It took 7 years to return
“Sorry we overbooked the garden villas for the coming nights, so would you mind staying in a overwater bungalow for the next few nights?”. This was our welcome on the island of Filitheyo. Can you imagine? We were delighted: this was our opportunity to experience these for the first time! “No shoes, no news” says the sign before entering the villa! Amazing!
In February of 2011 we boarded on a plane that would take us to one of the most magical places in the world: The island nation of Maldives. We were finally back after our first trip back in March 2004. It took 7 years to return.
No shoes, no news
Close your eyes and imagine the most idyllic tropical little island with palm trees surrounded by a coral reef. Imagine the experience of having white powdery sand everywhere you go. Imagine that same powdery sand even in the restaurant and the dive centre. That is what most Maldives islands look like. And Filitheyo Island is not much different. It ticks all these boxes. After landing with a Trans Maldivian Airways seaplane right next to the island, a boat took us to the jetty.
Here we were welcomed by the island host and then shortly after escorted to one of these magnificent Maldivian island bungalows: our home for the next two weeks.
What is Maldives?
Type “Maldives” in any internet search engine and the pictures that pop-up will make any island lover melt. All a person could ask for is right there. The Maldives has one of the most beautiful and delicate environments anywhere on the planet as coral reefs are the foundation of these islands. They offer protection to the tiny islands as its natural defense system and the country’s economy depends heavily on the health of its reefs and ecosystems. And with clear blue water, white sand beaches, and great visibility, the Maldives is also an idyllic scuba diving paradise. During a diving trip to the Maldives, you may see manta rays, whale sharks, reef sharks, soft & hard corals and much more. The Maldives truly offers some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see in your life.
What to choose?
But with all this beauty how does one choose the right place to go? I would say first of all invest a decent amount of time to get yourself acquainted with all there is to choose from. Because it is really easy to get blown away by the websites of all those island resorts. They all have kind of the same feel to them to lure you into their dream island paradise. At first it all looks the same as they all have the sandy beaches, the nice sand floor restaurants, the overwater bungalows and they all impress with beautiful underwater pictures full of fish, sharks, manta rays and whale sharks.
But look a bit further and you’ll get a better picture. And especially if you compare prices. Because anyway you slice it, the Maldives is an expensive place to visit.
You have chosen wisely!
For me the choice had been made almost a year before we went. I chose the island of Filitheyo: a breath-taking island paradise of leafy jungle foliage and sparkling white sand situated in the southern Faafu Atoll. One of the most pristine atolls in the Maldives, abundant in colourful marine life and vibrant coral. It takes 35 minutes by sea plane, followed by a 10-minute traditional dhoni ride to get to the island. And seaplane transfers are the only means of transportation for guests to this beautiful island. How cool is that?!
Scuba diving the house reef
The Dive Center on Filitheyo is run by German Company Werner Lau and is outfitted with all you need for a relaxing scuba diving holiday. And one of the best features of all is the valet service for diving the house reef. Wow how nice is this. You just have to decide which of the 7 marked access points you want to dive and all your gear is brought to that place by the dive center. All you have to do is show up! And once you have finished the dive, you just leave your gear and they bring it back to the dive center for you.
The house reef really has all the underwater beauty one might expect from scuba diving the Indian Ocean. And besides the wonderful valet service the next best feature is that for certified divers it is possible to dive the house reef on your own. And so we did that for about every available entry point. You couldn’t have made me happier.
In the process of booking a dive holiday to the Maldives there are two major attractions regarding scuba diving that one can’t miss: the Manta Ray and the Whaleshark.
A lot of dive centers offer dive trips to well-known manta points and the Werner Lau Dive Centre at Filitheyo is no different. And so one morning we hopped on the dive boat on our way to Kuda Falhu. And looking back at that trip I feel mesmerized for a couple of reasons. The first is that on the first dive we saw no manta rays at all. Yes the ocean is not a zoo guys. And for some reason that has always stayed with me until today. The notion that it’s wild life and that we cannot control this. You are a visitor in their environment.
But on the second dive they suddenly showed up. And this was exactly at the moment the current was getting stronger and stronger. So strong it was kind of pulling the regulator out of my mouth. But all that current is no problem at all for the manta rays. They just glide through the current so majestically it’s just mind blowing.
And after all this you hop on back on the boat, dry yourself up, take a drink and sit on the boat looking at all the wonderful blues from the reef around you. Me and my wife felt so grateful and happy. Encountering a manta ray for the first time is literally so incredibly impressive that I can’t put that into words. And even more so when you have this experience with your loved one!
In total we logged about 20 dives in those 2 weeks. The dive center has all the amenities to cater for scuba divers who want a relaxing dive holiday. Maybe the only thing we could say is that it was sometimes a bit of an unpersonal approach. But on the other hand, they had all you could wish for as a scuba diver.
The house reef is perfect, the valet service certainly adds to the experience and the island itself is really stunning. And yes the overwater bungalows are amazing but certainly not to stay in for more than a couple of days. We liked the beach bungalows just as much and it makes a hell of a lot of difference in price. Our opinion is you are better off spending your money on the diving than on the overwater bungalow.
The Maldives has always overwhelmed me and my wife with it’s beauty and it still did during this trip. The entire entourage is just amazing. The islands, the beaches, the resorts, the people, the language, the colors, the sunsets and last but not least off course the underwater beauty. But it all comes at a price. And with that I do not only mean it is getting more and more expensive. But also that it is getting more and more popular and commercial. The island nation is very vulnerable to climate change and therefore should be very conscious of decisions they make. So take time to inform yourself on the island you choose. But make a good decision and the Maldives will take you into your heart forever.