It’s been a little over a year now that we’ve all been (mostly) at home. But as things begin to open up, we’re all starting to get itchy feet. Flights are up and destinations are gradually re-opening. People who travel for a living are slowly returning to their (dope ass) jobs.
So it goes for travel influencer and avid surfer Nathan Fluellen. “Worldwide Nate” just spent his birthday in the Maldives (Soneva Jani, to be exact) where he got to disconnect from the outside world and connect with his inner self while sliding down a waterslide into the Indian Ocean from the top of a two-story villa.
As of right now, the Maldives are accepting all travelers who arrive with a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 96 hours of their arrival to the islands. But testing requirements are a small price to pay in order to 1) not get people sick, and 2) get to cruise down that aforementioned waterslide.
“To be able to get on a plane to go to the Maldives, you have to take a PCR test and get a negative test result,” Nathan tells us over the phone. “Then when I got to the property the doctor came, administered another PCR test, and I quarantined in my villa while I was waiting for my results. After that though, you get to walk around maskless. It felt so foreign. It was refreshing to have a taste of the pre-covid experience in that way.”
While it’s crucial that every traveler makes their own decisions about Covid travel and many destinations are still under full lockdown, it’s never the wrong time for a little travel inspiration. So we asked Nate to share his guide to the Maldives, below.
What’s your favorite surf spot in the Maldives?
The best surf breaks are probably at a property called the Soneva Fushi. I stayed at a sister property called Soneva Jani and went to a surf break that was about a 20-minute boat ride from the island. I surfed a left reef break, the way the islands are set up is the resorts occupy an entire atoll, my atoll was in what’s considered the North Atoll.
What I like about surfing the Soneva Jani though, is that they have an eco-friendly surf program and all of their boards are made from recycled material.
What is your favorite beach in the Maldives?
The North Side of Medhufaru Island
My favorite beach is on the North Side of Medhufaru Island. That’s where we had a bbq dinner for my birthday. They cook right on the beach, there is no pollution out there so you just see entire constellations sparkling against the sky. It’s pretty amazing to experience eating a three-course dinner on the beach with nothing but some lanterns surrounding you.
At the resort I stayed at, it was much more about the over-water experience. Staying at an over-water villa was great, I could just walk out onto my deck and walk down a ladder into the water. During low tide, the water would come as high as my calf, so I could just walk about 100 yards out from in front of my villa and walk to these different sandbanks. Then during high tide, you can use the water slide. You just walk to the second floor and slide into the ocean.
Describe the perfect day in the Maldives
Morning — Yoga
Biking on the island was awesome. I would ride the bike to a morning yoga session, it would only be me and three other people, so you have the instructor directly adjusting your posture, it was definitely one of the best yoga practices I’ve ever had.
Late Afternoon — Cinema Paradiso
After my morning yoga session, I would bike to an overwater cinema, Cinema Paradiso. It has a Japanese restaurant with a big movie theater screen that sits over the water, and you get to watch the movie with blue tooth headphones. They do that so the speaker system doesn’t disturb the wildlife on the island.
All those eco-conscious details, I really appreciated.
Dinner — The Crab Shack
After, jump on your bike and hit The Crab Shack. They have these different Maldivian-style dishes with different crab options. I had a curry style crab, a spicy crab, and they had some broccoli that accompanied it that had all these flavors. You’re sitting there and the ground is the beach, you can walk 10 yards from your table and put your feet in the water, and then walk back and eat.
What would you consider the hidden gem of the Maldives?
Island leisure life
There is a soccer field in the middle of Medhufaru Island that the Soneva Jani staff uses at night after their shifts. It’s not advertised, not really for the guests, but it was cool to see the staff just having an after-work soccer match. It was equivalent to watching a good park basketball game, for that part of the world soccer is huge. It was refreshing to see, you’re always getting the smiles and five-star service, which is bar none, but then you see them cutting loose and being real.
It’s a cool vibe. I keep telling people that the island is like my happy place.
How should someone best prepare for a trip to the Maldives?
Break Up The Trip
Fly through the Middle East to get there. I would suggest people stopover in Dubai or if they’re flying Emirates, Qatar, or Abu Dhabi. Spend two or three nights there to break up the trip and get acclimated to the jet lag. Then you get to see the Middle East and the Maldives, you get a two-for-one experience.
I spent three nights in Dubai and four nights in the Maldives, but I was able to enjoy my time because I wasn’t spending getting acclimated to the jet lag. If you flew through Europe you could break up the trip that way, but my suggestion is the Middle East because it’s the same time zone.
From Dubai to the Maldivian capital Malé it’s just a four-hour flight.
What’s the first thing people should do when they land?
Well, with the quarantine you’re gonna spend the first night completely in the resort. I’d say, really enjoy that first night, let yourself be a little kid. Run around, enjoy those amenities, unpack, unwind. And then when you go out and about, enjoy everything you can about the island, don’t worry about how little time you’re spending in your nice luxury villa.
Take the earliest flight you can, I took the 4:30 am flight, we landed in Mali at 9:35, we got to Soneva at about 11, then got our Covid results around 8:00 pm.
What’s the best way to witness the beauty of the island?
If you’re visiting Soneva Jani there are a bunch of pathways that you can take to get from one side of Medhufaru Island to the other. What you do is transition from overwater villas to white sand beaches into this jungle area. You can ride your bike, or you could walk to the other side of the island. Just get lost and adventure through, it’s almost like being in two different environments on a single island.
Then they have a huge crab population, they don’t eat those crabs but there is a lot of natural wildlife on the island. They come out at night, it’s really interesting to see. Just go have a jungle adventure.
What kind of food should people expect to find?
Anything and Everything
It’s a universal menu. For breakfast, you get all the stuff you’re used to, plus a Maldivian take on breakfast. But I was just having pancakes, eggs, sausages, all the different meats, and pastries. They have a 24hr ice cream and chocolate room. All these different flavors of ice cream to partake in, so the menu isn’t limited.
The sort of resorts you see in the Maldives, which aren’t cheap, are set up to cater to a wide range of diets.
What is one thing someone visiting the Maldives has to experience?
So Starstruck has this elevated dining room, it’s about two stories in the sky. They have dinner at night, in between your meals they have an astronomer who leads you through a presentation about the constellations. He shows you Orion’s belt, the brightest start, different planets. They have this telescope that rises from a tower in the ground and then you can look at the stars up close and he points out all the different sites.
What was your favorite thing about visiting the Maldives?
Being Off Grid
The resort I stayed at’s motto was “No shoes, no news.” When you arrive they take your shoes and put them in a shoe bag and encourage you to walk around barefoot and not pay attention to the news. Fully immerse yourself in the experience of being on the island. They have TVs, but it’s all movies, no CNN or BBC or local news, they really want you to forget about the world you came from and focus on being here in this special space. I love that