My Maldives holiday was planned over nine days, with an itinerary at Coco Plam Dhuni Kolhu, Coco Bodu Hith and The Residence including snorkeling with a marine biologist, a sunset dolphin cruise, paddle boarding, jet skiing and spa treatments.
I saw some wonderful sights and had amazing experiences, but my trip did not go as planned at all…
After arranging to spend Saturday morning with my family and the afternoon with P’s, I decided to double check our flight times the night before and discovered we need to be at the airport in the morning…not the evening.
So that was stressful.
We packed quickly and were forced to sacrifice two ASOS deliveries, leaving P heading to the Maldives without any shorts…
We got to Heathrow two hours before our 10-hour flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka. We then hopped onto a short, one-hour flight to Male.
The Maldives may be the smallest Asian country according to landmass, with the smallest population, but it is the world’s most widely dispersed country.
Dotted around the 26 atolls (coral reef rings surrounding lagoons), are the 1,200 islands that make up the spread of the country located in the Indian Ocean. Only 200 are lived in, another 100 are tourist resorts and the remaining are unpopulated.
The vast dispersion means that where we would get on a coach, here you need a speedboat and for further locations where a train is necessary, here you have to take to the sky in a seaplane.
I was terrified to go in one I have to be honest. I’m not very good at flying, I hate the feeling of ascending and descending so in a little plane that carries 15 people plus two pilots, I thought that feeling would be intensified.
Actually, it was very smooth and the loud whirring of the propellers combined with the vibrations sent me straight to sleep!
Day one: Getting to grips with the island
Dhuni Kolhu is made up of island villas and water villas. We’re lucky enough to be in an island villa, which, as it was first to be built as a sample when the resort was created, and has a larger pool. The others have circular plunge pools for cooling off, while we have a square pool – still not big enough for swimming.
All the pools use salt water and it is a good thing too, after a few days one of the managers tells me that on the previous night a huge turtle was discovered in one of the pools. It had somehow managed to make it down the stairs into the water and decided to fall sleep right there – it took four men to carry her back to the water.
Turtles come to the island often, although not usually to the villas, and nest there during the summer months. Depending when you visit, you may have the chance to see turtles hatching. Visiting in November meant we were too late, but every visitor to Coco Palm on Dhuni Kolhu in the Maldives is guaranteed to see turtles due to the island’s sanctuary.
There were five turtles when we visited, each had been found trapped in nets in the ocean and needed treatment for wounds and infections. Many of them had to have a fin, or even two, amputated due to the severity of their wounds.
Their injuries, or tapped air inside their shell and lungs, means most of them were unable to dive down into the water which is necessary for turtles to get food in the wild. The resident vet goes out to the sea to help them improve their swimming every single day. Ultimately, the goal is always to treat the turtles and enable them to return to the wild.
Anyway, back to my lovely little villa. One side of the house leads to a garden with an open-air toilet (yep, did my business out in the open) and a shower (this felt a little more luxurious and exotic than the latter).
The large room had a magnificent four-poster bed draped with a mosquito net, facing two doors that lead to the back garden. Here there is decking with two sun loungers, a table with chairs and a little cushioned area with a roof above it – that’s why I’m sitting right now as I write this; because it is raining again (November is not rainy season, I will explain the unfortunate weather conditions later). It is far too beautiful out here, surrounding by wildlife, to hide inside.
At the end of the outdoor area, in one corner, hidden between the bushes, is a pathway that leads round to the beachside where two more sun loungers can be found.
Another plus side of our villa (number 28, if you’re interested to know) is that the stretch of beach is walled by sandbags which makes it far more private than for other villas who share the beach with their neighbours.
FYI – the sandbags are placed there, as they are in many areas of the island shore, to help combat the erosion of the island.
Unsurprisingly, the first thing we do is head into the sea. It is a spectacular light blue colour, completely transparent and a very inviting temperature. I pop on some goggles and swim out into deeper waters, spotting quite a few little fishes. P remains at the shore so when a large fish swims past me I have to admit I freaked out, and swam back to him for safety.
The following day I would overcome this aquatic fear, swimming among the coral reefs and seeing wild turtles….
Day two: snorkeling, more TURTLES and spa treatments
I wake up in our four-poster bed very excited, but very nervous. This morning we are going snorkeling. I have attempted to snorkel once before, in Sierra Leone. A fisherman took me and two friends out into the depths of the sea, gave us snorkels, and told us there was a shipwreck below we could look at. With no explanation as to how to use snorkels we did a lot of choking, and the dark skies created black waters that made it impossible to see where you are going and very frightening!
Thankfully, this time we went with an expert, a marine biologist in fact. We sail 30 minutes from our resort and then in we go in. I’m so nervous that when they tell me to jump in I do so, before removing all my of clothes. Woops.
Later, when I am hideously sunburnt I will regret not swimming in a t shirt, but be glad that the shorts stopped my bum from getting burnt so at least sitting down didn’t hurt.
As soon as I get myself into position and set off swimming with everybody I stop worrying, there’s not time for it because I cannot believe what I am seeing.
To be honest, most of what I know about coral reefs comes from Finding Nemo and, if I’m really honest, I spent a lot of the time thinking things like: “That’s Dory!” and “Oh look at Nemo’s dad coming out of the sea anemone, just like in the film!”
I have seen Blue Planet, sure, but as with everything here in the Maldives, you really cannot appreciate something’s beauty unless you see it with our own eyes.
We swim for more than an hour, not getting tired thanks to our flippers and continued wonderment. We see two turtles (I imagine them with an Australian accent, as they have in Finding Nemo) and one actually swims alongside us for a while! I get up close but then a little fear returns and I retreat back to the others.
When we return to the island, by the time we’ve had lunch and returned to our villa I’ve gone from pink to red. Thankfully, that afternoon we are booked into the spa for a massage. We both choose the Balinese massage which isn’t too rough, P gets his done with a selection of essential oils but these would have irritated by sore skin so I get the simple and nourishing coconut oil.
I have had full body massages before, and always left wishing the entire time had been spent on my back. This time, however, every inch of me was in heaven, to the way she stretched my feet and rubbed the back of my ankles (weirdly wonderful), to the head massage which finally beat my efforts to stay awake after our morning exploration.
Day three – cyclone Ockhi and sunburn ruins everything
Today isn’t worth much of a mention. It rained in the morning so our trip to a local island was cancelled. In the afternoon we discover that cyclone Ockhi has hit the south-east coast of Sri Lanka and the tail end is effecting the whole of the Maldives, with heavy wind and rain grounding all flights.
I have to admit I was slightly relieved, due to the severe sunburn followed with two bottles of wine that night I was suffering with sunstroke. Thanks to the bad weather I slept all morning guilt-free.
The sun came out before lunch so we took our snorkeling stuff with us to go exploring at the beach but didn’t find much to see.
That afternoon the rain returned. We jumped into our pool nonetheless and then sat next to it in the cushioned (and covered) area, listening to music, watching the rain and writing blog posts hoping for better weather tomorrow….
Day four – sunshine, swimming and DOLPHINS
Sunshine! Hooray! That morning we hopped on a boat with a few other guests to a local island.
We explored the schools and streets and shops, and watched some men fishing with nothing but string and their hands while kids played badminton on the street nearby. The children are on holiday at the moment, so the village was quiet but interesting and beautiful nonetheless.
We have a lazy day to enjoy the sun and we take a walk around the whole island. We see lots and lots of crabs and find a rocky spot with fish swimming in and out, much like in the coral reef. Soon we reach a set of water villas, much like those beside our villa and I am shocked that there is another set I missed.
If you have been to the Maldives before you have probably already guessed my mistake… It is not another set – we have already walked the entirety of the island because it is so small.
Of course, silly me!
At half past five we set off on a sunset cruise to spot some dolphins before they dive into the deep for a sleep. We find them quickly, and I am amazed at how they are exactly how you imagine. Swimming in and out of the water tops, jumping into the air and spinning or doing flips. A few whistles or claps draws them out of the water and they give quite a show.
It is a beautiful sight and it is a delightful experience, running from side-to-side of the boat so as not to lose sight of them.
It is our last night on Coco Palm, Dhuno Kolhu island, and what a way to end it. Or so we thought…
Day five – cyclone Ockhi gets serious
So it turns out yesterday wasn’t our last day after all. We planned to spend the morning paddle boarding, something P is dubious about, but having done it twice before I have been repeatedly reassuring him that it’ll be fine.
Can you guess what happens? Rain hits, again. By the time we reach midday and are checking out of our wonderful villa it begins to come down harder than we have yet seen and the wind howls, whipping the plants hard.
I become very concerned about the safety of those little seaplanes but I needn’t have been – we aren’t going anywhere. We wait for a few hours in reception before they return our villa keys to us and tell us we’ll be staying another night.
With the rain and the wind making any activity completely impossible (apart from the gym which my sunburn will not yet allow) we get back into bed and watch Netflix… Not an activity I had envisioned for us in the Maldives.
By the evening the rain subsides but the strong winds continue, we are advised to check out at 6am the following day for an early flight. We are promised a wake up call half an hour before….
Day six, SIX?
P wakes me at half past six: “We’re meant to have checked out,” he worries.
I know better than to worry about this, guessing that we should be more worried about our flight. A call to reception confirms what I already know: we can go back to sleep. They hope to put us on a plane by 10am.
Skip forward 10.45am and we are told we will be called when we can get on a flight. There is no rain, but the wind is loud.
We spend another day watching Netflix and in the evening head to the gym. It’s not that modern and it is definitely minimal, but the outdoor decking is a lovely place to get those squats done. Then we hop in the Jacuzzi, which isn’t as warm as we would have liked, what with the cyclone and all…
My whole body is peeling. We check out of our villa for the third time and there is actually sunshine but I hide from it. The rain and wind comes briefly and subsides, but we get a little lounging time in between. After waiting for another day, we finally get on a seaplane before it starts to get dark and we head back to Male.
In the extra days at Coco Palm on Dhuni Kolhu, we should have gone to Coco Collection’s second resort, Bodu Hithi and when we finally get back to Male it is too late to get to our third destination as it is so far south. We have two nights before our flight out of the Maldives and so are forced to make emergency arrangements near the airport and wait it out…