We recently caught up with eco-travel extraordinaire, Alison Teal, to discuss her September green trip to the Maldives. As part of her “Surf, Survive, Sustain” mission, she ventured to the island nation earlier this fall to spotlight the area’s trash problem and educate the community on recycling solutions.
Although the country’s troubles with trash disposal initially motivated Alison’s trip to the islands, she revealed that the Maldives has beauty beyond the plastic bottles. In fact, Alison gushed about the luscious palm trees and the turquoise waters.
“I’ve never seen anything like it on earth,” she said. “You feel like you should have your honeymoon there every day; it’s mind blowing.”
There’s so much more to this tropical archipelago than its infamous Trash Island, so we were inspired to highlight the destination from the perspective of a seasoned traveler such as Alison. Here is Alison’s inside scoop on the best ways to spend a vacation in the Maldives:
Swim with mantas at the Biosphere Reserve
One of the first stops on Alison’s itinerary was the Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, where she swam alongside manta rays in the protected environment. “They’re so graceful and very majestic,” she explained. “You feel like a spaceship is passing you” as they glide through the water in search of plankton.
Mantas are just a few of the many species that are native to the Maldives’ Biosphere. The preserved habitat also is home to whales, sharks, turtles, dolphins, and birds, among other species. The biosphere conserves and protects this area from outside influences and disturbances, such as overfishing and egg collecting.
Although the biosphere is protected, Alison said, “People aren’t treating it like a reserve.” With that in mind, if you plan on visiting the conservation during your stay, respect the area and leave no trace to help preserve its biosphere status.
Carve up the waves at Lohis
Forget about fighting for a wave. Tote your surfboard over to Lohis to carve up the break—without the wait. This nirvana-like surf spot has a cap on the number of surfers who can shred at one time, so you can ride the waves at ease. Make your reservation in advance though because spots fill up quickly.
Located in Northern Atolls, Lohis sounds like the ultimate surfer’s playground. “The breaks are amazing,” Alison said, as the surf destination serves up consistent waves during any time of the tide.
Photo by Sarah Lee
Soar in a seaplane
Views of the island from its sparkling shores are exhilarating, but views of the island from the sky are second to none. “Take a flight, so you can see the crystal blue water,” suggested Alison. She added you can peer through the windows of the private charter for glimpses of gigantic whale sharks swimming in the ocean below.
These seaplane tours are a popular excursion in the Maldives, providing outstanding views of the mangroves, sandbars, and marine life. Some private charters island-hop, while others fly passengers to secluded surf spots in the archipelago. When you climb aboard your charter, take a peek at the pilot’s feet: Some embrace the island vibe and work the pedals barefoot!
Just because you’re a visitor in town doesn’t mean you need to stick to the tourist scenes. Get out of the resort areas and mingle with the locals. Alison suggested breaking the ice with the Maldivians by asking about the pink coconuts on the island. “The inside [of the coconut] is literally hot pink!” she said.
Viewfinder Tip: The Maldives is an Islamic country. If you fly into the capital, be mindful of their cultural and religious customs.
There’s a lot more you can discover from the locals than just quirky coconut traits, though. “Make sure you get to experience the culture, and see where their struggles are coming from,” Alison explained. “It’s a beautiful culture of people, and there’s a lot to learn from them.” Strike up conversation, share some chicken curry, or relish in the Boduberu folk music and dance to embrace the local customs.
Whether you take to the depths of the sea or the heights of the sky during your trip to the Maldives, you won’t be disappointed. Dive right into the adventures, activities, and cultures for a taste of the tropics.
For more advice from Alison Adventures, check out this list for some eco travel tips.
Top photo credit: Sarah Lee
What’s your favorite way to spend a tropical vacation?