THAT ONE TIME I GOT INVITED TO THE MALDIVES
The Maldives is a chain of surreal islands in the Indian Ocean. For almost a week I escaped the real world and found myself in a tropical paradise called Bandos...
Not a long time ago I received an email from a guy called Hamdhaan. The message was brief, actually only 3 sentences:
"I've been following your blog for a few months now.
You should think of coming back to the Maldives again.
Where it all started."
For those who don't know what he meant by "where it all started": In my blog post How I quit my job and traveled the world I was describing how I went to
the Maldives back in 2007. Long time before I discovered that I can travel the world independently and on a budget...
I replied Hamdhaan and expressed how much I would love to return to the Maldives. One day. After I clicked “send” I wrote another message, saying
"Is that an invite? ;)"
It was more like a joke. I didn't even expect an answer to that. An hour later I received another email from Hamdhaan.
"I would love to have you here at Bandos Island.
At the moment I am offering you lodging and meals from the hotel for FREE;
I'll cover your airfare, too.
Could you tell me exact dates so that I can book the rooms for you from here?"
My jaw dropped. Was this for real? Would this be my first real press trip? I've been on sponsored trips before but no one was that generous with me. I replied as professional as possible with "WOOHOO!!" and spent the rest of the day worrying about how many kilos I could lose until my departure, in order to get in perfect bikini shape.
My boyfriend wasn't as excited as I was when I told him about the trip to the Maldives.
"So you don't want to come with me?" — "Naah, it's just a beach. Boring. You go, and have fun..."
Pfff. Everyone has their own priorities. A couple of days after I made a call on Facebook asking all my friends if anyone wants to join me to the Maldives. I received like a hundred emails, from people who I haven't talked to in years. Even the husband of my brothers ex-girlfriend asked me if I would like to take his wife. I haven't seen her since my brother split up with her... uhm... 15 years ago. Nonetheless, I added her to the list of potential travel buddies.
After a day I had a list with more than 20 candidates to choose from. It was actually harder than I thought to find someone. Plus I wanted someone who is a talented photographer and get nice shots of me. I mean for a free trip you can work a bit for me, right? A week later I made a decision.
A few days before I left I had a phone call with my mother.
"So you are going back to the Maldives?" — "Yes, mum."
“The last time you went there alone my dear. That made me so sad. This time you're taking your boyfriend, right?” — "No, mum."
"What? So you are going alone again???" — "Yes mum."
My mother's voice started to become shaky, I felt like I needed to say something to calm her down.
"Actually I'm taking a good friend of mine. He's gay. And he is awesome." — "You are going to the Maldives with another man???”
Actually she didn't sound calm at all. I tried harder.
“Yes, mum. He is gay. It's all good.” — “And your boyfriend knows about this?” — “Yes, mum”
Silence for a couple of seconds. Then I heard my mother breathing. Heavily.
“You're weird. I'm wonder if you will ever get married."
Then I lost the connection. Thanks to Skype for breaking up my calls when I need it.
December 01 was the day of my departure. I flew from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to meet my friend Denis who I had chosen to take on the trip. When we were in the taxi to the airport I actually realized that exactly today 7 years ago I had departed for my first trip to the Maldives. And I thought I would never return... Today was my lucky day.
We arrived in Male around noon and were picked up by Hamdhaan. I was super excited the moment I set my foot on the ground. After a 25 minutes ride with the speedboat, we reached Bandos Island Resort.
My first impression: Oh my gosh oh my gosh... this... is... SPECTACULAR!!!
The island was quite small, it took me only 15-20 minutes to surround the island walking in a slow pace and get back to where I started.
Does it really look like those typical postcards or desktop wallpapers? Actually it does. It was incredibly beautiful, a tropical paradise. If there is any place on this planet to escape the real world than it is here, for sure. It's surreal.
THE JACUZZI BEACH VILLA
After a quick check in we were brought to our Beach Villa which was stunning in and outside. The villa was surrounded by palm trees and literally 10 steps away from the sea.
Our new home was cozy, spacious and tastefully furnished with beautiful wooden decor and traditional thatched ceiling. The house was divided in two levels with a bedroom and a balcony upstairs and a living room on the ground floor.
I loved the balcony upstairs, every morning I'd open the door and stare outside to the crystal blue lagoon and the white sandy beach. Just magical.
At the back of the ground level was a large open air bathroom with a rain shower and a jacuzzi. This was probably the biggest bathroom I have ever seen. An amazing oasis.
Not forget to mention, the room boy came twice a day with a smile and plenty of fresh towels. He did a fantastic job.
THE WATER VILLA
After 4 nights in the gorgeous Jacuzzi Beach Villa we got a pleasant surprise: Upgrade to a Water Villa! A driver in a golf cart came to pick us up and drove us over the footbridge that led to the water villas.
I already thought the Beach Villa was absolutely stunning, but the Water Villa was the ultimate luxury experience. An extraordinary residence, set on stilts and floating in the turquoise sea.
Hands down, even my friend Denis who had stayed at plenty of luxury hotels around the world said that this was the most amazing bungalow ever. Too bad he had to sleep on the couch, haha. The master bedroom was definitely reserved for me. Look at this gorgeous room, it's like made for a princess:
The Water Villa was divided in a large living room with a couch, plasma TV, dining table and next door was the lovely bedroom with separate bathroom of gigantic size, again with a
jacuzzi and a breathtaking sea view.
We had our private sun deck with access to the sea. WiFi on the terrace? Check. But who cares when a bunch of sharks are passing by? The view was absolutely out of this world...
We had full board, which means we enjoyed a large buffet, three times a day. To be honest, it was a lot more than I used to eat. If I lost any kilos before getting to the Maldives, they were back after one walk to the buffet I guess.
The variety of food was overwhelming, plenty of different dishes, International to local, vegetarian, Indian and Maldivian cuisine. Plus there was a big selection of fresh salads and delicious home-baked breads and pastries.
With a huge selection of cakes and mousses, the desserts were hard to resist. Goodbye bikini shape. I tried to stick to the fresh fruits, but those pies just looked too yummy.
Aside from the daily buffet, there were three other restaurants on the island, in case anyone would fancy a burger, pizza or Thai Food. Despite the fact that really everything is imported (except for the fish I assume), the prices for the food was quite reasonable. Only water was pricey with $4 a bottle.
ACTIVITIES - HOW TO KILL TIME IN PARADISE
Just in case anyone would get bored in paradise, there are plenty of activities to fill your day. If you love watersports, you can try fun activities such as surfing, jet skiing, banana boating or parasailing and of course there was a dive school on the island which offered daily dive and snorkel trips.
I joined one of the snorkel trips and my highlight was the stopover on a bright white sand bank in the middle of the ocean. It was magnificent.
Bandos Island has its own house reef, you can't go to the Maldives without snorkeling! Needless to say, the underwater life of the Maldives is beyond amazing. Sharks, mantas, turtles, you'll meet them there, for sure.
There was a swimming pool with a bar in the center of the island. A nice place to enjoy a cocktail, but let's be honest: Who needs a pool if you have the most turquoise sea next to you?
Is the Maldives expensive? Hell yes they are. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
When you're looking up for a trip to the Maldives, you probably can't stop thinking about how pricey it is. But trust me, once you set your feet on the white sandy beach, you'll be amazed and just forget about all the cash. It's worth it.
Surprisingly, Bandos Island Resort is one of the more affordable places in the Maldives. You can check rates here.
So what did I do all day? Beside sleeping, eating, snorkeling and drinking cocktails we didn't do too much.
For most of the time, I was just curled up under a palm tree and snoozing. It's like there is something in the air that makes you sleepy all day. Or maybe it was the massive amounts of food we shoveled in our mouths... I don't think I have been to a place that was so relaxed.
On my last day I was chatting with Hamdhaan in one of the restaurants over a coffee. He was telling me how much he wants to leave the island and travel the world. It's impressive how things change from a different perspective.
Before I said goodbye, he looked at me and asked:
"Do you think you will return to Bandos?" — "Well, I would love to, let's see about my budget.."
"No I mean if I'd invite you again?"
What? I didn't need to think about that. "OF COURSE I WOULD!!" — What a question. He smiled. Then I waved him goodbye and walked back to my Water Villa. Truly, this was a week in paradise, and I felt no desire to return to the real world...
Thank you for reading.
Thanks to Hamdhaan for the amazing escape. My stay at Bandos Island Resort was complimentary, all opinions are, as always, my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabrina Iovino is the founder of JustOneWayTicket.com. She's half German, half Italian and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she'll switch now. Phew...much better! Let's restart:
Hi, I'm Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.
Thanks to my Editor Carolin Pilligrath of Breathing Travel.
Thanks to my wonderful and patient friend Denis for joining me to this fabulous trip and for taking such amazing photos of me... <3
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