Where will you find more than a thousand little islands waiting to be explored, but in The Maldives! This nation sits on the Indian Ocean, and enjoys the company of coral reefs and other marine life underwater. One vacation may not be enough to see it all. However, Maldives island hopping tours can save you some time and give you a comprehensive glimpse of multiple isles, each with something unique to offer.
Among the 1,200 islands that make up The Maldives, only about 200 are inhabited by locals. The remaining are private islands which have their own world-class resorts with water villas and other luxurious accommodation. To understand the lives of Maldivians and sample their local cuisine, it is recommended to travel through public islands. Choose from a number of island hopping tours in the country for a real taste of The Maldives.
#1 South Male Local Island Hopping Tour
This full day island hopping tour in the South Male Atoll takes you to two local islands of Gulhi and Maafushi. This full day tour in The Maldives is priced at USD 225 per person for adults, and USD 113 for children between the ages of 6 and 11 years, while infants who are 5 years and under travel for free.
The South Male Local Island Hopping Tour operates from 10 AM to 4:30 PM on all days. Participants are picked up from the Hulhumale Main Jetty and are taken on a public ferry ride to Maafushi, one of the pioneers of local tourism. Stretching just 2 km in length, this tiny island has made ‘guesthouse tourism’ flourish in The Maldives, with its numerous hotels and guesthouses.
There are plenty of souvenir stores that sell collectibles, fridge magnets, handcrafted purses, coconut shell artefacts and other local handicrafts – useful for those who love window shopping. Maafushi is also ideal for indulging in watersport activities as there are many activity providers along the shore with their shack-style offices decorated in colourful graffiti and chalk-art.
In the afternoon, you will be ferried of to the nearby island of Gulhi, where the tour leader will introduce you to the simple lifestyle of the village. You can relish some tropical lunch at a beachside café before exploring Gulhi on foot.
Apart from strolling through the tranquil streets of this rustic island, you also get to visit the boat building yard for some insights into the construction of boats. Boat building makes up a significant share of the livelihood of the villagers. Spend some time relaxing on the beach before you are whisked back off to Hulhumale.
While in transit and floating on the Indian Ocean, you will have a chance to snorkel. Safety briefing and advisory on responsible snorkelling will be provided on board. Snorkelling masks are included in this Maldives island hopping tour price. Non-swimmers can also take help of buoyancy aids. A whole new world of colourful corals and fish can be spotted, especially with the help of the spotter who will also be your snorkelling guide!
#2 North Male Local Island Hopping Tour
North Male Atoll is a region of a rare phenomenon – freshwater lakes in the midst of a saltwater sea. On an island hopping trip across this atoll, you will have the opportunity to know about the fragile mangrove ecosystem of some of the islands and how they are essential to maintain the ecological balance of The Maldives.
The North Male Local Island Hopping Tour costs USD 175 per adult. While toddlers 5 years and under travel without any additional charges, children between the ages of 6 and 11 pay half the price, which is USD 88 per kid. The fee is inclusive of local taxes which include GST of 12% and service charge of 10%. Return transfers from Hulhumale organized in speed boats, lunch and the fee of the tour guide are priced into the charges.
Collection from hotels in Male and Hulhumale begin half an hour before the tour start time of 10 AM. The first island stop is Himmafushi which can be explored at your own pace. Shopaholics will have a chance to buy locally crafted mementos from various souvenir shops on this local island. After ambling about the white sand beaches, catch the speedboat for the next stop – Huraa.
Huraa Island is a small village in the North Male Atoll. After you have lunch at one of the local cafes recommended by us, be awed by the simple life led by the local dwellers during the orientation walk. The stroll includes a trip to a boat building yard and a sneak-peek into the process of curing fish. Dry fish is one of the popular exports of The Maldives, and there are multiple steps that are performed to cure locally caught fish to make it easy-to-export.
Huraa Island also presents a unique prospect of seeing a freshwater lake, thanks to its mangroves. Satiate your curiosity by asking all your questions related to the mangrove ecosystem to the tour guide. Mangrove swamps need protection as they are fragile but support indigenous flora and fauna.
As the day wears off, you are taken back to Hulhumale Island, but not before getting a chance to snorkel! Gear up in the complimentary-to-use snorkelling equipment and fins, and come across some exciting coral reefs, rays, turtles, sharks and a plethora of schooling fish. The rest of the speedboat ride is also exciting as the timing and route offer chances of dolphin sighting along the way.
#3 North Ari Atoll Island Hopping Tour
If you have more than a week to spare, an elaborate island hopping tour can be arranged for a more immersive travel experience through The Maldives. Both the South Male and North Male local island hopping tours can be spread out over 7 nights to give you a first-hand experience of looking into the uncomplicated lives of the locals and get some insights into their traditions and culture.
For instance, the South Male & Vaavu Atoll Maldives Discovery Cruise takes you to the islands of Guraidhoo, Fulidhoo and Gulhi. At each island, you have the freedom to snorkel, speak to the locals, and do some island-specific activities. Watch the building and renovation of traditional wooden boats (dhonis) on Guraidhoo Island. Learn to fish for tuna in the local pole and line method on Fulidhoo Island. Finally, enjoy a bodu beru drum performance at Gulhi Island.
The 7-Day North Male Atoll Local Island Hopping Tour introduces two interesting islands, which are Dhiffushi and Thulusdhoo. With lots of ways to watch local lives up close, mosque visits, school visits and trips to the local boat yard, travellers get a peek into the faith, culture and economic aspects of these local villages.
Along the same lines, the North Ari Atoll Island Hopping Tour, which is organized for 8 days and 7 nights, offers a delightful glimpse into the public islands of Rasdhoo, Ukulhas and Mathiveri. When you arrive at the Velana International Airport in Hulhule Island, you are transferred to the nearby public island of Hulhule, where you can rest for the night and spend some time exploring the local beach.
On day-2, you are taken to Rasdhoo Island in the North Ari Atoll. Today, you can explore this local island with your tour guide, and understand the lifestyle of the inhabiting Maldivians. Visit a mosque, interact with the village kids, and watch how the women prepare their Maldivian dinners. You can sample the local snack, hedika, a savoury and sweet treat consumed with the traditional evening black tea.
Day-3 is an exciting one, full of underwater encounters. Today, you explore the house reef of Rasdhoo and can also take snorkelling excursions to nearby reefs. Later in the day, go on a sunset kayaking tour to a sandbank closeby, from where to watch the sun go down completely.
The next day, day-4, takes you to another local island in the North Ari Atoll – Ukulhas. Colloquially known as the fishing village, Ukulhas Island has been the harbinger of environmentally conscious practices in fishing. Spend a couple of days here, discovering more about the island through the help of the island hopping guide and also interactions with the friendly locals. Make the most of the gorgeous beaches and coral reefs that call Ukulhas their home.
On day-6, you hop on to your final local island destination – Mathiveri. This pretty little public island is perfect for exploration on foot. Learn about its cultural ethos from the guide, and later, enjoy a dolphin cruise in the sunset. The next day will give you ample time to enjoy the house reef on a guided snorkelling trip. The elusive manta rays can be spotted here. You can also take a trip to the nearby uninhabited island – Mathiveri Finolhu. Day-8 is when you get on your final ferry to Male for your return flight back home.
Apart from the island hopping tours elaborated above, many bespoke tours are operated in The Maldives, catering to different tastes and travel requirements. Choose from a variety of day tours, simple guesthouses to hotels to liveaboards in The Maldives.