The Maldives: An island nation with about 1200 tiny islands covering an expansive stretch in the middle of the Indian Ocean. As such, it is near impossible to spend time in the Maldives without ever boarding a boat. Visitors either hop aboard to get from place to place or go with the intent to live on board a purpose-built dive yacht. Let’s look at the cheapest, fastest, most luxurious and most authentic ways for water transit and accommodation in the Maldives.
Start at the Beginning – The Traditional Dhoni
The Maldivian dhoni is a national symbol. Legends are told of the dhoni’s capabilities that date back to the 15th century. Kalhuoffummi dhoni of the Maldivian hero, Mohammed Thakurufaanu, is said to have regularly escaped from the more equipped boats of the enemy during the Portuguese invasion.
Now, fishing, tourism and transportation are the main functions of dhonis in the Maldives. Dhoni size ranges from small personal fishing crafts to safari boats and luxury dhoni cruisers. By dhoni is the most authentic way to travel – passengers are connected with history – though a transformation and modernization of the dhoni has taken place over time. The materials have changed from the use of local coconut wood and coir to imported woods and copper rivets. The sails have changed from triangular to square in shape and the wind-only power is now accompanied buy a gas-powered motor. The use of the sail allows for energy efficiency by saving precious fuel.
The dhoni has become a model for more modern ships that have maintained many features of the authentic boats. Larger versions, like Dhoni Stella are a cross between a motor yacht and a sailing yacht with its authentic design, 2 guest cabin suites, and living quarters for 2-5 people.
Ferries for Maldives Budget Transportation
Ferries are the main way for Maldivians to travel between local islands as well as to and from the capital. Also modeled after the traditional dhoni, they are large open boats with row seating and a section for baggage. From the Male jettys, ferries have routes within and between the provinces with designated points of call around the atolls.
Island hopping is not a known travel activity in the country, despite fact that the country is teeming with islands, beaches and their lagoons. Tourists can, however, easily hop a ferry to visit local islands and reach guest houses that are found on them.
There is also a regular express shuttle between the airport island of Hulemale and the capital city island of Male. It departs approximately every 15 minutes from 7am though to 2am (except for a period during midday on Friday) and costs 25 MVR per trip (a couple dollars).
The resort industry has held strong as the dominant island accommodation option for international visitors and since they offer private transfers, ferries are still overwhelmingly a local mode of transport. With the opening of local island guest houses, however, these routes may see more and more foreign traffic.
Speedboats for Acceleration
Speedboat transfers are commonly used for resort and guesthouse clientele as a more direct and speedy route to reach their destinations. Where a ferry may take hours, a speed boat would cover the distance in around half the time, though at a disproportionately higher cost. A speed boat can cost as much or more than 10 times the per-person cost of a ferry for the same destination. The convenience and comfort levels are however incomparable between the two options.
If you have a limited time for your holiday and are happy to pay a bit extra for comfort, then a speedboat transfer is the way to go. On the other hand, ferries are a great low-budget option that can really cut down the overall cost of a holiday.
Cruising & Luxury Motor Yachts
Where boats meet recreation and accommodation, that’s where you’ll find the Maldives liveaboard industry. More than just a way to get around, these leisure cruisers and luxury yachts are fine tuned to the needs of both island adventurers and those just looking for some island inspired R&R (rest & relaxation). To best accommodate for diving, liveaboards have a separate dive dhoni for the scuba excursions. There are many types of dive safari boats to choose from.
Safari boats resembling dhonis are used for liveaboard cruises, like the Nautilus One & Two, which are 30-43 m in length and hold 7-12 guest cabins for lush accommodation while at sea. Another liveaboard experience is the 6-cabin, 95-ft sail schooner, called the Dream Catcher, with its two masts and a true yachting experience.
For the opulent experience that the Maldives is known for, but with a focus on sightseeing and adventure, the cabin cruisers and super yachts roaming the Maldives are ideal. These dive safari yachts are equipped with ensuite rooms and dining facilities as standard, many have Jacuzzis, and some even top off their lavish offerings with an onboard spa.
Average ship size is 100-115 feet in length with 7 to 10 cabins. In this category of liveaboard, Maldives Dive Travel has a number of ships on offer, including MV Leo & Virgo, Maldivian Dream, Ocean Divine, Stingray and Theia. MV Orion and Scubaspa Ying are newer ships that are pushing the boundaries of comfort and luxury at sea in the Maldives. Orion is a 130-ft vessel with 11 rooms and Scubaspa, notably with its onboard spa, has 12 rooms and stretches to a massive 164 feet long.
For a great time gallivanting around the Maldives islands and reefs, board a bateau of your taste and budget. Navigate yourself to a great holiday by checking out these deals on some last minute liveaboard packages, click here.