Pristine white sand beaches, turquoise blue water, swaying palm trees, warm sunny days, and some of the BEST dive sites in the world, the Maldives are for real! And nope, you don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket to experience the magic of the Maldives. I recently did an 11-day island hopping trip around the Maldives covering four guesthouse/local islands, one resort island and 10 dives- all for $2000.
Read along for all the details along with budgets of my itinerary on my first trip to the Maldives.
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
DAY 1: Fly to Malé
DAY 2: Transfer to Fulidhoo
DAY 3: Scuba Diving Day 1
DAY 4: Scuba Diving Day 2
DAY 5: Scuba Diving Day 3
DAY 6: Transfer to Thulusdhoo
DAY 7: Explore Thulusdhoo
DAY 8: Visit the Ashdhoo sandbank
DAY 9: Transfer to Hurra
DAY 10: Get a day pass at Club Med Kani
DAY 11: Return Home
Fly into Malé International Airport. Depending on your flight timing, you might have to spend a night in Malé to catch the connecting ferry/speedboat to Fulhidhoo the next day. From the airport take a ferry to Malé city, which takes not more than 10 minutes and costs only MVR 10 or $1. There are regular ferries every 15 min and the last one is at 2 am. From the ferry terminal in Malé take a cab $2-3 to your hotel/guest house or anywhere on the island for the same fare. I spent the first night at Local Escape Boutique that cost me $90, including breakfast and a tiny plunge pool on the rooftop. With the current political unrest, I chose safety over saving money, but there are many low-cost accommodations as well. Although there isn’t much to explore in Malé you could spend the evening visiting the national museum and get a feel of one of the busiest and tiniest island capitals in the world.
Take the 10 am public-ferry from Villingili ferry terminal in Malé to Fulhidhoo (Vaavu Atoll). It takes 3.5 hours and cost $3.5. The ferry operates three times a week – on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and is quite comfortable. Alternatively, you could take the public speedboat to Fulhidhoo, which operates every day at 11 am except Fridays, from Villingili ferry terminal. It cost $40 for a one-way ticket, takes 1.5 hours to reach and should be booked in advance. I chose to take the public ferry as it made a difference of only an hour and it was a lot cheaper. I definitely recommend this option.
Once you reach Fulidhoo at around 1.30 pm, respective guesthouse staff members will welcome you at the jetty and take you their property. I stayed at Thundi Guesthouse , which was very clean and had great service. I booked this property as part of an accommodation and dive package with Fulidhoo Dive. I chose the ‘half board’ package where breakfast and dinner are included as this gave me some flexibility to explore other options on the island. You could opt for the full board package too, where all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are included.
You can walk all around the island in less than half an hour, it’s that small! Head to the designated bikini beach and soak in all the blues your eyes can take. Since I was there primarily to dive, I headed straight to the dive shop to prepare for my dives that were to begin the next morning. Don’t forget to watch the sunset on the beach with the locals!
Wake up early and head out for your first day of diving. Typically for the morning dives, the boat leaves from the jetty at 8.30 am. I did both dives that morning at ‘Dhiggdluvashi Kandu’ and ‘Bodu Miyaru Kandy’. There are usually four dives a day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon/evening. You can choose to do all or some. The dive boat returns to the island at around 12.30-1.00 pm. You can grab lunch at the either of the two cafes on the island or at your guest house. Meals in the two cafes cost approx. $10 a person. Be back at the jetty at 3.30 pm for the afternoon dives. I did a night dive at ‘Alimatha’ (a resort island, which has a beautiful house reef) that was probably the highlight of it all. There were so many sharks and stingrays everywhere that I didn’t know where to point my camera, it was absolutely magical! Nothing like the real world! The evening dive boat returns back to the island at around 7.30-8.00 pm. If you were to hang around by the jetty at night, you will see lots of stingrays coming to the shore (they are attracted to the light on the jetty) and you can feed them as well.
Today, I did two dives in the morning, ‘Khandiboli Thila’, ‘Khunavashi Thila’. I just couldn’t get enough of these dive sites. We saw a pod of dolphins swimming alongside our dive boat on the way back. The Maldives are simply incredible and an adventure lover’s dream come true. I spent the rest of the evening at bikini beach and watched the beautiful sunset along with the locals on the other side of the island. You can choose to do more dives if the boat is going out as well.
Today I went out for 3 dives. To ‘Thola Bardi’ in the morning, ‘Mujaru Khandu’ in the evening and back to ‘Alimataa’ for the night dive! I highly recommend this one to everyone going to dive in the Vaavu Atoll. It was simply magical. It was my last day of diving making it a total of 8 dives in 3 days but I definitely was craving for more.
Presenting to you my first and most favourite dive from the Maldives.🧜♀️🧜♀️ THE NIGHT DIVE! ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• These gentle giants kept the night show going at the @alimatharesort house reef in the Vaavu Atoll. Initially I was quite hesitant to go on a night dive but I’m so glad I did.. I loved it so much the first time, I choose to go on two more after that!! 🙊☺️ Special thanks to my bff @manharshaheed for editing this video so beautifully! 💕💕#Maldives #scubadiving #nightdive #adventuretime .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #maldivesislands #maldivesresorts #scubalife #scubadiving #adventuregirl #maldiveslovers #explorerbabes #girlsgoneglobal #sheisnotlost #bestdestination #bestbeaches #girlswhoscuba #stingray #scubagirl #scubalove #girlswhotravel #wearetravelgirls #visitmaldives #seasia #travelblogger #cntgiveitashot #condenasttraveler #thesassypilgrim Music credits: Dominic miller
This day will be spent in transit from Fulidhoo (Vaavu Atoll) to Thulusdhoo (Kaafu Atoll) via Malé. The public ferry departs from Fulidhoo on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 11 am reaching Malé (Villingili ferry terminal) around 2.30 pm and cost only $3.5. The public speedboat departs at 2.10 pm, reaches Malé (Villingili ferry terminal) at 3.30 pm and costs $40 one-way.
From Malé (Villingili ferry terminal) to Thulusdhoo the public ferry is at 2.30 pm on all days except Fridays and Mondays. It takes 2 hrs 15 min to reach and costs only $1.5. Taking the public ferries worked out beautifully in my case. I got off one ferry and jumped onto the next. At around 4.30 I was in Thulusdhoo and checked into my hotel. I stayed at Seasons Paradise but do not recommend it at all. I highly recommend staying at either Samura Maldives Guest House or Canopus Retreats. I visited both for a meal and they both had more character and greater value for money.
Thulusdhoo is known to be a surfer’s paradise with all those amazing swells in the area. Spend the day surfing or learning how to surf. There are plenty of beach activities available like snorkelling, SUP, Kayaking, Jetskiing, banana boat ride, or scuba diving as well. These activities cost anywhere between $10-$100. Since alcohol isn’t permitted on the local island, there is a ‘floating bar’ just off the island and a 10 min boat ride can get you there for $10 per person for a return journey. I watched the sunset from the floating bar.
Visit a ‘sandbank’ (a piece of land surrounded by the ocean on all sides and submerges or appears depending on the tide). This trip costs $100 a boat but can be shared with other tourists willing to go the same time as you. I had 3 people on my boat and we paid $25 each. We left at 9.30 am and came back by lunch at 1.00 pm. If you’re lucky you can have the whole sandbank to yourself. Ours was the first boat there but soon there were at least 10 other boats that came from all the neighbouring islands. Carry your snorkel masks and fins. The reef around was really rich and healthy with lots of colourful fish. On our way back we also saw a big pod of dolphins swimming alongside our boat. My day was made! Spend the evening sun tanning on the bikini beach or take on an activity. I really enjoyed SUP on the beach. The board and paddle rental cost $10 for 2 hours, same for kayaks. I suggest not to go to your hotel for water sports and excursions as they will be a lot more expensive. Shop around at the beach front and you will find the best deals. Grab dinner at ‘Contagious Pizzas’. I loved the freshly baked veggie pizza and the bruschetta made by the American couple running this place.They are open only for dinner and remain closed on Sunday and Monday.
Take the 7.30 am ferry and transfer to Hurra (Kaafu Atoll), a neighbouring island. The journey takes about 20 min and costs $1. I checked into The Sunrise Huraa, which was a cozy 4 room guest house that had the best service I’ve ever experienced for $60 a night (breakfast included). Spend the morning exploring this big but not so commercial island. The vibe was very relaxed and had a lot fewer tourists as compared to Thulusdhoo. I decided to do two more dives that afternoon to get a taste of what the Kaafu Atoll had to offer and I was amazed. I dove with Albatros Top Diving, who have their dive shop in Pearl Sand of Maldives. I highly recommend you to stay here, unfortunately, they were sold out on my dates.
Spend the whole day from 10 am to 5 pm at the Club Med Kani, a resort island just across Hurra island. The day pass cost $110 plus a $10 transfer fee from Hurra and back. I booked it through the Sunrise Huraa guest house, who gave me the best rate as compared to $140 if I had booked it from Pearl Sand. Shop around, you might get it cheaper too depending on the season. This is a great way to experience a Resort island in the Maldives, especially if spending $1000 a night is not practical for you.
Take the public ferry or speedboat from Hurra to Malé and transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. I took the ferry at 8.30 am that reaches Malé (Villingili ferry terminal) at 10.00 am. Then took a $3 cab to the Malé airport terminal and took a $1 ferry to the airport from there. I was at the airport at 10.30 am sharp. Fly home with a suitcase full of amazing memories for life.
Please note ferry/speedboat timings change regularly and it might be best to re-check with the accommodation you book on each island or atolltransfer before booking.
OVERALL BUDGET FOR THE TRIP
Return flights from Bombay to Malé: $300
Total costs for transport (public ferries + cabs in Malé): $25
1 Night in Malé: $90
8 Dives + half board accommodation for 4 nights in Fulhidhoo at Thundi Guest House: $800
3 Nights in Thulusdhoo at Canopus Retreats (breakfast included): $246
2 Nights in Huraa Island at The Sunrise Huraa (breakfast included): $120
1 Day Pass at Club Med Kani(including $10 for transfers): $120
Meals on the Trip: $100
2 Dives in Hurra: $160
Beach Activities: $100
GRAND TOTAL: $2061
Hope this not only gives you an idea but also convinces you that the Maldives are for everybody.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like me to customise a similar trip to suit your vacation goals.
Have you been scuba diving before? Share your experience in the comments below.