Maldives is one of the most beautiful places on earth. When people talk about the Maldives, they are referring to a collection of 1200 small islands, across 26 atolls (or small clusters of sandy islets) set in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Each atoll has its own variety of vibrant coral reefs teeming with lush underwater life – more than 1,000 fish species, 40 species of sharks, dolphins, turtles, tropical fish, manta rays, sting rays, sea turtles and even whale sharks.
Approximately 200 of these islands in the Maldives are inhabited, by a population of slightly only over 400,000. (think remote and sparse!). These geographical attributes make Maldives synonymous with beaches, blue lagoons and extensive reefs that offer an experience like no other. The Capital, Malé, sits on its own atoll. Travels between Malé and the other atolls are done via seaplanes, domestic airplanes or speedboats.
The Maldives is ideal for a short-haul family getaway. Families can plan their stays to fully take advantage of the different resort’s services, facilities and scenery. We love Maldives primarily for the chance of a lifetime to see the colourful marine creatures in their natural habitat (the Indian Ocean!) and to enjoy some undistracted time doing water-based activities together.
Both our kids fell in love with snorkelling in the Maldives as we swam among beautiful reef fishes every single day (and came face to face with an Eagle Ray and Puffer Fish!). Seeing these marine creatures in their natural habitat has strengthened our resolve as a family to conserve the oceans.
Why Maldives? Tell me more!
Here is a FAQ we’ve put together to help you plan your own Maldives vacation.
- How long is the flight to the Maldives? Which Airlines fly there?
The flight time from Singapore to Malé is a comfortable 4 hours 35 minutes. You will arrive into Malé at the Velana International Airport (MLE). There are currently 5 airlines that fly from Singapore to Malé – Air Asia, Sri Lankan Air, Silkair, Scoot and Singapore Airlines. We flew by Singapore Airlines. The Maldives is 3 hours ahead (GMT +5) of Singapore time.
2. How is the weather like in Maldives? When is a good time to visit?
The Maldives is a tropical country much like Singapore. Weather there can be hot and humid. The Maldives have two dominating seasons: a dry season (with little rain and lower humidity) that lasts from December-April. The wet season is (you guessed it) is wetter, characterized by stronger winds and rain, which lasts from May-November.
For snorkellers and divers, both seasons have their advantages: During the dry season, visibility is superb. During the wet season, the water temperatures are colder, so larger numbers of hammerhead sharks and reef sharks congregate in shallower waters. Visibility isn’t as good during the wet season hence the peak tourism season to the Maldives is from December to March.
We travelled to the Maldives during the June School Holidays (low peak, less crowded, cheaper rates). The weather was generally fine during our stay. It rained on the 1st two days of our trip (passing monsoon showers) but was sunny and hot most days.
3. How to get from airport to resorts? Are the speedboat transfers safe?
In order not to bust our budget, we only shortlisted resorts that are accessible via speedboat transfers from Malé. A sea plane transfer, though undeniably more novel experience for the kids, would easily set us back by USD350-500 per pax or USD1400-2000 per family! Next time perhaps, when we’ve more surplus.
Moreover, the last seaplane transfer leaves the resorts each day at 3pm (as opposed to the last speed boat transfers at 8pm). Our international flight out of Malé (via Singapore Airlines) is scheduled at 11.30pm. If we had opted for seaplane transfers, we would have to spend at least 6 hours idling at the airport. If your flight arrives into Malé at night, the sea planes may not be operational so you’ve to put up one night at a city hotel in Malé. So do be mindful of your flight timings when considering the mode of transfers.
The duration of speedboat transfers depend on how far the resorts are located from Malé. For our trip, the speedboat transfers averaged 45 minutes each way. The more remote your resort is, the longer the ride. Do remember to confirm your transfer arrangements with your hotel upon booking. As far as we know, none of the resorts in Maldives offer free airport to resort transfers. If you know any, please give a holler.
Safety onboard the speedboats was good and some were in fact, impressive. Everyone, including our preschooler was given a proper life vest prior to departure, with quick demonstration of safety procedures.
4. Can I snorkel if I can’t swim well or if I’m a beginner swimmer?
It’s best that you CAN swim when you come to the Maldives as it’s entirely surrounded by water. But if you’re not a competent swimmer (like me), the life vests help you stay afloat. We are so happy the weekly swim lessons for Buddy at The Swimming Room paid off and he took to snorkelling like a fish in water.
Our experience at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma was fantastic as the hotel provided free daily snorkeling lessons conducted by their water sports instructors. We picked up valuable snorkeling tips from the patient instructors and gained enough confidence to snorkel in the Indian Ocean the very same afternoon. They also provided fins and snorkels free for hotel guests’ use.
5. Do I need to bring / buy my own snorkeling gear?
For hygiene purposes, and also for better fit, we bought our own snorkeling gear in Singapore and brought them with us to the Maldives (sans the fins as it’s bulky).
Adult snorkeling gears are easily available in most resort retail shops but be prepared to pay more, and in USD. Children’s snorkeling gear is a bit trickier due to their limited sizes so we would advise bringing your own. We purchased our kids’ snorkelling gear from Ocean Paradise, Singapore’s premier swim wear specialist, located at Paragon Mall. Their kids snorkeling gear proved to be one of our best investment as it fitted our kids so well, like a glove. Both kids wore it to snorkel every day without any difficulties or complaints.
6. Is it safe for kids to snorkel in the ocean?
It’s generally safe to snorkel in the Maldvies but a lot depends on the weather of the day and your own level of water confidence. Some resorts like Club Med Kani require guests to pass a swimming test in the open ocean before allowing you to join their snorkelling trips. The Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma offers free snorkeling trips for the whole family at 9am each morning accompanied by their competent water sports instructors.
It’s best that at least 1 adult in the family is a confident swimmer. Even if the waters are clear and current seems tame, it’s wise to snorkel somewhere closer to shore before venturing any further. Never swim or engage in water-based activities when the winds are strong!
7. What else can I do if I can’t snorkel or go out to sea?
Choose a resort that offers good recreational facilities for families. Most resorts have their own pools and hammocks where guests can relax.
Club Med Kani offers their signature Kids’ Club Programme which occupy kids for large part of the day for children of various ages (from preschoolers to teens!). At the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma, our kids enjoyed art and craft and movie time at the Kids Club. At Grand Park Kodhipparu, the Kids Club is small but very clean. The staff was patient and accomodating. They engaged our kids in native leaf crafts and games like water balloons and table tennis while we sneaked off for a couple spa.
8. Where do I get food in the Maldives? What is their cuisine like?
Unless you are staying in Malé, your food options would be limited to what the resort offers. Choose a resort with half-board or full board plans to save costs. We find ala-carte dining rather pricey (Imagine paying USD10 for a glass of fresh apple juice and USD5 for a small bottle of still water! ).
We like the food in the Maldives. It’s a lot of fresh seafood (from the oceans!). Due to its geographical location (only 1 hour away from Sri Lanka); we find traditional Maldivian cuisines very similar to Sri Lankan and Indian cuisines (think naans, curries and spices). The spread at Breakfast and Dinner buffets would be international, with Chinese and Western dishes included.
9. Do they speak English? What is their official religion?
Tourism remains the Maldives’ main source of GDP. Hence, most Maldivians speak good English. Do note that the Maldives is a Muslim country so you are not allowed to bring alcohol into the country. Depending how near your resort is to Malé , you may occasionally hear the prayer calls blasting from neighbouring mosques.
10. What are some essentials to bring on a Maldives vacation?
- Good Quality Swim Wear
Not all swim wear are created equal. For a trip to the Maldives where we would be in and out of the sea (and pool) most part of the day, and constantly exposed to the hot tropical sun, you want to wear really good quality, quick-dry swim suits, with adequate SPF protection.
We got our kids’ swim wear and snorkeling gears from Ocean Paradise. The collection there is extensive, the helpful staff recommended the right swim wear and snorkeling gear for our trip. As seen in this post, our daughter Dana is wearing the Aussie brand Snapper Rock and Buddy is in Cabana Life. Stylish, durable, with SPF protection – perfect for a tropical beach vacay!
It goes without saying that in a tropical paradise like the Maldives, you would need tons of sunblock to protect your skin against the harsh sunlight. Ocean Paradise carries a wide range of sunblock for kids and adults.
- Water Shoes and Flip-Flops
Do not go into the waters without your water shoes (or a pair of fins). They protect your feet from cuts and abrasions from stepping on corals and sharp pebbles on the ocean floor. The water shoes are easily available at most swim wear stores or sports shop like Decathlon. Forget about your nice shoes and heels, we trotted everywhere in our flip flops all day long because essentially, the islands are made up of sandy beaches.
- A Sun Hat
What’s a beach vacation without wearing a hat? This and a smile, complete your obligatory holiday portraits in the Maldives. I bought the kids’ hats from GAP online. Also saw some on sale at SEED Heritage and Zara.
- Sea-sick Pills
If you are prone to sea sicknesses, it’s advisable to pack these pills along. The mode of transport is mainly by speedboat or by seaplane, either way, it may trigger motion sickness. It comes in extra handy if there’s a storm and your speedboat has to ride through choppy waves.
- Credit Card
Don’t have to worry about using local Maldivian currency. Everything in the Maldives resorts is priced in USD. We charge our food bills to the room and paid in USD with our credit cards upon check out.
- Water-proof Camera
To capture all your precious underwater snorkelling videos, we recommend bringing along a rugged, water-proof camera like the Go-Pro Hero 7. Putting your handphone in a waterproof case is not the same as you may not be able to use it while snorkelling.
- Family-Friendly Accommodations
One of the toughest decision during our trip planning is deciding where to stay. There are plenty of accommodation options, with some costing as much as USD1000-2000 a night. Unfortunately, as there are so many atolls (all with hard-to-pronounce names that don’t really indicate their geographical location), it can be hard to select a resort.
Do you opt for Beach villa or Overwater villa?? Do you book a resort that’s accessible by speedboat or do you choose one that’s only reachable by seaplane? Do you top up for Half-Board or Full-Board plans? Decisions, decisions.
For us, in the end, it all boils down to what we can afford. We stayed in 3 resorts for this trip, each with its own merits. Do note that not all resorts offer water-villa rooms to families with young children (below 8 years old). For those that did, we had to sign an indemnity form. Some resorts, like the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma, offer a ‘Kids Eat Free’ plan which helps to offset costs.
We will share detailed reviews of each resort in the coming weeks after we sort out our photos and videos. Meanwhile, hop over to our IG highlights – DIY Maldives!
Thanks to our sponsor, Ocean Paradise, we are giving away 1 set of kids’ swim suit (for 2 to 12 year-olds) to 1 loyal reader. The swim suit can either be a top & bottom, or a one-piece suit.
OCEAN PARADISE STORES
To participate in the giveaway, simply:
2. COMPLETE the steps in this Rafflecopter Giveaway (Click to open the hyperlinked widget. It is mandatory to fulfill the conditions).
The giveaway ends 20 July 2019 and is open to readers in Singapore. The winner will be contacted via FB inbox and will have 24 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be drawn. All steps must be completed and incomplete entries will be disqualified. Please note that all Facebook accounts (e.g. accounts set up purely to take part in contests with no authentic posts or very few real friends) will be disqualified. All the best!