We closed out our Asia trip with a visit to the Maldives, a true island paradise. Then, after a few days on the Maldivian island of Huraa, we flew to Singapore for the weekend to visit with some good friends and closed out our Asia trip for good. The Maldives are world famous for their white sand beaches on their thousands of islands and their crystal clear aquamarine waters. In this regard, they did not disappoint. We snorkeled, and scuba dived, and fished, and boated to our own private island to play in the white sand.
1. Speedboat ride through pod of dancing dolphins –
When flying internationally into the Maldives, you fly into the island of Male. It is a three-island bridge-connected complex with your typical city and large buildings. However, the magic of Maldives lies far, far and away outside of Male. There are literally hundreds of resorts that are built on their own private islands. Each had its own private boat shuttle directly from the airport. Or you might hop onto an island hopper plane from Male to an island which is too far to take a boat to. In our case, we hired a private boat to take us to our guesthouse on the Island of Huraa. During the 30-minute ride, we happened to pass through a pod of dolphins. They jumped up out of the water spontaneously, and did multiple spins in the air before splashing back down into the water. It was so unexpected to see Sea World-like activity out in the wild and wide-open ocean.
2. Scuba diving in the Maldives!
We all did a single tank dive at a dive site called the “Aquarium,” and what an aquarium we swam through! It was one of our best dives ever, with warm water (no wetsuit required), crystal clear waters, beautiful & colorful coral, multitudes of reef fish all about the coral reef, sea turtles, moray eels, new and comfortable equipment, friendly and attentive dive guides, no currents and very light surface swell, and white-tipped sharks in the distance as a bonus. It was memorable swim in a beautiful reef, and a super comfortable and inspiring dive.
3. Private Island playing and snorkeling on the beach –
The Maldives is full of small uninhabited islands where one can take a boat and enjoy an afternoon of private beach relaxation and play. We went twice to our own little island. It actually had an old abandoned structure on the island, which we explored, but the real treat was the sand and sun and reef. The snorkeling was awesome, as we snorkeled out to the edge of reef before it dropped off from about 10 feet down to 30 or 40 feet. We hung out at the edge, and watched all the fish and turtles and swirls of color swim all around. Everyone snorkeled and truly enjoyed a perfect beach vacation. On the beach, we collected hundreds of hermit crabs and dug out an entire crab complex in the sand for them to roam and explore. Shell collecting was also a major activity and simply enjoying the water and sand and sun.
4. Local small-island life
We chose not to stay in one of the private resorts, but instead found a guesthouse on Airbnb on the local island of Huraa. We were right across the water from the 4 Seasons resort, and just south of the Club Med resort. Our guesthouse was comfortable, but definitely not fancy. But the water was the same, and the sunrises and sunsets were the same, and the diving was the same. Our price was about $150/room per night, if you included meals. We happened to look up the 4 seasons resort, and found that the price there was $1500/room per night. Quite a difference! Plus, we were able to be surrounded by locals instead of just tourists. It gave us the opportunity to meet and talk to many villagers who grew up on the island, to see tons of locals jogging and exercising on the beach each morning (ladies in full burka), and to explore a Muslim village full of families enjoying their small island life. We absolutely enjoyed our budget version of the Maldives and would do the same if we return.
5. Fun final weekend in Singapore
We flew from the Maldives to Singapore to stay for a couple of nights. We were able to go to church on Sunday and spend some time with our good friends the Dawsons - friends of ours from our days in Brunei and the Netherlands. We loved visiting them when they lived in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur - so of course, now that they live in Singapore, as visit there was in order, as well. Charlotte gave us a tour of Chinatown and we went to dinner with their family at their favorite great dim sum place, which was amazing. After 7 weeks of mostly off-the-beaten-path Asia, it was fun to enjoy "Asia-light", walk along Orchard street at night, and get a blast of over-the-top consumerism and early Christmas lights and sights and sounds of Singapore.
Plan? What plan?
Our first Gap Year was a fabulous "2017-2018 School Year" of travel: from the Netherlands to Jordan to Texas to Hawaii to Mexico to Central America to London and back to the Netherlands. Our "2018 Summer Vacation" took us all around Western Europe, back to the USA on a transatlantic cruise, a road trip through New York and into Canada, and ending up in Utah. We have now kicked off the "2018-2019 School year" with a trip to Asia. Follow along with us on our visits to new places, as well as revisiting some of our favorite places from our time living there. It's going to be great!!