When you fly into Maldives during daylight hours, you’d be forgiven for wondering where on earth the plane will land. Imagine yourself descending over a vast aquamarine archipelago dotted with tiny islands that seem hardly big enough for a house, let alone a runway.
The color of the water is arresting; a swirling array of marine shades and deep blue seas that give way to crystalline aqua shallows and white sands that encircle thousands of palm covered islands.
But your plane will find somewhere to land. The country exists atop the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge, a vast subterranean volcanic mountain range that runs north/south in the Indian Ocean. These ancient super volcanos now only just breach the surface of the water; the rim of each crater defining the outer edge of an atoll, dotted with tiny islands. The average ground level elevation of the 1192 islands that make up the Maldives is 1.5 metres, making it the lowest country on earth. The country is a stunning underwater network of coral reef that surrounds a myriad of sandy islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. In the absence of any substantial land mass, your time spent in Maldives is basically like living out at sea.
And then there’s the surfing. A wave garden of world class point breaks that pump mechanically from April to November against unrelenting offshore trades. Sloppy onshore surf days basically do not exist and the water temps are a consistent 28 – 30 degrees Celsius. You’ll witness staggering monsoon storms march by; their telltale white mushroom clouds exploding in the south-west as gun-metal grey rain fronts move in, curtaining the horizon and contrasting the aqua-blue water with dazzling serenity. Then 15 minutes later it will be sunny and idyllic again. Life at sea is like this.
The beauty of Maldives is captured by those who have a true appreciation for the power and wonder of the ocean.
In the past, development in Maldives has focused on extravagant luxury resorts and charter boats. However recently, surf camps have popped up on local islands so you can experience Maldives alongside the locals and still have direct access to famous surf breaks like Jails, Sultans, Cokes and Chickens. On top of surfing, local islands have coral reefs so you can go snorkeling, scuba diving, stand up paddling, ride a jet ski and go fishing which means even your non-surfing friends can also enjoy the aquamarine world of Maldives.
Unlike the overly manicured luxury resorts, local islands are a taste of the true Maldives.
You can walk the streets alongside locals who will smile and wave while hurrying you into their vacant souvenir shops. The call to prayer bellows out over the township and surf line-up as residents shuffle to the Mosque, the smiling women adorned in beautiful flowing hijabs.
It’s hard to not feel like a celebrity when you arrive at the airport. Resort and guesthouse employees crowd the arrivals hall holding name cards waiting to pick you up, except where you’re going there are no roads. The airport pickup zone is a harbor filled with speed boats and Dhonis(traditional fishing boats), ready to whisk you away to your island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
For health-conscious surfers and travelers the local island guesthouse scene is a haven.
Maldives is a Muslim country where alcohol is prohibited on local islands, this gives you the wonderful opportunity to live healthy, clear your mind and purify your body while boosting your wave count like a pro. After a full day spent surfing perfect waves you can wander the island during sunset in cooler temps as the locals hit the streets to socialize together. Kids play soccer in the sand while adults bathe fully clothed at local beaches. Maldivians are warm people and often enjoy a chat in the street with a respectfully dressed tourist.
Local islands usually have a very small number of cafes serving instant coffee and quirky Maldivian ‘short eats’; bite sized fried morsels of fish, coconut and spices rolled into different shapes. By far the best and most highly regarded Maldivian dish is Mashuni – breakfast of home-made ‘roshi’ (chapati) and a type of tuna salad made with lime juice, red onion and curry leaves. Although some cafes serve up local curries or maybe flip the occasional burger, don’t expect fresh tropical juice bars or gourmet restaurants. Western food and cafe culture is not commonly found on local islands. Most of your meals will be dished up by your guesthouse.
Article written by, Demelza Clay.
Thank you to Surf and Yoga Retreat for supplying all photos of the Maldives.
Located in the Indian Ocean and practically right over the Equator (with most islands sitting just atop and a few located underneath), Maldives has a tropical climate and only two seasons: wet and dry.
The best surf season is mostly during their WET season, which is between May and October. However the swell can begin to fill in beginning mid February, and consistent waves are prevalent all the way through to mid November.
March, April and May are some of the cleanest months, while June, July and August can produce larger swells with more frequent tropical storms. When the storms begin to subside in September, conditions are variable but there is still plenty of swell to go around.
Maldives is a haven for water activities and the aquamarine life, and though the first things on our mind are bikinis, bikinis and more bikinis (or boardshorts), it’s also important to pack some modest, breathable clothing if you plan to stroll the local towns. Here’s what we recommend:
- Lightweight long sleeves and pants (for strolling around town and arrival)
- Sarongs. These are great for everything from wrapping them as a full-length skirt, to using as a beach or swim towel, or throwing over the shoulders on a long boat trip for extra sun protection.
- Cheap Sunglasses for boat rides (accidentally dropping overboard is common) and maybe a nice pair of sunnies for the beach.
- very good all-natural zinc sunscreen for surfing
- An all-around all-natural sunblock for all day wear
- Surf hat
- 2-3 Rash guards
- 1-2 pairs Surf leggings
- 2-4 swimmers / bathing-suits. It’s definitely great to have a dry swimsuit to put on. We usually bring a couple for surfing and at least one for beach-lounging, hanging out within the camp.
- A good first aid kit that includes waterproof bandages, anti-bacterial cream, and tablets for stomach aches or you-know-what (also known as Bali belly).
- A good book
- Lightweight beach towel
- It is customary to dress modestly on local islands. You can show your respect by covering your shoulders and wearing loose and longer cut shorts/skirts or lightweight pants/dresses. Within the walls of your guesthouse facility you will be welcome to dress and relax in swimwear as some will even have their own pool and gardens. Also, most local islands with tourist guesthouse accommodation have
- ALL the surfing is over coral reef, and whilst it is not super shallow, Maldives is not a place for people to learn how to surf. The recommended minimum ability for surfers is to be able to paddle into a wave unassisted, pop up and surf down the line at speed. You should also be able to either duck dive or turtle roll to navigate a line-up when caught inside. Maldives is a great place for surfers to develop their skills on beautifully shaped waves over relatively low consequence reefs.