Maldives on a Budget
Updated Jul, 2022
Offering an ultimate Maldives experience on budget prices, Dharavandho is a populated island of Baa Atoll with world-class diving sites where the clean waters of 'Hanifaru Bay' and 'Dharavandhoo Thila' are protected by law in the Maldives.
Only 20 minutes by domestic flight from Male airport, the beautiful Dharavandhoo lies in the heart of the only UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives, and is ideally located to experience the best that this tropical paradise has to offer. An amazing affordable accommodation, impressive snorkeling with manta rays and whale sharks, diving, sparkling white beaches and authentic island experiences combine to make your stay here truly unforgettable. Exotic, secluded and tempting, Dharavandhoo is one of the last heavenly places where you can really escape from it all.
A fascinating holiday in Dharavandhoo will surpass all your expectations; the main philosophy in this part of the Maldives is to not miss the exciting water adventures wich every day will be filled with new positive impressions. Result? A unique journey and memories that will remain with you forever.
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How to Get: Transfers
By Air: Very easy! Dharvandhoo is just 20 minutes by domestic flight from Velana International Airport, Male. Daily flights to Dharavandhoo airport from Male and other Maldives' airports are operated by Maldivian and FlyMe. The ticket price in one way is about $ 110. If you want to save on a transfer, book flights through your hotel, which give big discounts for domestic flights at a special, low price - $ 165 per person (round trip).
Speedboat transfer: From Male to Dharavandhoo every Saturday, Monday and Thursday at 07:00. The journey time is 2 hours 30 minutes, the price for the trip is $ 65 / person in one direction. Also on certain days there is an additional speedboat at 11:00. Read more
From Dharavandhoo to Male departure at 13:00, every Saturday, Monday and Thursday. The journey time is 2h 15 minutes, rate for the trip is $ 65 / person in one way.
In both cases, we recommend that you order a speedboat through your hotel in Dharavandhoo. Some guest houses offer a round trip for $ 80, and the staff will meet you at Male airport.
Cargo ferry: from Male to Dharavandhoo every Wednesday at 08:00, travel time is 8 hours, price per trip is $ 25. From Dharavandhoo to Male every Saturday at 08:00, the journey time is 8 hours, the price for the trip is $ 25.
There is an ATM (BML) on Dharavandhoo. You can coordinate the traffic schedule and the transfer type in advance with your guest house's staff (recommended), or check here
With high marine biodiversity, UNESCO's only biosphere reserve in the Maldives, Baa Atoll is home to a variety of marine life and amazingly underwater world. The Baa's Atoll is a main attraction is Hanifaru Bay, known as the spawning ground for gray reef sharks and stingray rays located in a 5 min by boat from Dharavandhoo. Hanifaru Bay is also one of the very few places in the planet where whale sharks come for mating. However, the greatest popularity of Hanifaru was brought by mysterious, elegant, inquisitive and charming Manta Rays (Manta alfredi), whose concentration in the seasons of plankton can reach up to 200 animals. The incredible biodiversity within this bay is due to the huge mass of plankton that accumulates there between May and November.
With lush vegetation and a wide white sandy beach, Dharavandhoo Island is 1330x500 meters, is home to a more than 800 souls that builds its economy mainly by tourism and fishing. In 2012, the island opened an airport (DRV) serving domestic flights of Maldive and FlyMy airliners operating from Male and other Maldives' airports. Dharavandhoo has a medical center, a travel agency, 2 dive centers, more than 7 grocery stores, souvenir shops, a kindergarten, two football fields, two mosques and a marina. The power station provides energy 24/7. Many locals speak English, most of them also speak other languages.
Despite the satellite TV or motobikes, there is very little that distinguishes this island from the age-old Maldives. Dharavandhoo is a sleepy village. At the height of the day, the islanders hide from the sun, and in the evening the streets of the village come to life. In general, the locals are polite, friendly and calm people. Life ceases at 9 pm, but wakes up at dawn with a call to prayer.
Sandy roads form a net of streets with colorful bungalows and modest houses. Made of coral bricks, these picturesque cottages show the island's close link with the ocean. Their lush gardens burst from banana and bread trees, and passion fruit vines creep up the walls. In small gardens, leafy vegetables and bright peppers are grown, and huge palm trees provide the coveted shadow and quench thirst. The northern part of Dharavandhoo has still original coconut palm forest. You can explore the island on foot or by bike.
Despite the fact that along the island's southern side stretches Dharavandhoo Airport's runway the aircraft do not ruin the peaceful atmosphere of the island. Tourist bikini beach, intended exclusively for tourists is at the northwestern part of the island, and this is where you can swim, sunbathe and play. Turquoise crystal waters, white soft sand and many shady trees create the perfect vibe for a stunning beach experience. Not far from the shore is a house reef with an abundant marine life ideal for snorkeling. Expect to see schools of fish, rays, turtles and reef sharks.
Some of Baa's atoll most famous local islands are located around Dharavandhoo: Thulhaadhoo known for its pottery skills; Eydhafushi is the atoll's capital and the center of the weaving masters, a typical black and white Maldivian pareo; on Kudarikilu island there is a museum where the whole history of Maldives is collected.
The Maldives is perhaps the most famous diving destination in the world. Exciting dive sites, in short ride from luxury accommodation and excellent service make Maldives' dive resorts among the most top-end in the world. The unique beauty of the underwater world is doubly valued by divers around the world due to high underwater visibility (sometimes even at a depth of 50 meters), countless species of exotic marine life and warm waters (25 to 30 degrees Celsius) all year round.
As for marine life, there is no doubt that Baa Atoll is special. When the region was declared a biosphere reserve in 2011, the UN explained that it is a "harbor of globally significant biodiversity in numerous reefs and demonstrates a long history of human interaction with the environment." Once you look into blue waters, you will understand what those words mean. Reefs are teeming with a vibrant life. Dharavandhoo's house reef is home to a manta ray's cleaning station where large flocks of giants gather together to allow the jaws to peck their skin.
Coral reefs in the biosphere reserve maintain a high diversity of marine flora and fauna, including about 250 types of corals (hard and soft coral), 1200 species of fish, sea turtles, rays, whale sharks and seabirds.
The island has two diving centers PADI: Blue-World-Dharavandhoo and Dharavandhoo Divers. Both offer scuba diving courses from Discover Scuba Diving to Rescue Diver, and fun dives on more than 30 dive sites around Baa atoll. The menu covers all the needs and the levels from beginners to the dive master. The most popular dive sites are: Dharavandhoo Thila, Aidhoo Thila, Nelivaru Haa, Milaidhoo, Maavaru Caves, Anga Faru and many others.
Prices: One dive from $ 62. Night diving + $ 10 to the fare, nitrox + $ 5.
Best Things to DO
Dharavandhoo is the ideal budget option to get the taste of authentic Maldives ... the best holiday ever! Hospitality is the main feature of local people who live and work here. This is not a luxury resort, Dharavandhoo is a very good destination for travelers who are interested in exploring the local Maldives culture.
During your stay on the island, expect a lot to do and see: diving, house reef snorkeling, watching dolphins, fishing, trips to 5-star resorts near Dharavandhoo (Kihaad Maldives, Royal Island Resort and Dusit Thani), learning folk crafts, degustation the traditional Maldivian food, and of course, swimming with manta rays! Manta is a really superb!
Snorkeling on Dharavandhoo is always full of fun surprises. You do not have to be a diver to discover the unique and incredibly vibrant marine life of Hanifaru bay. Excursion to the traditional Maldives dhoni boat for snorkeling with whale sharks! Whale sharks are very gentle and calm giants, and quite curious. If they do not feel threatened, sharks often approach boats. Between June and November, this is the best place for swimming with whale sharks in Baa Atoll.
A key area of UNESCO's biosphere reserve, Hanifaru Bay (Vandhumaafaru Adi) is a huge elongated coral reef and a marine conservation area in the Maldives surrounded by white sands, 5 minutes by boat to the east of Dharavandhoo. Despite the size (no more than a football field), Hanifaru Bay has become one of the best places for snorkeling with manta rays and whale sharks in the world, and regularly draws professionals underwater photos and videos. The mass concentration of plankton attracts hundreds of Manta here. In the season, you can count up to 200 giant animals hovering over coral reefs, as well as many whale sharks here. Guesthouses in Dharavandhoo organize snorkeling exursions to Hanifaru Bay, that is the world's largest feeding station for Manta rays. Expect a majestic dance with hundreds of animals perched in the shape of a funnel on top of each other. The bonus to this confusion is whale sharks - languid, planktivorous giants, each the size of a 40-foot container - that appear to divide the prey from the manta. Within a few hours the plankton ends, the banquet folds, and the manta rays plow with its head fins the sandy bottom of the bay in search of hidden prey. Diving is forbidden in this bay, and snorkeling is the best and only way to see this miracle of nature.
Prices: from $ 60 / person. Snorkling tours to other sites $ 60 / per boat. (full day).
A great chance to stay "tet-a-tet" in the open ocean. Excursion to the sandbank is offered in three versions: a picnic, swimming and sunbathing, or a romantic sunset dinner on a white beach. There are only you and your loved one on the virgin island surrounded by a blue sky and turquoise waters with sparklins sands, and also drinks and snacks. Recommended for couples and a honeymooners.
Prices: $ 170 / half-day boat with snacks and drinks, $ 280 / boat for full day with barbecue and drinks. Romantic dinner for two on a desert island or sandbank $ 110.
Inspired by the rich fishing traditions, Dharavandhoo Island offers you one of the most exciting fishing experiences in the Maldivian style. Fishing is offered for groups of 4 people, and includes morning, evening and night fishing; Your fishing trophies can become famous monsters of the Indian Ocean, including blue marlin, sailfish, tuna, wahoo and giant trevally (GT). Fishing for Dharavandhoo go with popular methods of trolling, popping and jigging, as well as live baits. Depending on the monsoon, expect to catch different kinds of fish. However, given that Dharavandhoo is surrounded by an abundance of marine life, you are unlikely to return without a good catch. We recommend fishing with Hibaru Fishing Lodge, a guest house built by fishermen for anglers - the best base for sports and big game fishing ... try and it's worth it.
Prices: $ 200/boat Big Game fishin for half a day; $ 335/boat for the whole day (06: 00-16: 00) for Big Game Fishing. Evening fishing $ 80 / boat; for the whole night $ 110 / boat.
The island has a wide range of non-motorized water sports, including SUP, kayaking and windsurfing - these are great ways to explore the beautiful lagoon on your own. If you need more adrenaline, Dharavandhoo is home to Dharavandhoo Water Sports that offers wakeboarding, jet ski and water skiing, as well as exciting tours and fun excursions.
Day trips can be arranged to local islands with a local guide that will tailor your time to your preferences, giving you the most authentic cultural experience possible.
Maldives has been known for many years as the best destination for couples and honeymooners. There are not so many distractions: just amazingly soothing ocean, breeze music and the beauty of tropical nature. Dharavandhoo Water Sports organizes traditional Maldivian wedding ceremonies and unique events for the newlyweds.
Whether it's a red snapper you desire, grilled to your liking or the familiar comfort of a creamy pasta dish you wish for, even a scoop of sweet ice-cream on a scorching hot afternoon, Dharavandhoo to sate your taste buds whilst you relax over views of uninterrupted horizons.
There are three local cafes on the island, as well as restaurants and bars in the hotels. Food on offer is a mix of traditional and modern cuisine, where the menu is designed with an emphasis on taste, variety and quality of ingredients. The food is tasty and inexpensive, mouth-watering dishes of international cuisine and you can order meals according to your own preferences. The menu includes hearty and generous breakfasts, Maldives' fare, soups (including vegetarian), pastas, salads, grills, fresh seafood and fish, desserts, fruits, soft cocktails, juices and drinks, and tea and coffee. Garnish with rice, potatoes and fresh vegetables. The average price for a generous portion of 4 to 10 dollars. Grilled fish is $ 10 - $ 15. In addition, you can try a romantic dinner under the stars right on the beach, or on the nearby sandbank at very reasonable prices. (from $ 60-90).
Like everywhere in the inhabited Maldives, Dharavandhoo has a dry law, and if you are bored on alcohol you can book a tour to the nearest resort with all-inclusive plan, including beer and liqueurs.
The locals love to showcase the best of the Maldivian talents, and Dharavandhoo hosts a Maldivian cultural show with local musicians, dancers and singers represent traditional Maldivian entertainment weekly. Guests can enjoy rhythmic singing and rhythms of Bodu Beru - a dance with drums that accompanies this spectacular show. Some guest houses regularly organize night discos and movies on the big screen in high season.
Where to Stay
Today (2019), there are 10 hotels and guest houses including the luxury 4-star Kiha Beach on Dharavandhoo island. Comfortable rooms with soft beds are all equipped with air conditioning, TV, hot shower, many have barbecue facilities, terraces and balconies with sea views. In some hotels you will find the best value for money, as well as helpful and friendly staff, and exceptional service, as for the hotel itself and the organization of a transfer from/to Male, tours and excursions.
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