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Travel Tuesdays With Quilt: A 36-Hour Virtual Visit to the Maldives



The Maldives is a popular honeymoon destination. However, there has been a surge in interest among other kinds of travelers over the last year and a half. Pristine beaches, reef-ringed atolls, 1200 islands of which only 200 are inhabited, luxury hotels, rich underwater life, and limited COVID travel restrictions make this country an ideal choice for pandemic and post-pandemic travel.


Maldives tour package’ alone has seen a monthly average search volume of 39,000 searches over the last year. There is 270% growth in searches related to places to visit in the Maldives, 67% growth in searches related to the cost of a Maldives trip, and 65% growth in searches related to the latest COVID rules since the onset of the pandemic. These figures are based on search interest between May 2020-April 2021 and May 2021-April 2022.


There is also significant search interest in tour packages - indicating that travelers visiting the Maldives tend to book all-inclusive packages. Searches related to traveling to the Maldives stem from around the world, particularly India, Pakistan, Nepal, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UK, USA, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Singapore.

For this week’s digital travel edition, we decided to explore the Maldives through the social media posts of travelers. We looked at Instagram and Twitter posts, travel blogs, YouTube vlogs, and reviews on booking sites like TripAdvisor. Reviewing travelers’ Instagram images, our Culture AI models detected the following top colors and emotions:


Top emotions detected by our Culture AI

While the palette includes hues of blue, green, and grey — the colors of the sea, palm trees, and sand — the top emotions detected are Happiness, Solitude, and Affiliation — all of which we typically seek from travel, making the Maldives an ideal travel destination to unwind.

Travelers' posts on Instagram

However, we also unearthed some of the lesser-known, offbeat experiences that are fast picking up among tourists. Based on our AI-powered analysis of travelers’ social media posts, here’s a curated 36-hour virtual tour of the Maldives, inspired by the New York Times’ 36 Hours travel series:


36 Hours in the Maldives

Depending on where you’re staying in the Maldives, this itinerary would need to be tweaked, but here’s an indicative list of interesting experiences.


DAY 1


10 AM: Visit Hukuru Miskiy or the Male Friday Mosque Start your offbeat exploration of the Maldives with a visit to the Hukuru Miskiy or the Male Friday Mosque. With sea culture architecture and intricate carvings, the mosque has inscriptions from the Quran and dates back to 1658! The mosque also features Maldivian lacquer work and woodcarving and is one of the oldest mosque structures built in Male.



1 PM: Dine at an underwater restaurant What could be more magical than grabbing lunch at an underwater restaurant surrounded by a coral reef! The Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is five meters below sea level at the Hilton Maldives Resort and Spa. With merely 14 seats, it offers a 270-degree panoramic view of sharks and other fish.



3 PM: A visit to the fish market What’s unique about a visit to a fish market, you ask? Well, at the Dharavandhoo Fish Market, the fish come to you. Reef sharks, stingrays, nurse sharks… the list is endless. Catch locals gather with their fishing equipment and toss baited hooks into the waters. Watch the fish approach the harbor wall as fishermen prepare for their catch of the day.


5 PM: Witness Bioluminescence Close to the fish market is the Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve - the world’s seventh largest coral reef with breathtaking biodiversity. Spread over 345,206 acres, you can spot parrot-fish, butterfly-fish, angel-fish, clown-fish, wrasses, marine turtles, moray eels, manta rays, groupers, whale sharks, and dolphins here.


Follow this up with a visit to Vaadhoo Island in the Raa Atoll where you can witness bioluminescent phytoplanktons on warm summer nights — appearing like a sea of stars.


DAY 2


7 AM: Scuba dive in azure waters Start your day early with a scuba diving or snorkeling trip in the azure waters of the Maldives. Fulidhoo is a popular island among scuba divers and if you’re a budget traveler, it might be worth staying at the guest houses affiliated with the dive shops on this island. With unparalleled visibility, Vaavu Atoll is famous for channel dives while the Alimatha Night Dive will give you the chance to swim with sting rays, baby eagle rays, and grey ray sharks among others.


12 PM: Eat local Head to the nearest local restaurant serving Maldivian food to try the catch of the day with roshi (flatbread) and mouth-watering curries. You can also try gulha (fried fish-filled dough balls), kuli (spicy fish cakes), and bondi bai (Maldivian rice pudding).


3 PM: Visit a sandbank The Maldives has several uninhabited sand banks that appear when at low tide. Ideal picnics and relaxing swims, make sure to experience this during your stay.


6 PM: Watch a Boduberu Show

Characterized by big drums and hand-claps, Bodubera shows represent Dhivehi culture in a musical way.



Though the Maldives is associated with luxury travel, it is gaining popularity among budget travelers and adventurists alike.



LOGISTICS


How to get there The Maldives is well-connected to most South-East Asian countries and Dubai and has chartered flights from Europe, China, and Singapore. The Male International Airport (MLE) is the main airport. Places to stay There are numerous luxury hotels in the Maldives to choose from, including Vakkaru Maldives, Six Senses Laamu, Baros Maldives, and Gili Lankanfushi in the high-end category. Mid-range options include Paradise Island Resort and Spa and Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Maldives. Budget travelers can opt to stay at Triton Beach Hotel at Mafushi or Thundi Guesthouse at Fulidhoo.

When to go The Maldives is an all-year-round destination. January and April mark the dry season, while November to April is the peak tourist season.



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