Meant-to-be Moments and Misadventures in Maldives

Meant-to-be Moments and Misadventures in Maldives

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It is a known fact that Maldives, having endless pristine white sands and infinite blue waters, is one of the sought-after paradise destination of honeymooners. So how come a solo backpacker and poor traveler like me would choose a luxurious vacation to find himself or to search for love in a hopeless place surrounded by tourists in pairs?

I did not choose Maldives. Maldives chose me.

Maldives

1. Meant To Be

The selection took place last October 2013. The bloggers were hinting in Facebook about a massive panic booking of AirAsia international flights from Malaysia. It is a common practice of the blog owners to keep the news scoops within their circle. I am not part of any clique of bloggers. With one answer from my friend Brenna, my curiosity was fed of relatively free international flights of AirAsia X. Thanks to Marx for relaying it to Brenna!

AirAsia X

From all the destinations possible on that sweet sale, I booked Maldives (and Kathmandu on a different travel period) roundtrip in a business class for around two hundred pesos with a connection to and from Malaysia of the same price.

Except for one, my friends outside the blogosphere won’t believe me after I posted the classified information. They feared of the probable revert markup of the ticket price. Since no one from my immediate circle would hopped into the opportunity, I dived in with the bloggers group’s itinerary. It would further reduce the cost of the entire Maldivian trip.

I said my hello to Mal-deevs (not Mal-dayvs or even Mal-dee-ves) last February 2014.


Maldives Airport

Maldives Airport

If this is the kind of airport and seaport that will welcome you in arrival, you know something good awaits.

Maldives
We choose the cheaper option than the expensive speed boat transfers from the airport.

2. Not Meant To Be

Maafushi Dive

Of course, every knowledgeable scuba diver knows that Maldives is an underwater paradise. Scuba divers wish to explore the country’s waters. So to capture my first ever scuba dive in my life with a GoPro is a definitely must. A week before the trip, I bought my Hero 3+ Black Edition. But when we’re already in the islands of Maldives, just after 5 video shoots even before the actual dive the camera housing leaked. GoPro was severely damaged and no amount of rice trick could recover the device’s death.

I was not fully confident surviving the scuba diving given that I don’t know how to swim. So I already have this burden on my mind. Fear mixed with the earlier sadness is not a good combination of feelings. Fortunately, I was able to perform the initial practicals in a short time. And what’s cool is that the dive shop has a GoPro for rent. But I spoke too soon when it wasn’t charged when we got below.

So my scuba dive initiation was for my eyes only. But the life forms below are fascinating. Though I felt scared too when I saw pitch blue somewhere deeper.

Maafushi Beach
The last shots of my new GoPro are of corals few steps from the beach of Maafushi Island

Maafushi Beach
The secret to cheap Maldivian adventure is to stay on the islands of the locals, Maafushi

3. Meant To Be

My expenses to Maldives alone is about PhP 20,000. Far from what others imagined like figures from PhP 50,000 to PhP 100,000. Ms. Suzette is destined to be part of the group so we could haggle group tour packages for a lower price. Her charms work nearly all the time.

  • $2 – Airport transport to Maafushi (boat)
  • $125 – Arena Lodge accommodation for 3 nights per pax.
  • $80 – scuba diving
  • $66 – Maadhoo Finolhu Island (which includes lunch buffet) + Sexy Beach (jump off of dive spot) island hopping
  • $9 – Fihalhohi to Airport Transport
  • $150 – Fihalhohi Island Resort overnight stay
  • PhP3044.38 – Male city overnight accommodation, DIY-tour fare expenses, souvenirs and dinner

Picnic Island
Island hopping activity includes swimming in a natural infinity pool of atoll

Other expenses in Manila and in Malaysia

  • PhP2,200 – Travel and Airport Tax
  • MYR81 – Bus and KLIA transfers to and from Cyberjaya
  • MYR71 – Overnight Accommodation in Cyberjaya

Fihalhohi Island Resort
We saved a lot of moolah because we shared the cost of boat transfers. Transfers would cost $100 – $200 per trip regardless of the number of passengers below its maximum capacity.

More or less the cost of my entire Maldivian adventure is PhP 25,000 for 6 days. Those round trip tickets worth less than a frappucino definitely sealed the deal.

Our itinerary:

  • Day 1: From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Male, Maldives.
  • Day 2: Scuba Diving
  • Day 3: Picnic Island
  • Day 4: Fihalhohi Island Resort
  • Day 5: Huhulmale & Male
  • Day 6: Male to Kuala Lumpur
  • Day 7: Kuala Lumpur to Manila
4. Not Meant To Be

Remember the only friend outside blogging that trusted me on this glitch trip? It was his first time to get out of the country. He granted me permission to post our misadventures with him so he could be set as a bad example for a novice traveler. LOL. Well, the moment we stepped to the country, problems already started. He didn’t bring US dollars thinking that pesos are accepted in money changer. His money from his ATM wasn’t configured to be withdrawn overseas yet. Because I tagged him along, it was my responsibility to carry this excess baggage. Unfortunately, I got a little allowance for my pocket money and credit cards. My fault was I didn’t open this issue on the first day. And it stressed me a lot.

Rescue came along when we already disclosed the problem. Good thing that the returning batch of Filipino bloggers held spare dollars to sell. Our group also contributed for the meantime while we’re away from the city.



Sexy Beach
Called as ‘Sexy Beach’, this serves as a jump off of one of the many scuba diving sites in the country

Philippine Delegation to Maldives
The Philippine delegation to Maldives conquering and almost occupying the little patch of sandbar

When we’re bound to Manila from Malaysia came another predicament. He booked a segment flight from Kuala Lumpur to Manila with only an hour window from Male. Our flight was delayed more than an hour so he missed his return flight. He was saved and adopted by the rest of the group that planned to stay overnight at Malaysia. He was not meant to be a backpacker yet that time.

Maafushi Beach
His first overseas trip is quite… interesting.

5. Meant To Be

While he was indeed a pain, he’s also my cheerleader whenever the thought of my dead GoPro advanced. He reminded me that I still have my other cameras and other activities to enjoy. And yes, I took good photographs of the islands and atolls. Maldives is more than the beaches and water bungalows.


Maafushi Island

Maafushi Island

Maafushi Island was opened to the backpacking public to boost the tourism as a source of income for them after the tragic tsunami hit the islands years ago.

Maafushi Island
It is thought-provoking to note that Maafushi Island also houses a prison. These might be trainees or the prisoners themselves. We don’t know. The latter case works in Iwahig, Puerto Princesa so it is possible.

Maafushi Island

Maldives

Maafushi Island

Humans of Maldives

Maafushi Island
The trick is to blend with the locals


Picnic Island

Picnic Island

The kind of shade that you’ll find around the Picnic Island

Male

Maldives Sunset

Fihalhohi Island Resort

Can you guess which are taken during a sunset or a sunrise in these pictures?

Fihalhohi Island Resort

Fihalhohi Island Resort

The birds in Fihalhohi Island Resort are free to mingle with the humans

6. Not Meant To Be

But when it’s my time to be the subject. Ugh! You know what it feels like to be the photographed by someone else. It’s sad. Hashtag photographers problems.


Maafushi Beach

Fihalhohi Island Resort

I have a zoom lens but he doesn’t know how to utilize it.

Picnic Island
I got it. He likes minimalism. But minimalism does not work in Facebook profile pictures.

7. Meant To Be

And to experience the Maldives the way we are seeing it in postcards and from the Internet, we spent a night on one of the cheapest island resorts in Maldives. But the cheap didn’t fail to meet my expectation of the luxury. And no, we didn’t stay in one of those water bungalows. But they’re accessible for free photo captures.


Fihalhohi Island Resort

Fihalhohi Island Resort

Fihalhohi Island Resort

Fihalhohi Island Resort

Fihalhohi Island Resort

I took advantage every opportunity to shoot the water bungalows late afternoon, at night, in the morning and in midnoon.

Fihalhohi Island Resort
Beach is like flirting with me. And I am like, “If you insist, I won’t resist.”

8. Not Meant To Be

Male

Our last night in Maldives was spent in touring around Male, the capital city of Maldives. While I wanted to feel the local vibes of the city by roaming around, we came late and didn’t see some actions. I have some cityscape shots on my mind inspired from the magazines but I failed to replicate them due to time constraints. Establishments were about to close. Robx and I got separated from the group so we also took time to look for them. Unaware of the last trip back to Hulhumale and whether the group was looking for us or had let us go on our own, we decided not to explore further.

Brightside, Robx and I had some dinner by candlelight. LOL. Because things are prepared there in romantic ways in Maldives. I learned some tips from him as a travel blogger. I was just starting this blog then. The first time we met in Manila, I bumped to him as The Creative Dork while I was still Facebuko way back.

9. They’re Meant To Be

Maldives is a choice of the newlyweds who want to spend the start of their forever. It is also a destination of the retirees who likes to splurge their savings. All I see are couples. Couples everywhere.

Couples at Maldives

Maldives Couples

Maldives Couples

Relationship goals. And chiseled body goals too.

Fihalhohi Island Resort
Alone in the island resort. I have to setup my tripod to capture this but I forgot to bring someone who will push the swing for me.

While I went there with my group, it is inevitable for ours to break, and yeah, still in pairs – mother-daughter, brother-sister, legit couples, officemates. There are times that I decided to roam around the islands alone for documentation and to find more interesting subjects. The infinity illusion of white and blue gets boring too in frames.

Picnic Island

Picnic Island

Picnic Island

Empty. Wish you were here though.

10. We’re Meant To Be

I came to Maldives single and ended up still single. But Maldives won’t become one of the most memorable overseas trips I had without these people. We are one great extended family. Yeah, I know it is a cliche. But if you’re comfortable with solo backpacking, joining in a big group often leads to complication. This was not the case. I totally enjoyed the gang. One’s relationship status should be the very least of the concerns. Bringing pocket money in dollars is more important.

Maafushi Island
Bloggers need to do what blogger need to do. Document things.

Picnic Island
We played some Pinoy street games in Picnic Island to familiarize such for our Oz friend in the group, Rhys.

Fihalhohi Island Resort
Others even joined us in our volleyball game. More of him later.

Fihalhohi Island Resort

Picnic Island

Picnic Island

Fihalhohi Island Resort
The couples around us were puzzled. They might be thinking, “How come a big pack of relatively young people was able to afford the pricey bucket-list lovers destination?”. Imagine the Chinese and the Koreans in the Philippines. Translate that thought with our group in Maldives.

Maldives Sunset

Maldives is still a place meant for the couples. That’s why when I learned that the camera which the volleyball star and his better-half brought in the beach, ran out of batteries, I offered mine and inserted their memory card. Presto! They still got pictures together and their moments were immortalized with a stunning sunset backdrop. That’s when I knew that I was meant to be in that place in that very moment.

Fihalhohi Island Resort

Picnic Island

Picnic Island

Fihalhohi Island Resort

Verdict: Maldives is MTB! Meant to be.

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