With its white sandy beaches, alluring turquoise waters, luxury resorts and string of activities, the Maldives is fast becoming the summer destination for South Africans wanting to venture abroad.
South African celebrities like Anele Mdoda, Zozibini Tunzi and Khuli Chana and his DJ wife Lamiez Holworthy have travelled to the Maldives this year – enticing their travel starved followers to plan the same adventures.
And with the upcoming December holidays fast approaching, there’s bound to be a surge of South African travellers visiting the tropical destination.
If you are planning a visit to the destination, here’s what you need to know:
Travel from South Africa takes about 18 – 24 hours if you count layovers and travel time to the resort. There are flights from Durban, Cape Town and Joburg. Before you go, a negative PCR test is required 96 hours before arrival to the Maldives, and some resorts may ask for testing if you are visiting more than one property during your stay.
No pre-arrival visa is required to enter the Maldives. According to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s website, a 30-day free visa is issued on arrival for all nationalities. You will need to have a valid passport, a valid ticket to continue the journey out of Maldives and have enough funds to cover the expenses for the duration of the stay in the Maldives (this is usually $100 (R1 457) + $50 per day) or a confirmation of reservation in a tourist resort or a hotel.
What to pack
The Maldives offers warm weather, so carry plenty of swimwear, shorts, T-shirts and lightweight material clothing (cotton and natural fibre materials are preferable). Flip flops and sandals, as well as reef shoes, are recommended.
Also, pack sunscreen and insect or mosquito repellents if you do not want to get sunburned or bitten by mosquitos.
Passengers who bring prescription medication should carry supporting documents in case airport security flags them.
Carry an international adaptor as most properties use the UK-style three-pin. If you are travelling by seaplane to a resort, keep your luggage under 20kg per person. The seaplane company charges $5 per extra kilogram of baggage.
Do not bring any alcohol, chemicals, dogs, idols for worship, gunpowder and explosives, live plants and animals, medicines or steroids, materials contrary to Islam (including the Bible), narcotics and psychotropic substances, pork and pork products, pornographic material, spear guns, firearms and ammunition to the Maldives.
Importing or possessing drugs can carry severe penalties in the Maldives, including life imprisonment. The export of tortoise shells and coral is forbidden.
When you get to the destination
Once you arrive at the airport (Velana International Airport is the main airport in the Maldives), you will take a seaplane or a boat ride to your resort. Depending on how far your destination is, you may have to take another domestic flight.
The Maldivian currency is the Maldivian Rufiyaa, although the US dollar is accepted.
Prepaid SIM cards are available from two mobile network shops at the airport. Travellers can use them to make international and local calls or browse the web. Free wi-fi is available for guests at all tourist facilities.
Where to stay
There is no shortage of accommodation options in the Maldives. The tropical nation is composed of 26 ring-shaped atolls made up of more than 1 000 coral islands – many still uninhabited.
During a recent media trip to the Maldives, we spent time at three luxury resorts: Fushifaru, The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort and Hideaway Beach Resort and Spa.
Each resort is unique, which allows travellers to return to the destination to experience it differently.
Fushifaru, for example, is perfect if you want to immerse yourself in the Maldivian culture. Here, you can enjoy a Thaana class to learn about the Dhivehi language, how to husk a coconut and watch how locals climb trees to fetch coconuts.
They also offer cooking classes that give a glimpse into Maldivian cuisine.
The Westin is more health and wellness driven with a string of superb foodie experiences worth trying.
The chic resort, situated on the Unesco Biosphere Reserve in Baa Atoll, allows guests to immerse themselves in water activities like snorkelling and paddleboarding.
Hideaway Beach Resort is the epitome of barefoot luxury with private villas with beach access or overwater views.
Spend your days lazing on your day bed or private infinity pool, go snorkelling or take a sunset cruise to see dolphins.
When booking a resort, make sure you book a fully inclusive package. That way, you do not have to worry about forking extra cash during the duration of the trip.
Some resorts offer select activities, so ask what’s on offer before checking in.
What to do
The Maldives has an array of activities to suit all kinds of travellers. Watersports are incredibly attractive for travellers-from snorkelling, paddleboarding, kayaking, jet skis and more.
Many resorts offer flyboarding, which appeals to adrenaline-fuelled travellers.
Floating breakfasts are not only perfect for the Instaworthy images, but it also offers a selection of delicious foods that you can savour as you feast on the views.
The Maldivian cuisine features heavily at some resorts, with some offering cooking classes for guests.
Maldives is home to many beautiful mosques, so plan a trip with a tour guide to learn about its history. Be mindful of the prayer times and wear modest clothing.
For more information, visit https://visitmaldives.com/en
Read the latest issue of IOL Travel here: