Only 15 minutes from Malé – the capital city of The Maldives, Villimalé is a public island that is also a part of Greater Malé. Previously known as Villingili, this little island is located in North Malé Atoll. If you have a day or two to spare, there are plenty of activities and things to do in Villingili (Villimalé) Island.
Villimalé has an interesting past. It used to be a prison island many years ago. Much later, it was repurposed into a resort island, attracting a lot of tourism. However, with increasing population in Malé City, Villingili became an extension of the national capital, and inhabitants were progressively rehabilitated there.
Despite the influx of more Maldivians in this quaint village, the isle retains much of its unassuming charm. It is yet to see the mass commercialization and industrialization of Malé. Before the pristineness of Villimalé is gone, experience the best of what this local island has to offer.
#1 Eco Walking Tour
Villingili is very eco-conscious. It is the sheer determination of the local islanders and the assistance of a couple of NGOs that have ensured sustainability in this part of The Maldives. A smart way to understand the environment-friendly attitude of this place is to go on a walking tour about this island.
Join the 4-hour Villimalé eco walking tour which is conducted on all days of the week from 2 PM to 6 PM. This Maldives half day tour costs USD 70 for adults, USD 35 for children between the ages of 6 and 11 years, and is free for any kid younger than 6.
After you arrive here on the public ferry, your local Maldivian tour guide will tell you about the history, culture and various other aspects of the island and its inhabitants. You will also meet a representative of Save the Beach NGO who will tell you about the sensitive ecology of Villimalé.
The island is so tiny that it will take only an hour to walk all around it. Villimalé is 800 metres in length and 600 metres in breadth, with a total area of 2,70,000 square metres. Enjoy walking through the nearly empty streets that are broad yet never busy.
Chat with the NGO rep to know how they involve the local community to preserve the green cover and restore the delicate balance between ecological conservation and modernization. Get an insight into various challenges faced by the team in keeping the serenity and rustic appeal of Villimalé as it is.
Apart from learning some hard facts on land reclamation from the Indian Ocean, waste management and harbour development, you will be taught how to identify different species of trees. In fact, you will even discover their names in Dhivehi – the local language of The Maldives.
#2 Relax at the Villingili Public Beach
There are only two beaches in Villimalé, both public. Travellers must remember that they are on an inhabited island where bikinis and other revealing beachwear, including shorts, figure-hugging clothes and flimsy materials are not allowed. All visitors are expected to respect Maldives’ history and culture and dress modestly even at the beach.
Only bikini beaches are the exception. However, there is no bikini beach in Villimalé. Villingili Public Beach is open to all and is beautiful, with its shimmering sands and crystal-clear water. The water level is shallow, so it is safe for even toddlers to swim. There are no changing rooms at the beach though.
You will find a lot of locals frequenting this beach. Watch the crabs crawling on the soft white sand or take pictures against the trees that line the shore. If you are carrying your snorkel, you can even explore the house reef.
In case you get hungry or thirsty after a swim, there is an open-air café on Villingili Public Beach called Garden Breeze Café. Enjoy a hearty Maldivian breakfast or a cup of coffee as you take in the view. In the distance, you will be able to see Malé – the smallest capital city in the world.
#3 Hedika Tasting at a Café
Foodies will enjoy evenings more than any other time of the day in Villimalé, thanks to hedika tasting. Hedika is a collective name for a type of traditional Maldivian snacks. Generally consumed at tea time, between 3 PM and 5 PM (just before the sunset), these nibbles are deep-fried to perfection.
The fillings that go into these fritters can either be sweet or savoury. Seafood lovers, meat-eaters, diabetics, vegetarians and vegans can all find hedika to suit their dietary preference. Just mention your food restrictions to the chef in advance. Available at most cafés, these finger foods are best consumed with kalu sai (black tea) which is locally brewed.
#4 Participate in Coral Planting
Of all the islands in The Maldives, the environment-conscious island of Villimalé, in association with Save the Beach NGO, lets you do your bit to revive Maldives’ marine biodiversity. Register for the coral planting activity and contribute to the ongoing efforts of nature conservationists. Before you jump in the water, you will be explained how coral planting increases the coral cover of this archipelago.
Get to know about various grid structures that are placed on the seabed so they can imitate real coral reefs. Coral planting involves placing a healthy coral on an artificial grid to improve the reef quality by stimulating natural reproduction of corals. Put on your snorkel, mask and fins and follow the instructor as he guides you where to plant the coral. While you’re at it, admire the vibrant fish, undersea flora, and soft and hard corals all around.
#5 Explore the Mosques
It is common knowledge that The Maldives is a Muslim country and following Islam is compulsory for all citizens. While no such restrictions apply to foreigners, if you are interested, you could visit a mosque – the place of worship for Muslims. It is best to have a local guide take you inside. Also, do not forget to dress the way they do when you enter in.
Even if you are not able to go inside, you can always appreciate the architectural elements of the façade. Some prominent mosques in Villimalé are Masjid Al-Salaam (a seaside mosque with a simple plan), Masjid Al-Ikhlaas (a spacious one with an Islamic-style minaret) and Masjid Al-Birri.
#6 Dine at a Local Restaurant
If you are staying on the island of Villimalé, you will find some modest hotels or guest houses in The Maldives to lodge at. If you get bored of the food and wish to try other flavours, there are quite a few restaurants that will satiate your appetite.
From fine dining restaurants to places with live music to beachfront cafés that even have jolies to relax on – there is a restaurant for multiple tastes. Mc Rooster is a rooftop restaurant that hosts bands to entertain diners while the ocean-facing Xie Xie Restaurant serves up delicious smoothies and subs by the Villingili ferry terminal.
#7 Indulge in Water Sports
Villingili Water Sports Area is the section of Villimalé that offers water sport activities to do in Maldives. Along the shore, there is a string of dive centres, dive shops and gear rental stores that assist with various adventure and leisure activities.
If you are on a Maldives vacation package and will be staying in Villimalé for long, you can even consider pursuing a PADI course for diving. Divers Lodge Maldives is excellent for scuba diving and snorkelling. Go on Maldives’ full day tours to spot manta rays, reef fish and intriguing corals or simply rent a snorkel to explore the house reef by yourself.
Liquid Water Sports Center is a great place to try flyboarding at. Gape at the quirky and artsy décor of this shack-style shop. You can even slump on the Maldivian woven seats called jolie. These chairs feel like hammocks – perfect for lazing around while waiting for the sun to set!
#8 Catch the Sunset at One Love Beach
Often referred to as Villimalé North West Beach, One Love is a public beach that sees some of the best sunsets on this island. With a rocky shore, this beach should come to your rescue when you wonder what to do in Maldives with family. One Love Beach is great for relaxing activities like swimming, snorkelling, and fun activities like jetskiing, windsurfing, banana riding and catamaran sailing.
#9 Cook by Yourself at Villimalé BBQ Point
Beach destinations are more fun when you can smoke some meat and grill veggies. At Villimalé BBQ Point, there are pre-installed grills which are well-maintained. All you have to do is buy some succulent cuts and a barbecue sauce from the nearby Grill House and begin roasting by the beach! The grills are first-come-first serve, so arrive early.
There are still more activities and things to do in Villingili Island such as wandering through its public parks, exploring the harbour area and getting a feel of the local market. Do not skip Villimalé if you are looking for an authentic peek into the life of Maldivians.