Where is that? It’s the normal question from someone who is not familiar with the country of Maldives. It is a small country consisting of several islands located in Indian Ocean. Its neighboring countries are India and Sri Lanka.
There is no direct flight from Saudi Arabia going to Maldives as far as I know. So we opted to book an airline which shows cheaper flight fare in anyhow to Male neglecting the long transit hours on returned flight. My first choice was the Sri Lankan air which has daily flight from Dammam, Saudi Arabia to Male, Maldives with two hours stop over in Sri Lanka. However, I was surprised that Oman Air is also flying to the country at a very good offer. A very good opportunity especially booking a flight four months before the expected vacation date.
Finding a resort in Maldives was the hardest things I’ve done. Luxurious and with star ratings. But I sorted my category into child friendly resort and its distance from the main island. The closer the resort from the main island will give me a cheaper option and health security especially when traveling with a toddler.
We departed Saudi at night and have a couple of hours transit at Muscat in Oman. Oman Airline is flying to Male but I noticed that only few passengers was on the flight.The morning clouds covered some of the beautiful islets of Maldives as we’re cruising above the country after more than three hours on board. We tried to get pictures until we finally landed in the smallest main international airport I’ve been. The airport, itself is an island, surrounded by water.
Male International Airport has no passenger tubes so the passengers have to walk to the plane parking area and entered the terminal building for immigration processing. There are few questions from the officer like how many days and which hotel we are going to stay. A 30 days visa stamped on our passport which normally given to most of the nationalities arrived in Maldives.
We went out and removed our jackets for the weather was humid and hot. We looked for a hotel representative whom I called an hour before we departed from Saudi Arabia. He confirmed that a hotel staff will fetch us at the airport. We didn’t find anyone from the hotel, so I managed to exchange money to local currency (one dollar=15 rufiyaa) as I heard that there is limited ATM and only American dollars and local currency rufiyaa are accepted. I bought a mobile sim for 120 rufiyaa which will function for a week. I immediately called the hotel and the guy from the line asked me to wait for 10 minutes. We waited for 10 minutes at the airport exit (after the travel agent booths) until I saw the cab with the hotel name arrived. He immediately recognized us and we headed to our first hotel in the country for two nights.
Location: Hulhumale, Kaafu Atoll, Maldives
Where I stayed: Rivethi Beach Hotel
Rivethi Beach Hotel is a 10-minute drive from the airport. A new hotel offering a beach front accommodation in the man-made island Hulhumale. All staffs here are all men but very accommodating. We checked in early. Normally, the check-in time is 12nn but we arrived at 8am. We’re lucky that the hotel was not fully book and the room was available for it was not peak season. We checked-in without additional charges and gave us welcome drinks.
All staffs from the driver, reception, housekeeping, and restaurant are all courteous and nice. As we were experiencing jet lag, we decided to sleep until noon time. In the afternoon, we walked on the white sand shore observing how the local people here lived and finding a store for some snacks as well. We ended our snacks/dinner back in the hotel with a pasta (the waiter told it was not spicy but it still hot) and a sandwich.
We asked the receptionists about the excursions they were offering and if there was available trip to Male. They even urged us that we must visit the capital. We also asked if a guide was necessary and they politely said that it was not needed. The capital is small and safe to roam.
In the afternoon, the receptionist helped us to get a taxi to bring us to the ferry terminal. The flat rate for taxi in Maldives is 25 rufiyaa. From the jetty, we rode a public passenger boat for 5.50 rufiyaa each. These passenger boats depart the jetty in every 25 minutes which is also the travel time going to the capital. Once the boat docked and unload passengers, the incoming passengers will get in.
We arrived in Male after passing both commercial and tourist boats, cruising the busy bay of Hulhule. From the port, we hired a taxi to bring us to the famous Sultan Park. We strolled inside the park and spotted the museum, the mansion, the mosque, until we reached the park where the Maldivian’s military were preparing for the independence celebration. The public event was the reason why all those buildings were closed. We also stopped in one souvenir shop at the side of the park. As we’re confused about the name of attractions and government buildings, we stopped a vacant taxi and asked the driver if he could guide us to the tourist attractions we have not yet known. We both agreed with 200 rufiyaa for an hour guide. We are very thankful that we stopped the right person who told us a lot about Maldives tourist spots, economy, history, and its people. We were informed of those building names (National Museum, Islamic Center, Independence Square) and he also shown us important buildings in Male such as the president mansion, public hospital, schools and university, water supply plant, the main streets, famous stores, tombs, old mosques, and Maldivian’s apartment. I observed that most infrastructures in Male were built in small scale.
After an hour of strolling, stopping, questioning and answering portion, we understand and we knew a lot about Maldivians. Thanks to the driver, he gave us a lot of information. Instead of dropping us to the ferry terminal, we requested the driver who became our instant tour guide to drop us to his recommended restaurant. He dropped us to Shell Bean Restaurant, a few minutes walk to the terminal. A well known to tourist because it was always full. The place was too small for so many costumers coming in and out.
After a full meal in Shell Bean, we returned back to our hotel in Hulhumale. I completed the first thing to be done on this trip which is to visit Male, the capital city of Maldives.