Most people don’t spend much time in Male, and it’s no wonder. With all the amazing island paradises available in the Maldives, who would opt for time in a crowded city? But if you are traveling on the cheap, and opting for public ferry instead of expensive speed boat or sea plane, then you may find yourself in the capitol for a day or two on either side of your trip.
Male, as far as travelers are concerned, is essentially made up of three islands. There is the island of Male city itself – a crowded, compact maze of hectic scooter filled streets. There is also the airport island of Hulhule, which is where you would have arrived into, and there is also a quieter suburb like island of Viligili. These three islands are connected by frequent daily ferries and are no longer than a 10 minute journey by boat from each other.
Each island has its charms. We had two days to kill before our ferry out to Jupiter Sunrise Lodge on the island of Keyodhoo, and a day to kill on our way back. We opted to stay on quieter Viligili for our first two days, and stayed in Male city on our last.
One of the world’s densest cities, the population density here is greater than in Hong Kong. The city is always buzzing. It’s the center of import, export, education and business in the Maldives. The city itself doesn’t have many particular sights worth mentioning – it’s more the experience of walking it’s scooter filled streets that make Male interesting.
For culture seekers, there is one notable attraction in Male city, and that’s the National Museum The museum offers a modest, two floor collection from the islands history. Highlights of the collection include a coral head of Buddha, from the period before Islam came to the islands, and the complete skeleton of the very rare Longman’s Beaked Whale – a whale which has never once been sighted alive, and where only a few have ever been found washed up on shore. Another exhibit that I found extremely interesting was one on the evolution of the Maldivian script.
Another highlight in Male, it is was the one place we actually found souvenir stores. As kitschy as some of the items on offer were, we still needed to find something to bring home to family and friends.
Viligili is like an entirely different world when compared with Male. This relaxed island has wide sandy streets, brightly painted buildings, and no private vehicles allowed on the island. The beaches here are nice but nothing special, and you will need to be covered up when swimming as it is a community beach.
The one hotel on the island, Sea House Top Deck, offers good value rooms with free breakfast. The hotel also runs daily excursions when weather permits. There is also a dive operator on the island who charges much more reasonable rates then anything available out of Male that we found.
Hulhule – Airport Island
You will, by default, get to see some of Hulhule island when you arrive in the Maldives, as this is where the international airport is located. However there are two reasons you might want to return. The first is the whale submarine and the second is beer.
I’m sure that most hotels in Male City could also assist in arranging a trip out in the whale submarine, but the company itself has an office right in the airport. The whale submarine takes you down to the reef, and is the best way that non- scuba divers can see the reef at a depth inaccessible to snorkel ling. This is a fantastic excursion idea for those traveling with children, but by mindful that kids under three are not allowed.
The Maldives is a strict Islamic country. Customs will thoroughly inspect your luggage and confiscate any pork or alcoholic items brought into the country. However, there is one place in the country where international travelers can get a drink, and thats at the Hulhule Island Hotel, about a five minute walk from the airport ferry arrival terminal. We went over for an afternoon and had lunch and a beer at the hotel. Prices are reasonable, but not cheap. The hotel also has a nice pool, and you can buy a day pass to the facilities for a small fee from reception.