We’ve had this week in December booked off for about 6 months, and whilst I was crossing my fingers that we might be able to go abroad, I wasn’t sure whether the UK would be out of lockdown or if we’d be allowed to travel internationally. I kept an eye on the travel corridor and narrowed it down to Antigua, Seychelles and the Maldives. With just a PCR test, direct flights on British Airways and no quarantine either side, we picked The Maldives.
Tourism accounts for two thirds of GDP in The Maldives, and the destination has been heavily promoting itself as a safe place to travel during the Pandemic. The country closed its borders early and have managed to keep Covid rates relatively low. The whole set up of individual isolated island resorts really lends itself to safer travel currently, and whilst in the past, you could travel between islands, they are trying to limit that currently.
We were hosted by The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort for 3 nights and paid for the rest of the trip. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know I was an ambassador for The Westin London City and have a great relationship with The Westin. All opinions are my own.
Over Water Villas The Westin Maldives
If you saw my instagram stories, you’ll have seen our room. Probably the nicest room I’ve ever stayed in…we had an overwater villa with a pool, glass flooring in a seating area, enormous bed and inside/outside shower. It was pure luxury. We also checked out the beachside rooms which we loved too – it would be so fun to spend a couple of nights in each type of room to get the full feel for the island. Personally, I’m really glad we had the overwater villa as I feel that’s very ‘Maldives’ but they are typically a lot more expensive.
The hotel was at about 30% capacity while we were there, however the resort was booked up to 90% occupancy over Christmas. I imagine that will dip down again in the New Year but it shows that people are ready to travel, and to places they feel are safe! Personally I think The Maldives is a great option right now, with rooms and resorts that are designed for privacy and social distancing.
The Weather in the Maldives
How British but a lot of you wanted to know about the weather but it is crucial for winter sun for there to be, well…SUN. The temps were between 29-31 during our week stay and are apparently like that throughout Nov-April (and often even later) . There were some rain showers but none that lasted more than a few minutes. It’s fairly guaranteed that you’ll get sunshine at this time of year!
What activities are there to do at The Westin Maldives
It seems I’m not alone in worrying that I would be bored in the Maldives. However I needn’t have worried as there was plenty to do, to the point where Tom told me he’d need another holiday after this holiday to fully relax! He’s kind of joking as we did spend a lot of time sitting on the sun loungers on our deck, next to our private pool, but we also managed to test out a lot of the activities the resort has to offer.
Swimming with Manta Rays
This was one of our favourite activities on our trip. We had spoken to the dive centre about joining a trip and they warned us that it was the end of the season but that they’d call if any Manta Rays were reported in Hanifaru Bay.
Located within the Baa Atoll Unesco World Biosphere Reserve, Hanifaru Bay is a breeding and feeding ground for manta ray and whale sharks. Between May and November, you’re likely to see dozens of manta rays in the bay – it’s one of the best spots in the world to see large groups of mantas. It’s tightly controlled by the Manta Trust to limit the number of people in the bay at one time (and the time allowed in the water) to protect these amazing creatures.
We got the call and had about 15 minutes to get ready to go. We took a boat to the edge of the bay then swam the rest of the way. There were a big group of people snorkelling around when we got there, but they left pretty sharply…which didn’t bode well! We swam around for about 30 mins without seeing any rays. But then a sighting…and another.
We were so lucky to see eight rays in total, some swimming and some getting cleaned. It was incredible, a highlight of the trip.
They also offer other snorkelling trips including swimming with turtles, intro to snorkelling classes. These are all additional costs so we chose one extra to add to our trip but might have added more if we’d been there longer. I particularly would have loved to do the sunset dolphin cruise, although we were lucky enough to spot dolphins a couple of times during our stay.
Run Westin Run Club
This is one of my favourite parts of Westin, is the running clubs. We joined for the two resort run clubs, running loops of the 1ish mile island! We were grateful for the post run stretch that the yoga instructor provided after one of our runs. It was warm, and having done most of my runs in the dark and cold over the last few weeks, it was both tough and gorgeous doing sunny runs around the island.
As part of your stay you can join a free group session (I was the only during my morning class so had a 1:1 session!). You can then pay extra to join group classes or sign up for individual sessions. The instructor clearly had a passion for yoga and was incredibly knowledgable – he also took us through a tailored post-run stretch when we mentioned that Tom’s lower back was tight.
Much like yoga, a group tennis session is included in your stay. There are twice weekly ‘Happy Hour’ tennis session with tennis pro and ATP/WTA coach Jamie – we joined for one and it was a real workout! It reminded us how much we enjoy playing tennis…I swear Tom and I say this every time we play tennis, then let a year pass before playing again!
The Westin sits within the Baa Atoll, a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve and one the largest groups of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. Its home to over 1200 species of fish, Hawksbill turtles, rays, reef and whale sharks.
The benefit of an overwater villa…snorkelling right outside your bedroom. The fish were incredible, like swimming in an aquarium! We also spotted a turtle, a reef shark and Eagle Ray while out snorkelling by the hotel. Just don’t forget to suncream that back up extra good!
I love paddle boarding! It was very different paddling in the Indian Ocean compared to the Thames… firstly the fear of falling in is much smaller. This turned out to be a positive for me and I was more stable and confident on the boards than Tom (unlike when we paddled in Goring). You can take kayaks out for up to 2 hours/day as hotel guests, and although the dive shop said it was extra to take paddle boards, they let us take them out for an hour complimentary instead of the kayaks.
There is a plethora of watersports available in The Maldives as you might imagine, from jet skiing and parasailing, deep water fishing, tubing and water skiing. We loved the idea of taking jet skies out to the sand bar for a serious desert island feel (the hotel can even set up a picnic lunch for you!). If you’re an adrenaline junkie who loves to pick up speed on the waves, you might want to consider the extra costs of these as motorised water sports are often not included in hotel packages.
The 24 hour gym at the Westin is incredible, with treadmills and bikes with views of palm trees and the Indian Ocean. The instructor was in quarantine when we were there (anyone travelling between islands or coming to the Maldives to work has to quarantine for two weeks on arrival) but the resort is increasing their fitness schedule and personal training options for over the Christmas period.
The Spa is well worth a visit while on the island. No need for spa music when the sound of the waves can lull you into total relaxation. We were treated to massages to kick off our stay and it was incredible after the 10 hour flight (plus months of awkwardly perching on hospital tables/notes trolleys and work stations).
Food At The Westin Maldives
I won’t sugar coat it, food is expensive in the Maldives. As is alcohol. Everything has to be imported to The Maldives then transported to each individual island which explains the high costs.
We loved the commitment to sustainability with no plastic water bottles across the resort (it has a goal of becoming entirely plastic free), and a desalination system is used to turn seawater into drinking water, removing the need to transport it to the mainland. Alongside glass water bottles in your room, there are also fresh oranges to juice in-room, a Nespresso machine and daily ‘cookie deliveries’ with treats brought to your room every evening (our favourite time of day!).
The Westin has three restaurants;
An asian street food restaurant only open for lunch. I loved the Nasi Goreng and Pad Thai, Tom had the beef satay on more than one occasion.
The Japanese restaurant is currently operating a 5 course set menu right now. We had a delicious meal, with oysters, sashimi, black cod, wagyu beef and a matcha creme brûlée.
The main restaurant at the resort, this is where we ate most of our meals including breakfast daily. The menu includes a mix of Asian dishes and European classics. The Westin Miriandhoo have worked hard on their menus to increase the range of healthy option, and are adding to their plant based options. We loved the breakfast smoothie bowls!
Covid Precautions at the resort
We all had pre-flight PCR testing which we had to present on arrival along with a Health Declaration Form (this needs to be filled out prior to check in for both arrival and departure) . As well as wearing face-masks on both flights. British Airways gave out individual box foods, and didn’t have the standard drinks trolleys
- Staff wearing facemasks – all staff wore facemarks and gloves around the resort and guests were encouraged to wear masks when in public spaces.
- No buffets – breakfast was a la carte (but all you can eat included) which worked out well for us!
- Outdoor eating – I would imagine this is pretty much the same year round but we ate all our meals outside due to the amazing weather.
- No menus – we used QR codes for menus around the resort.
I’ve mentioned before that things are expensive in the Maldives, like food and alcohol because everything is imported in. A lot of you asked for costs, and tips for saving money on trips.
It makes more sense cost-wise to pick the Full Board or Half Board options (currently $130 and $80 respectively per person) when you consider that each meal was roughly between $100 and $200.
We didn’t eat lunch on the days we were staying on a Half Board basis (breakfast and dinner were included). Instead we had a large late breakfast, then dinner around 7pm. I’d taken some snack bars. And we had the free fresh orange juice and water in our rooms. (As well as a pastry or too that we hadn’t finished from brekkie.)
Just drink water
Avoid the extra drinks both fizzy drinks and alcohol are extra. And look out for ‘Happy Hour’ – The Westin had happy hour between 6-7pm every night with $8 cocktails. Aside from that, we had coffee and juice at breakfast (included) and drank only still and sparkling water (included in full and half board) for the rest of the trip.
Make the most of the free activities, and limit the ‘added extras’.
We chose one extra paid activity and everything else we did was taking advantage of the yoga, tennis, run club, water sports that were included.
Look out for deals on hotels
Although prices will be going up over the Christmas period, in January many hotels will be back to lower occupancy. Meaning, there are great deals to be had! Similarly, flight prices in the New Year are looking pretty good for The Maldives!
Think about how you’re getting to the actual island you’re staying on
We took a Sea Plane which was amazing but cost extra. Islands closer to Male may have cheaper connections, or transfers included within your stay.
This looks beautiful! All your pictures were giving me major wanderlust. Once these vaccines roll out, I’m booking trips 🙂
I was wondering if the food situation was all inclusive or not as that can add a lot to the cost of a trip. Sounds a lot like hawaii where the shipping affects the cost.
Definitely is. Cannot wait for the vaccines to make travel more accessible!
I’m sure there all resorts with all inclusive a options but I find we don’t eat/drink enough usually for it to be worth it!
This is irresponsible and such a bad look for you.
“There’s a global pandemic and people have lost jobs and died by omg look at my fancy trip?”
I know you’ve been working hard at the hospital, and deserve a break. But the message this sends is not awesome.
And more people across the globe will lose their jobs (including my husband) if travel doesn’t return… I know travelling is a very personal choice right now but I feel we did travel in a responsible way, following all UK govt and local govt restrictions/precautions.
I was shocked to see this on Instagram too but honestly, you work for the NHS. You work in healthcare, you choose helping people even though you could earn more doing this full time. I’m 100% jealous of this trip and I too cannot wait to travel but I loved to see this. I hope you enjoyed your trip (PS. I’m sorry to all those who have lost their jobs, but now is not the time to compare or judge).
Thanks Samantha x
Looks amazing and inspired us to book. Could you share details of the hotel you stayed pre flight and had pcr test at. Thanks.
Sure and I’m so glad! We did it at the Sofitel Heathrow, they have ‘Test and Rest’ which includes a night stay and Covid Test, then £79 per extra test (up to 5).
Looks like an amazing trip. We have 8 nights booked at the InterContinental Maldives in January. The PCR test was a worry for us given the 96 hour time frame but we are now booked into the Sofitel Heathrow. Was it pretty stress free? I worry about getting results back in time!
We were a bit nervous but you they were really good and there are representatives at the hotel to speak to! I preferred that to going via post!
Why do people keep moaning it is selfish or irresponsible to travel, if the government says it has a safe corridor and you take a PCR test to prove your clear of COVID that’s being more responsible than most people in there everyday uk life.
I personally want the tourism industry to survive and economies to thrive in the safest possible way.
I can only perceive the negative opinions and resentment are based around jealousy and envy of others enjoyment through hard work paying off and giving back to others financially at the same time.
Experiences and happy memories made make an amazing for filling life.
Thanks Steve – I agree with you on the wanting the travel industry to survive this!
Just curious how long you waited to get the test results?
We waited about 14 hours – handed in our tests before the 8pm cut off and had them by 10/10.30 am!
It looks like a great trip, thanks for sharing. When you said that meals were expensive, I thought it might be like Hawaii as it all has to be shipped in (I am still stinging from when we bought an 8 dollar tomato there- we were self catering) but it seems more like Scandinavia prices!
As someone who loves travelling, I don’t feel brave enough yet to get on a plane (plus with the affordable places having quarantines and I can’t work from home) so it’s really good to see how you got on – it’s reassuring. That long on a plane with a mask on sounds tough- and I take it you were allowed to take the mask off for eating and drinking?
Yes you’re allowed it off for eating and drinking. To be honest I wear a mask for 8 hours a day at work so I didn’t find it bad at all!