The Maldives on a budget…

 

The Babymoon. My new favorite concept in travel. It’s that window between 12 – 24 weeks in your second trimester where you’re still energised. The ‘last time’ you and baby-dadda will ever have the freedom to holiday for while. Ha – Who are we kidding! But it’s the perfect excuse for country #62… The Maldives.

If anywhere lives up to the google image of itself, it’s here. #NoFilter – sums it up perfectly. We chose Rasdhoo island, because of it’s proximity to the hammerhead shark dive site. A place where you can see black tip reef sharks, turtles & sting rays whilst snorkeling at 5 meters. It reminded us of Malupascua and/or the Gili Islands. No cars, 6 guesthouses, 3 restaurants, 2 stray wooden sun-loungers & 12 or so tourists, max.

Our top 5 Maldives survival items; 1) A gripping book (Gillian Flynn’s brilliant Gone Girl) 2) Snorkel 3) Travel scrabble 4) deck of cards.

wpid-img_20141112_170129.jpgAnd 5) As it turns out…. an engagement ring for a surprise proposal on the beautiful Mandivaru sandbank island!

Come on, it’s the MALDIVES & we’re both beach-bums at heart. We had to really :) X

 

The practical stuff

wpid-img-20141112-wa0002.jpgOn a budget

When I say budget, I mean we spent less than $1000 USD  for 7 nights. (Total, not per person.) The price of an average resort is $1050 USD per night! It’s not quite backpacker prices but it’s definitely do-able on a budget. Not just because alcohol is banned, although this helps on the old purse-strings.

As a rough guide:

Flights: $280 USD return pp from Singapore – Tiger Airlines
Rasdhoo Island Inn $26 USD per room including all taxes. Highly recommended
Food: $5 – 6 USD for pp for noodles or rice (your only option!)
Ripple Beach Hulhumale $72 USD per night.
Seahouse Topdeck Villingili $50 USD per night.
Scuba Diving: $60 per dive at Atoll Divers. Great instructors. Ask for Ronny.
Day trip to picnic island: $20 USD per person

M3Which island to choose…?

The Maldives has around 5 ‘inhabitable islands’ which have recently opened up to tourism, meaning you can now DIY your own trip at guesthouses instead of the all-inclusive resorts. However piecing together the ferry schedules is half the battle in picking your island.

The public Rasdhoo ferry is dirt cheap at less than $5 USD for a 3 hour ride. It runs x3 times a week, just not in harmony with Tiger Airline’s flights. A private speedboat to Rasdhoo costs $450 – 500 USD or the seaplane similar at $250 USD per person. We booked a shared speedboat through out guesthouse for $40 USD one way pp, leaving 3 times a week from Male South West Harbour. Forget the chaos ‘Fiji/island time’, our boat (The Crystalline) was super smooth & super punctual, taking exactly 1h 20 mins Male to Rasdhoo.

wpid-img_20141108_195310.jpgMale, Hulhumale & Villingili…

Be warned; The entire country grinds to a halt for Muslim prayer time. Male has to be the only airport with zero taxis, since we arrived during Friday prayer. If you’re at a resort you get to do the super cool exit; dashing straight from arrivals into a speedboat, which practically meets you off the tarmac. If you’re like us, you’ll need a extra night in Male either side of your flight. It’s a good excuse to check out two more islands; Hulhumale and Villingili. Both are rustic, local, worth checking out for half a day, but somewhat overpriced at $60 USD+ for hotels. Villingili was the nicer of the two for it’s house reef & decent restaurant; xhi xhi.

Male city itself is tiny, busy, colourful, nothing to get excited about. Our only notable hour there was to hit up HSBC, which surprisingly only dispenses Rufiyaa not USD. You can use either currency everywhere and ask for change in whatever you prefer. Shops give a good rate of 14 or 15 Rufiyaa to the USD.

wpid-img_20141111_163614.jpgThe Verdict…

Traveling the Maldives independently was interesting, budget-friendly, and above all; easy to do! It’s a friendly, punctual and hassle free in a way that many South East Asia countries have lost over the years. What’s intriguing is that on the DIY islands locals absolutely don’t pander to tourists in anyway. You feel welcome but it’s not ALL about you, which is relaxing, refreshing or maybe just more real than most holidays.

As for the baby/pregnancy factor; it’s perfect, if you don’t mind the odd speedboat & reef shark! And besides, when in your life do you ever want to be on a tropical island and not mind that it’s alcohol free!

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Sipadan, Marbul & Kaipalai, Borneo

Sipadan is consistently voted one of the world’s best dive sites. Here’s  7 amazing things  to see there, above AND under the water….

1) GIANT green turtles & hornbill turtles
Dozens of them just floating around magically at sites like Hanging Gardens & Lobster Wall. By far everyone’s secret favorite underwater animal. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTENLcLgWI8‎‎

2) Reef Sharks
Up to 40+ in one day is pretty average for Sipadan, which is just about enough to convince me they are friendly. Most of the time they are safely 10 – 20m down on the seabed, cruising around the cleaning stations using smaller fish to prune their sharkskin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mUAVi9iFQ8

3) Barracuda Tornado
You’d be hard pushed to out do a shark, but these guys manage it as shallow as 3 metres with their perfectly choreographed tornado swirl. They can be found at the aptly named Barracuda Point site. It’s pretty lucky to see them don their famous formation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4JDt3-WDTc‎

4) Into the Blue Dive
Sidadan is famed for its 600 metre drop off – hence all the interesting Marina life that flocks towards it. This creates the opportunity for an daring (read petrifying) ‘Into the Blue’ dive, where you swim into the void of such deep  sea that you can’t tell left from right or up from down without a compass as frame of reference. I’ve never been more relieved to get back to a reef!

5) AWAS, Mabul Island
Everyone seems to love this site, just 50 metres off the Marbul jetty. It’s artificial house reef & mini wreks are cool to explore, as is surfacing just under the pier and being 30 seconds away from the nearest beer.

6) The Sea Gypsies of Sabah
Marbul island is shared by thousands of ‘stateless citizens’ displaced from Malaysia/Indonesia/The Philippines and known as Sea Gypsies. The kids have distinctive sun bleached streaked hair, plenty to say, and seem to cohabit in relative peace with the dive schools.

7) Scuba Junkie’s homemade pizza back on mainland Semporna. It’s not just desert island good, it’s world good.

How to get there: AirAsia fly from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Tawau for around $250 SGD even at Chinese New Year.

Diving: Scuba Junkie are one of the best dive operators.  3 day/2 night/10 dive packages are around $650 SGD. Book early as only 120 permits to Sipadan National park are issued a day.

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

Blasts From The Past…

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