Dubai and the Maldives

The end of the year was fast approaching and the warm days of summer were a distant memory. It was time we had a top up of sunshine before winter really set in. As usual we had to look for somewhere that everyone else was not heading for (just to get a standby seat on the aeroplane).

Dubai seemed a good start followed by a visit to the Maldives. This was supposed to be the end of their rainy season and hopefully before the crowds (some hope!)

Although there are two daily flights to Dubai, the Abu Dhabi flight looked quieter, so we opted for that and had a really comfortable flight. It was only a 45 minute drive by taxi to our hotel on Jumeira Beach (170 dirhams 28). The Mina a'Salam is a new hotel and part of what will soon be an amazing complex of villas and malls, all joined by nearly 5kms of canals. There are little electric water taxis to take you to breakfast etc. Because it had just opened in September, they were letting the rooms at an amazing rate for a short while while they completed their staff training and ensured that all the systems worked.

 

Min a'salamMin a'salam

 

This is the view from our bedroom window. The actual swimming pool is in the distance on the right. The water in front of the hotel is part of the canal system.

Venice in the desertBurg al Arab

The rest of this complex will be completed in April. Quite a feat of engineering. The picture on the right is the view across the pool towards the Burg Al Arab, described as the only 7 star hotel in the world. We went for a drink there and thought that it was a bit "OTT". Not like our hotel which we thought was very nicely done. The service around this pool and on the beach was fantastic. People kept offering us cold towels, iced cucumber slices for our eyes, fresh fruit etc. The ultimate service was when one of the staff came around offering to clean our sunglasses!!

Night view Mina a'SalamDowtown Dubai and the Creek

The place was quite enchanting by night and I was awestruck by my first visit to downtown Dubai and the Creek for nearly 20 years!

The Maldives

Finally it was off to the Maldives, at 03:00am on an Emirates A330. The flight is only around 4hrs and was very comfortable. Male is a tiny "aircraft carrier" of an airfield and I could catch tantalising views of it through the windows and on the forward looking video system. After immigration we were greeted by the rep. who told us that our island, Olhuveli was overbooked and so they had arranged for us to stay at Rannalhi, another island close by. "Very nice", he assured me and we would be collected by speedboat next morning. Another couple, Norbert and Cordula where in the same boat (literally). The quay is just outside of the arrivals building and we were soon on board our speedboat and roaring along at 30kts. It took 45 minutes and was a fab introduction. The water around the many islands is incredibly blue and they are all tiny.

RhannalhiRannalhi

Approaching Rannalhi. It proved to be quite a small island and most of the other guests were Italian. When we reached our room this was the welcome awaiting us!

bedtime

Next morning we were picked up at 11:00am and taken by speedboat to Olhuveli. By now we had made friends with Norbert and Cordula who came from Germany. The four of us were greeted with garlands of flowers and cold drinks on our arrival at Olhuveli.

"Leyed back" arrival

The white beaches surrounding the island were some of the nicest I have ever seen and we couldn't wait to get into the water. I was determined to do some more scuba diving and enrolled in an PADI Advanced Open Water course.

The water villas on the right in this photograph were the luxury end of the resort.

Olhuveli beach

Sunsets were spectacular

.Sunset

But this is one way of getting around. It's definitely necessary if you opt to stay on some of the further out islands. The whole chain of the Maldives stretches hundreds of miles North and South of Male the capital.

 Seaplane

Because we had been messed around and because the hotel seemed to have another overbooking crisis, they offered us a 48hr cruise on their "Safari Boat" to some of the other atolls to the South. It sounded great, air conditioned cabins, good food etc and the opportunity to scuba dive and snorkel. Unfortunately the weather broke and we had some very seasick passengers on board. Fortunately Gilly and I were OK and really enjoyed the food. Although I did a couple of dives, the snorkelling was rather limited because of the weather. Dive Boat

Gilly was put ashore on her very own desert(ed) island.

Gilly's Desert(ed) island

When we returned to Olhuveli, we found ourselves in a different room, with rather a nice balcony and view.

 Room with a view

The hotel was very pleasant with this lovely pool. Unfortunately, the water was rather too warm. However, there were some very comfortable seats in the water around the bar and some ice cold beer.

Pool and bar

They really did their best to look after us. We found that we had been moved into a water villa for our last two nights, normally this would have cost at least twice what were paying. We had our own private landing stage for swimming.

Water VillasWater Villa

4 posterbath room with a view

 

swim

The time flew by and I completed my diving course. We both agreed that the fishes were the most spectacular we had ever seen. They are so tame and you don't really need to dive to enjoy them. Gilly cruised around the reef in her snorkel and mask and saw something new each time. At one point she was sitting in the shallow water in her deck chair with seven reef sharks swimming around her feet!!

We arrived at the airport to find that the Emirates flight looked full and it was doubtful if we were going to get on. Fortunately a Lauda (Austrian Airlines) flight was also going via Dubai with only half a load so they kindly agreed to accept our staff tickets.

After take off the sight of these emerald islands as we climbed out was magical. I would loved to have seen the view from the flight deck windows, but unfortunately those days are now over.

 

MaleAtolls