Having fun in the Maldives

The Maldives is unusual as a holiday destination because of the fun things to do whether you are staying on a plush resort, in Male’, or in a simple guesthouse on an island in a faraway atoll. Entertainment and daily excursions are organised at every resort so don’t be shy about joining in. Excursions will include fishing and cruising (to watch dolphins dance) as well as visits to the capital, Male’, and to genuinely deserted islands, perhaps for swimming and a picnic, and shopping expeditions to neighboring inhabited islands.

If you stay in a guesthouse on an inhabited island, you will have the chance to meet Maldivians, experience local culture and cuisine, and join in what the islanders do for relaxation, such as playing football in the late afternoon or relaxing over a soft drink and eating “short eats” (small snacks) in a seaside café.

You will be able to organise fun activities for yourself, like going on a dhoni (local boat) to try your hand at line fishing, or swim in crystal clear lagoons watching marine life through a snorkel.

Beach Combing

A dawn walk along the beach is not only invigorating exercise, it’s also a chance to see what the night’s waves have washed up. There will probably be bits of dead coral and shells, but leave those there; empty shells become homes for crabs. It’s not unknown to find a bottle with a message in it although to stumble on a pirate treasure chest is unlikely. You will see arrow-shaped footprints of sea birds and perhaps tyre-like trails traced in the sand from the sea’s edge. That means a turtle came ashore in the night to lay eggs and its flippers left the tell-tale trail.

Cooking the Maldivian Way

Staying in a family-run guesthouse is a wonderful way to learn how to cook Maldivian dishes, as well as to enjoy authentic island cuisine. You’ll be surprised how the delicious flavours are conjured out of herbs growing on the island and by the intricate detail of home cooking. The cook will be happy to tell you the recipe so you can try it at home. Some resorts organise weekly cooking demonstrations of Maldivian favourites, letting guests enjoy their own preparations for lunch.

Kids’ Activities & Crab Racing

Resorts which welcome young children have kiddies’ clubs or play areas devoted to kids’ activities, with a trained child minder in charge, so parents can safely leave their kids there while they dive or snorkel. Resorts also have vetted babysitters to watch over kids while parents dine or disco. Special children’s meals and mealtimes are available on request. Resorts are safe for children as they can roam and play quite happily since there are no vehicles, although they should be supervised on the beach or by a swimming pool. Maldivians are fond of children and like making a fuss over visitors’ kids. Children of ten and above can enrol to learn snorkelling or diving at the resort’s dive centre. Crab Racing is organised on resorts and at inhabited islands as occasional evening entertainment. The crabs are provided by the organisers who mark out a track in the sand for the racing crustaceans. Guests are invited to participate as walk-along jockeys behind their allocated crab. The first crab to finish the course wins its jockey a prize. It can be fun when you mix with a party-going crowd.

Dolphin watching & Whale Submarine

The Maldives is home to 21 species of whale and dolphin and they are frequently sighted as they cross in the channels from one side of an atoll to another. They are sometimes spotted during the crossing from the airport to Male’. Many resorts organise cruises to the sea-lanes that dolphins regularly use, and independent dolphin watching cruises by dhoni can be arranged by the accommodation provider. Operating out of Male’ (bookings can be coordinated through your resort) the whale submarine is a chance for young and old to visit the underwater world without getting wet, while enjoying the exciting experience of diving in a real submarine. The cabin of the submarine is fully air-conditioned and has a normal atmospheric pressure so passengers breathe normal air. The whale submarine has safety features to ensure the safest, most comfortable ride, and is operated by a fully trained and certified team of pilots. It carries enough oxygen, water and food supplies to support all passengers and crew for 100 hours. On most dives passengers can see schools of blue or yellow-striped snappers and common lionfish, yellow box fish and sometimes turtles. Depending on the time of the day, current and many other factors, the submarine may dive to some historical sites such as a shipwreck or exciting places like a shark feeding area. The whole tour takes about three hours and is an amazing experience, especially for children and non-divers.

Picnic On a Sandbank & Stargazing

A sandbank hasn’t quite become a fully-fledged island, and it might not even have trees so you’ll need parasols for shade, as well as that picnic basket. Sandbank picnics are arranged by resorts that have a sandbank within range and the resort provides everything including a private boat and a butler to serve, who will withdraw discreetly when guests want to be alone. Island picnics can also be arranged for guests cruising the atolls by LiveAboard safari vessel. With no tall buildings in the way, guests can sit on the beach (or a sandbank for zero light pollution) on a cloudless night and gaze at the stars. Because the islands are close to the Equator, the moon is brighter and the stars more defined and visible in hundreds against the velvet darkness of the sky. With 360 degrees of horizon and minimal artificial light, the Maldives is surely one of the best places in the world for budding astrologers… or for simply wondering what those twinkling stars really are.

Entertainment & Souvenir Shopping

There are resorts that cater for guests who like to party at night and arrange evening entertainment by visiting bands and DJs. About 50 resorts have purpose-built night clubs for karaoke or DJ entertainment and are equipped to provide a great night’s dancing as a change from diving or sunbathing all day. It’s always fascinating to pop into a resort’s gift shop, or visit the souvenir shops on an inhabited island. There are locally made items like lacquerware, delicately woven reed mats and items made from plaited dried coconut leaves. Edible local souvenirs are packets of delicious beach almonds, tins of Maldives tuna and sachets of sun-dried fish chips.

Dhoni Cruising & Fishing

A dhoni is a Maldivian-designed boat used for fishing and transport of passengers or goods and was traditionally a sailing craft with a graceful tall curved prow. Now most dhonis have an inboard motor and the distinctive prow is removed, but a skipper will happily restore it for photographs. The dhoni is made of wood with a broad beam and a remarkable amount of deck space. All passenger dhonis are equipped with radio communication and life jackets. A typical dhoni’s speed is about 13km an hour. A dhoni is an ideal vessel for leisurely cruising whether it’s to reach another island, to fish, to snorkel, or to search for leaping dolphins. They have neither galley nor toilet so are better for short cruises than long ones. Some resorts have especially built luxury dhonis with a bow deck for sunbathing, an air-conditioned bedroom, toilet and galley, and can be used for daytime or sunset cruises. Ordinary dhonis can be chartered from the quayside in Male’, through reception in resorts, or by talking to local boatmen. Simple fishing with a baited handline from the side of a dhoni is great fun with a helpful crew and a party of friends competing for the best catch. It usually takes place in the evening, hence is known as Night Fishing. Guests can have their catch cooked by the in-house chef. Deep sea, or big game fishing, is possible from many resorts using especially constructed boats for deep sea angling with full fishing and safety equipment as well as fish-hunting aids like an echo sounder and radar. Fishing is year-round for sailfish, blue and black marlin, yellow-fin tuna, barracuda, dogfish tuna, wahoo, jackfish, and a variety of sharks and dorado. All fish caught are the property of the boat, although sailfish and blue marlin are tagged and released. Deep sea fishing cruises are usually four to six hours in duration.

Glass Bottom Boat Trips & Photo Flight

Boat Trips An effortless way to view the underwater world in the placid lagoon of a resort is through the transparent deck of a piloted glass bottom boat. Passengers sit on seats running the length of the boat (made of fibreglass), peering into a well in the centre of the boat that has a glass bottom and reveals everything the vessel is cruising over. It is an amazing experience for the sedentary to glimpse brilliant-hued fish and gardens of coral and also to see the dramatic plunging of a reef into the dark depths of the ocean. Seaplanes are in regular service throughout the Maldives and the operators also organise scheduled seaplane photo flights. A photo flight gives a bird’s-eye view of the islands, the natural atoll formations, the sand banks, the vegetation and the translucent colours of the lagoons in contrast to the darker waters of the surrounding ocean. Comfortable seating and large windows in the planes give an opportunity to shoot good photographs. The pilots know what photographers look for and circle above picturesque locations. The scheduled flights last for 20 minutes from dock to dock and carry a minimum of seven adults. Charter photo flights can also be arranged from a resort and back.

Gourmet Dining

It’s not all fish, curry and rice. International chefs like working in the Maldives as every kind of ingredient from around the world can be imported for delivery to their resort without them having to go to the market to find it. With sophisticated guests demanding gourmet-quality dining each day, chefs are happy to meet the challenge of creating exquisite dishes of every kind of cuisine. While most resorts feature self-service meals from a buffet display or a barbecue, some resorts close to Male’ have world-class restaurants featuring superb seafood platters and Chinese, French, Fusion, Indian, Italian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Thai fine dining. Non-resident guests can patronise the gourmet restaurants of those resorts by prior reservation. The peak of dining in the Maldives is actually the deepest: underwater. The world’s first all-glass undersea restaurant was built offshore at a resort in Ari Atoll, 5m below the surface. It serves a set menu of contemporary cuisine for lunch and dinner at a fixed price and guests gaze at the brilliant colours of fish darting and swimming as they dine. A second underwater restaurant, with an underwater wine cellar, has opened at a resort in Baa Atoll. As well as lunch and dinner options, that restaurant serves breakfast on Sundays and has a fixed-price cocktail hour with colourful cocktails matching the brilliance of the marine life gliding past.

Island Sports

The favourite sport in the Maldives is football, both to play and to watch. On some inhabited islands, and some larger resorts, there are full sized football pitches where competitive matches are held. Other resorts have a multi-purpose court for staff where futsal (a five-a-side version of football), badminton and volleyball are played. Sometimes guests join in and resort futsal players have had the privilege of playing with some of the world’s top football players who were holidaying at their resorts. Guests are welcome to join a resort’s staff (or island inhabitants) in sports like beach volleyball, basketball, baseball and netball. Several of the larger resorts have facilities for tennis, some with floodlit courts for playing when it’s not so hot. Table tennis and billiards are available at most resorts. There is a nine-hole golf course at a resort in Seenu Atoll, the southernmost atoll in the Maldives just south of the Equator near the airport at Gan. In seven-and-a-half hectares it includes par three and par four holes, averaging 112m in length on the 1km-long course. It is a recreational course designed for the enjoyment of golfers and beginners alike. Spectacular challenges and vistas await players at each of the nine holes: coconut palms and exotic flora, white sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons and pounding Indian Ocean swells line the fairways. A clubhouse offers light snacks and refreshments, while the pro shop carries golf equipment, apparel, gear and merchandise. North of Male’ in Lhaviyani Atoll there is a resort with a full size driving range and a large putting green for perfecting the short game. The golf course is a six-hole par three course with the average length of a hole being 50m. In South Ari Atoll there is a resort with a putting green and in North Male’ Atoll, 45km from the international airport, a resort has a golf driving range with a pitch and putt course.