We left Shanghai Sunday afternoon on a plane bound for Singapore, which was approximately a 5-hour flight; arrived at the Singapore airport around 9:30 PM. After a one-hour layover, we headed to Male, which is the capital of the Maldives. Getting through Customs and Health Inspection was a breeze, and our luggage arrived fairly soon. As it turned out, we had to take a water ferry from the island where the airport is over to the main island of Male. Due to the late-night arrival, they made plans for us to spend the night at a hotel in Male, the KAM Hotel, even though our reservations for the trip were with the Hilton. Now, I’m not sure WHO decided to put the Hilton people up in this hotel, or WHY, but if they were trying to make you appreciate the Hilton resorts more, then they did a good job. The KAM Hotel looked clean, but the gray towels, absence of washcloths, tiny cruise ship-sized shower, and total lack of privacy really put me off! And I won’t even get into just how small the elevator was! (Who was this hotel made for, midgets???) But it was only for one night, and I could handle that. We got to our room a little after 1 AM (which would have been a little after 4 AM to us), and hit the sack. We had been asked to be back downstairs at 6:30 AM the next morning in order to catch our seaplane flight out to Rangali island.
The seaplane ride was quite an adventure. We were water and land transported to the seaplane airport. Just seeing this had to have made my heart start beating faster! It was the coolest thing I have ever seen! There were several seaplanes docked there in the water, waiting for their trips! As we arrived at 7:30 AM, a group was just leaving, and we got to see them taxi out and then take off. Then, we were corralled back into an area that turned out to be the Hilton Lounge. It was interesting because it was an outside hut with a sand floor. My cats would have been in heaven! The actual seaplane flight out to Rangali Island was only about 30 minutes, and I must admit that it was some of the most exciting flight time that I have ever had! I expected this flight to be a little rough, but it was actually the smoothest flight of the whole trip! Both the take-off, and the landing, were amazingly smooth! And let me tell you that the view was breathtaking! I love the Maldives already!
One thing that I have to add right here (before I forget) is that the men here wear sarongs. And they look adorable! As we were boarding the water ferry on the way to the seaplane, I saw an older man with his sarong on and a “Man of Steel” t-shirt. Now I don’t know about you, but that hit me as a pretty funny sight! (I wish I could have gotten a picture...)
The Maldive islands are a strange and wonderful place! I had never even heard of them until just a few months ago (ok, so I wasn’t the greatest Geography student! I saw an advertisement on tv for a resort here last summer.), and just in case you are the same, I will try and give you a little info about the place. Located south of India, and within the Indian Ocean, the Maldives are actually several collections of atolls. An atoll, as I understand it, is basically an oval-shaped group of islands or sandbars, with a coral base. There are 26 atolls in the country of Maldives. There are 1,190 islands collectively, with only 200 being inhabited. There are no hills or mountains on the atolls, just flat sandy land with vegetation. The true islands (not just sandbars) that we have seen usually have trees (coconut palms, bananas, breadfruit, and several other island-type trees), but some islands are more barren and just have short vegetation. As you would probably expect, the island where the Hilton resort is (Rangali Island) has all the gorgeous vegetation and trees. We feel that we are waking up in paradise each day! It truly reminds me of the old television show “Fantasy Island,” because everyone seems happy going about their daily activities, and we also know whenever the seaplane is coming in with new passengers. Remember, “the plane, the plane!” Oh, I just heard it go over again!
Our villa is part terrazzo (in the sitting area) and a carpet of sort (woven-sisal) in the bedroom (makes your feet really sore!). The only time we have a sand path inside our villa is when we forget to wash our feet before coming inside! And they even provide each villa with its own pottery vessel filled with water (and a coconut scoop!) for washing your feet before entering the villa (we have seen similar set-ups for foot cleaning outside of the mosques). It’s pretty cute, and the birds love it too! If you don’t want to walk the one-quarter mile distance between the two islands, the Hilton provides rides on their dhoni, which is a local wooden
motorboat. This boat is used to ferry passengers from one section to the other.
There are two types of villas to rent, each type being on separate islands. On the smaller island the villas are actual houses on stilts out over the water; on the larger, main island they have the duplex-style villas. We are in the duplex-style. When you enter the room, there is a large area that serves as the sitting room / bedroom; in the back of the room is the dressing table, servi-bar and closets. Turn right and walk a few steps and you are in the room I am most fascinated by ... the bathroom. The bathroom at first appears to be your normal hotel bathroom, with the potty, sink, and shower-bath arrangement. And then you start to notice the heat! After pulling back the shower curtain, you discover that the whole room is open to the outside! This may be the only place I’ve ever been where you can get another sunburn while in the shower to cool off from being in the sun. (Don’t worry, we’ve taken a few pictures, because it IS hard to describe!) A tall coral fence closes the backside of the bathroom off from the rest of the world, and there is an area that reminds me of an atrium, except there is no roof! There are even a few plants growing in the back corner, which give it a tropical feel. I would love to have a bathroom like this in my house in Texas ...but the winters could be a little cool! Maybe I could have one with everything similar, but include the roof! One other lovely feature that our villa has is the cool deck out front, complete with patio furniture. And we have a great view of the Indian Ocean from our room! The front wall is a large sliding glass door, which opens out onto the patio. This not only gives us the beauty of the ocean, but we also watch the various birds that play among the trees and vegetation. One bird that we have really enjoyed is the Crab Plover. I haven’t seen him chase any crabs (and there are a lot here!), but he does seem to like banana bread! AND they make a lot of bird noise!
Our first day (Mon) on Rangali Island was really nice. After checking into our room, we soon changed into swimsuits and went out to check out the beach. Everyone has been telling us that the Maldives is the best place in the world for snorkeling and diving, and now I understand why. The visibility is fantastic, and there are many types of fish to watch (they say that 75 % of the reef fish in the world can be spotted here, and I believe it)! The island is surrounded by coral reef, so there really isn’t a bad place to go to snorkel. The only complaint that I would truly have is that if you aren’t here on a full room and board package (and we aren’t), the restaurants are a bit pricey! Next time, we’ll know to negotiate the full deal!