MAL­DIVES

With guest­houses now open on the Mal­dives’ in­hab­ited is­lands, it’s not all about re­sorts

Friday - - Leisure Charts -

I want to... ex­plore

I’ve been to many ex­otic des­ti­na­tions, but of­ten felt that they’d been over-hyped. The Mal­dives, how­ever, is as good as in the brochures.

Known as the King’s Is­land, be­cause it was the seat of the dy­nas­ties that ruled here for cen­turies, few tourists spend time in Male, the cap­i­tal, and yet this tiny city, with its lively fish mar­ket, National Mu­seum and stun­ning Fri­day mosque, is well worth a visit.

Al­though tourists be­gan to visit the Mal­dives in 1973, trav­ellers were only al­lowed to stay on the re­sort is­lands. Is­lan­ders are now al­lowed to open guest­houses, so avid ex­plor­ers should visit these lesser-known is­lands.

Maa­fushi in the Kaafu Atol is the birth­place of Al Sul­tan Ghazi Mo­ham­mad Bodu Thaku­r­u­faanu, the sea cap­tain who lib­er­ated the Mal­dives from the Por­tuguese in 1573. His house is now a mu­seum. A two-hour ferry ride away, Fulid­hoo in the Vaavu Atoll has pow­der-white, near-de­serted beaches and a cafes serv­ing Hed­hikaa or ‘short eats’, de­li­cious lo­cal snacks. Thi­nadoo, cap­i­tal of Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll and the next stop on the ferry, is a busy, happy is­land with mosques, schools and pris­tine beaches.

Guest­houses-in-mal­dives.net has 12 guest­houses on sev­eral is­lands. Happy Life Mal­dives, on Dhif­fushi in the North Male Atoll has rooms from Dh220 for two per night.

MAKE THE MOST OF IT

Emi­rates flies to Male; for max­i­mum beach time, book the di­rect flight, not the ones that go via Colombo.

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