Although the islands are sinking, and will one day disappear, new islands are being developed into tourist islands all the time.
I was fortunate enough to live and work in the Maldives for 3 years, and had an amazing time. I worked for a British Tour Operator as a Resort Manager for 2 years, and then stayed a further year working for a group of islands as a Corporate Trainer, working with staff to develop good customer service standards.
With the exception of Monarch, all other Charter British Tour Operators have increased their leg pitch, so its far more comfortable, they just need to increase the seat pitch, as the space is still a little tight! There are lots of scheduled airlines available, however, only Sri Lanka Airlines offer a direct flight (certain days) to the Maldives, all other airlines go via their hub, eg Emirates via Dubai, Qatar via Doha ect. Remember scheduled airlines do offer soft and alcoholic drinks, extensive entertainment service and headsets ect, so its worth weighing up all the options before deciding on the airline. Also, scheduled flights operate more frequent flights, whereby the charter flights, generally only operate one flight per week.
Not all islands offer seaplane transfers, but those that do, enjoy! Its a fantastic experience, remember to always have your camera to hand. Top tip............. sit in the single seats onboard the small aircraft - this way, you both have a full view of the islands as you fly over. Transfer times vary, depending on where your island is located, and can take between 20-40 minutes. Make sure you ask your travel agent about upgrading to seaplane transfers, as this can sometimes be available, either as a return, or just one way.
Again, not all islands offer seaplane transfers. Depending on the number of arrivals, and the location of the island, can determine the size of the boat. Some boats have the option of sitting outside, others have air conditioning ect. Its fantastic after a long flight, to feel the wind in your hair as you skim across the indian ocean, and if your lucky you may even get to see dolphins.
How long to go for?
As a absolute minimum, I say 7nights. If travelling with a scheduled airline, they of course provide more flexibility with regard to duration, due to the number of flights available. Charter flights mean you have to pick a 7 or 14night duration, unless of course you are travelling at the end of the seasons, whereby 'odd' durations are frequently available. 10nights I think, if you are on limited time is a good duration. However, in low season, many of the islands have special offers available, making it very reasonable to extend your stay.
There is a lot of pressure on the islands to ensure good health and safety standards are in place, as the only place you can eat is from one of the islands restaurants. There have been very few occasions where there have been problems with islands. We also need to take some responsibility, and remember that, temperature, types of food and drink, time difference, over indulgence in food and drink can all impact on an upset tum. All food with the exception of coconut and some fish are imported, so they have to manage their food turnover, as the food is brought to the island via Male the Capital island. This is done by dhoni boat (local boats), which can take several hours to arrive actually to the island. A seaplane journey of 25minutes for us, equates to about a 7hour journey by dhoni boat (these are not used for transfers!).
For anyone that has any special dietary needs, the islands do try very hard to assist, and have improved particularly with their understanding of vegetarian. I always say, just let your waiter or the chef know, and they will always do their best - if they don't know, they cannot help. With other dietary requirements, again speak to the island, or contact the island before you arrive to make sure that they can assist, or contact me, and I will be happy to assist......
The spa treatments are fantastic, and the setting is out of this world. All prices are in US$ dollar, and its always best to book your treatment in advance, as particularly at the end of the day is busy. There are often spa packages available, which work out favourable. There are lots of beauty treatments available for both the ladies and the gents. Body scrubs ect are really good to have at the start of your holiday, as it clears the pores, which enables your tan to last longer!!!
All the excursions are operated by the islands, not the tour operator. There are trips such as night fishing, sunset cruise, snorkelling ect. There are also the half day excursions, which takes in a local island and a little bit of shopping, and you also have the full day excursions which are cruises - fantastic to relax on, you also get to snorkel at some great points, and you often visit an uninhabited island as well. The crew on board are really helpful, and its a great day of escapism!
Things to remember
It is a Muslim country, and therefore all Maldivians participate in Ramadan, this does not directly affect you or your holiday.
No topless bathing allowed.
Maldivian Rufiyaa is a closed currency, therefore all prices are in US dollars for ease.
Tipping is not a requirement, but is gratefully received by the staff, when good service has been provided