Product Director, Melissa, recently inspected several exciting island resorts in The Maldives. As part of her visit, she flew for the first time in a seaplane. More spectacular than a speedboat, flying low enough to give fantastic views over the white sandy islands in the turquoise ocean, she provides her account of the experience.
The Maldives is made up of around 1,200 tiny islands. Around 150 of these are occupied by holiday resorts spread across some 700 kilometres, so getting from airport to hotel isn’t quite as straightforward as hopping in a car! You’ll usually arrive in the Maldives at Male International Airport (surprisingly not actually on the capital island Male but on neighbouring Hulhumale). Then, depending on the location of your chosen resort, you’ll be transported by speedboat, domestic flight or seaplane.
Islands in the North and South Male Atolls, near the capital, tend to be reached by speedboats while domestic flights head out to a small handful of far flung islands and seaplanes get you everywhere else, serving around half of the holiday islands in the Maldives.
I’d been to The Maldives a couple of times before and had travelled to a resort near Male by speedboat and a resort in the far south by domestic flight. This time I was finally getting to travel by the illustrious seaplane. I’d often heard that this was really the best mode of transport in the region and a big part of the Maldives adventure; the only way to get a feel for the remarkable beauty and unique geography of this island nation.
Emerging into the Arrivals Hall at Male airport I was met by a representative of Hummingbird Travel (ETG’s local partner) and transferred a couple of minutes down the road to my hotel’s designated departure lounge at the Trans Maldivian Aviation jetty. Whilst waiting for a few other guests to arrive I sat back and watched the TMA fleet bobbing atop the turquoise ocean, ready to whisk visitors across the atolls. Once everyone was checked in, our luggage was weighed and loaded aboard and we were each handed a pair of ear plugs as we were ushered towards our allocated 15-seater plane.
Settled into a window seat at the front of the twin otter plane I was directly behind the pilot as, seconds later, we began our taxi out along the water. The lone air steward pulled up the rear door, the pilots pulled down the controls and after a charge along the water-based runway we lifted upwards above the idyllic crystal clear waters. We ascended over nearby Bandos Island and then the plane soon levelled out, travelling low enough to ensure an incredible clear aerial view of the luxury water villas, powdery sandbanks, coral reefs fanning out and around the crystal clear azure waters of the North Male Atoll.
Since my seat was virtually in the cockpit I could see the radar and the clock ticking down to our landing time and location and (about 100 photos later) within 25 minutes of take-off we were descending to our destination. I’d been warned not to worry at the speed of descent – practically a dive – down to the tiny airport below which was simply a small square jetty floating in a lagoon. Soon we were disembarking and stepping on to a speedboat for the final 5 minute journey to the shore.
Travelling by seaplane was an exciting way to reach the resort but the experience was really all about the aerial views of this unique country. It was much more impressive than the domestic flight I’d been on a few years ago as those jets fly too high to spot the luxury water villas or the waves crashing on reefs. Like many people I get anxious about flying but, despite the small size of the seaplane, I found the journey too incredible to be nervous and there was something reassuring about being able to land on water! Domestic jet flights and speedboats operate day and night so they can access a resort later than a seaplane can; they also tend to run to a set schedule. With a seaplane you’ll need to be prepared for a little hanging around as passengers are collected from a cluster of incoming international flights.
It’s unlikely that you’ll base your choice of resort solely on how you reach it, as so many excellent resorts are accessed by speedboat or domestic flight, but travelling by seaplane is definitely something to really look forward to should it be the way to get to your chosen Maldives island.
If you were interested in incorporating a seaplane into your holiday to The Maldives, do get in touch with us on 020 3627 3086 or request a call back here. To see a Maldives example holiday itinerary, have a look at our portfolio of trips.