A mere mention of the Maldives floods the mind with paradisiacal imagery of crystal clear seas and pristine white sands. If your idea of bliss is basking in the coastal sun with a cocktail in hand, then welcome to heaven. But what is there to do in The Maldives apart from topping up your tan?
Often dismissed as a picturesque haven for a romantic honeymoon, or a retreat for stressed souls; the best things to do in the Maldives are often overlooked. Here at Exoticca we’ve compiled a list of what to do in this textbook definition of paradise of 1,200 islands. Therefore, there are plenty of excuses to leave the sunlounger – only if you really want to that is.
Visit the fish market
If tropical beaches are the face of the Maldives then the Malé fish market is its soul. Bursting with locals bargaining for the best deal on massive skipjack, yellowfin tuna, groupers, sea bass, red snappers, dolphin fish, and barracuda – a stroll around the market is a sensory overload after being immersed in coastal tranquillity. Over 30 per cent of the population is actively involved in fishing, making it the second biggest industry after tourism. Located on the north side of the island and a stone’s throw away from the harbour, one of the main attractions is watching local fisherman sail right up to the market to unload their daily spoils.
Visit the Grand Friday Mosque
This striking mosque juts out of the Malé skyline with its golden domes and immaculate white walls. Constructed in 1984 with a helping hand from Pakistan and the Arab states of the Gulf, this impressive structure is an icon of the capital. Situated close to the main square, the biggest temple of worship in the Maldives can be visited outside of prayer times: 9 am – 5 pm. Hoards of inadequately dressed camera-happy tourist are not encouraged, but if you dress appropriately and ask at the gates the staff will be more than happy to let you in. Men must wear long trousers, whereas women should put on a long skirt or dress.
Marvel at Malé
Malé is packed to the edges with colourful buildings shooting skywards and locals buzzing to and fro; the contrast from easygoing island life is plain to see. On first impressions, the sheer density of the capital is somewhat overwhelming. Yet, if you’re looking to discover more about local city life then look no further. Traipse the bustling streets, enter Its raucous markets and sip a coffee in the quirky alcohol-free cafes to do as the Maldivians do.
Snorkel or dive
Due to its mixture of warm shallows and staggering depths of over 4,000 metres, the Maldives’ share of the Indian Ocean is home to an abundant mix of marine life. The crystal clear waters and stunning coral reefs inhabited by dolphins, manta rays, giant turtles, sharks, richly coloured tapestries of exotic fish, and whale sharks visible all year round, are a snorkeller’s dream. Most hotels have equipment available for hire or provide it free of charge. For those who want to delve even deeper into this underwater wonderland, there are a multitude of diving centres. Not only do they provide services for amateur divers; courses to become PADI qualified are also on offer.
Hop on a seaplane
Why not appreciate the archipelago’s tranquil allure from the air? Seaplanes aren’t for the faint of heart, but a generous dose of adrenaline and unbeatable photo opportunities are assured. Don’t forget the camera and maybe a stiff drink for the nerves on this unique tour in the skies.
Dive into the glowing waters of Island Vaadhoo
The spotless beaches and leafy palm trees swaying in the tropical heat fool you into thinking that nothing is amiss. The island of Vaadhoo, however, keeps a secret until the sun sinks into the Indian Ocean: bioluminescence. Nighttime bathing in a sea of sparkling aquatic stars is as unique as it is mystifying. Only visible under the cloak of darkness, this natural wonder occurs when plankton enters in contact with the warm air, producing a light show of mesmerising blue and green hues on the water’s surface.
All of the hotels pride themselves on having access to an array of watersports including kayaking, paddle boarding or even surfing; if there are enough waves. For a different spin on yoga, sign up for a class, grab a paddleboard and stretch out on the ocean.
Disconnect on an uninhabited island
Become a real-life castaway – albeit with a scheduled return time – on one of the many uninhabited islands. What could be a better remedy for stress or the burdens of information overload than a secluded tropical island? Trips can be organised with your hotel or through one of the many travel agencies. Beware: the idea of staying a night may seem a tantalising idea, but sometimes the changing tides mean that your exclusive paradise can be flooded overnight.
Go fishing on a dhoni
Fishing is a polarising subject, to say the least, yet fishing on a traditional Maldivian dhoni, well that’s a different matter. A dhoni is a charming multipurpose sailboat typical to these islands. Embark on one of the organised trips to learn more, and gain first-hand experience, of islander life. Letting a band of fishermen show you the ropes while shuttling along the Indian Ocean on a quest to find the catch of the day, is as Maldivian as it gets.
Enjoy a relaxing spa
After all that action, spoil that weary body by indulging yourself with a well-deserved spa day. Sitting on bamboo stilts above the invitingly vivid sea or nestled in the middle of a deep blue lagoon – The Maldives’ take on extravagant spa centres can stand toe-to-toe with the best of the best. For instance, their extensive range of therapies including hydro pools, steam rooms, saunas, herbal spas and beautifully serene views are some of the best in the world.