Maldives Madness: Island Life for a Day

So the postcards were right.

CX flight 601 was the best thing I’ve heard since microwave popcorn, pancake mix, and cookie butter. Mum, being a flight attendant for Cathay Pacific for 24 years now, was rostered on a blessed 5-day pattern with the unreal-tinted archipelago of 1,190 islands. It didn’t take long before I maxed out the bank accounts, packed the memory cards, and applied layers of unhelpful sunscreen.

sidenote:

Before I go any further I’d like to show my unfathomable gratitude to my Mom, who for 19 years had endured my rambling wanderlusted existence and took me on this flight; My dad for being the best selfless role-model one can ask for, and for gifting me with the amateur Travel Blogger’s dream of a DSLR (Canon EOS 750D); my cousin, Nadine Lustre, for being a best friend growing up and gifting the earthproof GoPro Hero 4 used throughout the trip; and the wonderful flight team of CX601, full of life and the thirst for adventure.

end of sidenote

Departing at 5:50 PM on the 13th of March 2016, the A330-300 widebody aircraft of Cathay Pacific was to take us shuddering holidaymakers for a 6 and a half hour flight to the historically named Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Male. With the unparalleled service straight from the heart, my 180 pound self was a little boy in a candy store at Seat 20A in business class. An appetizer of seasoned prawns with balsamic dressing, and an entrée of peppered lamb biryani with salted cashews brought the undeniable yum yum in my tum tum, all topped up with the sugary carbonic acid brought upon by some Coca Cola to make sure all that grub stays shut inside the caverns of my belly incase of motion sickness which I’m sensitive to. Apparently throwing up on a flight is frowned upon. Who knew?

Arrival at Ibrahim Nasir airport was greeted with the reminiscence of every Locked Up Abroad episode I’ve ever seen, as I was intently questioned by the immigration seeing as I was travelling alone. The presence of my Mum bathed the nervewracked hall with a somewhat warm sense of ease (kinda like when you pee in the shower, but not really), as we were let through to the hotel buses. For accommodations,  we were lodged at the cozy Hulhulle Island Hotel, a strategic 10-minute ride from the airport. By this, the hotel is populated with european backpackers, exhausted airline staff, and eager sunset-selfie-enthusiasts, all of whom can enjoy the manmade coral-occupied beach complementing the aircraft silhouettes by the setting sun in the west. A local band plays at the hotel bar every night so your Spotify Top 40 is ever so close in reach, and the lobby is filled with wifi-hoggers who aren’t down to pay 70 USD in WiFi fees (I mean who is really.)

Day 1 of 3 : upon unanimous decisions and unconditionally kind colleagues, the choice of having the Day Trip at the Banyan Tree resort was made and contrary to popular belief, I woke up early with much jest at 7:50 AM to head to the airport piers. Much to our surprise, what was once an empty airport the night before was bustling with a barrage of Resort Stall organisers, all eager to haggle the best resort prices among the fat-walleted tourists complete with luggage as large as life and toy-poodles by the shoulder.

Dealing with the stern Mr. Hassan by the Banyan Tree stall, we sorted out previously made reservations and were priced at 125 USD per person for the day trip, inclusive of a 2-3 man Cabana, buffet lunch w/o drinks, unrestricted snorkelling with gear, access to the island, and the speedboat ride to and from Vabbinfaru. Arrangements were made by the crew team ISM and good friend Chaivaree and her husband, a fellow voyager Mr. Pan, from Thailand. Lets get you started with the maldivian aqua tints and selfies with uncomfortable foreigners:

 

 

Time for a history lesson (don’t leave please nice photos are coming). Banyan Tree is a chain of luxury resorts, Vabbinfaru is the formal name of the island, actual native population: 0. Transformed into a resort of 48 villas, there are now not more than 250 working staff in the 240 x 269 metre island. The sister island, Ihuru, two minutes away belongs to the Angsana Resorts group. Today, we take on the white-beachier of the two.

A 25 minute speedboat ride from Male brought us to a state similar to a cliché american advertisment of a children with some new brand of macaroni and cheese; overly happy grins, and completely inanimate at the sight of this heart-thumper:

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Pier, Banyan Tree, Vabbinfaru (photo is property of VoyagerZulu)

Picked up by Maldivian native, Mr. Abdullah, he escorts our group to the main office, unbelievably callused to the view he had right at his doorstep, while I on the other hand, have started looking up pacemakers on eBay as my eyes adjust to the unprecedented tints. He mentions having to work there 6 days a week; and that one night as a guest is a wallet-whopping 1000+ USD. Meeting reception you are greeted with the native Banyan Tree, and a one way path straight to the other side of the island a good 250 metres away.

A good 180 degree turn from here cause you forgot something on the boat and  you start to contemplate on selling a kidney or two to have the opportunity to stay here forever.

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Once the reception had confirmed our rather scot-free identities, we are escorted to the left of the bridge (coming from the pier), treading the white sands with worn out flip-flops, and a maldivian breeze across our face enough to make you believe like you’re in a One Direction music video. We pass through the Banyan Tree bar, conveniently placing itself by the west of the reception. I was shaken, not stirred, at the fact that a dress code is to be kept in these places of indulgement, hence I was forced to wear a sleeved shirt and closed shoes before I was able to get some good-boy jolly shandy.

Soon enough we found ourselves by the Cabanas, isolated, and complete with plug outlets for your instagram-pic filled cellphones. Surprisingly there is a strong WiFi connection throughout the island, hence making your friends jealous through one’s vain snapchat is at an all-time ease.

The day-tour included a lunch buffet which started at 12:30PM and ends at 2. In a desperate attempt but in vain, I tried to find local food, that of which I only came across some maldivian chicken curry. Do not fret, the westernised cuisine that Banyan Tree provided was ace, so I helped myself with some white cream sauce pasta, vegetable paella and the curry, while Mom decided to be a herbivore and stuck with some salad. Oh right, other than the self-served dishes, food such as the pasta and the barbecue is cooked in front of you for added authenticity, while you can also enjoy the view of the beach adjacent to the outdoor lunch area. Vabbinfaru home-made ice cream was for dessert, and my friends that is one ice cream I’d never share.

I over-ate, and became non-exaggeratedly 6 months foodbaby-pregnant.The chefs were very kind and accommodating, unafraid to assist and suggest the best possible dishes you can put inside of you. Mr. Abdullah, being one of the head supervisors, was also exceptionally kind, situationally-aware by keeping everyone’s table armed with fresh water to drink. Mother and I were determined to circle the island, in attempt to psychologically console and ease ourselves with our sumo-sized lunch. Counter-clockwise was our direction, and such were the views on the first half circle:

The villas ready to eradicate your monthly earnings with luxury and quintesscential views of the aqua-saturated beaches around the island are such:

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While it is important to note that the villas surrounding the outer circle of the island are to be kept to their privacy, Mr Abullah explained that a small quiet group of people can actually explore, given that the honeymooners within the island are undisturbed and kept honeymooning. The first semi-circle is pleasingly and symmetrically marked with yet another bridge and a gazeebo for photo opportunities of endless possibilities. Such is the sight at the bridge, the left, and the right of the gazeebo respectively:

2 PM was when things got slightly problematic…temperature-wise. With nothing to shield us from the blazing sun and the unyielding 36 degree celsius temperature, we chose to head back to the Cabana after a fairly elaborate photoshoot. The absence of a breeze was excruciatingly bothersome, and the sunscreen I wore dripped down my body inform of sweat and literal tears:

Once satisfied we took the path heading back to the front of the island, towards the sanctuary that is the Cabana, and the blessing that is plug outlet to charge my gear. Feeling alright, I went to explore further, while Mom decided to relish the view solo in her Cabana. So I took some sneaky shots as I took the unbeaten path around the residential. Such was the view and the maze (#LetsGetLost) I ridiculously chose to take coming from the gazeebo:

I had to go topless at some point, cause well, no maldivian adventure is complete without taking a dip in the rejuvenating waters surrounding the islands! Thankfully the snorkelling gear is part of the 125 USD, given that you don’t faceplant a coral and singlehandedly wreck the gear, mother earth, and your dignity.

I snorkelled with our good friends Chaivaree her husband Mr. Pan, and thanks to the GoPro Hero 4 chest-mounted on my life-vest, I was able to record how it was like underwater. I ain’t a liar, so I gotta say that the underwater experience was honestly average, and the corals weren’t nearly as colourful as the ones advertised in El Nido in the Philippines. Aside from the occasional clownfish and coral, I did swim above a stingray at some point (watch in 720p-60FPS):

Steve Irwin (if he doesn’t ring any bells I ask you to stop now, and search him up) was one of the people I looked up to as a child, and not just because of his daughter, animal planet sweetheart Bindi Irwin, but because he took the extra mile in bridging the relationship between man and animal. His unfortunate death of stingray-barb to heart brought much sadness, and melancholic memes all over the internet. On the other hand, stingrays are very docile creatures, and only ever become adamant and attack when feel threatened, as shown in the stingray feeding event around 5PM:

Yes, that is a bird, specifically a stork named Mario who also comes every feeding time, not delivering babies but rather hoping to get some meat being fed to the rays. Yes, that is also a SHARK, literally 10 feet away from the blonde british bioconservationist.  They don’t attack humans unless treated with aggression, so No, you may not dive in and take some extreme gopro shots with the blacktip sharks.

As the day came to a close with the speedboat picking us up at 6PM, we took the time to reminisce on the experience, and pretty much accepting that I’ve been bathed along the magma of Mordor for the excruciating sunburn that encapsulated my body. The staff of Banyan Tree was very nice, especially Yumi, who out of genuine kindness took loads of farewell shots of us and the island. Vabbinfaru was one destination I’d never forget, and I highly recommend choosing Banyan Tree when shuffling through hundreds of resort options in Maldives. Thanks for walking through my footsteps.

Such was our Island Resort day-trip in Maldives, filled with zest, luxury, and postcard material views. But how’s it like locally in the archipelago? Stay tuned for Living it Local:

 

references:

  • All photos and videos are shot by me, and is property of VoyagerZulu
  • Cameras used: Canon EOS 750D; and GoPro Hero 4
  • Much gratitude with Cathay Pacific, for hotel accomodations and flight arrangements.
  • Big Man Upstairs for having such a place exist
  • Email: zacharykeithsantos@hotmail.com
  • Instagram / Twitter: voyagerzulu
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11 Comments Add yours

  1. Marie Ann Tan says:

    Great pics! Keep up w d blog! Life well travelled indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks loads! It means alot to hear that, and will definitely do my best to keep it up!

      Like

  2. E says:

    Its been on my list to travel to Maldives! Great quality of photos and content! Keep ’em coming! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cheers for the incredibly kind words! Will definitely do my best 🙂

      Like

      1. E says:

        Btw, we have the same last name!

        Like

      2. And it appears you’re from HK as well! Great to have some familiar around!

        Like

      3. E says:

        Well, yeah. Small world after all. Used to live in Caribbean Coast.

        Like

  3. Tito Phil says:

    Jealous brah, I wanna go there so bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Malou says:

    Thank you Zach for your excellent write up i read it not once but twice, looked at the pictures more than usual:-) you have absolutely taken me away from where I am right now in Germany and brought me with this blog to the beautiful island of Maldives. Flying with the best airline in the world, ( from my experience), Cathay pacific. I will definitely consider visiting and follow your reccomendations!

    Like

    1. Hi tita! It really means alot to me that you’ve found appreciation of the entry, and I’m very much grateful for all the kind words! Will definitely keep up the work in hopes to bring great content! Hope all is well with the family!

      Like

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