Girls trip to the Maldives!!
This is a long intro...but stick with me!
What a special trip this was. My friend Jane was celebrating her Big 50, AND her friend Sue and my cousin Maria were visiting from the US. So we planned a few girls' trips around Asia.
Wait until you hear what Jane and I did to surprise Maria and Sue. We asked them where they wanted to go, and they picked Cambodia and Koh Samui (KS), Thailand, as they wanted to see a beach in Asia. When Jane and I were planning the trip, we were having a hard time getting a good price on the tickets to KS and we found a great price to the Maldives.
So.... we purchased tickets to the Maldives, planed the entire trip, but did not tell Maria and Sue. We wanted it to be a surprise. I knew it was a dream trip for my cousin, but when she had asked early on about the Maldives, I told her it was just too expensive... which it normally is!
We wondered how far we could get them before we had to tell them where we were really going. D took us to the airport, as he wanted to see their reaction. Check in... D keeps them distracted while Jane shows all of our passports to the ladies at the desk. We whisper to them it is a surprise. They keep quiet.
Next, passport control. None of the guards say anything. We go through the gate and they hand us landing cards, which do say THE MALDIVES. I jump in front of everyone and say I'll take those.... I am the tour guide".
Hey Sue and Maria - show us where you are going...
This photo makes me laugh, as they still have no idea!
And by now you are asking - really... how could they NOT know? It says Malé on the boarding pass, as this is the main city in the Maldives. We tell them Malé is the airport in Koh Samui. Neither have traveled in Asia - they have no idea. We laugh and say we are going to "male" for Jane's big 50!
Jane was not the only one with a surprise; we had a crown and beads for her to wear for her big celebration.
We actually get on the plane and they still had no idea! The announcement comes on and they say enjoy your flight to Malé. Perfect.
After the plane took off and we had our champagne in hand, we gave them this printed itinerary....
Were they surprised?
We were only there for three nights but was pure perfection. We stayed at the AMAZING Banyan Tree - Vabbinafaru - where the hotel is on its own island (photo below). In Maldivian, Vabbinfaru refers to a round island circled by a round coral reef.
I did not take the photo below (pulled from Google images) but I wanted to show how AMAZING this island is.
These are my photos, along with some by the girls...
We also visited the sister property Angsana, where the snorkeling was drop dead gorgeous! Yes, the water is actually this color in the shallow part.
Cousin Maria and I shared a Villa and Jane and Sue shared one. Each had an outdoor shower, pool, and jacuzzi.
The back of our room opened up onto this view of the beach.
For the record, this trip tied me with D for the number of countries we visited, 54!!
I told you I was going to sneak off one day...
We woke up early each day and enjoyed the sunrise and coffee on the beach.
What is great about an all girls trip is you can pose for corny photos - which we did! The pictures where I am in the photo, or all four of us, are taken by photographer extraordinaire, Sue Harris Photography.
It was interesting how the blues of the sky and water changed at different times of the day. We were told by the hotel staff that on a scale from 1 to 10, the day we were there would have been around a "3" for water color and clarity. Only a "3"? It was stunning... I cannot even image what a "10" day looked like!
Meet Moosa, the adorable guide we had for snorkeling and all marine life activities. He started us off with a one-hour presentation on what Banyan Tree is doing to help sustain the Maldives, which are disappearing.
The Maldives is the lowest lying country on Earth, at just 8 feet above sea level. Within 100 years, the entire country will be under water.
Angsana is said to have one of the best house reefs in the world. I believe them! The sea life we saw was more of the level you see when you are scuba diving, not just snorkeling. You can see from the photo below we were not in very deep water. Moosa took these photos for us with his underwater camera.
Yet, what we saw was incredible - with a punch of color.
I have to share this image even though it is not the clearest one. Jane had never been snorkeling and we were very proud that she gave it a go with us. What a great thing to try on your 50th Birthday!
And look at Sue go - she was really going deep in the water! I had to stay at the surface - but it was so clear you did not have to go very deep to see the splendor!
And I lost my breath (we all did!) when we saw this - A SHARK!!! I was hanging on to sweet little Moosa for dear life. I wished they had taken a photo of my face at this exact point. What we saw are black tipped reef sharks and they are not dangerous. We saw several of them, each time giving us a jolt of excitement!
The most spectacular scene was at the very end - and of course we ran out of memory space on the camera at that exact point! Moosa went deep and swam directly into this school of fish.
I am not even sure how to describe this. The fish started to swarm around him in a circle. If he flipped his arms out they would break away in perfect formation and then come right back to the circle. He would kick out his leg and they would do the same thing. It was like nothing I have ever seen.
After an amazing day of snorkeling... it was hard to imagine that the evening could be better... it started off with another surprise by Jane and this time I was not in on it!
A sunset cruise...
on a yacht....
with just the four of us...
with champagne and appetizers...
We had to recreate the scene from the Titanic.
Had the night ended there it would have been perfect.... but there was more! Look out into the ocean...
Can you see that very small island (technically a sandbank)??
As we got closer.....
We could see two adorable young men holding 4 glasses of champagne...
the moon, and a beautiful table set for four!
Really? Dinner on a private island? And we are the only guests!
OH MY GOSH!
Cheers cousin Maria!
As the sunset, it cast a delicate pink hue... like a dream.
Here's to Jane... Happy Birthday!
Our dinner was impressive given we were on a small island with no electricity. Everything for the dinner, including the grill was carried on the yacht to the island.
We started off with a grilled shrimp salad, followed by lobster, chicken, baked potato, and corn. Then we enjoyed a second main of grilled lamb and veggies and we finished with a fruit and cream brulee.
Where did they cook this amazing meal??
On a very small grill!
The entire meal was catered and cooked by these five men. They also took great photos of us.
It was an incredible evening!
What a PERFECT 50th Birthday we had... I mean Jane had!
When we got back to our rooms, they had decorated for Jane's Birthday. But there was a gift for each of us - a sarong with our names embroidered on them. You will see us wearing them in a group photo towards the end of this post.
Other fun things we did during our holiday...
No photos - but we all had one-hour massages - ahhhh so relaxing!
The marine center (our guide Moosa) does a daily feedings of stingrays and sea turtles. It is fascinating that wild stingrays know to come to a specific location on the beach everyday around 4:30 to be fed.
We took a demonstration cooking class to learn how to make Maldivian food. We learned how to cook Mas Goulah (fish balls) with coconut Roti, Kulhi Boakibaa (tuna dish), and chicken curry. They cook most dishes with coconut milk so I was in heaven. SO YUMMY!
We went by speedboat to visit one of the local islands. The Maldives is an Islamic republic, which lies off the Indian sub-continent. It is made up of a chain of nearly 1,200 islands, of which only 200 are inhabited and around 90 are developed as resorts.
The islands are spread over 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 sq mi), making it one of the world's most dispersed countries. We were on the North Male atoll area.
The population of all of the islands is only around 350,000. Alcohol is prohibited in the Maldives, but resorts are allowed to serve it.
A very interesting fact about the Maldives...they have a 98-percent literacy rate among adults and 100 percent of children are enrolled in primary school, with a 99 percent graduation rate to grade five.
Our last day - Jane's Birthday Breakfast
We finally got to surprises Jane by wrapping 50 presents for her to open on her special day!
Exactly how many cakes did you have Jane?
More group photos on Jane's b-day with our matching Sarongs (note our names at the bottom).
Most of the staff came out to wish us well when we left. I just hope that I can one day go back and visit this beautiful island!
This was a fantastic girls trip - one we will always remember!