(Edit: Competition closed, winner announced at the end of the blog post). Read this post if you want to stand a chance to WIN a return trip for 2 from South Africa to Maldives along with 7 nights’ accommodation in two resorts plus hotel transfers, courtesy of Air Seychelles and Visit Maldives. This detailed travel blog includes information and clues along the way which you will need to answer 6 questions to be in the running to win the competition.
Maldives: The sunny side of life
*The answer to question 4 and 5 can be found here.
The archipelago of 1 192 coral islands is grouped into a double chain of 26 atolls that float in the Indian Ocean, just south west of Sri Lanka. These giant ringlike coral formations can be hundreds of kilometres wide before fragmenting into hundreds, even thousands, of islands and islets. While the island nation covers a vast area of around 90 000 km2, only 298 km2 of that is dry land. Of these islands, only 200 are inhabited and 154 of these are open to travellers, with the others being used for agriculture (the growing of coconuts and pineapples) and industry.
The coral islands are characterised by powder white beaches lined with palms, where over-water villas offer a window into the ecosystem below. Each resort has its own private island, so you’ll have to travel between islands by seaplane, speedboat or local ferry to get between resorts. This also means that you can travel from South Africa to Maldives over and over again and have a different experience each time.
Each resort and island is different: from over-water villas with infinity pools that appear to spill into the cerulean ocean to underwater rooms, rustic beach huts and clear domes with views of the night sky. In terms of accommodation types, you can choose from all-inclusive resorts, some of the swankiest 5-star hotel chains, family-owned guest houses (located on local islands), and a private liveaboard boat.
Maldives is a visa-free destination
A 30-day visa is issued on arrival for all nationalities. It’s as simple as that. Just make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 more months and that you have a valid return ticket, plus a resort or hotel reservation confirmation or enough money for your trip, a base rate of $100 and $50 per day.
Maldives offers quarantine-free stays for travellers
*The answer to question 6 can be found here.
The country was the first nation in the world to offer quarantine-free stays for travellers as of 15 July 2020. All you need to travel to from South Africa to Maldives (or from anywhere for that matter) is a negative PCR test 96 hours before you arrive. Some resorts and hotels may ask for rapid PCR tests if you are travelling between various properties during your stay.
Independent and affordable travel is possible in Maldives
The most popular way to plan a Maldives trip is with an all-inclusive package that includes return flights, accommodation, full board and selected activities.
However, there are also more affordable ways to holiday in the Maldives islands. Since local islands (Huraa, Hithadoo, Maafushi) were opened to international travellers a decade ago, independent travel in the Maldives is becoming a viable option. Since then, locals have been allowed to own guesthouses that offer a more affordable way to explore paradise. It’s also the perfect opportunity to understand the local culture and heritage. A room in a family guesthouse usually ranges from $40-560 per night.
Instead of chartering a speed boat or seaplane to get between islands, you can opt for a local ferry (on average $0.66-2.66), which may not be as fast, but can still take you to the vast majority of local and private islands within the Maldives archipelago.
While staying on a local Maldives island, eating at diners ($3) and buying food straight from a marketplace or grocery store is a more affordable alternative to eating at a hotel restaurant or fine dining establishment.
The best time to visit Maldives
Whether you’re flying from South Africa to Maldives (or from anywhere else in the world), you’re bound to have a spectacular holiday no matter which time of year you choose to travel. It’s certainly a year-round holiday destination with a hot tropical climate that experiences a dry and wet season. The average high temperature reaches 31.5 degree Celsius, while the average low temperature only drops to 26.4 degree Celsius.
The Southwest monsoon brings afternoon rainstorms, winds and rough seas between May and October. While this is experienced more strongly across the northern islands, it is generally very mild when compared to other countries and islands. September is the wettest month. Luckily, planning a Maldives trip is easier than travelling to other tropical islands as is not very prone to cyclones.
If you want to snorkel with manta rays, the best place to do this is at Hanifaru Bay in the Baa Atoll. This protected marine park and UNESCO biosphere reserve is said to be the world’s largest natural feeding station as well as a vital breeding ground for these majestic creatures. They can be observed from a fairly close distance in the water (3-4 metres away), while adhering to strict environmental regulations to ensure they are not disturbed. It is best visited between May and November, while manta sightings are common across the island nation between July and October. Whale sharks are found at Hanifaru Bay year-round. If you want to surf the best time of year is between April and October.
Traveling to The Maldives
*The answer to question 1, 2 and 3 can be found here.
Malé International Airport boasts one of the world’s most beautiful landing strips, no matter whether you’re looking out of a porthole on the left or right side of the plane.
Air Seychelles – which was named the Indian Ocean’s Leading Airline for a second year running at the World Travel Awards 2021 – resumed its weekly flights from South Africa to Maldives, via Seychelles, in July 2020. This nine-hour journey is much shorter than transiting in other major hubs, such as Dubai or Doha via other carriers.
The award-winning airline flies into Maldives from South Africa with a fuel-efficient A320 neo aircraft which has 168 seats, across business and economy class. Flights to Maldives depart from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg at 21:10 each Friday, stops briefly in the Seychelles, before arriving in Malé at 09:15 the following morning. Flights from the Maldives to South Africa leave from Malé International Airport on Fridays at 11:35, arriving in Johannesburg at 17:55 on the same day. Air Seychelles operates flights to Maldives, Mauritius, India (Mumbai) and Israel (Tel Aviv).
What to pack for Maldives
Pack for an island holiday in paradise – particularly natural and light-coloured fabrics that are breathable and not too tight. Remember to pack your coral-safe sunblock, after-sun cream, a swimming cozzie, sandals, shades and hat, and you’re pretty much sorted. Remember to keep your luggage under 20kg if you’ll be travelling between Maldives’islands by seaplane, as there’s a per kilo surcharge if it’s heavier. Most resorts use the UK-style three-pin that we have in South Africa, so make sure you have an adaptor to charge your camera after clicking away.
Maldives is a malaria-free destination, but some islands do have mosquitoes that carry dengue fever, so pack insect repellent, cover your skin after sundown and sleep under a mosquito net.
Maldivians speak Dhivehi but English is widely spoken
Dhivehi is an Indo-Aryan language with origins in Sanskrit, Urdu, Hindi and Arabic as a result of the continuous waves of visitors from across the Indian subcontinent. This was intertwined with around 2 500 years of interactions between people of different races, religions and ethnicities that crisscrossed the Indian Ocean over several centuries.
Dhivehi is written from right to left in a hybrid script that uses Arabic and Indic numbers as the base of its alphabet. The script is believed to have started out as a secret code for magical spells so that it could not be deciphered by outsiders.
The country also has one of the world’s highest literacy rates. The majority of locals, and expats working in the tourism industry, have a really good command of English.
Maldives is a Muslim country
Travelling from South Africa to Maldives does not pose much of a culture shock as our heritage is so diverse. However, as a Muslim country, it is important to observe cultural etiquette, such as refraining from topless sunbathing and only swimming in bikinis and swimming costumes in resorts and designated ‘Bikini Beaches’. It is important to dress modestly (to cover cleavage, shoulders and avoid short skirts or trousers and revealing clothing) when travelling independently and staying on islands with a local family in a guesthouse, however it is not necessary for women to cover their hair. It’s also best to keep any public displays of affection to your resort.
This also means that you can’t fly into the Maldives islands with any alcohol (so refrain from buying any at the duty free en route to your final destination). And drugs and psychotropics carry life imprisonment. Rest assured that alcohol and pork are served at resorts and on liveaboards, though you will not find it being sold at stores and on islands inhabited by locals. Non-Islamic religious icons, amulets and scripts are forbidden and weekends run from Friday to Saturday.
The Maldives is a safer country than many others for travellers, as always when travelling be vigilant, particularly in the densely-populated capital city of Malé.
WIN a return trip for 2 with 7 nights’ accommodation to The Maldives
Edit: Congratulations to Lauren Melnick who is the winner of this trip to the Maldives, as randomly selected by Air Seychelles and Visit Maldives.
Air Seychelles and Visit Maldives are running a competition for South Africans over the age of 18. You have the chance to win a trip with return flights onboard Air Seychelles and a seven-night stay across two resorts, namely The Westin Miriandhoo Resorts and Kagi Maldives. The prize also includes hotel transfers and is courtesy of the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation – The National Tourism Board of the Maldives. Tickets will be valid for travel from January – December 2022 and as always Ts &Cs apply.
Simply answer six questions by 18 November 2021, the answers to which can be found throughout this blog post – find the clues pertaining to each question throughout. There’s one entry per person and the winner will be notified via email, and Messenger on Facebook/Instagram within 28 days of the closing date.
Enter the competition here, or via Air Seychelles (Facebook and Instagram) and Visit Maldives (Facebook and Instagram). And find more travelspiration about planning your trip on their social media channels.
See you in paradise?
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Air Seychelles and Visit Maldives. All opinions are my own, but you already know that! ;)