Asia

Losing my all-inclusive virginity (…in style)

Bare Foot piloting, what a way to start our holiday!

Not a bad view from the pool!

This Summer I challenged the habit of a lifetime by shirking the wing-and-a-prayer-holiday (read blagging your way around a foreign country with your fingers crossed!) and heading on an all-inclusive, picture postcard week in the Maldives. In the interest of posting about a year of firsts I thought I’d share a few nuggets of my ground-breaking experience…

Planning my first-ever all-in holiday started a few months ago, with endless hours of googling, yahoo-gling and haggling on the phone with disinterested sales people. Finally my boyfriend discovered Chaaya Reef Lodge, part of the Ellaidhoo island group in the North Atoll of the Maldives. With an amazing discount (thanks lastminute.com for that!) and a top rating on Trip Advisor it was everything we’d been looking for. However, it’s worth pointing out that selecting a no-hassle all-inclusive was (for us at least) easily as time consuming in the planning as an independent trip.

Bare Foot piloting, what a way to start our holiday!

So, last mon th we boarded a plane at Gatwick (final sight being some poor sod’s suitcase abandoned on the airport tarmac- great start!) and headed for Male, cue plenty of boyfriend baiting jokes about my reason for choosing that particular destination. Male is the capital of the Maldives and the worlds most densley populated city, a tiny island teeming with pastel coloured 4-5 storey buildings, gleaming mosques and just the one football pitch to be shared between it’s 100,000 inhabitants! From there and with only a short delay due to a tropical monsoon storm (the first and last, phew!) we jumped on a sea plane, piloted by a buttoned down bare foot South African.

Chaaya Reef lodge was a joy from the minute we stepped onto the sand, gracious staff, warm seas, white sand and once we’d dumped our suitcases and hit the sea we discovered it’s crowning glory. Acres of multi coloured coral, stripes, spotted and speckled fish and even the odd turtle and sting-ray to chase around the drop off! And once we’d been given enough of a run around by the local marine life there was INCREDIBLE and more to the point, bountiful food.

One of the definate up-sides of an all inclusive holiday, particuarly for a boy used to being fed by the army, is the never ending supply of food and beverages. Sadly for the boy in question the gods were not smiling on us that week. On day 3 poor Matt was struck down in his prime by stomach cramps, diorreah and a not-brilliant mood. However, this didn’t stop him from downing some immodioum and donning scuba gear so we could explore the reef. Slightly against the rules of PADI but what a gent!

Overall my thoughts about the Maldives are that they are stunning and well worth visiting, particularly as the rising seas mean that the islands may not have forever left. Being waited on hand and foot was lovely and not having to worry about the bill at the end of the week was great (although it did make the odd under par day feel a little like throwing money away) but by far the best thing about the Maldives was the natural environment…and of course enjoying it with someone you love very much. And to coin a phrase, that’s just….Priceless!

abaines
Self proclaimed ‘Queen of the Gap Year’ Alice took her first great leap into the unknown at 18, heading to East Africa to work as a hostess in a remote Kenyan Safari Camp with gap year organisation ‘The Leap’. Six wonderful months and several run-ins with Hungry Hippos later and she was hooked. After graduating in 2006 she high tailed it to South America to ‘shake her jungle coconuts’ once again, joining a team of Leap volunteers in the Amazon Rainforest and working on a mix of conservation and teaching projects with the local indigenous community. Since then her backpack has barely touched the ground! Now she’s living the dream by working for the volunteer organisation that opened her eyes to the world and spends her days planning life-changing adventures for others…and of course road testing gap years in Africa, Asia and Latin America whenever she can. It’s tough, but someone’s gotta do it! Alice manages a daily blog for Leap volunteers.

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