Maldives | How to Plan your Holiday in the Maldives

What to consider when planning a trip to the Maldives, plus essentials you need to pack into your luggage

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There are many things to consider when choosing the right place for your stay in the Maldives. Whether you travel with children or are going away without them there are many key things to consider. Of course you can just go and book a package through one of the luxury travel agencies, but I believe it is way more rewarding to find a perfect place on your own initiative.

Budget:

This is probably one of the main factors to take into consideration. Most people think of the Maldives as only a five star luxury destination. This is wrong, there are plenty of lower budget options available, but review your budget and then stick to it. Also remember that even if you go all inclusive there might be additional costs that you might not have thought about before hand so do some research and allow for these.

Water Villa, Beach Hut or Hotel Room?

We stayed in a water villa during our stay in the Maldives. This was definitely an incredible experience. Water villas are usually in the atoll lagoons on stilts with privacy and direct steps into the sea. Staying above the water may not for everyone. If you have smaller children you might prefer to stay in a beach villa where you do not have to worry about your child falling into the sea, in case you are not keeping an eye on them for a second. Some hotels do not even rent water villas to families with small children out of principle for exactly that reason. A beach villa also has the advantage that a child can spend time on the beach, building sandcastles and play and run more freely. Water villas are usually more expensive than beach villas and both more than a standard hotel room. Check your accommodation plans online.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll grey clouds

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll water villa

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll serenity

Boat or Seaplane Transfer?

Boat transfers have the advantage that they are cheaper than seaplane transfers, albeit that they restrict the range of choices to nearer the airport. A few people I met have told me though that the water quality at resorts with boat transfer (due to their proximity to Male boat traffic and the airport) can be less good at times, so the water might be a little murkier than if you go for a place further away.

Seaplanes are a great experience, not only do you get an amazing view of the reefs and the sea from the air, it is also a very different way of flying. Two things to keep in mind if you opt for sea plane transfer, it is expensive and only a limited amount of luggage is included. If you have lots of bags and suitcases they might not get onto your plane and could arrive with one of the later ones, plus they will cost extra. If you were planning on taking pushchairs I would reconsider. First of all you would need to pay extra and you might not be able to use it on the sandy islands anyway. The charge for additional luggage can be quite hefty. Also check if the transfer is included in your hotel booking. If you book a package it most likely is, otherwise make sure you are not in for a nasty surprise once you arrive at Male airport.

Another important fact to take into account if you are planning on taking a seaplane is that if you arrive after 16:00 local time, you will probably have to find overnight accommodation near Male for one night as seaplanes only fly by daylight.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll boat transfer

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll seaplane

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll paradise seaplane

Private Island Get a Way, Resort or a Stay at one of the Local Islands?

If you want to go all out and do not care about the costs then a private island getaway is your place to stay. Depending on the size of the resort you can feel like Robinson Crusoe. There will only be you, the other hotel guests and members of staff. You might miss out on local colours and experiences, but then this is probably not what you came for anyway. Be aware that you will be restricted to your resort in terms of food and activities.

On a local island you will have the chance to meet locals and see how they live their daily lives. You might have the options to eat at other restaurants and cafes and do some shopping or head to other local islands in the vicinity. Please note that alcohol is prohibited on most local islands according to local laws. A stay on a local island can be much cheaper, however, there might not be the same offer for water sports and other activities.

The Maldives is a Muslim country; therefore bikinis are a no-go on the local islands beaches unless the island or hotel has a private garden or a tourist beach. To be honest the locals are far more tolerant now of western dress, t-shirts and shorts, sundresses and vest tops are not frowned upon. Having said that away from the resorts and hotel grounds female travellers should dress modestly, keeping your chest covered and not wear short skirts or shorts. This is essential if you are planning on visiting a local village, mosque or even a Maldivian home. We should respect Maldivian culture and their religious values.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll paradise

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll local fishermen

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll male from the air

Size of the Island

The size of private atolls with exclusive resorts can differ a lot. This impacts not only the amount of people you will be stranded with but also the offer of general facilities, like restaurants, pools, kids club, water sports activities, spa and other recreational facilities. Some people might prefer to stay on a tiny island with just a few other people for a more intimate and exclusive feel, while others prefer the anonymity of larger resorts. If you travel with children a larger resort might be preferable as there will be more choice on activities for them to not get bored, plus more space to explore.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll paradise swing

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll water pavilion

Restaurant Options

Many people do not consider the choice of restaurants for their stay, however, you have to remember that if there is only one choice of restaurant you will be eating there breakfast, lunch and dinner. You might be bored of the food after a few days and this could detract from your holiday. Remember you cannot easily leave most resorts and go out for dinner somewhere else. Also check if the restaurant is buffet style only. It might make your exclusive stay less exclusive if you have to get your food and drinks yourself every time you eat.

All Inclusive, Full Board, Half Board or Breakfast only

 Our stay at Lux South Ari was our first ever experience of an all-inclusive holiday. It was the best decision we made before booking our stay on the island. We knew exactly what we were letting ourselves in for, and there were no surprises at the end about additional costs. While you might think you will keep track of your expenditure at the resort or hotel you could rapidly lose the oversight and find out at the end that your activities, food and drinks have cost more than you had anticipated. Trust me, drink and food on the islands come at a price – not only have they been shipped in from all around the world, some hotels charge extortionate prices for just the basics like drinking water. You also do not want to worry about the second drink with dinner or the ice cream in the afternoon as a treat?

Some resorts and hotels have a discount for children or some even offer free stay and food for kids. Of course some resorts and islands naturally do not offer all-inclusive, I would then at least consider for half or full board. Be careful though some hotels have restrictions on where and what you can eat/drink if you are all-inclusive or on a meal plan. Research your options to ensure you get the best deal.

All-inclusive at Lux also included free snorkelling equipment and some of the water sports activities. They did have a restriction on the Japanese restaurant Umami, where we only received a discount on food and drinks, but then we had so many other options on where to eat dinner that it did not bother us and we only went there once for a treat. You can always request a list of the inclusions and exceptions (some do not include alcohol or cocktails for example) before booking to make sure you are getting a good deal and know what to expect.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll paradise lunch

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll paradise east bar

Child Friendly or more Adult Orientated

Check weather your choice of hotel/resort is child friendly, this includes everything from food aimed at the little ones to the activities they offer. If you have very young children you will need to check if they offer nappies and other baby essentials as shopping is unlikely if you run out of supplies. Also find out if there a kids club or kid friendly activities if you want a break for a few hours by yourself and/or a babysitter service so you can enjoy a romantic dinner for two.

Do you want to get away from the children for a childfree holiday or cannot imagine your honeymoon with children running about? There are plenty of adult only resorts and hotels that offer a great break from the little ones of course

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll message in a bottle

Snorkelling, Boat Trips and Other Water Activities

One of the main highlights of a trip to the Maldives is the incredible snorkelling. Depending on your resort you may do so off the beach or on boat trips out to the reef edge. I would advise to do some extensive research on this topic if this is one of your main reasons for a visit to one of the islands. If you travel with children, bear in mind that your children (and you) need to be confident swimmers and snorkelers, there usually are tests before the resorts will give you snorkel equipment or let you out on boats.

Resorts with sandy beaches surrounding them will be better for younger children and if you want to just go for a swim in the clear sea.

Keep in mind that if there is a coral reef within swimming distance that depending on the tide you might not be able to snorkel at all. Coral can be painful if you accidently touch it or if walk on a fragment washed up on the beach so I would advise to take water shoes to protect your feet. Educate your children not to touch coral, these are living creatures and should be treated with respect. There are some resorts and islands where you have both, sandy beaches on one side and the coral reef on the other. We stayed at Lux South Ari and they offered free snorkelling tours twice a day to the house reef. It was fun to go out on the Dhoni boat and we always went to different places depending on the current and the tide, which made it more interesting than always snorkelling in the same spots.  A few other resorts offer similar, but be aware that the trips can get booked up so you may have to plan ahead.

It is worth considering that children under the age of about seven will not care whether they are on an island in the Maldives or a beach on the Mediterranean Sea. It is certainly worth thinking about whether they will benefit from a trip to a tropical paradise before they are a little older.

Besides snorkelling, diving is naturally another popular sport for the Maldives. The quality of dive centres vary, so do the fees. Make sure they are PADI certified courses and guides. Again check websites for prices and read reviews to find out if the centre is right for you.

The Ari Atoll is a famous spot for whale shark tours. The sharks live here all year round unlike other destinations where they can only be seen at certain times of the year. It is an unforgettable experience to snorkel with the largest fish in the world. Have a look at my post about our snorkelling trip with whale sharks.   Other big fish like Manta rays can be seen at different places but may involve a long expensive boat ride to reach.

Most hotels will offer a variety of other water sports, including swimming pools, jet skis, banana boat rides, kayaking, pedalos…and more. You can also go on sunset cruises, fishing trips… Check the hotels website for a list and prices. Many will cost extra.

Out of the water it is worth checking what the resort offers as well, as whilst children love the water they cannot be in it all day. For example we enjoyed at Lux the tennis courts, pool tables, and outdoor chess sets.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll snorkelling whale shark

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll fish

When to go?

The Maldives are a great beach destination all year round. The dry season is from November until April, with the most popular times around Christmas and New Year. Temperatures are around 25-30C all year. The humidity in the months from May to October during wet season might make it feel slightly hotter though. During the wet season you might experience not only more rainfall but also windier conditions than in the dry season.

We had two days of rain during our stay in February, which was apparently unusual for this time of the year, but thanks to the warm temperature we did not let this bother us and still went swimming and snorkelling.

You may find great deals if you are prepared to travel offseason and outside school holiday periods. The weeks just after the New Year usually has good offers for holidays to the Maldives.

Eco and Environmental Friendly Considerations

This is an important point and should be considered before booking a stay. Some hotels unfortunately still do not care enough about the fragile eco system that surrounds these beautiful islands and atolls. Some island have now implemented desalination plants, rainwater tanks, drinking water is produced on the island and bottled in re-usable glass bottles, no plastic bags, coasters, straws and the like are used on site…tourism is never entirely green, but I recommend checking what efforts your destination is making to minimise their impact.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll essentials

Things to Take – Packing list

I mentioned earlier that your luggage allowance for seaplanes is considerably less than on your average plane journey. It is important to think about what is essential for your trip to the Maldives. High temperature all year around make it easier, as you will not need to pack any warm clothes, just a light cover up for a breezy evening dinner should be taken into account.

Do you really need to bring a pushchair to an island where you need less than a few minutes from one end to the other or can make use of a cart that will whizz you around? Pushchairs and sand do not go that well together either, so I would leave it at home. Make sure that the hotel provides everything you will need for your baby and toddler, including nappies and baby food as you will not be able to purchase these essentials anywhere unless you stay on or a water taxi ride from one of the larger local islands like Male.

Items that should be in any luggage when travelling to the Maldives:

  • Sun hat or some kind of protection for your head. Plus of course a pair of sunglasses, even for the kids.
  • UV rash vest, ideally long sleeved. If you are very sensitive to the sun’s rays and have fair skin you should consider an all body UV suit if you are planning on spending a long time snorkelling or swimming as the sun is strong! We had never used a UV vest before but it was definitely worth the extra cost as we would have been burned on our very first snorkel, despite using sun tan lotion. Even the boys who are generally not prone to sunburns could feel the difference in the sun’s intensity. Remember you are not far from the equator!
  • Plenty of sun lotion factor 50. Make sure the lotion or cream is waterproof. Take plenty, you might be able to buy more if necessary at the hotel’s shop but this comes at a rather hefty price.
  • Cover up tops. Bring light weight cover ups, which you can wear as an extra layer to protect your skin from the sun, or on a boat trip but also in the evening when it might be slightly cooler.
  • Bikini, swimsuits and swimming trunks. Take a few, these do not take up much space and weight.
  • Snorkel, masks and flippers. Even though most resorts and hotel will sell snorkel equipment it might be better to bring your own to make sure everything fits, especially if you have a child with you as they might not have the right size available.
  • Flip flops are a great staple for a beach holiday, they will protect your feet from hidden coral on the beach but also on the hot sand and wooden planks in the middays heat. Some of the more upmarket resorts will give you a complimentary pair of flip-flops, while other resorts claim to be barefoot only, I cannot imagine how hot their feet must be at certain times a day…
  • Beach or water shoes. If your hotel/resort is surrounded by coral reef and you are planning on snorkelling it might be advisable to bring a pair of water shoes to protect your feet from the coral while swimming and snorkelling or wandering on the sands.
  • Underwater camera. Invest in a quality one like a go pro if you are really serious about snorkelling or diving. We did not have a go pro and realised afterwards that the quality of the photos was mediocre. Do not forget the charging cables!
  • Games and books. We always bring plenty of different card games to play on the beach, by the pool or over dinner. A kindle or other e-reader is a great way of bringing plenty of books without the additional weight. Think about leaving ipads and game consoles at home – make it a proper family holiday rather than just spending time in front of a screen.
  • Bring some smarter shoes, shorts, linen trousers and shirt (polo shirt is accepted in most resorts as well) for the evening meals. Some resorts will not allow you turning up in flip-flops and a football shirt for dinner. Do not bother bringing a pair of heels, you will just make a fool of yourself wearing them on the sand. If you are unsure check the hotel’s website for the general dress code.
  • Beach towels are not essential at most upmarket resorts but it is better to check beforehand if they are provided, as you would not want to be stranded without.
  • The same applies to amenities like shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. Most hotels provide these and unless you are fussy about what you use you can leave them at home.

I feel like I have included everything you need to know and think about before booking your journey to paradise.

One other thing to consider, we normally book our flights, hotels and trips completely separate from each other. With the Maldives I made an exception, as the overall price was considerably cheaper than if I had it booked individually and booked it online through a travel agency. I would therefore advise you, especially if you are planning on staying in one resort during your entire stay, to check with several travel agents online for the best offer. You then also have the option to seek help or complain if part of your trip does not go as planned. I am more than happy to answer any of your questions in case you need help. Enjoy!

 

Lux South Ari, Maldives | Our favourite Past Times on the Island

Fun things to do on a Maldivian island

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Our time in the Maldives seemed to fly by so fast. I think we all agreed that the ten days at Lux South Ari were some of the best in our lives, an absolutely unforgettable experience. My initial worry was completely dumb founded, I had imagined we would get bored and could not wait to get back home soon enough. Anyone who has been following my blog over the last two months will have noticed that we usually go for active trips abroad, where we travel from place to place and do lots of different fun activities. Do not get me wrong, I love lying on the beach, or by the pool with a cocktail and reading a book, but I also need to do different things otherwise I get bored easily and it is the same with the boys.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll breakfast spot

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll drink

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll breakfast pancake

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll breakfast mixe all you can eat buffet

One of the reasons I had chosen to stay at Lux was the size of the island; there were plenty of restaurants to choose from, both a la carte and buffet style; two pool areas; an ice cream shop and a café, which roasts its own coffee. It was the little things that made our trip special and exciting though. For example, Jerome could not wait to get up in the morning, jump onto his bike and cycle all the way over the to reception area to go on the “Message in a Bottle” hunt. It took him several days before he finally found one hidden in the gardens (a few bottles with vouchers in them are hidden every day across the whole island) and he got a voucher for coconuts when what he had hoped for was a cuddly toy or a chance to go on a jet ski. One of the girls that we met and he befriended had found a bottle with a whale shark voucher and told him about it, he was jealous and desperately wanted one too…Luckily after days of searching he received some help and hints from a member of staff and finally found one!

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll cycling

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll message in a bottle

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll turtle

I also loved the idea of the wishing tree, one of the trees in the middle of the island was covered in red ties. Every Monday and Wednesday we had the opportunity to write a wish onto a red ribbon and then tie it to the tree. It reminded me of the “Ema” in Japan, which we saw at all the temples throughout the country.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll wishing tree

I had mentioned that Lux South Ari offered a children’s club PLAY, which was open to kids of the ages 3-12. There also is a teen club for the older ones, 12-17. They had a great offer of activities throughout the day but Jerome did not want to go at all. He rather wanted to spend time with us on other activities and snorkelling.  Jerome did borrow a tennis racket one afternoon from the centre and went on the tennis courts with the friend he had made.

We went snorkelling every day, either straight of the beach or on the complimentary snorkel tour to one of the house reefs, a short trip by Dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat) away. The highlight of our holiday was our encounter with a whale shark. You can read all about our snorkelling experiences and the whale shark on my previous post.

travel with kids children lux south ari atoll water sports snorkelling

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll sea

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll snorkelling whale shark

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll snorkelers

On our return to the resort we had a late lunch at the café next to the water sports centre, followed by homemade ice cream that tasted like proper Italian gelato. Ice cream for children was complimentary and Jerome could have had one a few times a day, if I would have let him, to try all the flavours on offer. Chris being a caffeine addict enjoyed his cup of locally roasted coffee.  Jerome was curious about the rotary roaster in a glass room next to reception.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll ice homemade ice cream

One of the other highlights for Jerome and the other children was the shark and ray feeding sessions every day at before sunset. The shark feeding spot was near our villa on the island, but we only once caught the time to witness it. The ray feeding took part at the East Bar, where we would spend our time before dinner, enjoying a drink on the loungers extending over the sea, while playing board games.

At 17:30 one member of Lux’ staff would arrive with a bucket of unused meat scraps, then surrounded by many other children and grown ups he or she would descend the stairs to the water. They would start to throw chunks of meat into the sea and soon enough a variety of fish would start to head for the titbits from all sides. The kids would watch the feeding with utter excitement. Jerome was always most anxious for the rays to arrive. We did see one every now and then but not every day. They usually cruised in near the end, big half meter across and spotted. There were other fish though that made up for the rays not always showing up, there were a few black tipped sharks, parrot fish, large angel fish and others.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll shark feeding

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll shark feeding

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll black tip shark

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll sting ray

There were other activities we enjoyed during our stay at Lux South Ari. Some sports were included in our package so Chris and Jerome went kayaking around the islands lagoons and found some good spots to snorkel. We also enjoyed a ride on a pedalo but as this was hard work Jerome preferred the kayaks. Jerome also went jet skiing for a treat with one of the other girls we met. Banana boat rides, wind surfing kite surfing and scuba lessons were some of the other options of activities for older children, at a cost of course.

travel with kids children lux south ari atoll water sports jet ski

Most of all we were just happy to laze on the beach and Jerome loved playing with other children in the sea or one of the resort swimming pools. Luckily there was a billiard table in one of the bars, where Jerome challenged us to a few games of a different kind of pool every day. I was not a very competitive contender for him but Chris would compete more avidly. He even took up some games against other guests and children.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll restaurant senses

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll infinity pool

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll billiard pool table

I had taken my yoga clothes with me and was determined to join the complimentary daily yoga sessions. I should have known better, I did not manage it once – enjoying the rest of the holiday so much. I also had dreamed of a relaxing afternoon in the heavenly spa but again the week went by without arranging a session, despite cycling past the spa a few times a day.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll cycling

We also enjoyed discovering the secret bar. A bar of fresh juices was moved around the island to different spots each afternoon. Another challenge was to find special spots along the island’s shore where we would be the only ones around. We found hidden hammocks and swings amongst the palms, these were fun to relax on as an alternative to lying on the fine sandy beach. There we enjoyed our moments of solitude overlooking the clear, turquoise sea.  By one picnic area there was also a cool outdoor chess set.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll secret bar

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll shade

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll palm tree

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll hammock

Jerome was always curious to get back to our villa every evening to find a new towel animal on his bed. Our room boy Ali created some of the most amazing towel animal sculptures. Besides the well known swans we found a monkey, penguin, dog and an elephant. The biggest surprise was the giant whale shark, which took up our whole bed and must have taken at least eight towels and to make.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll whale shark towel

There were film nights on the beach with films for all ages. We never went, as Jerome was not interested in the film they were showing. I would have loved to go, a film on the beach under the stars sounded like a fun idea.

One evening we joined the Maldivian themed evening dinner, where lots of food stands with local delicacies were arranged along the beach. There was face painting, henna tattoos (Jerome got a gecko and a dragon) and musicians playing traditional instruments and music. We sat on the beach and enjoyed our dinner of different local foods. It was a great way to sample many different dishes and it made a change to our usual dinner routine during our stay at Lux. There were other themed dinner nights but this was the only one we took part in.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll rainbow

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll moon light

We can all agree that our stay at Lux South Ari was one of the best holidays we ever had. Everything was perfect, but most of all it was the friendly and helpful members of staff that made our stay special and memorable. We hope we will be able to return to this paradise sometime in the future.

Lux South Ari, Maldives | Snorkelling and Swimming with Whale Sharks

Our encounter with a whale shark was the highlight of our trip to the Maldives

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Snorkelling was a major part of our holiday in the Maldives. We went snorkelling every day, either straight off the beach or on the complimentary snorkel tour to one of the house reefs, a short trip by Dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat) away. Before guests were allowed to take part in the snorkelling tours or any other organised water sports, the hotel sports centre insisted on a swim and snorkel test. This was a fairly easy task to show that you were confident in the water and could swim a certain distance. The sports centre would lend out snorkelling equipment but we had invested in our own before travelling, certainly it is a good idea to consider your own mask and snorkel for clear viewing even if you borrow flippers at the resort.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll dhoni

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll deserted island

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll jump

Snorkelling straight off the beach prove to be less exciting as most of the immediate area around the island was sandy and therefore, not of much interest to any fish or other sea creatures. The sandy lagoon is fantastic for swimming and other water sport activities with no risk of painful coral nearby. However, we did go and venture into the corals near the water villas on the North side of the island. This is only possible during the higher tide periods though, as the water is otherwise too shallow and coral would be damaged or it would be easily to get hurt on the sharp rough branches.  Despite this the boys were confident swimmers and managed to get a way through to the reef edge where they saw turtles and many other fish. A less risky spot was right next to the back of the boat jetty where the concrete blocks had made a super artificial reef. Even so swimming here you had to be aware of the potential dangers as the boats came in and out infrequently.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll snorkelling

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll fish

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll fish

The best snorkelling at Lux was further out, maybe 500m to 800m from the island, and we enjoyed the boat ride on the Dhoni, it broke up our day. If we got lucky and the second tour was not completely booked (there was a limited number allowed on the boat) we would go out again after a short break. First thing after breakfast every morning we made sure to cycle to the water sports centre and register for the daily snorkelling tour to the house reef. We made friends with Hardy and Firsushwan the regular guides who were both amazing and helpful on the snorkelling tour. Jerome had taken a special liking to Firushwan and vice versa, as they both went off to free dive further away from the group. He showed Jerome some special spots where they saw some less common fish, like blowfish and moray eel as well as a deep spot where a turtle hides away.

Jerome and his Dad are super swimmers, can hold their breath for ages, and like free diving to maybe as much as 5m down.  I was less adventuress and snorkelled around the main parts of the reef where it was less deep but also busier with all the other snorkelers. Despite this lazier approach I still saw loads of rainbow coloured fish, in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes we would be surrounded by large shoals and on the odd occasion one of the fish would be quite cheeky and follow me around, others were completely oblivious to me. One advantage about going out on the Dhoni was that we went to different places on the house reef every time and therefore always saw different fish and types of coral.  The location depended on the tide and currents, sometimes we would be let off and drift along the reef for several hundred metres only to be picked up later.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll sting ray

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll marine wildlife

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll nemo

We had spoken to other guests during our stay who had been to other places in the Maldives, with better reefs straight off the beach, but many also said that they preferred it at South Ari because of the very fact that you had the free boat out so had a more varied experience. The snorkelling approach is certainly worth checking before you choose a resort.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll snorkelling dori

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll island

As I mentioned in my previous post the main reason for our stay at Lux South Ari was the Whale shark tour. Chiara, the marine biologist at Lux offered a guided whale shark tour a few times a week. At an extra $150 it certainly is not a trip to take every day, especially when there is no guarantee to see whale sharks on the tour. We had signed up for the next whale shark tour after our arrival and met Chiara and another family in her office. She gave us some basic information about the marine life in general, and introduced us to whale sharks and what is known about them. South Ari atoll is one of the places in the world where whale sharks can be found all year round, in other places it is more seasonal. As a result of pressure from conservationists the maritime area around the islands is now protected by the local government, research has been started to find out more about these gentle giants. Most people might think why would we be crazy and want to swim with whale sharks?!

Whale sharks might be daunting due to their size, they can grow up to twelve meters which is the same length as a London bus, but they are completely harmless to humans. They filter feed and only eat plankton, krill and fish eggs and are very docile towards divers and snorkelers. Chiara told us that the last few trips had been futile and no whale sharks had been spotted for about two weeks, so our hopes to see one on our first trip were not set too high. She also mentioned to not touch the shark at any point and to stay away from the head and tail fin. If we did not see one them there would still be a chance to explore other parts of the reef.

On board the Dhoni we were joined by the other participants for the trip, some guests were on their second or third trip to go and swim with the whale sharks. The Dhoni slowly made its way past our resort, we could spot our water villa and on towards the open sea, outside the atoll’s protective reef. Once outside the atoll we saw boats and yachts from other resorts all on the hunt for whale sharks. It was not meant to be on our trip that day we did not come across one of these giants.  We did spot the occasional turtle swimming lazily by and many interesting sea birds though. Before heading back to our resort we went for a long snorkelling session outside the reef and this somewhat cheered us up and this would perhaps be one of the best snorkelling sessions during our stay. Jerome was sad but also determined to give it another go. Chiara said that she would give us a discount if we would come on a second trip and so we booked for another day.

On our second attempt the first creatures we spotted once we were outside the reef was a pod of dolphins. Their squeaky sounds followed us along for a few minutes, their fins popping out in between the waves every now and then. This made all of us happy and hopeful that we would be luckier this time around. Jerome, Chiara and some of the other kids were on the roof of the Dhoni keeping and eye out for whale sharks while we sat downstairs in the shade to look for them.  Again we cruised all down the reef with several false alarms.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll dolphins

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll whale shark hunt

We were well prepared, with masks already on our heads and flippers on our feet, when one of the boat scouts shouted: there is one. We all got to our feet, rushed to the edge of the Dhoni and jumped in. Luckily few other boats were around.   As we hit the water I could not believe my own eyes, there it was, this graceful creature swimming towards me.  It was huge about the size of a large car. I was too excited to even think about being scared by this giant as it slowly glided past in this underwater world. I was absolutely fascinated by the beauty of this enchanting creature. I saw Jerome and Chris dive down follow it and to take some photos with their cameras. Most of the rest of us stayed behind as the whale shark slowly descended into the deep blue of the Indian Ocean and then it was gone…

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll whale shark

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll snorkelling whale shark

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll free diving

Everybody went back on board of the Dhoni and we sailed on as we still had some time left before we had to turn back to the resort. There were no more whale sharks that day, but it did not matter, we were over the moon that we had had the opportunity to swim with one on our second trip. Jerome was all smiles for the rest of the day and we could not wait to find out from Chiara if the whale shark was one that had never been seen before. He also was keen to know if it was a female or male shark. It certainly was a younger one as it was only about five meters in length. Chiara had explained to us that the pattern of spots next to the side fins were used to identify the whale shark and that every time they were spotted, an entry was made into a shared database. Later, Chiara told us that she had identified our shark and that it was a female. Not only had we been lucky enough to snorkel with whale sharks here in the Maldives, we had also learned a lot about their lives and habitat thanks to Chiara’s information.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll happy child

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll traditional dhoni

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll boat ride

We where in for another surprise that evening. When we got back to our water villa we found a ginormous whale shark made of towels on our bed. Jerome was really happy to see the towel shark. He had been collecting the towel animals our room boy Ali made every day. There had been a dog, monkey, elephant, crocodile and many others. Of course Jerome would have loved to keep the whale shark but then we would not have had a bed to sleep on – it was huge! (and probably needed 8 towels to make). We left the whale shark until after dinner and then took it apart.

Snorkelling with the whale shark was definitely the absolute highlight of our trip to the Maldives and we are hoping to get a chance to go back and see these giant animals again sometime in the future. Jerome has also set his heart on seeing the giant manta rays too.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll whale shark towel

Lux South Ari Atoll, Maldives| The Perfect Paradise Island in the Maldives

Our once in a lifetime trip to the Maldives

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For me, the Maldives was always associated as a destination for honeymoons and couples. Somewhere for them to spend some quality time together, to dream about their future, on a tiny island with palm trees, white sandy beaches surrounded by turquoise waters. There would nothing else to do, than lie on the beach, swim and snorkel in the clear sea.

However, Jerome has always had a passion for swimming, since he was very little, it was hard to get him out of the sea or swimming pool. He was able to hold his breath and swim under water, before he could actually swim properly, and could swim at five thanks to his Dad’s coaching and encouragement. I have always admired his fearlessness when swimming and diving, often I wish I was a bit more like him. He has shown a keen interest in marine life since our first trip to Bermuda, when he was just seven years old. There we saw barracudas, octopus, squid and many other fish whilst snorkelling. One of his big dreams since then has been to snorkel with whale sharks. Fulfilling this dream was not an easy task as depending on the time of year and where you dive you might be lucky or unlucky to see these the largest fish on the planet, without being able to dive properly.

I had conducted some research and found that the South Ari Atoll in the Maldives is a place where one can swim and snorkel with whale sharks most of the year. However, a holiday in the Maldives is not like any destination we could just go and visit, it is one of the more expensive destinations and requires a careful choice of place to stay and transport to get there. If we were going there I wanted it to be perfect, so I started to save the money and we gave the trip to ourselves a big Christmas present, and chose a stay at Lux South Ari, as I felt this was the right place for an overindulgent holiday.

February came so quickly and we were off on our plane to paradise. Even before we came into land at Male airport I was able to spot some reefs from the plane window. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, no photo could do it justice when I finally saw the beauty of the atolls for real. I got really excited and Chris had to calm me down, he had seen the atolls years ago on on a trip to Sri Lanka.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll male airport

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll boat transfer

After we landed and had gone through immigration, we were greeted by one of the hotel staff from Lux South Ari. He helped us with our luggage and guided us to the seaplane check-in desks where we had to check our luggage in and collect our tickets for the air taxi transfer to the hotel island. We had known that we would be limited to one piece of luggage per person without incurring additional fees and so had managed to get away with hand luggage only. We collected our plane tickets and waited for some other guests to share the bus ride to the seaplane airport.

One of the great perks about staying at Lux South Ari was that we got a separate lounge, reserved just for hotel guests at the seaplane harbour. After our arrival there received a very warm welcome with cooling scented towels (I will never forget the smell) and plenty of drinks and snacks to pass our time before boarding. We quickly changed into some lighter clothes, as the difference of about 25C in temperature from London to the Maldives, was rather overwhelming at first. We sat outside the lounge and watched seaplanes take off and land. Jerome has always been fascinated by any kind of vehicle, and this was a completely new experience for him. Actually it was a new experience for all of us, as we had never been on a seaplane before.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll trans maldivian airways

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll seaplane takeoff

When it was time for us to board we first had to watch a safety video beforehand and then walked along a pier to our seaplane. Our luggage was stored in the back and we climbed into the tiny plane. I chose to sit next to the window to one side on my own, Jerome on the other side of the aisle with Chris. We were also right behind the cockpit and there was a surprise, no door between us and the pilots. We had a great view of all the instruments in the cockpit from our seats. There was also another surprise, as the pilots flew barefoot! I had heard about this before but I could not believe it until that moment that I saw it with my own eyes. Once the steward had finished loading all the luggage and everybody was on board the propellers started rotating. It felt weird at first to be floating on water in a plane, heading for the “runway”.

Take off was very smooth and soon we very up, flew over Male, which looked very crowded, and headed towards the island which we were to call home for the next ten days. Jerome after all the excitement was beginning to flag and fell asleep soon after, I do not know how as it was pretty loud in the plane. He had happily played games and watched videos on the main flight rather than sleep. I enjoyed the view too much and was probably too high on adrenaline to think about a nap. We passed many islands and atolls, on some I could see luxury hotels and resorts, a few were built up with local villages and others still uninhabited and wild. The shades of blue and turquoise were ever changing and sometimes the atolls looked like a pattern of polka dots in the dark blue sea. After 25 minutes we left our flying altitude and came into land at Lux South Ari, but not before we got a tour of the island from the sky.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll male from the air

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll paradise

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll reef

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll seaplane cockpit

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll seaplane journey

There was already a group of employees awaiting our arrival, typical of the service were to receive the entire stay.  We received another warm welcome and were led into the lobby of the hotel where one of the girls explained a few things about our stay on the island. We had already done all the check-in formalities at the hotel’s lounge at Male airport. Jerome got a list of the children’s activities in the kids club, which he could join anytime he wanted to even though he never did in the end. We were then driven on a golf cart to our water villa at the far end of the island, the island was about a couple of kilometre long and a few hundred metres wide at the widest point. You could walk the length of the island in perhaps twenty minutes.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll dhoni

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll arrival lounge

I had decided that if we were going to visit the Maldives we had to stay in a villa perched over the sea. Where else do you have the chance to step out onto your terrace, with direct access into the sea and not have to walk across the beach first. I had also imagined that it would be incredible to lie in bed and look out over nothing else but the sea. Our villa was very spacious. Jerome had his own bed in an alcove in the bedroom and the bathroom was the same size as our bedroom. The shower and toilet were open and we could see the sea right underneath the room and the fish swimming by. The terrace had a sofa, table and chairs and a hammock, which was hung over the sea. It was just how I had imagined it and more, we were speechless.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll water villa

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll water villa

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll happy child

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll snorkelling

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll bedroom

We had asked to have some bikes, as it took quite some time to get from one end of the island to the other. We also like cycling wherever we are on holiday. The staff had already parked them outside our door, a smaller bike for Jerome as well. For those who do not want to cycle, Lux also a golf cart shuttle that goes back and forth between the two ends of the island and you get on and off at any point.  Not all the Maldivian islands are as big as Lux, some are just a few rooms and a restaurant, however, we preferred to have a destination with a bit more space and choice and Lux proved an excellent choice.

We had booked a table for dinner that evening at Senses, one of the hotel restaurants. We got a table on the beach in front – what a great way to end our first day here at Lux South Ari eating by the water with feet in the sand. The food was delicious, a mixture of local dishes with Indian and Sri Lankan influence. The Senses staff was impeccable, friendly and helpful. From the time we arrived to when we left, it was going to become our favourite of the restaurants here at LUX.

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll bikes

travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll water villas

 travel with children kids maldives lux south ari atoll magical sunset

Back in our villa, we left the door open to our terrace (there are no mosquitos in the Maldives), the sea breeze gently cooled us down (we hate air-conditioning) and we could hear the water slapping against the pillars which sent us straight to sleep.