Top things to do in Maldives

If you are a “beachy” person (a term I often use to describe myself), chances are that Maldives is pretty high up on your bucket list. With its breathtakingly beautiful islands, cerulean waters, sparkling sands and dreamy resorts, Maldives is the perfect destination for anyone looking for relaxation, indulgence and scenic beauty rolled up into a single package. If you are gearing up to set foot on Maldives’ sandy shores anywhere in the near future, here’s a list of ten things you absolutely must see and do in this beautiful country (apart from relaxing and “doing  nothing”, of course).

1. A Daytrip Around Male On Foot

Since you will land in Male before being ferried (or seaplane-lifted) off to your island resort on one of Maldive’s 1200 atolls, you might as well take a day out to experience the sights and smells of this ridiculously crowded city (think over a 100000 people crammed onto an island measuring less than 300 sq km). In  spite of the narrow, people-packed streets and perpetual chaos, Male has some incredibly beautiful sights to offer. The Islamic Center & Majid Sultan Mohamad Thakurufaanu Al-au’zam is a complex that houses Maldive’s largest and most picturesque mosque, while the Hukuru Miskiiy (Old Friday Mosque) is truly a historical wonder with its Arabic-inscribed coral walls that have been standing strong since 1656. For art and culture lovers, there is the National Museum and National Art Gallery. Take long walks by the beach or just sit by the pier gazing at the ocean.

2. Shop Off The Beaten Path

The shopping scene in Maldives is nothing like that of a typical touristy destination. The highlight here is, in fact, the local fish market where you will find piles of tuna, skipjacks and huge hammerhead sharks sprawled across tiled floors, with some very aggressive bidding going on.  Inhabited islands are a good place to look for some local handicrafts, traditional paintings, handmade jewelry and textiles that can be tailored into custom-fit apparel. If you are a culinary enthusiast, you may want to hit one of the food markets to stock up on authentic Maldivian spices and condiments.

3. Do The Maldives Dhoni Cruise

If you have the luxury of time, the Maldives Dhoni cruise comes highly recommended, especially if you do not want to spend too much time researching and planning your vacation. Dhonis are traditional boats that take you around the reefs and atolls, allowing you to explore uninhabited islands and interact with tribal communities. Snorkelling, skinny dipping, beach barbeques and island mooring at night are only some highlights of the cruise. Prices begin at $1000 for a 6-day cruise.

4. Get A Massage At The Underwater Spa

Nothing feels more divine than that a professional massage that relaxes your mind, body and soul – more so when it is amidst tranquil oceanic environs bustling with sea life. Huvafen Fushi prides itself as the first Spa Resort to have an underwater spa. Indulge in relaxing Maldivian healing rituals while schools of rainbow-colored fish flit past you.

5. Dig Into Maldivian Cuisine

Maldives has some fantastic restaurants and local eateries that serve up international cuisines as well as traditional Maldivian fare.  The place is indeed a paradise for sea-food lovers. Lobsters, oysters, squids, scallops, octopus – you name it and Maldives has it. Maldivian cuisine uses an interesting mix of spices, and the curries are predominantly coconut-based. Don’t be afraid to experiment because there is little chance you’ll be disappointed. While the local teashops or “Sai Hotaas” are the best places to sample local flavors, those looking for fine-dining options may head for Irudhashu Hotaa, Raanbaa and Aioli, all of which come highly recommended.

6. Explore The Underwater Beauty

You can’t come to Maldives and not dive. Located south of North Atoll, Banana Reef is one of the best diving spots in all of Maldives as it offers an exciting underwater terrain and a vast variety of tropical fish. Get up, close and personal with sharks, mantas, snappers, morays and barracuda while admiring the spectacular coral growths. Addu Atoll is a hot spot for coral watching as the reefs here were spared the bleaching effects of El Nino. Most resorts arrange for state-of-the-art diving gear and trained instructors, but if you are still reluctant (or phobic), you may opt for the Whale Submarine, which allows you to soak in the marine beauty without getting wet.

7. Go Fishing At Night

Fishing by the day is exciting enough but fishing under a blanket of stars has a whole different thrill to it. Book a night fishing excursion where you will be accompanied by professions who will help you with the hooks, lines and sinkers. Considering the abundance of sea life along the reefs, there’s the good chance you’ll have a grill-full of fish lined up in less than an hour.

8. Get Involved in Marine Conservation

Major resorts in Maldives usually have a dedicated marine biology lab where scientists work on preservation and conservation of corals and marine life around the respective islands. Many labs run volunteer programs where visitors can get involved in looking after sick or injured animals, placing corals and learning about the marine ecosystem in the region.

9. Take Lessons In Diving And Watersports

Although you don’t have to be a professional diver to marvel at Maldives underwater magnificence, a Maldivian vacation gives you the perfect opportunity to brush up on your diving skills. Sign up for a diving course and you may be able go on excursions exclusively reserved for seasoned divers such as the Wreck of the Maldive Victory, a cargo ship that sank off the coast of Male in 1981. Maldives’ unrealistically blue lagoons also have thriving water sports facilities and every inhabited island has a water sports center where you can surf, sail and ski to your heart’s content.

September 16, 2015 by Shuchi Singh Kalra

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