Well, the thing is that not all islands are inhabited - some of the remote islands are still untouched. No residential community or fancy resorts are present on them. Excursions to these non-resort islands are allowed with a tour guide but are generally discouraged to let their natural beauty remain intact and untampered by humans. You will also be surprised to know that some of the islands are man-made! Built from reclaimed land, these artificial islands have now developed over the years into remarkable tourist attractions. In fact, most of the private islands have a solitary luxurious resort expanding over its entire area.
So really, choosing between such a myriad of islands is a challenging task. However, if you manage to narrow down your list to about five or six islands, your inner explorer will feel a lot more satisfied than stopping over at only one island. Island hopping in Maldives is the best way to explore all the treasures of this Indian Ocean gem and is chosen by many travellers visiting the archipelago. A lot of tour operators function to make voyaging from one island to another smooth and comfortable experience. A quick glance at the various inter-island transportation operating in the country and the prominent islands that can make your perfect island escapade itinerary.
1. Landing in Malé
Its central position and administrative importance grant the capital city of Malé the name of 'King's Island'. The biggest airport in the archipelago, the Velana International Airport is situated in Malé (You'll be surprised to know that there are 12 airports in the Maldives!). Due to its extensive connectivity with airports all over the world, it is the main international airport accessed by the tourists visiting the Maldives. Along with the international terminal, the airport also headquarters the renowned seaplane operator TransMaldivian Airways. Hence, your expedition to the Maldives will begin at its heart Malé. Since all the inter-island transfers stop before the sunset, if you land at night, you will be bound to stay in the city and start your journey to your resort the next day. Nonetheless, your itinerary should have at least a day devoted to exploring this gorgeous city.
Towering buildings, modern infrastructure, crowded streets, wide roads, and exotic restaurants greet you as you enter this little town. Despite its small size, Male inhabits the maximum population and is a beautiful blend of traditional grace and modern class. It lacked the basic beaches, unlike other islands. So, the country built an artificial one! Just like all-natural beaches, the expanse of the Artificial Beach is covered with golden sand overlooking the cyan blue ocean. You can swim in the cool water or relinquish your hunger at the exotic cafes near the beach. To get an insight into the history and the lives of the Sultans that reigned the country, you can visit the three-storied National Museum. There is also a small Tsunami monument, a silver pillar with a string of balls spiralling it, which was built to commemorate the 82 victims who lost their lives in the devastating 2004 tsunami. The local market is one of the most boisterous places in the city where you can experience the local Maldivian life.
1. Public Boats - Dhoni
Easy on the pocket and convenient to travel in, the traditional boats of Maldives are widely popular amongst the tourists and locals for their extremely nominal prices. Even if you travel to the remotest island which takes more than 10 hours to reach, you'll have to pay USD 10 at the max, while the shortest sea transfer costs USD 2. Traditionally called "Dhoni", these handcrafted ferries can accommodate 50 to 100 people at a time. Being in the budget makes them the most common inter-island transportation in the Maldives. The only problem is that they are really slow. However, the easy availability and comfortable journey make time a bearable bargain. Except for the south most atolls, Dhonis operate within all the islands on all days except Fridays. To have a look at their schedule, you can visit their website.
A more luxurious way of exploring the islands is the motor-driven speedboat. The upscale speedboats are well maintained and are way faster than Dhonis. Even the remotest islands can be accessed using these. Public speedboats do not run on a fixed schedule. They operate on all days and can be booked in advance. Private speedboats are mostly used by the resorts or tourists seeking a private trip. When it comes to cost, they are a tad high than the public transports. While a public speedboat that carries around 20 to 30 people at a time costs around USD 20 at the minimum, private speedboat's prices can seem sky-high as they are ten times more than the public ones.
The fastest way to commute between the islands is via the seaplanes. Also called the 'air taxi', a seaplane is the most extravagant inter-island conveyance which can travel longer distances in no time. The breathtaking aerial view of the Maldives that one gets to see while travelling is what acts as a magnet for tourists despite its surging prices. TransMaldivian is the most prominent air operator in the archipelago. The seaplanes do not have a fixed schedule and need to be booked online in advance. They can accommodate up to 18 people at a time. Excess baggage is not allowed and demands extra charge. Depending upon the distance, an average ride can cost anything between USD 250 and 450.
2. Malé to Baros
Blessed with a secluded tranquil setting, Baros is a romantic haven for many couples visiting the island for a dreamy getaway. The enchantingly mesmerising island is a popular destination for exchanging vows or a tropical intimate honeymoon in the Maldives. Powdery white beaches outlined with lush vegetation and vivid coral reefs encircling the area, the panoramic views of the ocean, as well as the life thriving beneath it, attracts nature lovers and photographers worldwide. Adventure junkies can spend the day snorkelling and diving. There are also a few exotic bars and restaurants with mouthwatering cuisine. In fact, there is a lounge bar built inside a towering lighthouse. You can relish the delicacies here while listening to live jazz music and watching the 360 degrees view from its top. Candlelight dinner under the starry skies is a whole another experience. A unique experience is dining at The Piano, a little platform in the middle of a crystal clear lagoon. Even though Baros is a little higher on the expense side, the royal treatment you get at this paradise is worth everything.
3. Baros to Emboodhoo Finolhu
Next in line is the small private island situated a few kilometres off the southeast coast of Male known as Emboodhoo Finolhu. This island may be small in size but is vast in terms of recreation and relaxation. Reaching the island is simple. First, you take a public ferry from Baros to Male that departs at 8:45 from Hinmafushi, followed by a speedboat to Emboodhoo Finolhu. The public ferry runs only on Saturdays to Wednesdays, except for Mondays. Another way is to take a direct private speedboat from Baros to Emboodhoo Finolhu which is provided by the resort itself and takes around 25 minutes.
The small expanse of this island is perfect for those seeking relaxation away from all the hustle bustle of city life. In fact, the comfort and luxurious abode of your resort will not make you want to leave your room. The most acclaimed resort here is a gem of the Indian hotel franchise Taj and is called Taj Exotica Resort. This 5-star resort, which looks like a bud from the sky, speaks of class and royalty. The posh overwater villas are furnished with supreme facilities, including a traditional Indian inspired Jiva spa centre and a sunset dining service on the beachside. One of the largest lagoons of the region encircles this island and has a large coral reef beneath, hence, making snorkelling and scuba diving the most picked water sport here. You can spend your day lazing at the beach or enjoying the breezy weather in your villa's hammock or simply strolling the island. The sumptuous food served at a Japanese restaurant attracts gluttons as they relish the delicacies in its open kitchen. At night, the tourists prefer hanging out at the jazzy bars like the Equator Bar.
4. Emboodhoo Finolhu to Biyadhoo
Once you enter the vicinity of Biyadhoo Island, you'll realise what the fuss is all about. The translucent blue water surrounding the island gives a faded image of the precious corals resting beneath. The tides and winds are just right to adventure the deep ocean. An international diving school operating on the island gives high standard PADI courses and even assists the tourists in finding the best snorkelling or diving spots. And to top it all, you'll find sea turtles, manta rays and friendly reef sharks accompanying you in your underwater expedition. Hence, Biyadhoo has emerged as the premier destination for water sports in the Maldives. Paddleboarding, canoeing, windsurfing, and sailing are also a popular choice. Hence, on this island, the major chunk of your time will be spent on the beach. The Biyadhoo Island Resort is a tropical paradise that helps in making your stay comfortable and rejuvenating. The luxurious accommodations of your private villas will make you reluctant to leave your stay. Well, in that case, there are many sports like volleyball, badminton and board games organized by the resorts to keep their guests entertained. In the end, you can take the exquisite sand massages and exotic spas offered at Himeyn Spa that de-stress to the core and take away all the holiday exhaustion.
5. Biyadhoo to Vaadhoo
Situated in the northern side of Raa Atoll, this island has a pristine pearly white beach. During the day, the tourists spend their time bathing in the sea or strolling in the sand. But it's during the night when the beach reveals its secret. Millions of tiny fluorescent blue specks glow in the ocean when the stars ascend into the night sky, making the sea look like a mirror of the glittery sky. Such mesmerizing panorama of the 'Sea of Stars' makes Vaadhoo a 'must visit' island in the archipelago. The sea glows every night due to the bioluminescent planktons floating near the shore. This brilliant natural phenomenon has attracted many filmmakers and has appeared in many movies. The magical aura that sets once the beach glows cannot be afforded to miss. To get a better look at the local life and how the Maldivians practice their religion, you can visit the Vaadhoo mosque.
Wherever you go, go with all your heart.