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Dhonis in the Maldives

Comprising a series of coral islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is most easily explored by boat. Dhonis are charming, open-sided fishing boats available for charter from the capital, Male and most island resorts. The price depends on destination, trip length and your negotiation skills. Island-hopping for a day should cost around AUD$250.

Seaplanes in the Maldives

Many travellers will go from the capital, Male, to their island or resort by seaplane. They can also take you between islands during your stay and can be chartered for sightseeing or photography trips. They're not cheap – prices start at around AUD$100 for a 20-minute flight – but the breathtaking view they offer of the atolls, islands, reefs and lagoons is worth every penny.

Speedboats in the Maldives

For those who seek adventure over romance, speedboats are an excellent option. They travel greater distances than their more traditional counterparts, and for around AUD$300 you can spend the day racing around the islands in style with a captain and small crew. Be warned that on some islands you will be required to refuel the boat at the end of the tour.

Vedis in the Maldives

A vedi is a large dhoni that travels between Male and the outermost atolls. Mostly used for local trading, they are slow but cheap. A trip to the southernmost atoll, Addu, will take two days and cost around AUD$19. If you don't mind the lack of creature comforts then a vedi would certainly be an authentic local experience.

Swim with manta rays

Though you may be unnerved by their vast size at first – their wingspan can reach 20 feet – these beautiful, peaceful creatures are harmless. Manta ray swimming tours are available to both divers and snorkelers. Watching their elegant forms swooping, gliding and spiralling all around you is something you will be dreaming about long after your tan has faded.

Visit Hukuru Miskiiy (Old Friday Mosque)

This beautiful mosque in Male, dating from 1656, is the oldest in the country. Though the outside is protected by corrugated iron, don't be put off. Look closer and you'll see its coral walls are carved with intricate Arabic writings and patterns. The extraordinary lacquer and artwork of its interior is equally breathtaking. For those seeking culture, this is a must-see.

Take a trip on the Whale Submarine

Marvel at the Maldives' stunning coral reefs, tropical fish, turtles and sharks from the comfort of the Whale Submarine. This is the largest passenger submarine in the world. Boats from Male and the airport take you to its dock off the coast, where you'll be given a drink before boarding. It costs around AUD$80 for an adult and AUD$40 for a child (no under threes).

Relax and rejuvenate at a spa

Although simply reclining on a soft white beach and listening to the rhythmic lapping of the waves will soon have you feeling soothed, visiting a Maldivian spa is essential. Using traditional treatments such as sand massage, virgin coconut oil and gandhakolhi leaf (for aches and pains), these little temples of luxury must be top of any to-do lists.

DAY 1: Beach exploration

DAY 1: Beach exploration After waking up to the sound of gentle waves and tropical birdsong, make your way to your resort's eclectic breakfast buffet. Indulge in eggs and bacon, continental pastries, or, for the more adventurous, the local morning fare of fish curry. Spend the day relaxing on your lounger and snorkelling in the coral reefs with their colourful, curious fish. Enjoy sundowners on the beach, followed by a delicious dinner in your open-sided restaurant. End the evening with cocktails and crab racing at the bar.

DAY 3: Experience Maldivian culture

Make your way to Male for a day of culture. Spend the morning marvelling at the wood carvings and exquisite artwork of the ancient Hukuru Miskiiy mosque. Savour a mouth-watering lunch at Aioli Restaurant before heading off to the small but impressive National Museum, brimming with fascinating artefacts including a coral stone head of Buddha. Finish the day with a trip to the crowded, colourful fish market, where you'll marvel at the size of the freshly caught swordfish and barracuda.

DAY 2: Try a traditional dhoni

Wake up early and board a dhoni for a morning spent swimming with dolphins. Return to your island for a relaxing lunch and then an afternoon of pure sensorial indulgence at the spa. At sundown, take to the water again for a spot of tranquil night fishing. Your catch will be grilled to perfection by the tour chefs on a deserted island. You'll eat by the light of the stars while watching rays and baby reef sharks glide past you in the shallows.

DAY 4: Discover the underwater world

Spend the morning diving, or, for the uninitiated, taking one of the excellent courses on offer. Training takes place in the local reef, and with over a thousand species of fish and underwater creatures inhabiting Maldivian waters, this is an experience worth signing up for. Later head off to the water sports centre for an afternoon of jet skiing and parasailing. End the day with a private dinner on the beach while being serenaded by local musicians.


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