A very early morning flight to Singapore – 1:05 am flying Singapore airlines. Once again Elliot Travel came through with the goods, checking in online and saving ourselves over an hour standing in the line – pity those poor people using standard travel agencies!
On to the plane and yet again well done Elliot Travel – emergency exit seating.
Given the month that we have had it wasn’t long before all three of us were sound asleep – Claire gone before takeoff and Philip and I soon after. This year our flights are much shorter – a first almost in Elliot Travel history for the past five or so years. Seven and a half hours to Singapore and a further four and a half from Singapore to Male (the capital of the Maldives). In between there is a four hour layover at Singapore and a four hour layover at Male before boarding a smaller plane and boat to get to the island.
A quick change from Terminal 3 to terminal 2 (south East Asian Terminal) and then we settled in for the wait – something everyone loves about plane travel. It actually wasn’t too bad. A chance to stop for a moment in what has been a period of go go go and also quite an emotional one with a number of things happening for all three of us.
At 10:10 Singapore time (1:10pm Melbourne time) we flew out of Singapore bound for Male flying Silk Air. A little over four hours later we arrived with the sun shining and the temperature around 30 degrees – a little different from past holidays we have undertaken, oh and another three hours sleep for the smallest member of the team!
Male airport is your traditional small airport – walk off the plane from the front and back, collect your visa with the cutest little stamp and sticker put into your passport and then sit and wait in the not so comfortable airport seats.
The only difference is the iridescent blue water that beckons and the humble water taxi boats that meander up and down the channel. Yep reminds you of the Caribbean.
Now there isn’t much to do at this airport – no shops or entertainment facilities but there is one outdoor cafe next to the airport that sells pretty good Nasi goreng (rice for the third time on this trip and we haven’t even made our first destination) and an interesting lasagne complete with two slices of the old plastic cheese slices melted on top. Also enjoyed by Philip complete with a bit of a laugh for us all.
Two more hours of waiting and we departed for Maamigili some twenty minutes flying time away on an outside prop plane operated by Fly Me or so we thought. Elliot travel is all about the experience and just going to a couple of airports is really quite tame in the overall history of our travelling expeditions.
We were boarded onto the plane where it sat on the Tarmac for another half an hour in 35 degree temperature with somehow a Maldivian thought that if you open the back door you have air conditioning. Now we were cooking but remember this is a Muslim country and the poor ladies in complete hijab were constantly asking if the air conditioning was on to which the male hostie would jiggle the air switches above them and report that it was…hmm he’s obviously acclimatised to the temperature.
Finally we took off… Special extras were limited to a face wipe at the end of the trip; obviously to wipe the perspiration from our faces as we departed in an effort to convince those around us that Fly Me offers a relaxed and cool flight. Not so much!
We were arrived at Maamagili (yep you can tell we are getting more remote by the strangeness of the town names), we were ushered onto little mini buses and taken to where largish size boats were waiting for us, or in our case a small speed boat for a party of three – ok Elliot travel is small and exclusive (or just cant afford the $20,000 a night of some of the flashier islands). You also have to wait for the luggage to arrive from the airport – yep special delivery no finding your bags yourself from the carousel.
The speed boat ride took around thirty minutes and was one way to reach your destination. From there, pick up and taken to TME Retreats on the island of Digureh. This island is the traditional Maldivian island; people live here, work here and go to school here. It’s bigger than the manufactured islands with huts over looking the water. Nothing flashy here but everything true. Even if we weren’t here this life would go on and the people would continue to fish, dive into the water and fill bags with sand in the water then carry the heavy laden sand bag back to the shore to dry out. My guess is that erosion here is a big issue and the number of sand bags stacked one on top of the other are reflective of that.
The place we is staying is a four bedroom apartment complete with its own plunge pool. Whilst it may not be over the water like the really expensive swanky places, the beach itself is no more than 50 m from our accommodation so for the additional price I think we can suck it up.
Dinner was buffet style and not a bad range – there were other things than curry and we actually all managed to find something we enjoyed including the roast chicken without any herbs and spices (sorry Colonel Sanders!) dinner is 20 US each with a couple of taxes on top. Not a bad price and given that there is really nothing else on the island a good choice for dinner (actually just about the only choice).
Finally after arriving in this amazing place, having an enjoyable dinner and taking in the serenity, we hopped into bed, tired but very content with our first leg of the holiday.