White sandy beaches, glistening turquoise seas, clear blue skies, a shady spot and ice-cold coconut water fresh from the fruit: A perfect moment of holiday bliss on the Maldives. But where to go when travelling alone? A resort? On which island? There are so many, and some are ridiculously expensive. Close to the capital Malé or maybe far away to escape all the noise?
I thought long and hard about where to stay for the week following my diving safari. Most of the offers of German tour operators were either too expensive or the hotels were not suited for single travellers, giving off too much of a “honeymoon” vibe in their brochures or descriptions. There had to be a different way...
So I went straight to the source, and directly asked my Instagram network whether anyone living on the Maldives could recommend an accommodation. And, lo and behold, there is a perfect alternative: guesthouses on islands inhabited by local residents.
Most of locals the work (or have worked) to some extent at a resort and make use of a relatively recent change in legislation: They build guesthouses, something only made possible on the Maldives a few years ago. And in terms of architecture and design they look to their former workplaces for inspiration.
I chose the “MV Palm Residence” located on the island of Rasdhoo. It is about 1.5 hours from Malé by speedboat. I arrived in the evening by speedboat, where I was picked up at the harbour by Rishan, and we walked though the streets to the guesthouse. Sandy paths criss-cross the entire island, making it necessary to transport luggage by wheelbarrow to the guesthouse to keep it sand-free. Street lanterns and tarmac are non-existent. The only light comes from the moon, a flashlight or lampions on guesthouse billboards. This half-light sharpens the senses. Bats fly overhead squeaking, and a light breeze blows softly through the rustling palm trees. Pretty exciting.
I felt even more at home once I set foot in the guesthouse: After a refreshing drink of chilled coconut juice and a cool moist towel (think moist towels distributed on-board planes, but better) all I could think was: Absolutely the right choice! And because a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some impressions:
The island is home to about 1,000 inhabitants, 600 of which are children. You could be forgiven for thinking that it must be loud, but you’d be totally wrong. Only the mosque calls to prayer five times a day, and it’s bright and slightly “louder” on the two main streets, which features numerous shops: Two supermarkets, two dive centres, numerous souvenir shops, small bars and one street further on, the Lemon Drop restaurant, which takes us to our next important item:
My guesthouse package included breakfast; I chose to take my other meals at the Lemon Drop. Owner Hamid Mohamed also got his architectural inspiration for the restaurant from his former place of employment at a Resort:
The Lemon Drop has a small menu with very reasonably priced dishes. Be it fish, meat or vegetarian fare, it has something for everyone. And anyone who dines there for over a week may be in for a vegetarian surprise served up by its Sri Lankan cooks. I never paid more than 8 dollars for a main meal including drinks. The locals eat here, which is always sign of good quality food, and even the crew from my diving safari popped in for a snack and a coffee in the evening.
Alcohol is not served, by the way. On the Maldives, life outside of the resorts is strictly Muslim, and even the import of alcohol is prohibited.
Rasdhoo has a public beach, “Bikini Beach”, where bikini bathing is allowed (no nudity). The guesthouses provide sufficient towels for a trip to the beach, and those located directly on the beach also offer deck chairs. You can also bring a beach mat or buy one at one of the souvenir shops.
I dived with Atollscuba (www.atollscuba.com), who have meanwhile relocated to Dhiffushi in the North Malé atoll. Alternatively, Rasdhoo also has another dive centre, Rasdhoo Atoll Divers. But I remained loyal to Atollscuba and only dived with owner Shaff and his employee Yantee.
Numerous other activities are on offer, e. g. snorkelling, day and night fishing, day trips to “Picknick Island” or to Kuramati Resort etc. Each room at the Palm Residence also has a small brochure listing the activities, and the staff are always there to help with arrangements.
I felt very much at home on Rasdhoo. My room at the Palm Residence guesthouse was very clean, new and well-furnished. I slept like a baby, and felt as content as at a resort, but paid less than 50% of the price. My breakfast was fresh and plentiful. I was supplied with beverages, and always had everything I needed.
The island is small and easy to explore, clean, and everyone I met was authentic, friendly and by no means pushy. I hardly met any tourists on the island. At most I saw eight fellow travellers at the Lemon Drop restaurant, there was a maximum of five of us on the beach during the day. As a result, the beaches were not crowded: perfect for anyone seeking peace and relaxation.
Rasdhoo made me very happy both above and below the shoreline, and those on a smaller budget can enjoy an inexpensive holiday on the Maldives. And to anyone specifically looking to relax for a few days after a diving safari, for example, but who can’t afford to stay at a resort, I can warmly recommend guesthouses such as the Palm Residence.
Phone: + 960 9727576
Divecenter: Atoll Scuba
Name of the owner: Shaff