A breathtaking destination "Maldives": Flying Seaplane, Staying in a Water Bungalow, and Surrounded by Plenty of Fish
"Maldives" has been my dream destination since I was a child (very long time ago). Even I was born and raised up on an island (Phuket), I still have a feeling for Maldives. I really want to go there once in my life but I need to forbear from the desire since the expenses are quite high. Luckily, there was a sale promotion from Bangkok airways in the end of last year. I can get up to 70% off which is an interesting deal. I exchanged the point from Kbank with the flyer bonus and get a round-ticket on discount to go to from Phuket to Bangkok and Muldives. It cost only about 7,000 baht that is far cheaper than the normal price (from t May 19-22, 2015).
After I have bought the ticket, I have to find an accommodation. Since I have limited budget, I have to carefully plan my trip. Moreover, I did plan a trip to go to Europe with my family and I need to save a lot of money for this. However, I have my expectations from the Maldives trip. I 'd like to fly a seaplane, stay in a bungalow over the sea and dive to see schools of various fish as well as the colorful corals (a lot of activities with limited budget). I have 35,000 baht per person for accommodation, food and transportation expenses for this 4 days 3 nights trip.
I take some time to compare a number of resorts by using the information in Pantip and a couple of tour agencies' websites. After I deduct 15,000 baht each for the seaplane, it will come to 40,000 baht for accommodation and food for two persons. The average cost per night will be 13,300 baht.
I use this calculation to choose a resort with good comments and a great number of coral reefs ( the information available in www.mondomaldive.com). I've found 4-5 resorts on the lists, then I compare their prices from tour agencies. As I heard that the room rates are quite similar in different agencies, I pick one of them. I have a look at its Facebook Page and websit and I think it looks quite reliable. And also, the staff is nice and give me a lot of information I need.
Finally, I have booked a resort called "Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo. It is 4-star resort which get 4 out of 4 points in term of the density of coral reefs ( scored by www.mondomaldive.com). I've read some positive reviews in Trip Advisor about its fantastic coral reef. Other complaints are about the extra charge of WiFi and the rooms that are not quite new and elegant due to the a little budget.
The Information from Tour Agents
I've made the journey plan with Ms. Tai from Maldives Travel Experts. Anyone who would like to contact her can visit
Just before the traveling day, all the documents including vouchers, receipts, a gift (a purse for ladies) and traveling tips in Maldives with completed immigration cards in it. (this is one of the advantages of traveling with an agency. Normally, I have to do all these documents by myself and also do it for others.)
The agents also call me to sum up the details of the trip again before the leaving date. I am really appreciate it since every time I travel abroad I am the one who do this for friends in the group. Yet, this time there is someone do this to me. I feel so glad.
My dream journey is eventually started.
Before we go, let me tell you about my work. Ones who are interested in photographs can visit :
On the Leaving Date
I have to get up about 4 am. to drive to Phuket Airport, leave my car with a valet parking near the airport (costing 100 baht/day). Then, I get through all steps at the airport which everything is all right. I have an hour at Suvarnabhumi Airport. It doesn't seem so long as I have to hurriedly run to buy camera lenses for my new camera at King Power. Everything goes well. I finally reach to the plane on time. Unfortunately, I don't get the seat I've asked for. I get the one at the plane wing which is difficult to take a nice picture of Maldives. I can ,however, move to the seat in the front of the plane as there are some available seats and I'm allowed to do so. I've found out afterward that the new seat is not better than the previous one because of the engine under the wing. Therefore, I change my mind and move back to the first place on which I can get far better pictures ( I haven't tried the seat in the back of the plane as I'm afraid the air attendants won't be happy about it.)
It takes a little more than 4 hours to get to the airport in Maldives. There are movies with Chinese subtitled available on the plane (I prefer Thai subtitles actually). When the plane are flying lower, I grab my camera to be ready to take photos. Even though the weather is not very nice, the Maldives atolls excite me quite a lot. I keep taking photos for a while. The incredible view of the white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons is enchanting.
This picture show the fantastic view from the window while the plane is landing.
The plane is smoothly landing. All the passengers are asked to get off the plane and walk into the airport (there is no shuttle bus for us since the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Male, the capital city of Maldives, is quite small. After that, we walk pass the immigration, get our luggage and go to the arrivals building.
A hotel staff have already been waiting for us. I ask him to take me to buy an Internet card so he take us to a telephone shop (it is opposite to the check-in counter of the seaplane.). I will tell you about the Internet details at the end of this review.
After buying the Internet, we check in to travel by seaplane and load our luggage (no more than 20 kg.). We then get in a van to go to a harbor where seaplanes are parked. I have no chance to see the clear water next to the airport like I have read from review (it is pity but I need to accept it because I don't want to be lost.).
Still, I try to get pictures of the clear blue water from the bus window.
The bus takes me to the harbor terminal. The surroundings along the way amaze me quite a lot.
There are three terminals (A,B and C are different terminals leading to different destinations). Terminal C is the farthest one, my terminal. Once I get off the bus, I go directly to the reception. It takes longer time to find my flight than those of the others (I'm afraid there is something wrong with the reservation.). The thing is my fight is 2 hours later so it hasn't been on the lists yet. The officer gives me a boarding pass and a gift voucher to have a meal at the restaurant in the terminal C (I'm not sure if the others going for the earlier flight get the voucher.)
The first meal in Maldives is not that bad, I have rice with curry and spaghetti. I also eat an ice-cream, Magnum, as it is pretty hot right here. During the waiting period, I have a chance to walk around and shoot photos of seaplanes in the harbor when they are landing and taking off. I also go to have a look the air-conditioned lounge W Company provides for its customers. Since the waiting area has no air-conditioning , I recommend you go to souvenir shops or restrooms. It is much colder in there. Somebody from the shop greets me in Chinese. They probably thought I was from China.
I take my time taking photos.
It is finally 2.15 pm, the time to leave. After the announcement, I walk up to sit at the front of the seaplane. The rest of the passengers are Chinese. The seaplane take off smoothly. As soon as the plane is above the sea, the view I always dream about is right in front of me. The turquoise lagoon together with ring-shaped coral atolls makes me have indescribable feeling. I don't miss shooting photos as many as I can.
These pictures show the breathtaking scenery. The island with a great number of buildings is the capital city of Maldives called "Male"
You can have a look from the VDO as well.
Around 10 minutes after taking off, I don't see any coral atolls but the clear blue ocean. It takes about 25 minutes when the plane decreases its high level and I can see some coral atolls again. Not so long ago, the plane starts to land into the resort.
I see the resort view up from the sky while we are landing.
This is the seaplane taking me here (I really want it to be my own private seaplane.).
The landing seems quite safe. It gradually goes closer to a barge in the middle of the ocean where a boat from the resort is waiting for its guests. The resort boat has come.
There are two Chinese resort staff coming with the boat as most of the guests are from China. They pass us life jacket once we are on board. It takes about 5 minutes from the barge the island locating Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo. I was really excited with the color of the sea. The water is so clear and has different shades of blue in different dept levels. At the Resort Harbor
The resort lobby is located a little inside in the open air with sandy floor. After we have done the checking in, we are given an orange wrist band (to show we bought all inclusive package). I don't like this idea since it makes me feel like I was a patient. Then, one of the staff escorts us to our room, walking past a restaurant serving 3 meals and a bar opening until midnight. As I have an inclusive package, I can have 3 meals a day plus all drinks at the bar (except ones with premium brands and cocktails for guests who stay at least 7 nights.)
Tonight we stay in room number 344, the beach bungalow, located on the north of the island. It is much better if you choose room number 303-310 on the south and west of the island because of the more beautiful beaches.
The room is not that luxurious (as I thought before). The opened-air shower is placed in the back of the room. The room size is similar to those of other hotels in Maldives. After I unpack my stuff, I take a walk around the resort until I reach to the hotel swimming pool. It is on the west of the island where all Water Bungalows were located. Here, there is a restaurant for guests staying in Water Bungalow. However, the resort bar and swimming pool are available for all the resort guests.
The seaside where Water Bungalow is located has not got only turquoise lagoon but also schools of various kinds of fish. The most exciting thing is there is a school of baby sharks swimming around (look at their fins. They looks delicious.)
I dive down under the ocean to take a look closely.
In the evening around 5 p.m., there is a show feeding hundred of fish at the bar close to the hotel decks every day. It is one of the activities I'm looking forward to. I go there a little bit late when I see a crowed of tourists standing right there watching the show excitedly. The fish that are being fed are so huge and can swim real fast. They look exactly like ones in horror movies. Some are black, others are gray. I am surprised that there is someone filming the fish right under the water without the fear of getting hurt. To be honest, I wish I could do like that as well.
It is time for our first dinner. We get to the main restaurant of the hotel. The table has already been reserved for us. Normally, guests have to stay in the same table and be served by the same staff for the whole trip. It is different in our case since I move to another room type during the stay. The food is served in buffet style with a wide choice of good food starting at 7.30 p.m.. They also serve pork though the hotel staff and most of Maldives people are Muslim. I think there are more international food compared to the local ones because there are a great number of Western guests (most of them come to dive). It is good for me too as I am not used to the local food. The taste of the food is not that excellent but most of them is fine to me.
There are plenty of twinkle stars in the sky. Unluckily, it was such a cloudy night.
After the dinner, I get back to the room and find that I have to move to the Water Bungalow tomorrow at 9.30 a.m.. What I know is I stay in Beach Bungalow for 2 nights and a night in Water Bungalow in the last night. I'm afraid that they will move us back to Beach Bungalow again.
After Breakfast on the next day, I go to the lobby to get a new key card. The good news is we don't need to move back again, so we can stay in Water Bungalow for 2 nights. The best thing is our room is Number 413 which is located in the center of all rooms and I believe it has the greatest views. Lucky us! Although it doesn't look so luxurious, Water Bungalow is full with great atmosphere with high ceiling and its bed is placed in the west. There are also a balcony and an open-air bathtub. All of these make me feel this place is real Maldives.
It is sunny with clear blue sky which makes up an incredibly beautiful ocean. I spend a day on lying in bed looking downward to the ocean, enjoying the drinks at bar, and trying snorkeling.
For lunch and dinner, we go to a restaurant in the west. There are far fewer seats because they are only available for guests staying in Water Bungalow. It creates clam and relaxing surroundings although a little fewer of food selections are prepared for this restaurant. The weather is extremely nice today making the whole day perfect to shoot photos. In term of the drinks, of course we enjoy the unlimited alcohol and non-alcoholic beverage service.
Early in the morning on the next day, I get up and have breakfast. Then, I go for the coral reefs around the resort which are colorful and diverse. Moreover, schools of fish in multiple sizes are right there. It is such the best diving experience in my life.
This is the restaurant for people from Water Bungalow. It is not a large one but it has no crowded.
Let's have a look at the world under the sea. The beauty of the marine lives you see in this VDO is not even close to what it really is.
I've spent 2 hours of indulgence in snorkeling. I get some cuts on my legs since it is quite shallow.
After the water level is getting higher in the afternoon, I go taking pictures as this is the best time when we get the most fantastic picture form the sea. It is such a relaxing day because I don't have to go to anywhere and make plans like I always do for other trips. I love driving to places and I need to make plans and think about them all the time, so I hardly feel relaxed.
In the evening of the day, I've decided to go under the water to record the feeding show. Just before the show, there is a foreigner remind me about the danger that might happen. Because the fish can sometimes swim real fast, they can hurt me. I easily listen to him and get out of the water. Besides, the pictures from under the water are not so clear that I can be disappointed. However, there is a group of tourists waiting to the special experience. Today, the staff still do his good job feeding the fish with some birds and black crabs being around him.
Let's see the VDO.
The picture show the sunlight of the last evening here.
At night on the last day, it is so windy that I'm afraid we will have a problem on our flight schedule tomorrow. In the morning, however, everything just turn back to normal. There is no rain, no storms, and no wind. It is just like it has been said that in Maldives the weather can come nice and clear after a couple hours of storm. I saw the weather forecast before getting here and it said there would be thunderstorms every day. What I can experience is 60% of the weather is nice and clear and the rest are cloudy and a little bit of rainy. It is much more different from the weather in my hometown. In rainy season, it keeps raining for 3-4 days and there is a storm at night but it is nice in the next morning.
After breakfast, we pack our staff to leave, walk to the lobby to return the room key, and then wait for an official to call when the plane is ready to take off (the schedule of the seaplane is organized to be suitable with the number of passengers and the flights back to their countries by the tour agency). So, we just spend some time relaxing and enjoying the picturesque scenery. We have been waiting for about half an hour when we are called to get on a boat to meet up at the pontoon in the middle of the ocean.
There are some passengers waiting on the seaplane when we arrive at the pontoon. They are going to W resort, which is about 5 minutes from here. I am so lucky to have a chance to record VDO twice when the plane taking off and landing off and there are a number of scenic atolls along the way. The views are beautifully indescribable.
The passengers of the W Hotel are getting off and some are getting the seaplane and go with us.
Again the seaplane takes off and we take more photos from the air.
Arriving at the airport, I think it is one of the airports that have the most beautiful aerial views.
We have got some time before checking in, so we find something to eat. The food is quite expensive (8-11 USD for a dish or a burger.)
On the flight back home, I sit in the same place they provided without trying to change to the better-view seat. During the flight on the seaplanes, it is enough for me to get hours of indulgence. It is good that one of my dreams has already come true.
The total expenses:
1. The round-trip flight ticket costs 6,855 baht (from Phuket to Bangkok, Bangkok to Maldives, Maldives to Bangkok, and Bangkok to Phuket). By the way, I 've got 70% off from a promotion in the end of 2014.
2. All-inclusive accommodation at Chayaa Reef Ellaidhoo, 2 nights in Beach Bungalow and 1 night in water Bungalow and flights on seaplane, is 35,000 baht each (this price is for 2 persons. If you come for 3 persons, you can get a lower price.) The seaplane tickets are included in this price, costing 15,000 baht and the rest is for the food and shelter.
3. Sundry expenses include Snorkeling, snacks, and tips for service staff. They all cost about 3,000 baht.
So, we totally pay 45,000 baht per person. It is not that cheap for a 4-day journey but it is absolutely worth it. The surroundings including the views are incredible picturesque.
My opinions about the Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo Resort
- A 4-star resort that is not quite expensive with multi-packages to choose, all inclusive or some-meal included
- Fantastic choices of food and beverage with good taste.
-Amazing coral reef together with various schools of fish
-Not too far from the airport (42 Km), 25 minutes by seaplane or 90 minutes by speed boat
-Friendly hotel staff with great service mind
-There are out-of-charge activities like badminton, tennis, billiards, and so on.
- -Compared to other accommodations, there is no wide beach like what you always see from pictures (it might be even more beautiful if there were.).
- -The hotel staffs keep offering their extra-charge services like premium cocktails, seafood BBQ, and tours. If you are those who have difficulty saying No to people, you may feel a little uncomfortable.
- -The rooms and the resort surroundings are not that wonderful compared to the other 5-star resorts.
- -In the evening, the hotel staffs usually play football. So, it can be a little bit noisy for ones who love peace and quietness.
- -There is no free Wi-Fi Internet for all-inclusive guests who stay less than 7 nights (The expenses are written down below.).
The Internet in Maldives
- According to the hotel policy, I'm not able to use free Internet as I stay less than 7 days. The Internet price in the hotel is quite high (24 hours / 6.72 USD and 72 hours is 16.8 USD. It starts when you log in.). So, I've decided to buy a card with data plan at the airport, costing 30 USD and 2 USD for the card. I can use the 1 GB and another 3 USD for calling. If you want more, you can choose another package. It costs 45 USD, including 2.2 GB and 6.5 USD for calling. The card belongs to a company called "Dhiraagu Office". It is just across from the check-in desks of the seaplane.
- There is another company called "Ooredoo" just next to it. Unfortunately, the office was closed (I was informed by the tourist agent that the 2-GB Internet costs only 14 USD. You'd better compare the prices before making the decision.
- For the speed of the Internet, it is pretty fast. I share it with another two cellphones and two laptops, it still work well. I'm not sure about the one of the other company.
- However, the 1 GB is quickly gone in the third day of the stay since I enjoying VDO uploaded on Facebook and Line. Eventually, I need to buy the hotel Internet anyway. I can use only 1 device at a time which costs me 6.72 USD at the lower speed compared to the one I bought at the airport.
- Camera devices
- I've bought new devices for this trip. I have used Nikon D750 with 24-120 f4, Nikon 24-70 f2.8, and Nikon 70-200 f4 Lens. For the undersea pictures, I use Go Pro 3+.
- Anyone who is interested in my photos, you can follow me at:
Tuesday, August 16, 2016 1:58 PM