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Best Local Island Maldives : Fuvahmulah Island

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Fuvahmulah Island

Fuvahmulah is an island and its own atoll, located in the South of the Maldives. The population is approximately 15,000 people and it is known as the only atoll to have one island.  Pronounced more like ‘formula’, it is a local island, not a resort island and therefore Maldivian laws and customs are more applicable here than in resort islands. As on all local islands, alcohol is prohibited and you cannot wear bikinis on the local beaches. However, Fuvahmulah locals are very relaxed and strict dress codes do not apply.  Fuvahmulah is not a well known tourist destination in the Maldives, although it is becoming increasingly popular for its dive sites and marine life.  

oceanic manta scsuba diving
Fuvahmulah – best local island in Maldives for scuba diving with oceanic manta rays

Fuvahmulah Dive Sites

Fuvahmulah is host to a huge range of marine life. In season, you can scuba dive with oceanic manta rays, thresher sharks, tiger sharks and whale sharks. It is also possible to see hammerhead sharks as well as other sharks like oceanic white tips and silver tips at different times of the year and depending how lucky you are. I feel we saw more megafauna in 3 days of diving than most people see in a lifetime.

Tiger Shark Diving Fuvahmulah

Tiger shark diving in Fuvahmulah is famous. It is the best dive site to go tiger shark diving in Maldives. The tiger sharks in Fuvahmulah have been around for a long time. They are used to feeding on the fish carcasses that the fishermen throw off the edge of the harbour at the end of their fishing day. Local dive centres and liveaboards now take advantage of this and feed fish heads to the tiger sharks just before entering the water.

Fuvahmulah Tiger Shark Dive

The ‘tiger zoo’ as the harbour dive site is nicknamed is not without its controversy. Some locals are angered at how this dive site now means that children cannot learn to swim in the safe area near the harbour as they had traditionally always done. Fuvahmulah has strong currents and big waves and other areas are not particularly safe to swim for beginners or young children.

Cheap diving in the Maldives with tiger sharks
Cheap diving in the Maldives with tiger sharks in Fuvahmulah


Fuvahmulah Accommodation

Because it is not a well-developed tourist destination, Fuvahmulah hotels are limited although it is a growing industry. I thoroughly recommend this Fuvahmulah guesthouse that we stayed in. Calyx Grand Fuvahmulah is clean, spacious and the staff are very helful (click here to view Calyx Grand Fuvahmulah on Agoda). Ask your Fuvahmulah dive centre for a pick up as it is a short truck ride to the harbour.

Fuvahmulah Diving – Fuvahmulah Dive Centre

There is a well known dive centre called Fuvahmulah Dive School (FDS) who we considering going with as we had many good recommendations. However, we chose Fuvahmulah Tiger Dive as we booked through a local friend and got very cheap dives because of this. One thing I recommend is asking if the dive school gets big group bookings. Some of the diving can be with big groups of Chinese or Indian divers and you may be expected to join dives with one of these large groups. We travelled as a group of 6 divers and therefore requested our own dive guide which was perfect for us. 


Cost of Diving in Fuvahmulah

Fuvahmulah is one of the cheapest places for budget diving in the Maldives – which makes no sense because the diving is so incredible! Expect to pay upwards from $40 per dive depending on how many dives you are planning to do and if you have your own equipment. As usual with diving packages, the more dives you book, the cheaper the cost of diving.  It is also possible to book Maldives diving package deals, with flights, accommodation and diving all organised for you. However, it is cheaper to book flights, accommodation and diving separately. It is also cheap to dive and travel to Fuvahmulah if you have a Maldives work permit as there are big discounts available.

How to travel to Fuvahmulah from Male, Maldives

Fuvahmulah island is located in the deep South of the Maldives, so you can fly to Fuvahmulah from Male, the capital. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes. At the time of writing, two airlines with a few flights a day fly from Male to Fuvahmulah. While the diving can be cheap, the flights aren’t always so compare different airlines to find a better rate, try Maldivian airline and Fly Me and Manta Air.


Best Dive Site in the Maldives

We spent most of our 8 dives on the same plateau, a dive site called Farikede, about 15 minutes from the harbour by dive boat. In terms of the marine life, it must be one of the best dive sites in the Maldives. We had approximately 30 oceanic manta ray sightings, 26 of which the amazing Manta Trust team managed to ID for us and we added 22 new mantas to their database. Read here for more about Manta Trust and the work they do. We also saw 3 whale sharks, one of whom was new to the Maldives Whaleshark Research Programme and we got to give her a name. On our last day we scuba dived with the biggest whale shark I have ever seen (approx 8-10m) and 2 thresher sharks.

The dive site depth ranges down to about 40m and we saw oceanic manta rays near the surface from the moment we jumped from the boat, all the way down to 40m.  The marine life here seemed extremely curious and mantas and whale sharks circled us multiple times, a true ocean encounter.


Diving in Fuvahmulah : Local Boat Dives

We scuba dived from a slow traditional boat, Maldivians call a ‘Dhoni’. The boat returned to the harbour after every dive so surface intervals are spent on land inbetween dives. A couple of times   Click here for my recommendations of what to take on a dive boat. 

Cheap diving in the Maldives with tiger sharks
Big fans of our dive boat


The best time to dive the Maldives – when to dive in Fuvahmulah

Diving is possible year round in Fuvahmulah. However, most people agree that diving between November and April is the best season for diving because of the chances of oceanic manta rays, whale sharks, thresher sharks and hammerheads. In rainy season, from June onwards the sea gets rough but the chance of hammerheads increases. The tiger shark dive is available year round.


Restaurants and Places to eat in Fuvahmulah

Real Breez restaurant is great because of the large balcony and good food. They serve great local food including vegetarian options and also the Indian cuisine. The cafe by the harbour is also good and it serves local food. I definitely recommend trying Kottu Roshi – a Maldivian twist on the traditional Sri Lankan dish. If you’re vegetarian make sure you say so and make it very clear that being vegetarian includes no meat and no fish as vegetarians are still a relatively new concept to the fish-heavy Maldivian diet. 

Maldives Local Island Travel Tip: Be prepared to wait a LONG time for food. This is not a resort island and we often had to wait over an hour (occasionally 2 hours!) for our food to appear. I recommend adapting to the slower pace of island life and also don’t wait until you are hungry to find a restaurant.


Things to Do in Fuvahmulah

  • Visit Fuvahmulah Thundi – a thundi is a Dhivehi word for the beach at the end of an island. The Fuvahmulah thundi is a large pebble beach on the island which includes a nearby restaurant
  • Visit the lakes – Fuvahmulah is an unusual island in the Maldives because it has freshwater lakes. You can visit and hire kayaks or pedalo boats to spend some time on one of the lakes as part of Fuvahmulah Nature Park.
  • Go to Addu – Addu also has some fantastic diving and it is accessible by boat from Fuvahmulah
  • Hot Spring with Mud Baths – Fuvahmulah has muddy hot springs where you can relax after a day of exciting scuba diving in the ocean

Maldives Liveaboard Diving

It is possible to dive on a liveaboard around Fuvahmulah. As I haven’t dived on a liveaboard I cannot comment on the experience. I will say that we loved being on the island and as the dive sites are all located near the shoreline, it was not necessary to pay for a luxury liveaboard when we could stay in a cheap guesthouse and do budget dives. 

Night Diving in the Maldives

Most Fuvahmulah dive centres do not offer night diving for safety reasons. The currents can be strong and I’d rather not meet a tiger shark at night time!

Have you visited Fuvahmulah yet? How was your experience? Where is the best diving in the Maldives for you?

For what to pack for a Maldives trip read my Maldives Packing List guide here

For what to take on a scuba diving holiday or dive boat trip read my Scuba Diving Packing List here

For more cheap diving in Maldives, read this scuba diving Maldives article here

 

Maldives on a Budget: Maldives Local Islands

Maldives Local Island Guide

What can you expect when visiting local islands in the Maldives? So far I have loved visiting local islands. They are cheap, authentic and the best places to visit in the Maldives. Staying at Maldives resorts has some advantages but they are not the real authentic Maldives experience.  Local islands are full of life, families, cats, beautiful beaches, greenery and great Maldivian food. They are also the best budget islands in the Maldives as you can find affordable hotels on local islands (costing around 50$ per night). They are the best places to go in the Maldives for cheap scuba diving.

gulhi bikini beach
The beautiful bikini beach on Gulhi, Maldives – a Local Island near Male

Local People in the Maldives

In my experience, the locals are friendly, honest and very welcoming to tourists. I believe many Maldivians are happy to meet tourists who are interested in their culture and visiting the authentic Maldives, rather than just staying at an expensive resort. The local language is Dhivehi, which has a beautiful and unusual script, but most Maldivians speak excellent English, particularly the younger generation so it’s very easy to travel around and to find people who will help you.

Religion in the Maldives

The local population is Muslim (by law) and therefore tourists, male and female, are expected to respect Islamic customs like covering shoulders and knees, even when swimming. Following Islamic law, all local islands are dry and you will not be able to purchase or drink alcohol.

Alcohol in the Maldives

Tourists are only able to drink and purchase alcohol at resort islands. Alcohol is forbidden in all local islands in the Maldives. It is also not permitted to bring any alcohol into the country.

Drink coconuts instead of alcohol on local island - Gulhi
Drink coconuts instead of alcohol on local island – Gulhi

Dress Code in the Maldives – Local Islands

My first question when moving to the Maldives was what to wear when visiting local islands. In order to respect local customs, it is best for men and women to cover shoulders and knees when visiting or staying on local islands. In my experience, lots of local islands seem very relaxed about this rule and I have felt comfortable showing my shoulders in islands like Fuvahmulah where locals also have the freedom to bare some skin.

What to wear in the Maldives
Wearing beach wear in Maafushi Local Island

Can I wear a bikini on local islands?

Many local islands have recently opened up “bikini beach” areas which means that you can wear bikinis or swimsuits on the beach. It is only for this specific area on the island though so pack cover ups for walking to and from the beach. Some more touristy islands like Maafushi local island don’t mind people wearing shorts to the beach.

What are the differences between staying in a resort and staying on a local island?

The number one difference, in my opinion, is that in a resort you can drink alcohol and wear bikinis whereas local islands are dry and bikinis are only acceptable in designated areas such as “bikini beaches”. Local islands will have a slower pace of island life and a relaxed attitude to customer service. Spending your Maldives trip on local islands is the best budget stay in the Maldives. Visiting local islands are by far the cheapest alternative to staying in an expensive resort. Resorts can cost anywhere from $300 a night up to $18,000 a night! Local islands have the same natural beauty of the Maldives like white sand beaches and clear, turquoise waters. The benefits are also more choice of places to stay, budget Maldives accommodation, choice of restaurants, shops and dive centres meaning there is more competition and prices are extremely cheap.

Drinking alcohol on local islands

Alcohol is forbidden by law on local islands and therefore you will only be able to find non-alcoholic beer sold on these islands. If you are looking for a party island in the Maldives, then I recommend staying in a resort island where alcohol is allowed and there are bars. Alternatively, you could stay on a local island and consider spending an evening at a resort to enjoy a sunset cocktail. Many resorts will offer day passes or you can hire a boat to take you there for an evening dinner and drinks. You are not allowed to bring alcohol into the Maldives or bring from resort islands to local islands. However, some islands have liveaboard safari boats that have bars where you can drink and they dock near local islands. Read about Maafushi and its party boats on this blog post.

Snorkelling trips on local islands

Snorkelling trips on local islands are much more reasonably priced than on resort islands. We paid around $20 per person for a half day of snorkelling which included three different snorkelling sites and a sandbank stop. The cost of excursions like dolphin spotting will also be much cheaper on a local island than at a resort. Recently, I saw the cost of a dolphin cruise as advertised at $10 per person.
For the cheapest snorkelling with turtles consider a stay on Thoddoo island, where you can snorkel with turtles just off of bikini beach – no boat required!
Read here for more information about snorkelling with mantas in the Maldives. 

underwater photo of snorkelling with a manta
Snorkel trips to see manta rays in the Maldives

Affordable Maldives Holiday: Best Price Maldives Holiday

Guesthouses on local islands are the best place to stay in the Maldives when on a budget. This can help keep the cost of your Maldives trip cheap. Guesthouses can start from $50 a night per room upwards and when eating in local restaurants, dinner can cost as little as $5 per meal. Consider staying in a guesthouse and book via booking.com to compare guesthouse prices and facilities. For my Maldives full local island guide – read this article here.



Booking.com

Island Hopping in the Maldives

Local islands are well connected with public ferries, speedboats and private speedboats all which mean it is very easy to travel between local islands and to travel cheaply. Staying in a resort means you rely upon resort speedboats to take you there which is often a significant additional cost.

Budget Maldives: Where to stay in the Maldives?

Local islands that welcome tourism have a range of budget guesthouses and it completely depends on how developed the island is for tourism. Some islands may only offer rooms for rent, while others have hotels and guesthouses. I usually compare prices on Agoda, booking.com and/or consider contacting the guesthouse. Recently I found that booking on an external website like Agoda was cheaper than the price quoted directly from the hotel. Calling hotels is usually more effective than emailing in my experience.

What currency can I use on local islands?

Both US dollars and Maldivian Rufiya are accepted on local islands. Bear in mind if you use US dollars in local shops then you are likely to receive Maldivian Rufiya as change.

Cash or Credit Cards

For local islands it is definitely better to have cash to pay for things. Card machines are not always reliable and most guesthouses will have to charge an extra credit/debit card fee because of the bank (even when paying with a Maldivian card). Smaller shops in Male or on local islands may also only accept Maldivian Rufiya so I recommend having some small change

Budget Maldives: Local Island Day Trips

Even when staying in a resort, you can visit a local island as a day trip. Some resorts offer guided tours to nearby local islands. Tourists could also consider splitting the trip between a resort and a local island to experience both sides of the Maldives.

Electrical Plugs

Most places in the Maldives use the English three pin plug. Resorts often provide adapters whereas local island guesthouses may not. For more information on what to pack for the Maldives then read this post.

Visas for the Maldives

Most nationalities will be granted a 30 day on arrival tourist visa. Check on your government website to confirm this.

What to not bring into the Maldives

Bringing alcohol into the Maldives is forbidden as is bringing in pork products and pornography.

Marine Life in the Maldives

The underwater world in the Maldives is incredible making it one of the best countries for snorkelling and scuba diving. If you are new to diving then consider getting qualified with PADI or SSI during your trip. For more about the best scuba diving in the Maldives, read this post. 
You can see manta rays, whale sharks, tiger sharks, turtles and much more marine life when visiting the Maldives. For specific information about snorkelling with manta rays in Baa Atoll, read my manta post here.
For the best diving islands consider visiting Fuvahmulah, Rasdhoo and Guraidhoo.
Cheap Diving in the Maldives on Local Islands
Diving on local islands is the best budget scuba diving in the Maldives. Resort dive centres can cost from $100+ for one dive whereas local island prices are approximately $40 a dive. From an appearance perspective, local dive centres may not look as swish as the resort dive centres and the equipment may not be as brand new. However, I have always felt safe when diving with local centres and I have found the locals to be extremely knowledgeable and professional dive guides.

cheap diving Maldives - photo of oceanic manta photobombing me and friends while scuba diving
Photobombed by an oceanic manta on local island Fuvahmulah- dive goals

Local Island Wildlife
While staying in local island be aware that there will be more mosquitoes than at resort islands as resorts fog regularly and local islands do not. Take insect repellent. Harmless snakes, geckos, mice, rats and lizards may also be seen on local islands but can also be found in resorts. Resorts will have a team of pest controllers to deal with any unwanted insects or wildlife whereas on local islands do not expect people to run around after you because of a gecko on the wall!
Mosquitoes in the Maldives
Mosquitoes are abundant on local islands and I therefore recommend purchasing insect repellent (I use DEET 50% which you can buy from Amazon here) as the insect spray available from local shops in the Maldives is not particularly strong (only about 5% DEET). The Maldives is not malarial, however there are cases of dengue fever and therefore I recommend covering your shoulders and legs in the evening and use insect spray, particularly on local islands.
Unmarried Couples in the Maldives
So far on local islands I have not experienced any problems with staying as an unmarried couple. This is never a problem if both guests are foreigners. However one Maldivian and one foreigner of the opposite sex can cause problems as technically this is frowned upon and one hotel that I am aware of forced a mixed nationality (Maldivian and foreigner) couple to pay for two rooms even though they shared one room. This seems to be very rare and most places I have stayed and heard of respect the freedom of their guests.
Local Food in the Maldives
Most Maldivian food consists of tuna and other fish like reef fish. These are often mixed with rice and/or chappatis. My personal favourite is a Maldivian take on a Sri Lankan dish called Kottu Roshi. Local restaurants can have a very relaxed attitude to customer service and I have waited up to two hours for dinner before! (restaurants in Fuvahmulah!) Therefore when visiting local restaurants, bring along patience and a sense of humour and also consider going to a restaurant before you get too hungry! Vegetarian food is not very common, however most restaurants will still cook vegetarian dishes on request. Make it clear that vegetarian means no fish and no meat when ordering (and this may need to be repeated several times to make sure!). Many local restaurants still use plastic straws (resorts tend to be more eco-friendly) so to travel responsibly make sure you say “no straw” when ordering drinks. Many drinks like Coca-cola are sold on local islands in plastic bottles instead of cans so I always make sure to ask before ordering to reduce my plastic consumption. I always take a refillable water bottle to fill up from like these metal ones from Amazon.
Best Local Islands to Visit in the Maldives on a Budget

Many people, including locals and expats living in the Maldives often ask: which islands to visit in the Maldives?

The islands that I have visited so far are below. Each Maldives island I have visited has it’s own blog post on my Maldives travel blog which includes what to do in the Maldives, island hopping prices, budget diving price in the Maldives and everything you need to know for an affordable Maldives vacation.

Fuvahmulah Island – read here for the best diving in the Maldives (and I’m not exaggerating!)
Gulhi Local Island – most beautiful bikini beach on a local island
Thoddoo Public Island – most beautiful bikini beach and best snorkelling with turtles
Maafushi Local island and closest to the airport- read my blog post for the best party island and the cheapest water sports in the Maldives
Thulusdhoo local island Maldives- read my blog post now for party, surfing, hotel destination with the best rooftop pool in the Maldives
Dhiffushi local island Maldives- read my Maldives blog post for a tiny island near Male
and for what to bring to the Maldives – read this blog post for packing lists
For the best budget resort read my honest review about Kihaa resort in Baa Atoll


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Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.