“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”Ralph Waldo Emerson
Following nearly three weeks in India visiting my Oldest, who accepted a short term assignment there, Husband made the journey to meet me, and together we embarked on a completely different type of adventure.
Once we knew I would be traveling halfway across the world from Lewes, Delaware to Bengaluru, India, we pulled up trusty Google Maps and considered our options for an add-on destination. The world sure is a big place, and I admit that I did not fully comprehend how big until I focused on this tiny corner of the Asian continent. Initially, we thought a trip to Singapore, Thailand, or Australia might make sense… until we realized such a pilgrimage would require another 8 – 12 hour flight, an unwelcome thought after already having traveled so far to get to India. Plus, we needed to eventually get home. Didn’t we?
As a result of
thorough almost no research and extensive negligible spousal negotiation, we settled on the Maldives in roughly this manner:
Hey look, the Maldives are pretty close to India!-Husband
Wait, isn’t that where they have those villas over the water? I’m in!-Me
My knowledge of the Maldives prior to planning this trip was limited; I credit longtime friend, sister, and inspirational travel blogger Ellen Ferrara Bencard for sharing her own trip to these beautiful islands for what little I did know: Villas over the water, luxurious resorts, and excellent gastronomy.
About the Maldives
In just about two hours, we traveled from chaotic, noisy, bustling Bengaluru to what has to be one of the most peaceful spots on the planet. Here, blindingly white sands peak out from within clear, cerulean waters to form one of the world’s most iconic beach destinations.
Lying about 560 miles from the southern coast of India, the Maldives consists of an atoll with over 1,000 small islands.
While there are other beautiful beach destinations around the world, the Maldives “One Island, One Resort” concept makes it utterly unique. While there are numerous reefs, only about 150 of them boast enough land for human habitation. Each of these is home to one and only one luxury resort, hosted by well-known brands such as Four Seasons, Fairmont, and One and Only as well as by small, independent operators.
The upshot of One Island, One Resort is unparalleled privacy and customer service, provided by highly trained staff and world-reknowned chefs, who live on-island for months at a time.
What is an atoll?
An atoll is a specific type of island formation that is characterized by a ring-shaped coral reef, often enclosing a lagoon in the center. Atolls are typically formed from the remnants of volcanic islands that have subsided over time, leaving behind a circular or oval-shaped reef structure. The reef itself is composed of coral and other organic materials that have accumulated over many years.
The Maldives’ unique geography is a result of an intricate interplay between tectonic forces, coral reef growth, and sea level changes. The atolls are surrounded by shallow lagoons and encircled by coral reefs, offering natural protection against the open ocean. The islands themselves are usually formed from the accumulation of sand and other sediments on top of the coral reefs.
Near the center lies Male, a two square kilometer island, the country’s capital and only city, home to roughly 150,000 Maldivians (somewhere around 40% of the population). The international airport lies on a newly built landfill island adjacent to Male, so all visitors must start their journey here. From Male, the various resorts can be reached by some combination of boat, private resort seaplane, or the national seaplane airline, Trans Maldivian Airways. The journey from Male to a specific resort can take as little as 15 minutes and as long as 4 hours. In addition to time, there is the cost to consider: transferring to a resort from Male can cost as much as $800 per person.
Arrival in Male and the Logistics of One Island, One Resort
Given the distance and lack of infrastructure among the Maldivian islands, logistics can be challenging, with the entire atoll stretching over 500 miles from north to south. Our resort of choice, the Constance Halaveli, utilized Trans Maldivian Airways for the roughly one-hour flight transfer.
Our arrival timing was a bit tricky. The resort islands do not have airports or runways, requiring a water landing and floating dock. Therefore, TMA will not fly anywhere near dusk or dark. In April, this meant no flights after 4pm. Since our flight from Bengaluru was not scheduled to land until after 3pm, we were cutting it too close, which meant we needed to stay the night in Male and transfer the next morning.
For our one night visit to Male, we chose not to stay in the crowded city proper, but on the smaller airport island known as Hulhule. The Ocean Grand hotel, sitting across the street from a beach, was not necessarily “grand” but it provided a clean room, a free shuttle to and from the airport, a view of the water, and free breakfast. We also enjoyed an excellent dinner at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant. No complaints here!
Seaplane Transfer… the adventure begins!
The next morning we were back at Male airport, this time at the Trans Maldivian Airways terminal. “Organized chaos” is the phrase that comes to mind; each resort has a kiosk inside the open air terminal.
We had received our flight time just a day or so before our journey; fascinating to me was that TMA does not operate on a set schedule but evaluates the number of passengers arriving and departing each resort and maps out a different set of routes each day. This was a little challenging for a planner like me to absorb, but upon seeing the system in action, I have to admit it seems to work!
First, they weighed us. It’s always comforting to know such care is being taken with our safety….. right? Right? We checked our bags, which were also carefully weighed, and were escorted to Constance Hotels’ private waiting lounge, which included an outdoor patio to watch the sea planes scurry about in the airport/harbor.
After a very short wait we were brought into a small room for a safety briefing video with our flying companions. From there, we were escorted out to the dock (runway?), where flip-flopped pilots run the show
There were about 10 passengers on the plane, with all of our luggage piled in the rear. There are two pilots on each plane. We were told where to sit based on weight, but generally couples were able to sit together. Our entire plane was full of honeymooning Asian couples, with the exception of Husband and myself and one single British woman.
Our blissful weeklong experience at the 5 star, luxurious Constance Halaveli is deserving of its own post, which will follow. For now, suffice to say that The Maldives and the Constance certainly qualify as a destination that is difficult to reach, but worth the effort.