MALE, GAAFARU, KAASHIDHOO, THULUSDHOO, VILLINGILI
Maldives – a dream destination of many travellers. Once you see the scattered islands surrounded by shallow lagoons with turquoise water from above you’ll start counting the minutes until the plane finally lands.
Upon completion of all formalities at the airport in Male we were transferred by ferry to the capital of Maldives – Male. From there we took a taxi to the port called Villingili. This is the starting point for all boats and ferries going to the islands of Maldives. Travelling by government ferry is a little tiring but the price of $3 per ticket is certainly the cheapest way of transport around the islands. Seats are quite comfy and if you want you can lie down and have a little nap.
I was too excited to sleep because during our journey we were passing many islands with amazing variations on turquoise color. Pure feast for my eyes… The whole journey to our temporary residence – Kaashidhoo island – lasted 5 hours with one stop on the island Gaafaru and although it seems a long time it went fairly quickly.
Maldives consists of about 1,000 islands but only about 200 of them are inhabited. Kaashidhoo is the fifth largest island with 2,300 inhabitants and it’s a part administrative region – Kaafu Atoll. Originally we had booked accommodation on the island of Guraidhoo but after reading the reviews on Airbnb we decided to to go to Kaashidhoo. And it was a good choice…
Once we got off the ferry we were welcomed by Ahmed and Abbas – key members of staff who has taken very good care of us throughout the whole stay. In the guest house they surprised us with fresh coconut which came very handy after such a long journey. After this refreshment we dropped our bags in the rooms and off you go to the beach.
Shall I really describe this paradise island? I think the pictures speak for themselves… There was a busy program prepared for us everyday. The day usually started with snorkeling in different places of the island which Ahmed and Abbas knew very well. Thanks to them we have seen the amazing underwater life in this wonderful island. Swimming between coral reefs with small sharks, turtles, crabs, stingrays and various fish of all colours and shapes was an amazing experience.
In the afternoon we usually went for a trip around the island where we saw for example how locals build the ships. Another time we went to visit the farms where they grow fruits and vegetables of all kinds. Bananas, mangoes, papayas, coconuts, bread fruit, melons, peppers, radishes and so on. It is interesting that every farm has its own well with fresh water. And don’t even have to dig very deep to get to it. On the island in the middle of the ocean surrounded by salty water it was a bit surprising for me.
Another exploring trip of the island with Ahmed was a visit of the remains of an ancient Buddhist temple that was discovered only 10 years ago and according to the findings should be more than 1500 years old!
In the evening we used to go for fishing trips and all we we had on our plates the next day. We were pleasantly surprised with the last dinner of our stay when they prepared for us a goodbye dinner on the beach. Delicious grilled fish with roasted potatoes, rice and salad and even a cake. Imagine having a dinner on the beach with candles, sound of the sea and the sky full of stars… Totally cool.
Our stay came to an end and even though our flight was on Thursday we had to leave on Wednesday because there was no ferry to Male from Kaashidhoo on Thursday. Yoosuf – the owner of the guest house booked for us one more night through his friend on Thulusdhoo island. From the capital of Male it was only 45 minutes away by ferry.
Now a bit of statistics just to put you in the picture. The price per night at the resort costs around $700 and it includes only bed and breakfast. When you live with the locals in the guest house which was our case price per night cost us $50 with All Inclusive package (optional). It included not only accommodation but also all meals, drinks, fruits, vegetables, desserts and all snorkeling and fishing trips and tours around the island.
Upon arrival in Male we were picked up by the concierge of Isola Maldives guest house with whom we took another ferry to the island called Thulushdoo. This island with a very nice beach is slightly smaller than the Kaashidhoo but much more touristy. We arrived to the guest house in the evening and while girls were sipping their coffees I put my swim shorts on, took a snorkel and went for a swim. Here again I was impressed by the colorful underwater life and enjoyed it until it got dark. Later on we went to inspect the island and managed to have a little chat with the locals. We just reassured that the further away from the capital you are the better.
In the morning we had a ferry back to Male at 7am but since I wanted to say goodbye to the island I woke up early and went for a last swim. The best thing you can do in the morning on the island like this. Then we finally board the ferry heading to Male and enjoyed the view from the upper deck. One guy on the ferry told us there is a nice beach on nearby island Villingili which takes only 7 minutes by another ferry from Male. We decided to go there because we still had enough time before the departure of our evening flight.
It was a hot day and first thing we did when we came to Villingili we bough a coconut to re-charge the batteries. After this refreshment we went for a walk around the island, relaxed on the beach for a while and returned back to Male. After the lunch we took another ferry to the nearby island where the international airport is. There we went to the Hulhule Island hotel to chill and enjoy the last few hours on the beach.
Hulhule Island hotel is perfectly equipped hotel complex with golf, tennis and basketball courts and it even has a small botanical garden. The hotel had only a tiny beach next to the pool but it was more than enough for us. It was the best spent time before our departure back to Sri Lanka.
What to say at the end? I might repeat myself but I have to say it was one of our best trips we had so far. It all began a few years ago with the posters on the wall and a huge desire to visit those places. You can get to India easily once you go through that complicated visa process, to get to Sri Lanka is even easier but if in 2012 the Maldivian president would not allow his people accommodate tourists in their houses we probably would never get there. The only option would be the visit of the overpriced resorts so thanks to all Maldivians they decided to boost the tourism this way.
Each of the countries we have visited during this trip had its own highlights. In India my dream came true with the visit of Taj Mahal, in Sri Lanka it was the Lion Rock in Sigiriya and in Maldives – a hidden gem – Kaashidhoo island.
Tip 1: Book your accommodation on Airbnb. You will save a lot of money and you will also have the opportunity to live with the locals and get to know their culture.
Tip 2: In Kaashidhoo go for a turtle snorkeling and try all types of fruits. Don’t forget to visit the boat factory and the tour of the farms around the island.
Tip 3: When you come to Male it’s better to take a ferry and go to the nearby island Villingili or to the airport island and visit the beach in Hulhule Island hotel.
(prices as of February 2016)
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