d love to tell you stories about our ocean and its great adventures so why not join me on your next adventure to the Maldives and #letusguideyou.

For more details about our trips and tours <<click here>> or contact our sales team direct sales@secretparadise.mv