Maldives were on the bucket list for a long time, especially a dive safari to see all the sharks, mantas, turtles etc. Drawback was that trips to the Maldives were always expensive and I’ve balanced on the edge of reason thinking, am I really that crazy to pay shit lots of money for a one week diving trip… logic always took over here. Finally somewhere mid April this year, out of pure curiosity I went on the page liveaboard.com to see how the Maldives dive safari situation looks like. And there it was! a 50% reduction on one of trips. My reaction was immediate, book it, do it now, what are you waiting for, do it. So I did and now, while writing this post I’m in Male, the capital of Maldives, waiting for my dive adventure to start tomorrow.
Before you go
There are a couple of entry requirements to the Maldives during covid. First of all, you need a negative PCR test that was taken 96 hours before your first connection flight to the country.
Original quote from the official Maldives Ministry of Tourism announcement: The sample for said PCR test must be taken not more than 96 hours prior to the scheduled time of departure from the first port of embarkation en-route to the Maldives.
However the airlines interpret that a bit differently, so just make sure that the test is valid 96 hours before you land OK 😉 It’s also worth tracking any entry restriction updates on visitmaldives.com/en, the page is updated on a regular basis and is reliable.
The negative test requirement is regardless if you are vaccinated or not. I had mine on the 1st June. The result was supposed to arrive within 24h. Geez, the whole morning on the 2nd June I could focus as the only thing I was thinking about was the test result. It was weird as I knew that everything would be OK, however my brain was playing tricks on me. Finally, around midday the test result came in and it was negative – what a relief you can’t even imagine.
Something I didn’t know that was required is a split stay form. I found out about it literally last minute, as I asked the dive tour operator what time should I be at the assembly point for the dive boat pick up. Dive safari starts on the 6th and I arrived on the 5th so I booked a hotel for one night. It turned out that when you stay at multiple locations, hotels, boats, or resorts there is a requirement to have a split stay form, which enables easier tourist tracking in case a covid infections are detected in the place you stayed. Well, OK fine, rules are rules, especially as it is easy to get the form. All that needs to be done is to contact the hotels or other places you will be staying at. I got my split stay form within 24 hours after contacting my hotel.
Flights, ahhh yes there is the thing. I’ve insisted on traveling with Qatar Airways or Emirates. Why? Because the gulf operated airlines are more reliable during covid times, don’t randomly cancel the flights and don’t have exaggerated travel or transfer rules, like other airlines.
In April when I was going to Zanzibar, first I booked the flights with KLM. A month before departure I started to get emails from KLM nearly every day saying: your flight has been cancelled, rebooked, rescheduled. After like five of those emails I had enough! Additionally I found out that you need to present a negative PCR test every time you are transferring through Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Transfer, meaning not leaving the airport only, get out of one plane and hop to another, with your mask and following all safety measures. With all due respect, f**k NO! Besides being in Zanzibar I couldn’t be bothered to look for a laboratory that makes PCR tests.That wouldn’t be worth the stress. Called the KLM help desk and requested a full refund. It wasn’t a problem as nowadays majority of flight tickets are flex – even Ryanair 😛 Got the money back from KLM and I’ve booked the ticket with Qatar… yeah it was more expensive than KLM by approx. 40 Euros, but hey no hassle during transfers in Doha and most of all no information that my flight was cancelled, rebooked or rescheduled.
Also this time, the journey with Qatar went as planned without major hiccups. Even made it to my connecting flight Doha-Male within 65 min transfer time… which would be close to impossible on Frankfurt airport 😛
Just a tip from my end, when you plan to travel during covid times, check not only the entry restrictions to the country you plan to visit, but also the restrictions of the airline that should take you to your destination.
Other things you need to do before departure? Yes, on the day of the departure fill in an online Health Declaration form on imuga.immigration.gov.mv. Why so late, you might ask. The form is valid only 24h after you complete it.
Arrived in Male today morning. Flight was very good! Qatar Airways never disappoints. Transfer in Doha was quick, the food wasn’t bad for economy class standards and nobody was sitting next to me so I had the entire row just for myself and could stretch.
Sooooo how is it? How is Male? It’s hot and the air has the sweet smell of humidity… god how I missed that smell. The only smell that is better than the mix between humidity and mold is the smell of wet neoprene and sea water – divers smell 😀 Soon!
One day in the capital is enough to catch some sleep and rest before an intense week of diving. Took a quick shower put on sunscreen and went for a walk to explore the town. The city itself is a mix between Ho Chi Minh City and India. Lots of scooters! They are everywhere and coming at you from every direction, just like in VIetnam. Can’t get rid of the feeling that time went back or stopped.
The architecture looks a bit like from the 50s, streets are narrow and for some reason there are plenty of supermarkets or groceries shops… literally one next to the other. First impression, would say it’s charming.
It’s definitely not a party town. Firstly, covid prevention is taken very seriously here. The restaurants do only take away, so there is no sitting in lovely cafes enjoying local specialities. Although the food is good. Got some street food that consisted of samosas, rolls with some kind of meat filling, balls with other meat filling and little flat pastries that were stuffed with coconut and chili. There were no names next to the snacks so I just asked the vendor to give me a bit of everything.
Have to say it was very tasty. Generally I’m not afraid to buy street food, actually it is the best thing you can get in all countries in Asia. The only rule is go there where many locals are.
Secondly, the Maldives are a muslim country, meaning no booze! The only beer you can buy in supermarkets is alcohol free, meaning getting hammered is not an option. Actually good, otherwise I would be tempted to go out at night to some club and suffer the next morning. Wonder if there will be beer on the dive boat as decompression drinks after diving are always mandatory… in reasonable quantities ofcoz as too much drinking and diving rarely go hand in hand. Besides never ever jump into the water after having a drink, EVER!
So what’s the plan for the rest of the day? Not much really, get some dinner, search for a night market, have a shower and go to bed, I need to be fit for tomorrow 😀