By Nivi Shrivastava

Looking for an exciting beach destination this summer, without burning a hole in your pocket? Think the Maldives. The beautiful island country in the Indian Ocean is one of the most preferred destinations for an exotic aquatic adventure holiday. From the white sand beaches to the lush flora and fauna of the country that comes with great local hospitality, scenic vistas, and awesome local cuisine — there is a lot to do and explore if you are jet setting millennial couple or a solo traveller looking for some unique experiences within a budget.

If you run a search on the Internet about the Maldives, you will be surprised to know that the second largest contributor to the local economy is tourism (23 percent), after fishing. According to the official Maldives Tourism board, there are around 1,190 islands in the nation, out of which 188 are inhabited. The most commonly practiced religion in the country is Islam, and due to which alcohol and pork are strictly prohibited in the local islands (however, it is permitted in resorts with valid permits.) While visa for tourists on arrival is free, it is better that you carry some cash in USD or local currency Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) in cash, which is easily accepted at all shops and hotels.

Choose your itinerary:

While many tourists come to experience the luxurious sea resorts and ocean villas located on the crystal clear azure waters of the Indian ocean, one can also do a bit of a detour and go island hopping to explore the local islands or plan an overnight stay at the liveaboats. There are multiple local guides, tour operators and agencies that can help you plan your trip, and you can mix and match the activities and accommodation depending on your budget. The established resort chains have multiple options starting from mid-level to high-end luxury accommodations on private natural islands. Interestingly, each island is allotted for one resort and transfers from one island to another happen via speed boats or ferry. While a private speed boat or seaplane transfer can cost you a considerable amount, you can choose to take the public ferry rides that are cheaper and used by locals.

If you are looking for a more authentic and local experience in less money, opt for local guest houses and budget hotels. Most of these places are equipped with Wifi and include three meals, AC rooms and clean drinking water for tourists. Almost all resorts and guest houses conduct activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, para-sailing, dolphin tours, romantic sea cruise, dinners on , etc for tourists and have trained professionals to take you underwater and experience the vivid aquatic life. (Read here for more)

Responsible ecotourism:

 The government of the Maldives encourages responsible tourism across the 1,190 plus islands insists on using sustainable methods to keep the natural beauty alive. While going underwater, it is imperative that the tourists do not destroy the coral reefs or temper with the aquatic animals during snorkeling and scuba diving. Avoid using polythene and plastic bottles, and opt for organic products like jute bags, cotton or linen clothes, flip flops and reusable water bottles to do your bit. The sun is quite direct during the day time as the islands are close to the Equatorial belt, hence carry a bottle of sunscreen, stay hydrated and keep an umbrella handy for untimely rains. Always remember to carry your flip flops, or better stay barefoot as you explore the local streets and islands during the stay.

Wonderful local experiences:

With the streets of Male (the capital city) is full of souvenir shops, handmade beauty products and sea-inspired products, you can also explore the quaint boutiques and pick some exquisite jewellery made of sea stones and items made of dead coral shells. The locals speak the Dhivehi language and dress in a traditional libaas during festivities. For sampling the local food, head to small roadside cafes and as for delicacies like Mashuni (a mix of coconut and tuna) served with flatbread called Roshi, Garudhiya (tuna broth), Rihaakuru (tuna paste) and interesting fruit platter served after every meal usually comprising of tropical fruits like pineapple, coconut, papaya and watermelon.

As you spend time exploring the islands, make sure you pay attention to the local advice and be in life jackets while sea transfers. During the rough sea or after rainfall, it could be dangerous to go alone in the sea so do not ignore the advice from your local guide. If you are opting for local experiences like visiting a local home, it is advised to dress modestly in public places and respect the indigenous beliefs. There are multiple untouched islands and beaches, where you can flaunt your swimwear or take a dip with your partner without disturbing the local sentiments. If you are already psyched about this destination, we suggest you to chalk out an exciting stay and keep a day extra to relax and do nothing but soak in the sun, sea and superb vibes of the vast Indian Ocean.

(The trip’s courtesy Maldives Tourism, you can reach the writer at [email protected])