Think of the Maldives and images of palm-lined islands dotting the Indian Ocean, open-air villas perched on stilts over azure waters and stretches of powder white sand probably spring to mind. But for travellers whose idea of a holiday doesn’t involve endless hours flaked out on a sun lounger, changes in local laws allowing guesthouses to open on inhabited islands mean venturing into the ‘real’ Maldives is now an option.
Secret Paradise, a Maldives-based tour company, is leading this change. Offering small group and private travel experiences, its unique tours aim to encourage travellers to engage with local people in addition to trying out the kinds of activities the coral atolls are renowned for: diving, snorkelling, watersports and sunset safaris.
For a snapshot of authentic Maldivian life, tours include everything from travelling by public ferry and sharing breakfast with a family in their home to taking part in local craft lessons and trying traditional fishing with just a line before barbecuing the catch of the day on the beach. Exchange stories of the Maldives past and present or just kick back on a jolie (traditional seat), dipping toes in the ocean and watching the world go by. Led by an experienced local guide, each tour is designed to help travellers learn more about the Maldives — its culture, beliefs and traditions — through a mix of activities or island-hopping.
Each island guesthouse is handpicked for its balance of comfort, excellent service, local atmosphere and value for money. All the rooms are en suite: some open onto a balcony with ocean views; others are built around a private garden or beach area. Regardless, a warm welcome is assured.
Secret Paradise was born in 2012 when, after 27 years in UK retail management, co-founder Ruth Franklin had the chance to relocate to the archipelago. She was no stranger to the destination, having visited on 30 occasions previously, and her own personal experiences drove the company’s focus of engaging travellers with locals. With Secret Paradise, guests can expect high standards of service and expert local knowledge, alongside unforgettable experiences that leave lasting memories.
Island-hop around the Maldives and embrace local life, trying everything from cooking and craft lessons to traditional fishing
Need to know
• Local guesthouse accommodation
• Expert knowledge and honest advice
• Guided island multi-day tours
• Unique cultural experiences
• Scuba diving and watersports
• Daily excursions
• Private tours and group travel
• Tailor-made itineraries