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Maldives Travel Guide

I Went to the Maldives. I Regret It.

This was NOT the paradise I had imagined.

What I knew about the Maldives I knew from Instagram and from tabloid photos of celebrities frolicking along white sand beaches. I knew the Maldives to be home to paradisiacal views, dazzling beaches, and the kind of gentle, lapping waves I have always sought out. With the journey from New York to the Maldives lasting upwards of 20 hours, I knew I was unlikely to visit its picture-perfect shores any time soon. That is until a work trip brought me to India on short notice. With the trip confirmed, I tacked on a few vacation days and booked a flight out to the island nation’s capital, Malé, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I needed to experience this paradise for myself.

Paradise Almost Found

The emptiness of my Air India flight to Malé should have created a sense of foreboding, but it did not. I read the pamphlet listing items prohibited in the Maldives feeling relaxed and compliant with local laws. I would not be transporting any spear guns, dogs, idols for worship, or pornography. Or so I thought.

At the Malé airport, I learned that while many resorts were a convenient ten-minute speedboat ride away, the one I had booked was a $350 40-minute seaplane ride away. Few tourists spend much time in the capital city, where bikinis are illegal, so I had to fork over the cash. While $350 is probably not much for a celebrity traveling with an entourage in tow, I was sad to part with it.

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The sight of the Trans Maldivian Airways seaplane calmed my fears. The cherry red decals on the propeller craft gave it the look of an anthropomorphized vehicle from a children’s story. Before we took off, the attendant confirmed all of our destinations. I was the only passenger onboard for the third and final stop.

Kara Panzer

At the first stop, two-thirds of the passengers disembarked. From above, their destination looked like a perfect jewel. The overwater bungalows were exactly as I’d imagined: pristine and luxurious. Our plane puttered off without fanfare. At the second stop, another resort island, the rest of the passengers deplaned. I sat in my window seat, watching fish dart about in the crystal-clear waters below.

“So, unfortunately, you have to get off here,” the attendant said, interrupting my reverie.

“What?” I said.

“Yeah, we can’t fly after dark, and with the boarding delays, we aren’t going to be able to make it to your resort. So, a boat is going to pick you up.”

“A boat is going to pick me up?”

“Yes,” he said. “And also, can you take this with you?”

He handed me a package of rolled-up papers.

“When is the boat coming?” I asked.

“Soon,” he said. “Soon.”

Kara Panzer

Anything but Relaxing

The plane took off into a technicolor sunset, leaving me marooned on the wrong island. The dock lacked the kind of accommodations that would make it a pleasant place to wait for a boat (i.e. seating and a stiff drink). I sat down on the edge, my feet dangling into the water, and waited.

I had ample time to contemplate my circumstances. What if they did this on purpose to use me as a mule for whatever was in that package of rolled-up papers? I wondered if my demise would even merit a Maldives-inspired tabloid story with a headline reading: “Naive New Yorker Jailed for Transporting Contraband in Paradise.”

After two hours of sitting alone on an empty dock, a boat did finally come. I gave the name of my resort.

“Yes, yes,” one of the men answered.

“How long to get there?” I asked.

“Ten minutes,” he said.

I considered my options. I had already spent $350 more than I planned to. The very fancy and expensive-looking resort behind me would set my wallet back even further. The sky was already dark. Ten minutes at sea with a few strange men in a very conservative country was not my top choice, but I decided to take my chances.

They loaded my belongings and the package of potential contraband into the small motorboat. Ten minutes passed. Then thirty. The resort behind us faded from view. Eventually, a string of lights appeared on the horizon, which I decided must be my resort. As we approached, I realized it was some sort of boundary marker. Our boat sped across the water, the nose slicing across the top of the water. An hour passed. An hour and a half. At this point, I assumed the worst had happened; that I’d been kidnapped. Sensing my growing discomfort, the driver turned the radio on, blasting the DJ Snake hit “Taki Taki.”

Around the two-hour mark, lights appeared again. This time they expanded into a real island. A hotel employee wearing a branded jacket greeted me at this dock, and I knew I’d been saved from my imagined fate. Sitting down in the spacious open-air lobby of my resort, I forgot all about the melodrama of my harrowing journey. They offered me a hot towel and a cocktail, and I handed over the roll of documents I’d been carrying in exchange.

Kara Panzer

A Lesson Learned

The next morning, I awoke in my own bungalow, and went looking for something to do. The options seemed limited to: being on the beach, eating on the beach, getting a massage on the beach. Almost no one was at the resort, save for a few British couples. I had my pick of tables at mealtimes. I called my sister, desperate for a sympathetic ear.

“It must be heavenly,” she said.

“No. There’s nothing to do here,” I told her. My imagined kidnapping had been the most exciting part of the whole trip.

“Isn’t that the point?” she asked.

“Didn’t Kim Kardashian lose her diamond earring in the water here? Maybe it’s washed up on my island, and I can find it,” I mused.

“No,” my sister said. “I think that was Bora Bora.”

Maybe Bora Bora offered better things to do. I waded into the ocean, which felt as easy as stepping into a bath. As promised, the water stretched out from the shores of the island in an otherworldly blue. The tropical sun shone down gently and subdued. My accommodations were clean and nice, but without anyone to share it with, it wasn’t as much fun as I’d hoped. I didn’t find any lost treasure or romance on my trip, but I did learn an important lesson: for me at least, paradise alone is no paradise at all.

Kara Panzer
awkbod June 29, 2024

This was a fun story to read. I can completely relate with the anxiety that you experienced when on the boat ride. This is a completely normal emotion based on the unexpected change.  I'm glad it worked out for you!  I hope you got the rest and relaxation you sought as this is the prime reason for going somewhere like this. Hopefully next time, your companion can join you. Thanks for sharing!

WJG222 November 2, 2023

Did this author know anything about the area before visiting?  Did anyone fact check this?  I literally just returned from the Maldives.  
First of all, Bikinis are not against the law.  They are frowned upon at PUBLIC beaches, not in private resorts.  Not at all.  Same with alcohol--fine on resorts, not served at general public locales.  This is a Muslim country.  They have their rules, and when not a resort, one must be respectful of that.
The resort islands I visited were not near Male, but the resort itself arranges transfers which included domestic flights and a boat ride when my inbound flight was too late for a seaplane.  And my "15 minute boat ride" was just that: a 15 minute boat ride.  The resort had reps at every point of transfer to usher me through everything and explain everything.  I never had a question and was always in good hands.
As for things to do...there were watersports, excursions, swimming, spas, nature walks, etc.  You go to the Maldives to relax.  You can do nothing or do a ton of things by your own choice.  
This author doesn't even mention where she was staying--this is just a litany of complaints by someone who didn't do their research, didn't fact-check and squandered an opportunity to enjoy a heavenly and interesting location.

Faedus October 31, 2023

I was hoping I could come to the author's defense after those several negative comments above, but I don't think I can do so.  In fact I don't quite see the point of the article.  Did the author not realize she was travelling alone, until she arrived at her resort?  But I wouldn't pass judgment on the Maldives yet -- we still haven't heard from those two-thirds of her sea-plane passengers who may have planned things better than the author did.  Anyway, the very title of the article -- "I regret it" -- seems to hint at reasons why we might regret it too, if we go there, but no such reasons are given.  I finished the article with no reason to doubt that the Maldives could be a great destination for beach tourists who can get their acts together better than the author managed to. 

dlc90 October 29, 2023

What a ridiculous article I can only assume was posted for click-bait. It's offensive and inflammatory to Maldivians too who, on the whole, can't do enough for tourists. You imply they are drug traffickers and dodgy multiple times. I can't believe the editor approved it.  You chose a resort far away from Male and didn't plan your travel. You chose to go to the Maldives and expected there to be things to do... on a very remote island? Engage your brain and chalk this up as a lesson learned. 

badger_queen99 October 29, 2023

I'm not sure if you were told to give this "angle" for the article, but this is problematic in lots of ways and it isn't a helpful article for anyone weighing up whether to go.Yes, The Maldives isn't for everyone, it's expensive and it's quiet. However, the planning and logistics for transfers is usually meticulous and lots of what you've implicated as a poor experience seems to be down to your poor planning and poor attitude.The resort will always organise your transfer and communicate this this - I'm guessing you never responded to them informing them of your international flight arrival time. You didn't do any research on the destination or set yourself any expectations (15 minutes on Google would have helped you immensely) and instead choose to blame the country itself and make immature comments about the people and the providers.Any seasoned traveller knows that if you fail to plan, you have to roll with the punches. Instead, you choose blame everyone else around you, and I would reiterate, 15 minutes on Google would have helped you prevent most of what you experienced 🤦🏻‍♀️I'd urge anyone weighing up whether to go to seek out more balanced, mature points of view on this.