I must admit, the first time I went to the Maldives 30 years ago with my husband we expected to do nothing more than bask in the sun, sip cocktails and watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean. Which was pretty much what we did.
However now, with new island resorts opening every year, all introducing different experiences to keep even the most active person busy, it's a different story. So on my last couple of recent visits we found that there is so much more on offer.
Here are just a few ideas to show how much you can now pack in to a holiday in the Maldives, if you want to...
A Maldivian holiday isn't complete without a visit to a uninhabited island to spend a day swimming and snorkelling in the clear waters, and enjoy a picnic on your very own deserted beach.
Treat yourself to a soothing spa treatment, especially if you have over-indulged in the sun. Most islands now have a spa centre offering everything from a simple back and neck massage to a full body, Swedish, Thai or Balinese massage. Do be careful which you choose and discuss what level of pressure you want, light medium or deep.
My Top Tip: if your treatment is late afternoon or evening (which I think is a nice time) make sure you have a good shower next morning to wash away any remaining oils. I didn’t do this and found I was starting to catch the sun a little too much the next day.
Quite a few islands now offer this, especially those who use speedboats for transfers, so guests don't have to miss out on this incredible experience. Ideal for photographers and photo enthusiasts, the aerial excursions around the islands is the best way to appreciate the lay of the land, and enjoy those jaw-dropping views over pristine lagoons, uninhabited islands and quaint little fishing villages. From up here you'll see how the sea changes colour from brilliant blue to turquoise, and even spot mesmerising schools of fish as they frolic in the waters below. Flights are often 15 minutes in duration.
My Top Tip: I suggest you enquire about this excursion as soon as you arrive, as a minimum number of guests is required on each flight.
Whale Submarine Adventure
Descend into the mysterious underwater realm in the state-of-the-art Whale Submarine at Adaaran Vadoo. It's the largest deep-diving passenger submarine in the world and takes you on an underwater adventure 120ft below the surface.
Stand Up Paddle boarding
Something I did recently while staying at Gili Lankanfushiand have no idea why, I believe it was my husband laughing when I suggested that it looked like fun! Half an hour later as I was watching and listening to the instructor I was thinking that I had clearly ‘lost the plot’ and there is no way I can go from a kneeling position to standing while on the beach let alone on a wobbling board in the sea. Yet to everyone’s surprise I tentatively made it from kneeling and clinging to the board to a standing position. Now I just had to try and propel myself through the water with a long paddle.
My Top Tip: It really is as easy as it looks so go on, have a go.
Now the nearest I came to pedalos in the last 20 years was while staying in Greece and struggling against the tide, so in for a penny in for a pound, we decided while staying at Oblu Select Sangeli that we would just go out for 10 minutes to say we had tried it. Over an hour later we came back to shore after a completely different experience, sunshine, gentle water, watching the sea life below us. We absolutely loved it, and definitely recommend it.
My Top Tip: Make sure you take a bottle of drinking water and sunscreen with you.
We all expect the sea to be calm around these islands, so I never thought that surfing in the Maldives would be possible. Yet it is, on the island of Adaaran Hudhuranfushi which has one 'wild' side that is perfect for catching those waves.
My Top Tip: the island is ideal for non-surfers too, so great for couples and families who don't all surf.
Sunset Fishing Trip
Many of the Islands offer this as a free excursion. You go out before the sun sets and the crew will put some bait on a piece of string which you dangle over the side of the boat. If you feel a ‘tug’ you've caught a fish and the crew will help you land it. On many of the Islands if you catch a decent size Snapper, Grouper, Jackfish and others they will be cooked for you at a BBQ or as a tasting dish at your meal that night. Although it hasn't been top of my list of things to do in the Maldives I actually rather enjoyed the experience, as all the guests seem to get on well and helped each other out or laughed at each other when things didn't go to plan with the lines. It was a fun trip.
The Maldives is one of the top destinations in the world for watching dolphins and whales, and it's believed that 20 different species of dolphin call the Maldives home, including Spinner, Bottlenose, Risso’s, Spotted and Striped Dolphins. The most common seen in the region are Spinner dolphins which are said to number thousands. They gather in droves to feed on the fauna and are a magnificent site when frolicking in huge groups in the waters around the islands.
To get a closer look, it is best to do a cruise where the tour guide can take you to the areas where dolphins are most prolific. A traditional Maldivian dhoni is often used, adding to the authenticity of your tropical island experience. The best time of the day is the evening, where you can enjoy watching both the sunset and the dolphins that are particularly active as they come out to feed. This is usually accompanied by a few snack and drinks on board.
Local Island visit
This is an excursion that many resorts offer as part of your package. The seclusion & untouched beauty of these islands have been attracting visitors from across the seas for many years, some of whom have settled here. For a better insight of the local life, an excursion to an inhabited island will be ideal. You will see the men at work, the children enjoying themselves and the women busy with their chores.
My Top Tip: Please be mindful of the Muslim culture so be sure to dress respectably with long skirts/shorts and no spaghetti strap sleeves, or take a sarong for a cover up on the islands.
Like I say this is just a sample of the activities on offer in this stunning island paradise. There are many other fun things to do in the Maldives such as paragliding, kayaking, canoeing, diving, snorkelling, catamaran sailing, kitesurfing, tennis, yoga, cooking classes, windsurfing, big game fishing and so much more. You'll just have to stay a few weeks to try them all!