Male - For South Africans, the prospect of overseas travel has become ever more remote as the value of the rand has steadily declined. As a result, people are searching for options more affordable than the South African traditional tourist bucket-list destinations in Europe and the United States.
The answer, in recent years, has often been to look to Southeast Asian nations like Malaysia or Indonesia. Far cheaper than Europe or the United States, and boasting beautiful warm oceans, it’s an obvious choice.
Increasingly, however, more South Africans are discovering the archipelago nation known as the Maldives. According to the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), the nation’s official tourism body, in 2015 there was a 39.9 percent increase in the number of South Africans visiting the islands.
For many South Africans, the image of the Maldives is that of high-end, exclusive luxury resorts. Harish Mohamed, acting Managing Director of the MMPRC doesn’t dispute that image. “Of course we are known for our Resort Hotels. These fully self-contained resorts are isolated islands - the Maldives is made of 1192 islands - catering to everything you’d need to enjoy your stay at the resort hotel. Spas, gyms, water sports, diving clubs, different restaurants specialising in local and international cuisine - are entirely catered for on the island.”
But Mohamed also points out that Resort Hotels are no longer the only option for those who want to “enjoy the sunny side of life”.
“In recent years, the Maldives has also started bringing budget holidays to travellers. The guest houses based in local islands are now an emergent market. Islands close to our capital, Malé, like Hulhumale, Maafushi and Thulusdhoo now provide accommodation that suits all pocket.
These islands also offer the same sunny side of life, with white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Facilities such as dive schools, restaurants, and spa treatments are also available on these islands.”
But there are other factors that have added to the rise in South Africans travelling to the Maldives.
For instance, with their being no need for South Africans to obtain a visa to visit the Maldives, one of international travel’s biggest hassles is not a concern. Additionally, with the Maldives being a former British protectorate - they celebrate their 50th year of independence this year - English is widely spoken.
However, one of the Maldives’ biggest draw-cards for South Africans is that their currency, the rufiyaa is practically 1:1 with the rand so there’ll be no nasty surprises when checking your credit card statement when you’re back home.
Whether visiting for a holiday lazing on the world’s most beautiful beaches, or an activity packed scuba-diving trip exploring some of the richest and most captivating ocean life, the Maldives is a destination that can be friendly to South African pockets.
Adapted from a press release for IOL