Saturday, February 21, 2015

Maafushi - The Local Island For Those With A Budget @ Kaafu Atoll [Maldives] #maafushi #maldiveswithabudget

Friends who have been to Maldives complained about the exorbitant prices forked out for accommodation, food and practically everything; for a ultra stingy man like me, it should be the last item on my bucket list.

That's until i checked out and realised accommodation can be really affordable in Male and local islands! To circumvent the expensive food issue, i absolutely would not mind digging into instant noodles every day! 

Decision was made, tickets were purchased and on 21 January 2015, both feet landed on the local island known as Maafushi. Why Maafushi? 

For two simple reasons, one, it boasted one of the highest concentration of hotels / guesthouses in Maldives with over 30 of them! Two, it is quite a distance from Male, the capital yet near enough without the need to take a domestic flight.

A ferry from Male to Maafushi would take about two hours while a speedboat shall cut the journey down to about 30-40 minutes. On a related note, staying in a local island would also be the best place for you to experience more of the Maldivians' life, their friendliness and hospitality.

Why be stuck in an exclusive island when you could probably do the same thing at any five-star resort in Philippines, Indonesia or even our closest neighbour, Malaysia?!

Anyway, enough about my rantings! Let me share with you more details about Maafushi so that you would know what to expect in the event you decide to stay there.

Remember - there were only tracks and no roads. By tracks, i am not referring to those dirt / mud tracks found in forests. Rather, befitting its image as a beach destination, you shall be blessed with tonnes of sand in your shoes! Advice: don't wear covered shoes!

Quite a number of hotels / guesthouses were still under construction when i was there which bodes good news for travellers; more choices and hopefully resulting in better food, cheaper rates. 

Many were situated at beachfront and you wish to keep in mind that when a hotel / guesthouse in Maafushi stated city view, it was definitely not referring to Male.

Example of a city view - yes, like many others, i honestly could not quite make out the city skyline. Naming it as a town view might be much more appropriate. 

Food expenses could take up quite a chunk off our budget and you have three options; one, bring along some instant food (noodles, snacks etc) from Singapore and two, have your meal at a standalone / hotel restaurant like the one above (some restaurants offered US$10 dinner buffet).

The third option is to pop by the numerous convenience stores in Maafushi with prices similar to Singapore! I counted at least four such stores on the local island.

If i have known earlier, i would not have packed over ten cup noodles in my luggage! The range was quite extensive and even the brands were on familiar ground.

Besides snacks and instant food, you could also find plenty of products suitable for a beach vacation; shower gel, shampoo, sunblock lotion, swimsuit, snorkeling mask, swimming goggles etc. Walk further into the island and you might even find watermelons, potatoes and frozen products for barbecue! 

Two doors away from Kaani Beach Hotel was a diving school for those interested to take up scuba diving; if i recall correctly, there were two or three such schools in the vicinity. 

One of the major draws for staying in a local island would be the presence of excursion agencies that would offer competitive packages to serve most of your out-of-island needs; picnic trips, night fishing, snorkeling with whale sharks, day trips to the pricey exclusive islands, island hopping etc. Aside from iCom, there was another one known as Venturo. 

Prefer to stay around Maafushi and didn't know what to do? Fret not; there was a water sports centre where you can wind surf, kite surf, paddle surf, wave surf, canoe and jet ski!

I think most of the activities ranged from US$20 - US$50; on one of the days, there was a store-wide promotion of only US$20 per activity. Unfortunately, i wasn't feeling well that day. :(

The operators were making use of drones to take photographs! Not sure if there would be an additional charge though but quite cool right?!

Before you leave the island, take your time to look through the souvenir shops! There were ample such shops in Maafushi even though i heard from a fellow Singaporean traveller that the mementos were cheaper in Male. 

As my eventual intention was to travel from Maafushi straight to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, i decided to get them from Arena Souvenir located right beside Kaani Beach Hotel. Advice: Do bargain if you are getting more than ten of the same thing!

A sample of the souvenirs you can get from those shops; it can be as light as a bottle of authentic white sand from Maldives to as heavy as a sea turtle made of lacquered wood.

Any more questions? If not, i shall bring you for a visual walk to the rest of the town. Walking would be achievable even though i would suggest cycling if your hotel / guesthouse has bicycles that you could loan out. 

Let's start with the main stretch where the jetty was. As you could see, bags of construction materials were placed in full sight and this might put off travellers expecting a perfect paradise publicised by television shows and guide books. 

Wait till you see the rubbish area on the eastern side of the island. Click here to read more. Do ask your travel partners to manage their expectations. If their mindset of Maldives was one of clean water and beach, consider bringing them to the exclusive islands after you have saved enough. 

Fishing by the beach - unlike places like Redang island, there wasn't any restriction on fishing and i have heard from friends who signed up for the night fishing that they didn't even travel far from the island! 

There was even a long fish tank near a diving centre that was overcrowded with marine fishes! Frankly, i doubt they could even survive there but who knows, they could end up as the next meal on the table. 

A local symbol which i am assuming to bring forward the message that we should all treasure water. In addition to being a need for all living beings, water was of extreme importance to Maldives as it constitutes the highest percentage in the country's GDP (in 2000, tourism contributed 33% of the GDP)!

An alfresco drink / snack counter; the stretch faces the west and is the best place to catch the magnificent sunset on Maafushi Island! 

Buy a few bottles of non-alcoholic sparkling juice and chill out by the beach as the sky changes hues from clear blue to reddish-orange and finally to black with sparkles on a clear day. 

If you could, grab this absolutely splendid location for the sunset. Location was a bit far from Kaani Beach Hotel, near the Coral Beach but boasted the nicest view. 

Advertising board for another diving school on the island. 

I had wanted to check out the Coral Beach on the last day of my trip! Major regret as the water was really quite shallow and it did appear to have corals on the sea bed. 

Could not see much from where i was standing although i did manage to scare a few crabs. Strangely, i don't see crabs being featured heavily in Maldivian cuisine. 

Maafushi was known as a leprosy island in the past and it sure doesn't help its image with the presence of a prison. Not that it was an issue with me since such things attract me. 

Being the curious cat i am, i loitered around the perimeter of the fence; everything seemed peaceful and i guess the jail might have housed less violent / small time criminals. 

Don't belittle the harmless looking fence though; i didn't notice the uniqueness of it until i stepped nearer.

The razor-sharp barbs jutted out every few inches and guaranteed to tear the flesh apart. Euuuwwww.. Such a sick device yet its effectiveness would likely act as a deterrent for those attempting to escape the premise.

Not many commercial entities around the prison; i found only one which appeared to be a service centre for motorcycles. In spite of the island's diminutive size, you can find motorcycles and even motor cars on the sandy paths!

Cut across the track to the eastern part of the island.

At first glance, it was an breathtaking view of the shimmering turquoise blue water. It looked so inviting; i was prepared to jump into the water! 

Section was off-limit as it was still part of the prison. You can still attempt to jump into the water; just be prepared to face an interrogation by the prison guards stationed there.

As a person who adhere strictly to the rules and laws of any country, bothj Alex and I obediently stayed on the land under the watchful eyes of the guards. 

Boats berthed by the sea. As i was enjoying the strong sea breeze, i decided to take a photo on my iPhone for instagramming later; only to realise my phone wasn't with me!

Had to retrace my route to ensure i did not drop it while cycling. Shall elaborate more on day two of my itinerary. In the meantime, let's continue our exploration of Maafushi.

Navigation was straightforward on Maafushi and being a small island means you would never ever get lost. If you still manage to lose your bearings, get the help of a friendly local who never fails to charm us with a loud "hello". 

Including the young kids! 

Communication tower for our mobile needs. Most hotels / guesthouses provide free WiFi but in the event you prefer to have data on the go for easy upload on Facebook and Instagram, you could actually purchase the SIM card from the convenience stores.   

Abandoned house; in usual circumstances, i would have likely paid this a visit when night falls and came out with a blog post about it! Pity i didn't get round to doing it. 

Looks like an educational billboard in Maldivian language although the kid was obviously not studying. His eyes seemed a bit afraid; was this a message about child abuse? Ibrahim, share the meaning please!

An election campaign? According to Wikipedia, the island is "governed by an elected Island Council composed of five councillors, which reports to the Local Government Authority (LGA)". Whatever the case, i am showing this because of the map. 

The large soccer field in the middle of the island was popular on weekends and after school hours.

Remember the local symbol i mentioned earlier? The one above was located on a parallel path. 

This parallel path is known as Main Street; a name i didn't quite understand since it was further inland and definitely didn't command the prestige associated with it. 

After cycling down the main road, i realised that numerous government agencies were situated along the road; you have the council's office, the police station and even the local clinic!

On the eastern side of the island again after my scramble to retrace my route and back to Kaani Beach Hotel following the loss of my iPhone.

By and large, it wasn't as clean as the western side even though the water didn't seem polluted at all. 

This boat appeared to be abandoned; i could not confirm on this as i didn't want to risk toppling the boat given the precariously placed supports.  

Cycled past a mosque after checking out the rubbish dump i shared earlier. 

With on ominous looking gate, i am sure this area would be my cup of tea. 

Hmmmmm.... i could see two lonely plaques (tombstones maybe?) amid the overgrowth and wondered if the area was indeed the burial grounds for locals. 

Stretch of sandy path on the eastern side; less crowded, more peaceful and at the same time with an aura of smoke due to the burning of garbage. 

Remnants of the nearby rubbish dump being washed up to the beach. 

The Island Council should make proper clearance of rubbish a top priority on their agenda for health and hygiene reasons. Disposal of garbage has always been a sensitive issue, even here in Singapore where we burn our rubbish and even dedicate an island for landfills.   

Woah, basic ship building on the island! 

Locals relaxing at around 3 pm; their lifestyle was quite slow paced and this is a major difference from the rat race we have in cities. Envious? I sure am! 

The locals here really love to play soccer!

Such chairs were common in Maafushi; basic structure was made of stainless steel frames, with nylon meshes providing the support for your butt. Note that big butt individual might find it hard to squeeze in!

Northern-eastern side of Maafushi was quite pretty maybe because it wasn't near to the tourist enclave and in the few times we cycled there, we only bumped into locals.

As i mentioned before, save for the private bikini beach, you should wear appropriately in other beaches on the island. 

Forsaken boats for sure; they should be quite steady as i saw quite a number of local teenagers climbing it on one of the days. Well, they can afford to break a few bones; not my brittle 35-year old bones.

A wheelchair in the middle of nowhere; can you just imagine an old man sitting on it in the middle of the night while you are checking out the luminous planktons on the beach? Freakish right?!

Unspoiled far north of Maafushi; the seascape took our breath away and i even had the intention to get up early on one of the mornings to catch the sunrise! Laziness aside (the main reason), i fell ill remember?!!? Another regret. Damn, i seem to have a lot of regrets for this trip! 

Hundreds of crabs on the rocks! 

Push your bike along this path and if you are lucky, you might be able to encounter many baby sharks! Click here to read more. 

Vandalism on the wall with words that require no further explanation. As a person living on the other side of the globe, i can only hope that things work out amicably.

Riding our mountain bikes back to Kaani Beach Hotel!


Location Map
As above for your ease of reference. 

Additional Information
Loads of crows on the island! Okay, to be fair, i saw a lot of crows in other parts of Maldives too! 

Alfresco dining was available in restaurants by the beach although the use of candle lights made taking photographs a huge pain in the ass. However, the soft lighting would have been really romantic for those on honeymoon. 

Taking a speedboat to Male / airport often means paying US$150-180 which can be shared depending on the number of persons taking it. Visit Aachaa (along Main Street) and you would only need to fork out US$20 per person. 

Maafushi can be pretty dark at night and it would be best if you could bring along a torchlight to illuminate the way. For those who are unaware, most smartphones have that torchlight function. 

Have i mentioned before that they enjoy soccer? When i was their age, i played more go li (marbles) than chasing a ball all over the place. 

To read my Maldives itinerary,
check out HERE.


  1. Thank you. I went to Maafushi Island after reading your blog. It is a wonderful trip.

  2. your blog is amazing! thank you!

    1. Thanks very much for your kind words. :)

  3. Thank you so much for your blog and especially this post on Maafushi. So far the best I've read. Full of details and information. Extremely useful! I read about the Aachaa shop that offers transfers for 20$ per person which is a great price I can't find anywhere else. Do you happen to have contact details? It seems Aachaa doesn't have any website of Facebook page. Thank you again for your post

    1. Thanks for your kind words! I am afraid i don't have any contact details with regards to Aachaa and because i was quite sick on my last day, i wasn't in the right mind to explore this option.

      Nevertheless, if time permits, do consider taking the ferry from Male. Aside from checking out the capital of Maldives, travel local is actually quite fun! :)

  4. Anonymous12:09 PM

    Hi, so glad to come across your blog. Thank you so much for sharing! Would like to seek your advice for our trip this Dec..
    Can US currency be used in Maafushi?
    We will be arriving at 8.15am at Male airport
    Do you think we have enough time to catch the 9am icom speedboat (as the next boat is at 1.30pm)? Regards! Min

    1. Hi Min,

      You are most welcome! US$ was accepted in Maafushi but i did realise certain convenience stores still priced their items in the local currency; i did change about a US$100 worth, just in case.

      Where are you catching the icom speedboat from? If it's at the airport (as in next to the airport), i think there's more than sufficient time.

      Have a good trip!


  5. Anonymous5:57 PM

    Hi, how long did the entire cycling trip take? Would cycling or walking be recommended? How much did the bicycle rental cost? :)

    1. Hi!

      The island isn't very big and as there's not much things to do, you can cycle in a slow, relaxed manner, even at night (some areas might not be lighted). The bicycles were provided for free for the guests by the hotel.


  6. Good capture of the beauty of the trip and the curio shops in Maafushi.