Maafushi Island in Maldives. Full review
Maafushi Island is one of the biggest islands in Maldives. It’s surely the most popular local island in Maldives. It is located in Kaafu Atoll just 27 km away from Male. Its size is 1270 x 265 m. The island itself has an elongated form. 2700 people live on the island, and 350 of them are foreigners. It’s amazing how so many people can live on such a small piece of land, but there, as well as on other local islands , you absolutely don’t feel that the place is overcrowded.
It is quite easy to orient yourself on the island. The northern end of the island is a tourist zone; bikini beach, guest houses, gift shops, and restaurants are located there. In the southern part of the island there is the only prison in Maldives. In the centre of the island, opposite the berth, a school, the administrative office, a stadium, and a central mosque are situated. The eastern part of the island is mainly uninhabited; a noisy electric power plant is constantly in action there. That’s why you’d better stay in the north of Maafushi, although guest houses are ‘scattered’ around the whole island.
The first guest house on Maafushi was opened in 2010 , and since then the number of guest houses has been on the increase, as well as the population of the island. On the whole on Maafushi there are more than 46 guest houses of different price categories.
I can say with full confidence that, thanks to legislation allowing local tourism, local islands have really begun to develop. So every year something new appears there, and it is also true of prices – they vary greatly, either rising or falling.
Maafushi beach area, as compared to Ukulhas or Mathiveri , is very small in size. That’s why tourists are taken to the neighboring island resorts. The beach itself is overcrowded and is not easily seen, so there you can wear bikinis without fear to be noticed. But you can forget about any privacy and romanticism. And waters can’t boast of the abundance of beautiful small fish and coral gardens. This place is ideal for children rather than for adults.
In recent years there have appeared quite a lot of cafes and restaurants for tourists on the island. Some guest houses’ staff bring chairs and tables on the coast for the tourists to enjoy a dinner under the open sky. The prices there are quite reasonable.
Here is a small gastronomic vocabulary, which should help you to distinguish between different products and dishes:
- Bajiya – fish pie with coconut and onion;
- Baj – rice;
- Bondi – pasties with coconut;
- Garudhiya – fish soup and rice with lemon, onion and pod pepper;
- Gula – fried meat balls with tuna and coconut;
- Dhiyaa hakuru – coconut milk;
- Keemia – rolls with fried fish;
- Kiru sarbat – sweet milk;
- Kulhi borkibaa – pasties with fish and spices;
- Mas – fish;
- Mas huni – dried and soft smoked fish with coconut flakes and onion;
- Rihaukuru – fish paste;
- Roshi – national no-yeast bread (looks like galettes);
- Theluli kavaabu – croquette with fried fish;
- Theluli mas – large pieces of fried fish with pepper and garlic;
- Fihunumas – pepper-rubbed fried fish;
- Foni boakiba – rice pudding with coconut milk;
- Hikimas – dried and soft smoked fish;
- Maldivian Hedhikaa – a deep-fried snack, which includes smoked fish, coconut flakes, lime juice, onion, and chili.
If you wish, in your guest house you can order a private dinner on the coast or a barbeque on one of the neighboring islands.
Alcohol is forbidden here, as well as on other islands. But near the island a floating bar runs, where you can buy alcoholic beverages. You can get there by the following way: you board a boat (no money needs to be paid) and are taken to a ship (no charge for admission). But the prices there are really high: a can of beer (0,33 liters) is $5, a bottle of vodka is $130 (the prices may be different now). And then you’re taken back.
Activities in Maafushi
First of all I should say that there exists a certain ‘price arrangement’ among all the owners of the guest houses, who are very reluctant to bargain and to knock down the prices on guided tours. Nowadays it’s very difficult to go on a guided tour with one hotel, if you stay in another one (the managers contact each other and decide whether to let you go there or not). It takes some time to figure out how this system works. I have never experienced the same situation on other islands. Well, what activities does Maafushi offer to its tourists?
Snorkeling in the island
Local diving centers together with guest houses organize snorkeling trips to various snorkeling points near Maafushi. Among them there are Maavelaathu, Banana Reef, Vilivaru Corner, Maafushi Corner and many others. Flippers and a mask with a tube can be hired in the centre for free. Mind that the equipment is far from being new.
Diving in Maafushi
Everyone who is lucky to visit Maldives must try scuba diving at least once. It will be an unforgettable experience! In the neighborhood, apart from coral gardens, there are lots of underwater cages and real valleys. There are 3 diving schools on Maafushi; there the specialists have PADI certificates. Maafushi Dive School is the most famous of them. If you wish, you can take a course and get a certificate of a true diver, which gives you the right to dive yourself! Depending on the season, you can see sea turtles, manta rays, and sharks (also whale sharks).
Among all other things, you can hire a jetski, …
…try to catch a wave or to fill the sails, …
… enjoy parasailing, …
… or set out for a fascinating kayak trip!
Night & Day fishing
It’ll be interesting for fishing amateurs to know that guest houses organize fishing not only in the daytime, but also at night! The programme was drawn up in the way that it doesn’t presuppose the situation when you can be left without any fish. The fish you catch can be cooked in a restaurant for free. But it’s better to inform them in advance, especially what concerns the way it’s cooked, because it can be served with rice, fresh vegetables, etc, and you’ll have to pay for that.
Evening trip with dolphins
Swimming with wonderful graceful dolphins will certainly give you an unforgettable experience and is unlikely to leave anybody uninterested! Sometimes dolphins get really close to the coast.
Trips to resorts
There are quite a lot of island resorts near Maafushi, and guided tours there are always organized. They usually include transfer by boat, visiting the island, meals and spa treatment. The ticket cost varies from $25 to $125 per person (as of October 2013).
Each resort has its own unique beauty. But there are also some similarities. For example, there is a swimming pool on every resort. It’s not quite clear what it is there for, but still it should be available at every 4- and 5-star hotel. If you have an opportunity and you can afford going there, I’d recommend visiting them all.
6 km away from Maafushi another two local islands (Guraidhoo and Gulhi) are located, where you can be taken by local ferry running from Maafushi.
In conclusion I’d say that Maafushi is a “party” island, where there are lots of tourists. That’s why if you want to enjoy peace and quiet, you’d better stay on other islands.
Here you can read about how to choose an island.
Before booking a room in a guest house, I read the information on Booking.com, chose several variants and wrote to the houses directly (now I always do that). I put 3 guest houses to my list (those who had the lowest cost of accommodation). I wrote to them and began to wait. (Name of the guest house) were the first to answer, and the information provided was relevant. A little bit later I received an answer from another guest house, and the third one answered the following day (I sent messages in the afternoon).
I traveled to Maafushi by speedboat. On the island I was met by the manager. The guest house itself is located near a prison, which in no way affects the whole Maldivian atmosphere.
The inner yard of the guest house is rather small. When all the guests gather there, it may be a little bit crowded. When I was staying there, all the rooms were occupied. It’s not typical of the summer season.
The room itself was small. There were two windows: the first one (the tiniest one) overlooked the street, and the second one overlooked the corridor. You can see it on the photo. I must admit that this guest house is worth more than $45 per night. There is everything necessary in the room and even more.
Although I spend little time at that house, I can say that the staff is very welcoming and friendly.
I did not order lunches and dinners, so I can’t assess the quality of food. Prices on excursions are low (in comparison to other islands). Maafushi is really a cheap island.
There are quite a few cafes on the island. There you can have a decent meal for $7-15. But you can get fed up with their food quickly because of the lack of choice.
The island itself is built-up. Besides, new hotels are going to appear. Today 3-4 large hotels are being built there. It’s hard to imagine how the island will look like in a few years in peak season.
Even this year there were a lot of tourists (August 2016). One had an impression that you were still in Male. There are not so many places on the island, where you can stay alone for a period of time. Generally, I met tourists from Europe (I did not see tourists from the Middle East or from the CIS countries).
Diving in Maafushi
But the main reason why I travelled to Maafushi was diving. There are 3 diving centers on Maafushi; the prices there are practically the same ($35 per dive). It is not that expensive in comparison to the cost of diving on other islands. I can’t say that they have the latest and ultramodern equipment, but don’t expect more, considering such a price.
The first point was located near Adraan, and this is the place that is inhabited by sharks. The average depth is 1-22 meters. The day I was diving there the water was quite cloudy. But still I managed to see 3-4 sharks, and one of them was just 5 meters away from me. Although sharks in Maldives are not dangerous to people, the mere thought that this is a shark got stuck in my mind. The current was not strong, so we just stopped and began to wait.
The second point was not very interesting, because there was a shipwreck. It was located 30 meters deep. My guide suggested diving inside it (what he had not mentioned before). Nevertheless, we got inside the ship, and I can tell you that it was great!
After that we decided to explore the reef. It looked like a cliff wall. There we found lots of fish and corals.
Transfer to Maafushi
You can get to Maafushi by public ferry departing from Vilingili Ferry Terminal. The travelling time is 90 minutes, the cost is $2. To order a speedboat transfer, you should contact your hotel’s administration directly not later than 3 days before arriving.
from Male to Maafushi
Sunday: 10:00, 15:00;
Tuesday: 10:00, 15:00;
Thursday: 10:00, 15:00;
Friday: not available.
from Maafushi to Male
Saturday: 07:30, 12:45;
Monday: 07:30, 12:45;
Wedesday: 07:30, 12:45;
Friday: not available.
Speedboat is available every day, the cost is $39, departs at 9:15, 13:30, 19:00 from Male.
It departs from Maafushi at 8:00, 12:00, 17:00 and runs to the airport.
Read more here.
For detailed schedule contact your guest house. You can also ask them to provide the information about speedboat schedule.