Tag Archives: island

Labor Day at Velassaru (Maldives)

For this year’s Labor Day weekend, I joined a group of friends traveling to the Maldives. We’ve planned this trip for several months now so we’ve been waiting for quite some time before the actual trip happened.

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Our airline of choice was via Tiger Air. This meant a stopover at Singapore‘s Changi Airport. It was night time when we left from Manila and we arrived in Singapore around 1:45 AM. Our layover was almost 8 hours and our next flight was scheduled at 9:35 AM that same day. While most of us slept the whole time, I wandered for the most part around Terminal 2. Apart from the food court that’s open, there’s also several things to do like watching a film in their movie theatre or enjoying the open-air Sunflower Garden located nearby. As the sun was about to rise, you can see the airport slowly turning into a bustling hub.

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We departed Singapore around 9:35 AM and arrived at Male‘s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at 11:20 AM. There’s a time difference of around 3-hours so our flight was almost five hours. I was honestly surprised with how their airport looked. It was better than I expected. Then again, it really should be that way if Maldive’s main source of revenue is their tourism.

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From the airport, we immediately headed to the docks as were going to be picked up by our resort. The moment, I stepped foot out of the airport, you can already see the turquoise green waters. We haven’t even reached the islands. Imagine that!

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To get to the resorts, which are located in their own island, you must ride a speed boat. While traveling by water, one can witness the city of Male from afar. Too bad, I didn’t get the chance to go around the capital. We also passed by several island resorts which gave us a preview of what we are to expect.  After only 15-20 minutes, we finally reach our resort – Velassaru Maldives.

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Upon reaching shore, we were all welcomed by their wonderful staff. We were each given a welcome drink and cold towel while waiting for the check-in process. Our group booked a total of two rooms: Deluxe Bungalow and Beach Villa.

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I was with the group who booked the more budget friendly Deluxe Bungalow. I was honestly okay with the room we booked and it was already huge by normal standards. The room had a split-style to it so you feel like you even have more space. Our bathroom was spacious enough and it also featured a separate outdoor shower. There was a sitting area outside and access to the beach will take you around 20 steps at least. Not too bad for the most basic room type.

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We also checked out where the other half stayed. Their Beach Villa has a more intimate-style where the centerpiece is the main bed. This room boasts of a larger bathroom which also featured a bathtub. Their veranda was located behind the room which had direct access to their own private beach at the back.

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The staff was also friendly enough to give us a peek of their Water Villas. The rooms were located on the shallow waters. Should be a perfect spot for catching the sunset in your own room as it also featured a private terrace.

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For the most part, we stayed in the island the whole time. The resort features six different restaurants. We tried several of those such as Vela where we had our daily breakfast buffet. We also went there for dinner during our first night which also featured a buffet spread. The Japanese restaurant called Teppanyaki was a favorite by some of our friends while I personally preferred Sand which featured European dishes in an outdoor by the beach setting.

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If you’re looking for places to chill, you can head to Fen Bar which is also near the infinity pool. For unobstructed views of the sunset, you can head to Chill Bar located midway around the resort. My personal preference was to hangout at Chill Bar and wait for the sunset which we did on two occasions. You just can’t get enough of a good sunset!

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For the adventure seeker, the resort also offers activities such as diving and water sports. Since we weren’t adrenaline buffs, we only tried their snorkeling expedition. The boat brought us around 15-minutes away from the resort. I was able to see lots of corals and marine life underneath. However, I wasn’t able to see any rare marine creatures. Another friend stayed at a different resort during the same time and they were able to see some baby sharks. The waters were quite clear but I had a difficult time snorkeling underneath due to the strong waves at that time. Apart from our snorkeling excursion, we spent most of our time lounging and swimming at the resort’s beach. It’s either that or we grab some drinks and take a plunge at the pool.

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Velassaru also offered a free photo session from a photographer. This package can be availed per room booking. Since we were in a large group, we all decided to take group shots. The catch here is that you have to avail of certain packages if you would like the photos to be printed or have the copy of the files. I suggest that you grab the digital files since the final results were really nice. I’d like to give a shout out to our photographer whose name I forget.

(Tip: I strongly recommend that you request for our photographer. She’s probably the only Asian in-house photographer there)

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At night, the resort also hosts certain events for their guests. Our first night featured a live band playing famous songs at Fen Bar. During our second night, there was a movie night by the beach. Too bad we ended up finishing late for dinner and we were only able to catch the last 20 minutes of the movie.

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The last night was probably one of the highlights of the trip. We were lucky enough that they were hosting a Full Moon Party which only happens once a month. There was a live DJ playing by the beach, lots of guests dancing (us included) and even a dessert spread for guests who have just finished their dinner.

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Overall, my initial thoughts about Maldives proved to be true and then some. I cannot say much about the city’s capital since we headed straight to the resort. Though we had plenty of fun during our stay, the resorts largely cater to families and couples. Certain activities are free-of-charge such as equipment rental and all. However, you need to spend a hefty sum if you would like to do certain activities such as island hopping, diving or visiting the Baa Atoll which is a UNESCO site. As a tip, make sure you have your expenses covered if you’d like to maximize your experience here. Also, getting to certain resorts farther away from Male requires taking a charter plane so be mindful where you will be staying if you don’t want to be surprised with the charges. You will be spending most of your time at the resort of your choice so choose wisely!

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Since the country is Muslim dominant, bringing in alcohol is prohibited. The resorts are the only ones allowed to import these for tourists. I did hear that there was a black market for these things but don’t even bother trying.

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Despite the certain setbacks and things we weren’t able to see or do during our stay, I’d still recommend visiting the Maldives at least once during your lifetime. By far, one of the best beaches and beautiful waters I have seen. If you enjoy the beach, the sunset and the sea, then there is a place for you here.

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P.S. I’d like to give a shout of to the resort’s GM Marj who made sure we were taken care of during our stay. I hope to return to Velassaru someday! Thank you!

– The Tourist Pao

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Cebu (Part I: Bantayan Island, Virgin Island)

Bantayan Island has been dubbed one of the best beach places you will see in the Philippines. It is also said that it can rival that of Boracay with the perks of having a non-existent commercial vibe to the island. I’ve been planning for years to visit this place but there was always something that hindered me from getting here. Case in point was the tragic typhoon that struck our country last 2013 which largely affected the Visayas region. As a result, we took it off our list and went elsewhere.

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Come by 2014, we again re-considered coming back. I already had an itinerary (for years) but the trip just never materialized. After a few inquiries here and there, we were assured that the island has recovered. Finally, we were set to visit one of the must-sees in my bucket-list!

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Getting there: Take a flight via Cebu Pacific from Manila to Cebu. (Like 70% of the time, our flight was again delayed which added much to our frustration). Once you reach Mactan Airport, take a cab and head straight to the North Bus Terminal near SM. Get the bus headed to Hagnaya Port. It will take between 4-5 hours before you reach the port. Once you’re at the docks, take a ferry headed to Santa Fe (in Bantayan Island). This will take another 45 minutes to an hour before you reach the island.

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Once we reached the island, the staff from Anika Island Resort picked us up from the pier. They have been in contact with us even before we boarded our plane. Those simple gestures really made a big difference. Since we were here for the beach, we booked their Ocean View Room. Best view in the house!

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Our first day was more of a relaxed day. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived so all we did was check the beach and chilled by the veranda at night. We hanged out by the veranda until it was time to rest.

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We didn’t catch the sunrise during our second day because the weather was quite gloomy. From morning until afternoon, the rain was pouring really hard. Since we were already at Bantayan Island, we tried our best to make the most of this trip. When the rain subsided a bit, we pushed through with our trip to Virgin Island. We brought our rain gear and a few bottles of beer to keep ourselves dry and warm.

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Contrary to its name, Virgin Island is privately owned. The island has an entrance fee and you have to pay if you want to use any of their amenities. Though we would’ve preferred the island to be more bare, it is quite well-maintained.

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It rained throughout the whole day (but the rain did stop for a few minutes) when we were at Virgin Island. Due to the mostly bad weather, we had the whole island to ourselves. After our island excursion, we were so tired that we didn’t even make it to dinner time.

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During our last day, the weather was better and we were lucky enough to catch the sunrise. I wasn’t able to take a lot of photos since I took a video of the sunrise. The sunrise is absolutely more stunning in person.

Our island trip ended with an early checkout after breakfast as we still had one more night in Cebu City. The ride going back seemed to take longer and it was not as comfortable as getting to the island. And yes, it rained again when we reached Cebu City. I guess this was part of the whole experience. Hate it or love it!

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Bantayan Island is what I exactly expected. I wish we could have stayed longer as we did not really wander around due to the bad weather. Maybe next time!

Head to Cebu (Part II: Cebu City, Henry Hotel)

– The Tourist Pao