In 2017 we celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary and, with the arrival of our daughter Sienna imminent, decided to keep the promise we’d made a few years before that we would mark the occasion with a special holiday. We began our search for an October trip, thinking 7 months would be an ideal age for Sienna to start exploring further afield (based on what, I’m not sure!) and wanted a destination that would be relaxing and hot. Focusing our research on the Indian Ocean, we’d almost decided on Mauritius but a special offer for the Maldives drew us in and we decided to splurge a little more, booking the trip when I was 7 months pregnant!
This wasn’t a decision taken lightly. The Maldives is an expensive destination, a 12-hour long haul flight away from the UK, renowned for its honeymoon getaways. There we were, taking the plunge, with an itinerary that included a seaplane transfer with a small baby in tow!!! However, we were determined to continue our travelling adventures even with our new family status. Nothing was going to stand in our way. Cue, increased organisation and a flexible attitude when things inevitably don’t quite go to plan!
Flying high with Emirates
Nine months and our first baby later we were ready to set off and the flight itself was the first hurdle. We flew with Emirates, via Dubai. On all legs of the journey the staff we came across were helpful, friendly and really engaging with Sienna. While we loved the thoughtfully provided baby essentials, she loved the toys and cute animal blankets while lapping up all the attention!
A heads up for parents travelling with babies… It soon became apparent that Sienna only just fitted into the bassinet (every airline has different dimensions which you can check on their websites) which meant that she wasn’t as comfortable as she might have been, albeit too young to complain about lack of leg room! For health and safety reasons, babies must be removed from the bassinet and held during periods of turbulence (completely justified) even when they’re asleep (rather frustrating). Needless to say, Sienna didn’t remain asleep!!!
Other than Sienna being awake for the majority of the time and my husband’s water soaked t-shirt whilst we tried to negotiate meal time (at least it wasn’t the red wine, that’s another story) the journey was thankfully uneventful. The Emirates team were great at making us feel at ease and welcomed, which was much appreciated as we navigated our first long haul flight as a three! We even had family photos taken on a Polaroid camera which was an unexpected and fab family memento.
Landing in Male
Arriving in Male, the capital, was not quite what I had expected from my first impression of the Maldives. It was essentially a building site and teaming with people. Thankfully, we were soon whisked into the haven of our hotel’s private waiting lounge and got to freshen up with a scented towel and some water to get us seaplane ready. Top Tip: One thing to be very aware of when travelling on a sea plane is the weight allowance, typically 20kgs. This hadn’t been made clear to us at the time of booking and only became so after reading reviews on TripAdvisor. Therefore, I would highly recommend seeking detailed guidance on what the exact baggage allowances are on a trip of this nature including quantity of bags as well as weight and whether a push chair and hand baggage are included in the numbers.
Arriving in style
The seaplane was 100% the most exciting way we’ve ever arrived at a hotel!! A holiday highlight in itself. Taking off and landing was quite the experience, very exhilarating and perhaps not for the nervous flier. Just be prepared for the very intense noise; we were grateful for the ear plugs provided and Sienna was comfy in her newly purchased ear defenders we brought along. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze too, with three people across each row, but at least it meant everyone had a good view out of the window!!! The views of the stunning coral reefs and islands were breath-taking with excitement building as we got closer to our destination.
Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu resort
After a bit of a bumpy landing, the sea plane “landed” in the sea adjacent to a jetty. We hopped onto the waiting speedboat for a two minute journey to the shore where we were met by a handful of staff from our chosen hotel, the Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu resort – so far so good!!! We felt the hotel was a great choice. Our preference is to stay somewhere authentic, with its own unique charm, rather than a global chain of hotel. We stayed in one of the beach villas; a detached thatched cottage with an open air shower and bathroom, private terrace set within lush gardens, metres away from our own stretch of beach with the bluest of waters.
We opted for the all inclusive plan, being a family that loves our food and drink. There were two restaurants on the island; the main buffet restaurant and a Thai a la carte as well as two bar areas one of which also served informal lunches. Now I was a little bit apprehensive about eating virtually all our breakfast, lunches and dinners at the same place but this didn’t turn out to be a big deal.
There was so much variety each day with two or three live cooking stations serving fresh curries, stir fries and even sushi one evening with a locally caught tuna proudly on display! The dessert table was also imaginative with home made ice creams, sorbets, fruit pies and chocolate indulgences. Each evening I tended to return to our table with 6-8 of the little desserts for us to “sample” between us as they looked too good to turn down!
The Thai restaurant was open a few times a week which could be booked in advance without any fuss. It was romantically located in the open air, steps away from the beach amongst the palm trees (don’t forgot the mozzie spray as a precaution). We dined here twice and it was a welcome change. The food was again delicious and after some clarification fully included as part of our package (a meal credit is given which is plenty to cover 3 courses, with drinks, although this was not clear!).
Another evening we signed up for the beach BBQ having deemed it an absolute must to experience. We enjoyed the vast selection of seafood and meat with salads, baked potatoes, sweet corn and vegetables. Although the location was beautiful, it wasn’t a particularly relaxing set up due to the fairly long waiting queues for the freshly cooked bounty. Later on, as we were about to enjoy dessert, the heavens opened and a mad dash to the nearby covered beach bar ensued – not particularly easy when there’s a baby, a pushchair and a couple of plates of dessert to save!!! At $100 or so per head this is not cheap and although we enjoyed it, regrettably I’m not sure it was worth it.
An unexpected bonus of the all inclusive plan was a sunset cruise. This was fab as it was something different to do on one of the evenings and meant we could do some dolphin spotting at the same time! It was very special watching the orangey pink sunset with a glass of fizz in hand and making memories. Once again, the staff on the boat couldn’t have been friendlier, helping us get on and off with Sienna and letting her take the helm. It was actually quite difficult getting them to give her back!!! In case you’re wondering, unfortunately, the dolphins didn’t come out to play but it was fun keeping watch!
The hotel also puts on regular film nights on the beach, a weekly Manager’s Cocktail party and other bits and pieces such as board games and staff v guests football match which are all nice touches.
We had read about the “no shoes, no news” motto of some of the Maldivian islands but weren’t sure this would be us. Yet there we were after our first lunch on day one, kicking off our shoes and not wearing them again for the rest of the trip! It was blissful!! You could always spot the “newbies” as they’d be the ones wearing shoes… although they soon got the hang of barefoot living like the rest of us!
We spent the 10 day holiday completely unwinding, disconnecting from our phones and the daily hum drum as much as possible, relishing the simple things and quality time together. It felt good to take the time for ourselves and reset.
We did have reservations about how relaxing a beach holiday would be with Sienna but I think she was actually the perfect age, although maybe we were just very lucky! Less than a month before our departure she’d started to roll over and so was still relatively immobile, happy to sit in her pram playing with toys or watching us play bat and ball on the shoreline.
The hotel were very accommodating towards us, everyone was so friendly and helpful. The chefs were always happy to prepare fresh purees for her which we were very grateful for – there are only so many pouches and snack supplies you can cart with you to the other side of the world! After dinner, Sienna would tend to fall asleep in her travel pram which meant we could have a cheeky cocktail or two after a busy day in the sunshine!
The island is also home to a turtle rescue and rehabilitation centre, part of the Olive Ridley Project, and every few days we would go and see them being fed, learn more about their recoveries and likelihood of being released back into the wild. It was the perfect sidekick to a day at the beach.
When can we go back?!
We felt so well rested after our trip having enjoyed long mealtimes and almost nightly sunset cocktails at the beach. I didn’t feel at all bored or restless throughout the stay, which had been a slight concern given the remoteness of such an island paradise!
To sum up, it was a truly magical holiday which is definitely one we would love to repeat in the future! What really surprised us was how inclusive the resort felt to everyone – although there were unsurprisingly lots of honeymooners, there was a strong mix of young and older couples, families and groups of friends. The Maldives really does have something for everyone!
Note: The Maldives does have a risk of Zika so check local government health advice before travel if pregnant or trying to be in the near future!