surgeonfish and parrotfish

Velidhoo Island, Maldives –the tropical island dream come true. A magnificent sea world, food for every taste and a “private beach” just footsteps from your own little beach hut – a vacation that doesn’t leave a lot to be desired.

Destination Velidhoo Island (sometimes also written “Velidhu”), Maldives
How I got there July 2015: Etihad Airways (booked as packaged tour including hotel stay)
Where I stayed Velidhu Island Resort (http://velidhu.com.mv/) , booked as packaged tour via ITS Travel (https://www.its.de/urlaub/Velidhu.html) including flights, full board and flight transfer from Male to the island and back
Restaurants “Iruara Restaurant” and “Lighthouse Bar”
Things to do Snorkeling and/or diving, relaxing, eating, reading
Recommendations in a nutshell Manta Tour – both times no dolphins, but LOTS of Mantas!

The Maldives

Our first trip to the Maldives in 2007 brought us to Fihalhohi, a comparably low-priced island with a nice (but small) house reef:

turtle at Fihalhohi reef giant clam at Fihalhohi reef
Beach on Fihalhohi Island, Maldives Fihalhohi reef

Still, we were very excited about the wonderful underwater world and the great beach, that we had almost to ourselves at the end of June 2007. Despite the around 140 rooms on the island – but many divers which renders the island empty during the day. However, when we decided to visit the Maldives again in 2015, my research brought the insight that Fihalhohi had been opened up to (mostly Chinese) day tourists, obviously for profit maximization. Really nothing against Chinese people, but their reputation regarding a responsible handling of coral reefs is not the best. Sadly, there were numerous complaints on TripAdvisor about reckless tourists walking on the corals and not caring about sustainability and nature protection, and so Fihalhohi was clearly off the list.

Which Island is the best?

How to identify “the perfect island”? Our selection criteria were pretty clear: the island should

  1. repeatedly appear in “best snorkeling reef” rankings,
  2. have decent food,
  3. be moderately priced,
  4. and have good reviews on TripAdvisor (link!).

Applying these criteria left us with about 10 islands on a longlist (Velidhoo, Filitheyo, Gangehi, Ellaidhoo, Eryadu, Vilamendhoo, Bathala, Embudhu, Angaga, Thulagiri), all in the 3 or 4 star category and – at least according to some reviews – equipped with a decent house reef. After a more intensive research we ended up with a shortlist of 2 islands: Velidhu and Filitheyo. And the supposedly more populated reef tipped the scales for Velidhoo versus the nicer looking beach bungalows on Filitheyo and the more southern location of Filitheyo (the more south, the lesser the dominance of the “summer monsoon”).

Best time of travel

Peak season for the Maldives is the northern hemisphere winter. During summer, there’s a higher chance of rainy days, as we had one during our 14 days stay:

rain on the maldives

I personally think that one day of rain within a fortnight is absolutely OK, and it saves you a lot of money (probably around 40% compared to the winter prices).

The Maldives are located north and south of the equator, southwest of India, thus in the tropical region. A short, but fierce downpour can happen any time, preferably during dinner. Otherwise there’s a kind of dry season from December to March (rainy days below 5 per month); September is the month with the highest number of rainy days (around 15). However, it usually does not rain the entire day. As m.entioned above, the more south the island is located, the less pronounced appears the summer monsoon season.

The water is always warm, so you can go snorkeling or diving even on a rainy day. During our first trip to the Maldives we went at the end of June and did in fact have only 1 rainy day; the Velidhu trip was in July, and also only one rainy day. So, we can definitely recommend the summer months.

Trip to the Maldives

The trip started with  flights from Duesseldorf to Abu Dhabi (with a really exhausting 3 hours stay at Abu Dhabi Airport in the middle of the night) and onwards to Malé. Etihad is a good airline, but the nasty habit of the  Arabic people to cool down their Airport interiors to below 20°C always brings you to your destination with a borderline cold/flu. Nevertheless, the first sight of the pearls of Maldive islands below is always great!

Maldives from above

Approaching the Malé airport, there’s always a great view of Malé, the capital of the Maldives:

Malé Malé

Arriving at Hulhulé international, you will either be brought to one of the waiting boats, or – in case of air transport – to the domestic part of the airport, where you can sit in open air and wait for your connecting flight:

Trans Maldivian Airlines Terminal

Up to two hours by boat is usually considered at tolerable and offered by the hotels, but – if you have to select – you should keep in mind that two hours on rough sea might not be the nicest start into your holidays…And the transport by sea planes of Trans Maldivian Airlines is a great adventure, although – in our case of going to Velidhoo – it was just a short 20 minute flight to our final destination.

Trans Maldives Airways planes

That is really a nice way to travel: all open air, suitcases squeezed in the back and passengers in the front, the pilots barefoot and very relaxed.

pilot

And the view of the islands from above is just great. Finally we arrived…Velidhoo from above and on the ground:

Velidhu from above

On Velidhoo there are only two accommodation types available: bungalows on the island, all pretty close to the beach, and water bungalows:

Velidhu water bungalows

The beach huts on Velidhoo

We had decided for the beach bungalows and were happy with our rooms, which are in fact small detached round bungalows.  Though not renivated, it was clean, spacious and comfortable – for us perfectly OK:

our Velidhu beach hut our hut inside

I think they started renovating the bungalows – so there might be nicer ones available by now. Our two bungalows (numbers 111 and 112, if I remember correctly)…

Velidhu hut and beach

were quite close to a small beach that belonged all to ourselves, including sunbeds, all “personalized”with the room numbers:

our private beach on Velidhu

If I could chose (and you can try by Email), I would probably prefer room numbers 167-180 on the north-eastern side, as they are closer to the reef exit:

Velidhu plan

Here’s the link to the map of the island: http://www.mondomaldive.it/Mappe_resort/Velidhu.html

The spectacular Underwater-World

Of course, for us the main attraction was the reef, and we basically went snorkeling at least three times a day. If recent reports are correct, the reef did suffer a lot from coral bleeching in 2016/17, but in 2015 during our stay the reef was still great, will lots of fish, lots of different fish, sharks, turtles…basically everything you’d expect. Here’s the gallery of a small election of highlights, more at the bottom of the post:

surgeonfish and parrotfish

hawksbill turtle triggerfish
hawksbill turtle above, black dot stingray below triggerfish above, trumpet fish below
black dot stingray trumpet fish

Velidhoo island

Velidhoo is a small island that you can suround by walking in about 30 minutes. There’s a nice beach on the northern side:

Velidhu beach

An equally nice beach on the western side, close to the water bungalows:

water bungalows beach on Velidhu

and another nice beach on the southern side, close to the beach bar:

beach at beach bar on Velidhu

And in between lots of small “private beaches” close to the beach bungalows, like “ours”:

western beach at sunset

…where you can watch incredible sunsets:

sunset on Velidhu

What to do?

Going with a packaged tour to the Maldives means that you are quite restricted to the activities offered on your particular island. Which usually means: diving, snorkeling, swimming, relaxing, reading…

reading

…eating at the main restaurant…

Main Restaurant on Velidhu

…drinking at the beach bar…

Velidhu Beach Bar

…combined with the occasional visit to the Spa or the occasional tour offered by the hotel. So, if you start getting fretful after three days of this, you should definitely consider other destinations than the Maldives. However, we can very well live with two weeks of doing just these few things (meaning: no museums, basically no shopping and – at least on many islands – quite restricted/expensive internet access!), and so this was a great experience and kind of set the standard like “this was great – almost as great as going to the Maldives…”.

On Velidh oothere is some diversion – they’ve got for example a water sports center which offers a lot. Like dive tours, diving classes, snorkeling tours and a “manta tour”, highly praised in the island’s TripAdvisor reviews. We booked the tour and were not disappointed. Though, in the beginning I thought I would never manage to see a manta, with me and about 10 guys (swimming like pros) in the group; the guys always 20 meters ahead of we (being a slow swimmer…). In the end I figured out that I should just stay behind and wait – and the mantas just passed by.

Manta Ray

Then I followed them and had them all for myself. A really great day with lots of mantas!

Manta Ray

As we loved the “manta experience” so much, we booked the tour again in our second week, and were – again – quite lucky: lots of mantas. So, based on our experience I can really recommend this trip – with “average luck” you should certainly see the animals.

The Mantas were spectacular, but the Velidhoo house reef offered a lot as well. At high tide, you can get beyond the roof of the reef at almost any place. However, the main entrance to the reef via a wooden jetty, just next to the beach bar, gets you directly into the best and most populated part of the reef:

Jetty on Velidhu

And directly at the entrance, you’ll already see thousands of fish –  and getting into the water, it’s almost a bit creepy, due to the crowd of makerels:

fish at the jetty under the jetty makerels at Velidhu reef

In the water, you’re almost on your own. When we were there (in July, which is of course not the peak season for the Maldives), we were mostly alone at the reef. So here’s again a (small!) collection of what we saw under water:

yellow boxfish black dot porcupinefish
Yellow boxfish above and below black dot porcupinefish above and below – one of my favorites!
yellow boxfish black dot porcupinefish
bat fish titan triggerfish
 bat fish above and trumpet fish below giant troggerfish (really frightening!) above and below
trumpet fish titan triggerfish
yellow fin-street sweepers moorish idol fish
yellow fin-street sweeper and giant troggerfish above, large group of surgeonfish below moorish idol fish above, group of surgeonfish and parrotfish below
surgeonfish surgeonfish
more surgeonfish and parrotfish hawksbill turtle
and lots of more surgeonfish and parrotfishabove and below – if you’ve ever heard them gnawing on the corals, you’ll never forget the scraping sound for the rest of your life. Sounds a bit like an armada of stonecutters and masons at work… Hawksbill Turtle, above and below
more surgeonfish and parrotfish hawksbill turtle
white dot boxfish giant eelfish
white dot boxfish above – one of my favorites; they are really cute! And a black tip reef shark below giant eelfish, not so cute…in contrast to the pits rabbit fish below
black tip reef shark pits Rabbit fish
ballhead parrotfish landscape underwater
ballhead parrotfish above, and a napoleon fish (a still small one) below a beautiful landscape and lots of colorful fish
Napoleon fish mullets at Velidhu reef

Particularly nice are the clown fish, famous from “finding nemo”:

clown fish

And they also contribute to the most amazing underwater landscapes:

clown fish clown fish

Overall, the underwater world at Velidhu is absolutely spectacular – we would go back any time!

fish at Velidhu reef

And the way back…

14 days are quite a long time for just hanging around, doing a bit of snorkeling and mainly nothing. Unfortunately, one fine day they are over. And we had to say goodbye to the small sandy stretch in the middle of the Indian ocean, the fulfillment of “the perfect tropica island dream”. The seaplane came to pick us up.

seaplane

We had skipped any tours to islands inhabited by natives. However, on our return trip, we ended up – unintentionally – with an extra day in Malé. Our return trip started with the seaplane, as before. Suitcases and larger backpacks in the back, passengers in the front. After a few minutes flight we had a stopover on another small island. Some passengers were dropped off, others came in, then we continued to Malé. Just a stone’s throw of 15 minutes.

Island Maldives

Unexpected overnight stay at Malé

We arrived at the Hulhulé domestic airport 6 in the evening, wanted to pick up our backpacks and suitcases – and figured out that two of our backpacks (including all travel documents and passports) were missing. They had accidentally been left on the stopover island when clearing the baggage and passengers for the island. Not a great deal – if the seaplane could have gone back to pick things up. As mentioned, just a 15 minutes flight. Unfortunately for us, the seaplanes don’t fly in the dark, which means on the Maldives: no flights after 6 p.m. So, there was no chance to get us our backpacks before the next day. The Flight to Abu Dhabi left without us on that evening.

Perfect service by Trans Maldivian Airlines

The people at Trans Maldivian Airlines – I really must say – were extremely supportive (but OK, leaving our backpacks on the stopover island was their fault…). A very nice lady took care of everything. She organized a hotel stay at Male’s best hotel (ex-“Traders Hotel” – now renamed to “Jen Malé”), which features a great rooftop swimmingpool and terrace:

Jen Male hotel pool

So, unexpectedly we came to visit Malé, the capital of the Maldives. It’s not spectacular, but nice to see, if you’re there anyway. We went to see the local park, the harbor and the fish and fruit markets:

Malè local park peppers at Malé fruit market fish at Malé fish market
Male fruit market Male harbour Malé fruit market

We also got and new tickets for our flight from Malé back to Duesseldorf. Which was quite difficult, considering summer holiday season and all flights sold out. The nice Lady from Trans Maldivian Airlines even accompanied us to the hotel with umbrellas (as it had started raining) and the next day back to the airport. And she took care of our catering, as it was the month of Ramadan,  which normally would have left us starving the entire day. The only downside: we did not know until 2 hours before the flight if we would get seats on the plane or not…this left us a bit uneasy during our Malé exploration tour. But in the end, everything worked fine and we got home just one day later than anticipated. And had the chance to see Malé.

Velidhoo – hopefully see you again!

With a final picture of my favorite Velidhoo beach spot I’ll say goodbye  – but I will certainly go back there one day!

Beach at the Velidhu Beach Bar

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