A guesthouse is one of the best idea to dive in the Maldives. Some, like Boutique Beach Diving, in South Ari Atoll, offer all-inclusive packages that are extremely advantageous, far more than the big luxury hotels where you only pay for the room and you must add all meals and activities once there.
Why choose a guest house to dive in the Maldives?
When you think of the Maldives, one imagine the white sand beaches, coconut palm trees and luxury hotels with bungalows on the beach. We see ourselves diving in the turquoise waters surrounded by thousands of multicolored fish. And when you start looking for accommodations that meet this need of adventure, we are quickly cooled down. The luxurious 5 stars, located on private islands, are probably a true heaven but they are also totally closed on themselves and without any contact with the local population. They appear initially quite affordable when you finally realize that nothing is included in the price indicated apart from the room and sometimes the breakfast. You will have to pay there all the meals, excursions and dives which are offered at an outrageous prices (I saw in one 4 stars hotel that a single dive costs more than 100 euros without equipment rental …).
Do you have to give up your dreams of diving those crystal clear waters that are among the most fish-rich in the world? Of course not ! Your solution is the guest house! The Maldives have been opening up since a couple of years to a cheaper and most accessible tourism for all by offering rooms at the inhabitants’ houses. This type of accommodation meets strict standards dictated by the Maldivian Ministry of Tourism. But so far, only few locals have yet embarked on this adventure. Foreign investors living in the Maldives have seen a great opportunity to let tourists discover the local life and allow many people, even backpackers, to enjoy the beauty of the atolls.
The Boutique Beach Diving guest house opened two years ago. Romney Drury, an English and passionate diver, is the CEO. She built this hotel for divers and snorkelers who want to discover the incredible wildlife of the South Ari Atoll including whale sharks and manta rays that are present throughout the year. The genius idea as been to offer an all-inclusive package: accommodation, meals, excursions, diving that you pay per room and not per person. Result: you enjoy your vacation thoroughly by being busy in the morning and more relaxed in the afternoon. You know what you are paying for and you have everything included.
How is a guest house working in the Maldives ?
As we did to go to New Zealand, we chose the flying company Emirates to go to Malé, the capital of the Maldives. It is a reliable and high quality airline. Even the stopover in Dubai is pleasant and exotic – well, a little less in the middle of the night as it was for us… The flight takes about 12 hours in total, which is very acceptable. The rates were really attractive and there are regular promotions.
Before arriving at the Beach Diving Boutique, you will have to take a domestic flight Malé – Maamigili which lasts about 30 minutes and makes you fly over turquoise atolls. You can also reach the island of Dhigurah by speed boat (about 2 hours) or by seaplane (which costs twice as much as the already expensive domestic flight for such a short flight time…). We flew with the Fly Me company which seemed very efficient and serious.
On arrival in Maamigili, a bus takes you from the airport to the harbour where a boat picks you up and takes you to the harbour of Dhigurah, another island. There, the Boutique Beach bus is waiting for you and about ten minutes later, you are there. We had a fantastic welcome from the whole staff ! You are offered a fresh coconut to drink – with a reusable straw because plastic straws are a real problem for marine fauna like all plastic in the ocean. The manager explains the different excursion possibilities and we agreed to start our stay with a full day of snorkeling the next day to recover from our trip. Then, we met with the diving instructor Ali who suggested that we come to the center a little later to get our diving equipment ready.
We spent our afternoon enjoying our superb air-conditioned room with wifi and sublime bathroom as well as the « bikini beach » right at the foot of the hotel. Bikini beaches are the only places where you can swim in a swimsuit in the inhabited islands of the Maldives to respect local culture and traditions.
The guest house’s activities
In the evening, during the delicious dinners taken on the rooftop terrace of the Boutique Beach Diving, the diving instructors come to suggest you the activities for the next day either in diving or snorkeling. The diving club, which is a 5 stars Padi, offers Nitrox diving and brand new equipment. All the diving sites we did were varied and interesting with tanks or with snorkels. We are Open Water and Advanced and the sites are very suitable for beginners. We had a monitor for two which is an absolute luxury then when another couple arrived, a monitor for four. The service is fully personalized and very attentive. The instructors are excellent, very calm and reassuring. At all the dives, we saw rays, moray eels, turtles, myriads of fish including fry groups. We also dived the famous thilas to see the soft corals.
In snorkeling, we had the privilege to see three whale sharks and manta rays feeding. Ali filmed our dives and gave us the videos at the end of our stay! Between two dives, the staff of the boat is truly caring: fresh coconut, cookies, coffee or tea, dry towels. The boat is a dhoni, very large and spacious. The launching is done with a right jump and the ascent from a ladder. The captain is from Dhigurah, he is extremely competent to spot animals from a distance and to position himself respectfully.
After the two morning dives, you have lunch waiting for you at the hotel and your afternoon is free. We visited the village and the school and also attended football matches in the evening. We explored the island up to the western tip and the sandbank. The beach also allowed us to relax or to observe the underwater fauna.
Dinner is a great time with either a table service or a buffet. All the dishes are delicacies with exotic and Indian flavors. Dinner is served on the terrace under the starry sky. We have never eaten twice the same meal either for lunch or dinner. The meals are plentiful and excellent, with a focus on seafood. We even had the chance one evening to eat a delicious fish barbecue on a deserted beach. Desserts are also sought after and very gourmet.
The advantages of being in a guest house
First of all, you are on an inhabited island in the heart of a village. People go about their business like braiding, repairing nets, preparing seeds for traditional desserts … and they are happy to show what they are doing to you. The young people speaks English very well thanks to the wonderful school of Dhigurah and the contact with the population is very easy. The people are extremely kind and hospitable. There are several tourist shops in the village that open on request and also two local cafes. The guest rooms are flourishing, three new ones must open before the end of the year. There is a sweet atmosphere in this village where time seems to have stopped but where scooters make their way on the sand of the streets and where each house has its own satellite TV and each inhabitant his own smartphone. There are very few tourists coming here which makes everything more authentic. For those who are also interested in the culture of the country they visit, there is no possibility to have such proximity with the inhabitants on a hotel – island where you will stay between tourists. In Dhigurah, after a few days, the people whom you see in the street start recognize you and greet you. For us, it was priceless and it added enchantment to our stay.
We were able to taste Maldivian specialties including the traditional breakfast: the mas huni. It is a mixture of fresh tuna, green pepper, onion and coconut that is eaten in a pancake called roshi. It is absolutely delicious and very addictive. The meals were really amazing! A big thank you to Sri Lankan chef Boddhi!
Our room was very luxurious and provided with everything we could need. The bed was one of the most comfortable in which I had the opportunity to sleep and absolutely huge. The bathroom, with no ceiling, open to the sky, was an incredible luxury. Molton Brown soaps and shampoos are in ceramic containers and are replenished daily. Some rooms have a balcony with sea view. But it was anyway way too hot to go on the balcony in the sun ! Speaking of the rooms, they are 6 in number so you will quickly have the opportunity to know and sympathize with everyone.
There is a real ecological conscience in this boutique hotel. Water is offered in refillable bottles and you can fill them up yourselves. The staff regularly organizes beach cleanings that are well needed! The beaches are littered with plastic debris that comes mainly from nearby hotel – islands. Boutique Beach Diving also sponsors the school’s village that follows Cambridge’s school curriculum. The hotel regularly organizes events in the village around the ecology and preservation of the marine environment. Cloth bags were offered to all villagers to fight against plastic bags.
I hope you will also have the opportunity to visit Dhigurah and stay at Boutique Beach Diving. We cannot wait to go back!