I had one “must do” while I was in the Maldives- flying above the beautiful islands. Unfortunately, my flights in and out of the Male (the capital, pronounced ma-lay, ma like mom) were at night so I wouldn’t be able to see the islands from above but I could get on a seaplane during the day even though it would be a splurge for my budget.
There used to be two seaplane operators in the Maldives, Trans Maldivian Airways and Maldivian Air Taxi, but they merged (or one bought out the other one) so there’s now only Trans Maldivian Airways. Most seaplane transfers were starting at $250 USD yikes! But on their website Trans Maldivian airways one very small page on “photo flights.”
$150 for 15 minutes– that was still quite a lot but I emailed them anyway, filled out a booking form, and emailed again. I got absolutely no response. Great. Well, I’ll try just showing up on my first day and see if I can get on a plane, I thought. There has to be a flight going out and back that has room for just one more right??
My flight in to Male landed pretty late, giving me no time to do much but check into my hotel and sleep. I chose specifically to stay on Hulhumale (Hu-lu-ma-lay) right next to the airport so that I could get back to the airport pretty quickly in the morning.
After waking up pretty early (thanks, time change) and eating breakfast, I headed back to the airport and tried to book a flight at the TMA check-in counter. No luck, they don’t sell tickets at the airport but gave me a number to call. After saying that I didn’t have a phone, the women explained that there was a phone next to the information desk that I could use to call for free. A ten minute call later I was booked on a 1pm flight to Kuramathi island and back- a 45 minute round trip. That’s a lot better than only 15 minutes and it still cost $150.
I killed some time in the airport, not wanting to leave just to come back later. Then, I checked in for my fight about an hour ahead of my flight time. I stood at the counter watching this guy stare at my passport, call other people and read stuff on the computer for over ten minutes before I was told to jump in the shuttle heading towards the terminals. (No idea what was going on here.)
They sent me to terminal C which has a counter to pay and then told me to wait there, even though my flight was actually leaving out of terminal A. When I realized I was in the wrong terminal, my flight was already supposed to be boarding. Back on the shuttle to the right terminal and into a room with about ten other people, giving me looks because I apparently was holding up the plane (Hey, they told me to wait in the other terminal!)
We boarded as soon as I got there and took off into the beautiful blue skies and above the multi-colored ocean. It was stunning. Literally, I couldn’t believe I was here. Somewhere I never dreamt of going, in a plane 2,500 feet above the most beautiful islands in the world. Wow.
*Photo Note: While I think my photos look beautiful, they’re not like the ones you see online. I found out that this is because you get a much better view the higher up you go. In my short flight we reached 2,500 feet, on longer flights these planes will reach up to 8,500 feet so if you looking to take photos like those you’ll have to book a longer flight. A friend sent me some photos he took from this altitude and they’re posted below with his permission. I didn’t edit a single one of his photos.
As stated, I flew with Trans Maldivian Airways. They did not respond to email. I recommend calling the day before or the day that you want to fly. I asked them about flights later in the week and they couldn’t confirm anything. The phone number is 334-8454 when calling from the Maldives. The information desk I used to call is right after you walk out of the airport building, on the left hand side, before you get to Burger King. You could also have your guest house call for you.
In Hulhumale, I stayed at Ui Inn, one of the cheapest places on the island, it’s clean and has decent rooms, the breakfast isn’t great and the staff can seem like they’re ignoring you sometimes, but again, it’s the cheapest, so I still would have stayed here. I booked my first night on Agoda a few days ahead of time for 46 USD but then booked through Airbnb for the other days for 38 USD, when I tried to just pay at the hotel and asked them to match the price they told me to just book it on Airbnb. Also the $46 night was in a double room but I moved to a single for the cheaper price. Both prices included breakfast and taxes.
Cheapest Transportation from the Airport:
There is a bus that runs to and from the airport into the city of Hulhumale for about $2. When you walk out of the airport stay to the left-hand side, once you pass the Thai place turn left (before hitting the ferries) and the bus stop will be on the left hand side of the road. You can pay the fare in either USD or Maldivian Rufiyaa.