Maafushi is a rather small local island of Kaafu Atoll, about an hour and a half from Maldives capital city, Male. It is NOT A RESORT! but a local Island. Backpacking and low budget travel around the Maldives is getting increasingly popular, and why shouldn’t it? Staying on local islands provides a much deeper and more genuine travel experience of Maldives and the islanders who make up this awesome and somewhat frustrating little country.
The most important thing about visiting local islands in Maldives is to remember the laws of the land. Maldivian citizens are required by law to adhere to Sunni Islam, the country’s state religion, although as a guest- you are only required to respect their culture and (obviously) abide to the country’s laws. Maldivians are friendly and incredibly welcoming, especially on local islands, as compared to in Male’, the country’s capital, where it’s overcrowded and everyone’s in a hurry. On local islands you can expect a relaxed atmosphere with a slow pace environment. Just dress modestly when wandering around and remember that this isn’t the Florida where you can just show your skin off. =)
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit Maldives is during summer Feb- April which is the high season where everything will probably be booked up and twice or even three times as expensive. Wet season runs from May through to November, but if you want to save a hell of a lot, come then, where it might rain for a day or two but the majority of the time it’s around 30 degrees. I visited Maafushi during the first week of July. Although it’s the rainy season and gets a bit windy during late in the afternoons, it was sunny most of the time. I was there for 7 days and it only rained twice during in the evening on our last 2 nights in Maldives.
However, I want to tell you something, when I first planned to visit Maldives, topping on my list was to see the Blue Bioluminescent plankton that glows blue by the sea shore at night. Unluckily, we were not able to witnessed it, but the locals told us that these planktons are abundant during December. One of our guide during our half day island hopping excursion in Maafushi told us that he is 1000% sure that these planktons shows up every December in Maafushi Island at the public beach. So, if you want to see these natural phenomena, then by all means, fly there during December.
How to Get There
You can take both the local dhoni (boat) from Male — at the Villingili ferry terminal. The local boat leaves at 3PM from Male, and leaves Maafushi at 7.30AM (thats right, one departure a day folks) and operates on weekdays except Friday for 22 MVR (that’s about $1.50). The other option is to take a private speedboat, which can be arranged when you get out of the airport. Although a little pricey (150$ per trip up to 5 pax) it gets you there in about 40 minutes as opposed to an hour and a half on public transport or if you want, you can contact your Hotel in Maafushi and booked your shared speedboat transfer.
Most hotels in Maafushi offers shared speedboat transfer daily from airport to Maafushi and vice versa for 25$/way. Schedules are:
- From Airport to Maafushi – 9:15am and 6:00pm
- Maafushi to Airport – 8:00am and 5:00pm
Where to Stay
Maafushi is unlike other local islands here in Maldives. In 2004 it was heavily damaged by the Indian Ocean Earthquake, and since then,the island has benefited from the support of Irish and American Red Cross charities, which have built a sewage system and funded the buildings of homes for those that lost theirs. In addition, the islanders have worked tirelessly to achieve its current development- for example, there is desalinated and piped water into every household, internet service, solid mobile network and good roads. So, in 2010 when the government allowed the opening of guest houses on local islands, Maafushi was quick to secure an investment. Maafushi now boasts more than 30 guest houses – a great source of employment and income for local families.
While hostels and homestays are currently non-existent, you can expect delightful rooms and professional service from the many guest houses on the island. We initially booked at Holiday Lodge, but when we arrived,it was fully booked so the manager had us stay at their sister hotel – Masaaree Boutique Hotel which I’d wholly recommend them!
What to Do
Explore the island in and out. Maafushi has 2 gorgeous beaches, the public beach and I guess the foreigners beach? where most westerners does there sunbathing. Other than that, almost all hotels in Maafushi offers excursion activities, this means day tour/ activities around the island which includes: Night snorkeling, night fishing, half day island hopping tour, whale watching tour etc. You can actually scout for prices before booking your trip to get the best deal. However, since me and my cousins wants less hassle, we just made our booking through our hotel.
These are some of the excursions offered. Feels free to roam around Maafushi to get the best deals:
This is what we booked in our hotel:
- roundtrip speedboat transfer to Fihalhohi Resort (an exclusive resort with overwater bungalow. We stayed here for 2 nights) -110$ for the 5 of us.
- return transfer to the Airport on our last day – 120$ for the 5 of us.
- half day island hopping excursion – 23$ each
- Day trip to Centara Ras Fushi Resort (a 4 Star Exclusive Resort) -160$ each
What to Eat
Maldivian Hedhikaa (short eats) make great snacks between meals. They’re small snacks, usually made of smoked fish, grated cocnut, lime juice, onion and chilli, and deep fried. Delicious! They can be a little spicy, including bajiyaa (pastry stuffed fish), kulhi boakibaa (fishcake), keemia (fish rolls) and gulha (fishballs), and masroshi (small pancake stuffed with fish).
A traditional meal consists of rice and garudhiya(fish soup), with fish, chilli, lemon and onion. Curries are also used instead of garudhiya- it seems Maldivian cuisine is heavily influenced by Indian and Sri Lankan flavours and/or entire recipes. Beats Indian take out in England any day.
Roshi (chapati) and mas huni (made of grated coconut, fish, lemon and onions) is a really tasty and light meal, especially for breakfast.
Sweet dishes include custard, bodibaiy (rice mixed with sugar) and fruits such as bananas, mangoes, papayas, watermelon and passion fruit, are readily available whole or made into smoothies and mocktails. There’s something so refreshing about drinking coconut juice straight from the coconut..
Seafood… surprisingly not much seafood are offered in Maldives. I expected that Maldives caters wide variety of cheap seafood,but all it offered was tuna fish. Prawns, crabs and lobster are still very expensive.
BBQ dinner by the beach. Every night, hotels around Maafushi offers a buffet dinner by the beach ranging from 10$-14$ per person nett. This includes 4 main courses, some grilled fish and chicken, indian foods, desserts and drinks.
NB: Alcoholic beverages and pork are prohibited by law and found only in tourist resorts and liveaboards for tourist consumption. However, there is a Bar Yacht that is anchored near the island wherein you can inquire your hotel to reserved you so that the staff from the Bar yacht can give you a free ride to the yacht. But be wary, there drinks are expensive. =)