If you are considering visiting the Maldives for the first time, and are looking for some general advice and tips on choosing a resort, then this is the place to start.

The resorts: All Maldivian resorts are on their own island. These range in size from 2.5km across to just 150m across. This means that the facilities on the resort you choose (restaurants, bars, sports facilities, entertainment etc) are the only ones you will have access to during your stay. Most resorts offer excursions by boat to local fishing village islands, or to the capital Male, but otherwise you will stay on the resort island for the duration of your stay. There are 106 resort islands to choose from, ranging from affordable to ultimate luxury. If you want to experience the 'real' Maldives then you might want to consider one of the Guesthouses that are now available on 5 inhabited islands, offering rooms at very reasonable rates.

Getting to your resort: International flights arrive at Male's Hulhule airport, which is on an island of its own. Many holidaymakers arrive on chartered flights, but there are scheduled services with Emirates (via Dubai), Qatar (via Doha), Air Sri Lanka (via Columbo) and Singapore Airlines (via Singapore). Starting in October 2009 there is also a direct scheduled service with British Airways from London Gatwick three times a week. Transfers from the airport to your resort island are either by boat, seaplane or domestic flight, depending on the distance. If your resort requires a seaplane transfer, a few things to be aware of: the seaplanes only operate in daylight hours, so if you arrive after sunset you'll have to stay in Male overnight before being able to transfer to your resort. Ditto if your flight home is early in the morning - you will leave your resort the afternoon before - make sure you check with your tour operator that you will be given accommodation while you wait for your international flight. The seaplane journey in itself is an experience, as you get stunning views of the atolls - make sure you get a window seat and that you get your camera out before boarding (your hand luggage will probably be put at the back of the plane as there's no space under or over the seats). The seaplane will usually land next to a floating platform, from which you will be picked up by boat to be taken the remaining few metres in shore to your resort.

 

  View from seaplane
          

View from the seaplane

 

 

Some resorts have landing stages that allow the seaplane to deliver you right up to the beaches of your destined resorts. It is an amazing feeling to get off the sea plane & right on to the sunny white beaches of the country where waves are sweeping at your feet. NB -  seaplane transfer methods vary from resort to resort.

MAT at a Beach


What there is to do: The Maldives are a tropical paradise, and people visit for the beaches and the watersports - the underwater life is amazing and the Maldives has a reputation as a diver's paradise.. Most resorts won't have a busy entertainment programme, and there's definitely no sightseeing (apart from the occasional organised excursion by boat from the resort to a local inhabited island). If you're not happy lounging on a beach with a good book soaking up the sunshine in between swimming in the sea, or spending your days diving or snorkelling, then this probably isn't the place for you! 

  The amazing underwater life
            
 Turtle  

 

Choosing your resort: Price is obviously the initial consideration, and the Maldives has resorts for most budgets (including the unlimited!). However, there are a number of other important considerations.

  1. Accommodation types. Most resorts have a variety of accommodation types at varying costs. Upgrading from the basic accommodation offered in the brochure to a larger room, or one in a better position, can change the cost of the holiday considerably.  Check the brochure description for each room type, and check the resort's website if possible for pictures. Generally, rooms are single storeys (you'll not find high-rise hotels in the Maldives), but some will be in two-storey blocks, while some rooms will be terraced and some detached. The main difference in rooms tends to be location - set back in the island, directly on the beach, or over the water. Many resorts offer water villas on stilts over the sea, but not all of these have steps down into the water, meaning you have to walk out of the villa and to the beach if you fancy a swim in the sea.
  2. Accommodation density. As previously mentioned, the resort islands vary greatly in size, but they also vary in terms of number of rooms, and a smaller island doesn't always mean less rooms. Generally, the more expensive an island the fewer rooms for the size, but it's worth checking and comparing before you go if you're intent on a "get away from the world" romantic holiday. It's worth noting that, if all the rooms on the island are beachfront, then they'll each have their own little bit of beach in front of them that you'll not have to share (although the distance between rooms will vary).
  3. Resort facilities. Bear in mind that you won't be able to go elsewhere for meals, sports or entertainment so choose the resort with the facilities you want. Many islands only have one or two restaurants, so if you're fussy with your food, make sure you choose one that offers a buffet rather than a set menu. Not all resorts have a pool (you could argue that, with the Indian Ocean surrouding each island, you don't really need one), so if that's important to you, then check the resort description carefully. Some resorts have sports facilities such as tennis courts or a gym, some offer watersports such as windsurfing and kayaking. Again, check the description and also check what is included and what you'll have to pay extra for. A number of islands have a spa and almost all have a dive centre. Most of the dive centres on the resorts are run by external companies, so if you're a diver, or thinking of learning while you're there, then find out who runs the dive centre and check out their website for details of exactly what they offer. Evening entertainment will probably be limited, but some resorts are much more lively and will offer nightly discos or live music - again, check before you go (not least because that may be your idea of hell on earth!).
  4. Distance from Male. Those resorts very close to Male will have shorter transfers, but may not be as quiet - you may find yourself under the flight path for the airport, or near a commercial shipping lane. If possible, check a map of the Maldives and locate the resort - if there's nothing between it and Male, then the risks of it being less than the Robinson Crusoe away from civilization experience are high. If you have to take a seaplane transfer, or if the resort is further out, then the chances are it'll be quieter. All the Maldivian islands are beautiful, but the sight of an oil tanker sailing past the beach can distract from the picture of paradise!
  5. Diving and snorkelling. If you want to snorkel amongst the coral, check that the house reef (the one that at least partially surrounds the island) is near enough to swim to. Some resorts have beautiful wide lagoons that are perfect for swimming and windsurfing, but require a boat trip to get out to the coral reef. If you want to snorkel with the tropical fish every day at a time that suits you, then this may not be for you. If you're a diver, then choose a resort based on the proximity of good dive sites and the facilities offered by the dive centre. However, bear in mind that the popular dive sites, especially in Ari Atoll, may be very busy - some of the less developed atolls still have excellent, although less well known, dive sites that will be a lot quieter.

Board packages: For most resorts, the standard brochure price is for bed and breakfast (although there are now a few resorts that are all-inclusive as standard). Many offer other board packages for a supplement, but make sure you read the brochure description carefully to see what is included - all-inclusive doesn't always mean everything is included. In many resorts, the meal packages (including all-inclusive) will only include meals in the main restaurant, and you will have to pay a supplement to eat elsewhere. The drinks included in AI packages varies greatly with resorts too - some don't include cocktails at all, some have a separate AI drinks menu. Some AI packages will only include drinks taken at certain bars or restaurants. Make sure you check before you go, or you may end up with a hefty bill at the end of your stay. If you're not a heavy drinker, or want to drink cocktails and they're not included in the AI package, it may end up cheaper to go half or full board. Some AI packages also include other benefits, such as hire of snorkelling equipment or use of windsurfers, but unless specifically mentioned in the brochure, assume you'll have to pay for these types of extras.

Things to be aware of: Costs of meals, drinks etc in resort will be high. Everything in the Maldives, with the exception of fish and coconuts, has to be imported, usually by plane from Dubai and then brought to the resort by boat from Male, so it's expensive. In resort, you sign for all purchase and settle up at the end, and you may well be faced with a hefty bill. Factor this in on top of the cost of the brochure price, especially if you go on a B&B package, so it doesn't come as a very nasty shock once you get there. On top of meals and drinks, additional costs will be for any excursions, watersports tuition, equipment hire, spa treatments and souvenirs/extras from the resort gift shop. BE AWAREeverything that you purchase on the island that is not part of your board basis, will attract a 10% service charge on top of the published price.  A further 6% Government Tourist Tax is also added to purchases on the island.  This is set to increase further in the near future.  Check the resort details before you leave to see what is included - things like snorkelling equipment hire can easily mount up, especially on a two-week holiday, so if it's not included, it will probably be cheaper to buy it before you go if you want to use it every day. Make sure you take adequate supplies of things like suncream (you'll be on the equator, so you'll definitely need lots of it) and toiletries, as they're expensive once you're there and the resort gift shop won't have a big selection. 

The Maldives really is paradise on earth and you'll probably have a wonderful time which ever resort you choose, but a bit of careful planning before you go can ensure that you make the best choice for you and have the perfect holiday.

An alternative to staying at a resort (or guesthouse) is to spend a week (or more) on a small cruise boat (Liveaboard) which caters for divers, snorkellers and those who just want to relax.  The majority will visit resort islands, inhabited islands and deserted islands (see the Travellers Articles about various Liveaboards).  It is possible to combine a Liveaboard experience with a week on a resort island.

In addition to the small 'liveaboards' there are two slightly larger ships (40 passengers) that operate in the Maldives. Both cater for snorkellers, divers and beach lovers and both are the subject of Traveller Articles (Atoll Explorer & Yasawa Princess)

Atol Explorer

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g...

Yasawa Princess

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g...