Luxtripper Travel Editor
I had an amazing time in the Maldives and I can't wait to go back!
As soon as the coronavirus lockdown restrictions began to ease, I was eager to book a flight and fly off somewhere - anywhere - just so that I could be travelling again! This year has been tough, and I was keen to go on holiday and test the waters as soon as I could; and where better to go first than The Maldives? It's remote, it's isolated, but most importantly it's hot, tropical and luxurious - exactly what I needed!
As luck would have it, the Maldives reopened its borders to international tourists on the 15th July and currently Britons can holiday at a resort without having to quarantine on arrival, as long as you present a negative PCR test for COVID-19 on arrival to the Maldives. I couldn't wait to start planning my trip!
Pre-travel preparations weren't anywhere near as stressful as I feared they'd be. Organising my PCR test was straightforward; I booked it two weeks in advance to ensure that I got the exact date I needed as my chosen airline (Emirates) required the PCR test to be completed 96 hours prior to departure. I had my test on the Wednesday, received my results and PCR certificate by email on the Friday afternoon, and flew on the Saturday, so it was a very smooth turnaround. Your Luxury Travel Specialist would be able to give advice about choosing your own testing clinic.
The day before departure, I checked-in online with my airline, which is exactly the same procedure as before, the only difference being you need to confirm now that you have a valid negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate. I also completed the Immigration Health Form required by the Maldivian Borders, requesting details of my stay and attaching a copy of my PCR certificate. Once the form was completed, this produced a QR Code which I printed off and saved on my phone. Being rushed for time, I organised my travel insurance en-route to the airport, making sure that it covered COVID-19 related medical expenses; and the policy was emailed to me within minutes!
I didn't know what to expect on arrival at the airport, and I was pleasantly surprised at just how quiet it was! At check-in, I had to present my passport, PCR test certificate and health form QR codes. As the WiFi connection was strong at all the airports I visited throughout my journey, this was really useful for retrieving any documents digitally or completing any last-minute forms!
Once in departures, it was good to see that Duty Free was open as usual and people were wearing masks and following social distancing measures. The airport was clean and spacious, and social distancing markers were clearly labelled throughout the airport. There was plenty of hand sanitiser available everywhere which meant that I could really ensure I was keeping my hands clean.
Gone are the days of being closely huddled together aboard your flight! My flight was not busy at all - there were approximately 177 people on board an A380 Airbus which fits around 700 passengers - and all travellers were placed in their group bubbles with seats blocked in between them. There were two of us travelling, and we sat in the middle row with the next two seats free to us, which meant that flying was a lot more spacious than it's ever been before!
When arriving in Dubai for our flight change, temperature checks and sanitiser kits were given, which contained masks, sanitising wipes and gel which we could use anytime. The journey through the airport was really quick and easy, and I soon boarded my next flight to the Maldives in which, I have to confess, I slept for the entire journey!
I arrived at Male International Airport at 7am local time, and shortly hopped on to a shuttle bus which took us to our terminal. Once there, my temperature was checked again - this is something you'll get used to! - and I presented my passport, health declaration form, and a quarantine undertaking form, which I filled in on the plane. This confirmed where I would be staying whilst in the Maldives and if quarantine was required there (which it wasn't).
After collecting my luggage, which I wiped down with the sanitiser wipes I'd been given, I was then greeted by my hotel representative who took me to Hurawalhi Island Resort's seaplane lounge where I would wait before boarding my seaplane flight to the resort!
Hurawalhi Island Resort's seaplane lounge is both stylish and cosy, really giving you a flavour of what to expect at the resort. All the staff wore masks and there were sanitiser gels accessible on each table which gave me peace of mind. After I'd got my morning coffee and had settled in comfortably, I downloaded the Hurawalhi Island Resort app on my phone where I was able to check-in online (and book-in spa treatments!), meaning I could go straight to my villa as soon as I arrived at the resort!
As there are so few travellers in the Maldives at the moment, seaplane transfer companies are trying to ensure that they are energy efficient, meaning that on my flight there were a couple of other travellers that were dropped off at different resorts before me, though this only took an extra 10 minutes on top of my overall flight journey, which lasted 45 minutes. And so I sat back and watched as we passed all the glistening atolls from the sky, before landing on the sea at Hurawalhi Island Resort, which really is an experience like no other!
As soon as I landed at Hurawalhi Island Resort, I was completely blown away. We were met by the hotel manager and other resort staff who were all wearing PPE masks, and who kindly retrieved my sunglasses which I'd left on the seaplane! Afterwards, I then took a buggy with my butler on a tour of the island, before arriving at my villa.
COVID-19 prevention is the utmost priority on the island. All staff wear masks, and guests undertake temperature checks before entering all restaurants and public areas, including the reception and diving centre. Guests are not required to wear masks on the island but must maintain social distancing rules at all times, which was very easy to do and soon became customary - this is secluded tropical paradise after all!
Staying in a beautiful villa over the water with its own private pool, I really was in paradise, but my days at Hurawalhi Island Resort were nothing short of busy; just a few short steps away from my villa was a spectacular house reef, where I spent much of my time snorkelling with a variety of colourful fish including parrot fish, angel fish and lion fish!
When I wasn't sailing, paddle-boarding, practising yoga on the jetty or zipping round the island on my bike, I was being spoiled rotten in Hurawalhi's other-worldly spa. The staff were so welcoming and attentive to my every need, so much so that I can guarantee you'll not only miss the island experience when you visit but the people!
There are three restaurants on the island and I was fortunate enough to sample them all. Currently, all buffet-style restaurants are only operating on an a la carte basis for health and safety purposes, but this did not hinder my culinary experience at all. Instead, the resort now offers QR code menus so that you no longer have to physically handle a menu.
The service was absolutely impeccable at Canneli, the main restaurant, its live cooking stations serving fresh dishes from across the globe. Dining by the ocean with a delicious creamy Maldivian Fish Curry (this soon became my staple for the rest of the trip!), I even saw baby sharks swimming by my table! I particularly enjoyed the sushi and Teppanyaki choices at Kashibo, the resort's authentic Asian restaurant.
What topped it all off though was Hurawalhi’s 5.8 Undersea Restaurant, the world's largest all-glass underwater restaurant. Akin to an aquarium, I enjoyed a gourmet lunch here as I gazed at the beautiful coral reef surroundings; it was both a surreal and magical dining experience.
I travelled in September 2020 with Emirates, and as my flight included a stopover in Dubai, I needed to present a PCR COVID-19 negative test certificate upon both arrival and departure. This, however, is no longer required by Emirates, though the rules do often change, so your Luxury Travel Specialist will be able to advise you on the current requirements for when you travel.
Due to this, I did undertake another PCR test at Hurawalhi Island Resort, which was completed by the island doctor: Dr Ebru Gonen. Fully clothed in her PPE kit, Dr Gonen visited us in our villa, swiftly taking the test swabs while we relaxed in the veranda by our private pool. She explained that she'd be sending the sample to the lab and that she'd personally deliver us our certificates on the day of departure. The day of our flight, Dr Gonen came to our villa to check our blood pressure and give us the all-clear by presenting the negative PCR test certificates. Overall, the whole process was completely stress-free and straightforward.
Sadly, my time in the Maldives couldn't last forever, and I was soon back on the jetty about to board my seaplane to Male! Emirates had already sent an email reminder for me to check-in online which made the process once arriving at the international airport so much smoother.
As well as this, Emirates also reminded us to complete the Immigration Health Form again for departure (Immigration Health Form), as well as a Passenger UK Locator Form required by the UK Government to confirm that I'd be self-isolating on arrival in the UK. For this, I needed my passport, travel details and address of where I'd be staying in the UK (Public Health Passenger Locator Form). These forms only took an extra couple of minutes to fill in.
The journey home was pretty much the same as the outbound flight, with attentive airline staff wearing PPE kits making my journey home safe, comfortable and pleasant.
Travel understandably may seem quite daunting at the moment, however, now I've been away, I wouldn't hesitate on going again; in fact, I'm already planning my next trip! If you're thinking about booking a holiday for this year or next, or just want to ask a few questions about travelling during COVID-19, then please contact one of our Luxury Travel Specialists who will be happy to assist you in any way that they can.