A girl's guide to The Maldives

A girl’s guide to… The Maldives

If you’re jetting off to the Maldives, chances are you are travelling with your significant other and are either

a) Newly weds on honeymoon
b) Happily married and celebrating a special anniversary
c) filthy rich and head to the Maldives every year, darling!

When I stayed on these beautiful islands, I fell into camp A (although secretly I want to be in camp C!) and must admit that the Maldives always seemed like one of those magical places that was so much of a perfect paradise that it was unattainable for a normal girl like me.

Not so. Here is a girl’s guide to this tropical heaven…

Kuramathi Island Resort, Maldives

Before you go

Go and speak to a few travel agents and ask them to price up some options for you. Different islands cater for different budgets, although this is no budget holiday. We stayed on Kuramathi Island Resort, which is one of the larger islands, and as we found, less expensive (well, less expensive for the Maldives anyway).

You will also want to discuss the type of accommodation you wish to stay in – beach villa? overwater bungalow? garden villa? Staying in an overwater bungalow was something on my Bucket List but not an affordable option for our entire stay, so we booked an overwater bungalow for our first night and then stayed in a beach villa for the remaining duration of our holiday. We were lucky to have the best of both worlds although our friends who went to Kuramathi after us said that this isn’t an option anymore, but perhaps one of the other islands offers it? Go do your research!

Water bungalow on Kuramathi island in the Maldives

What to pack

  • Leave your heels at home! A pair of flipflops for daytime is all you need (and perhaps some pretty sandals for evening) but trust me, you’ll be barefoot in the sand for most of your stay.
  • Bikinis, sarongs, shorts, vests, light summer dresses. You may need to cover up if you leave your island to mingle with the locals but otherwise beachwear is fine.
  • Bring your own toiletries and suncream – to buy on the island is more expensive.
  • Take U.S. dollars. We were told that our island only really dealt with American dollars, but again, if you leave your island you may need to take some Maldivian Rufiyaa with you.

Sunset in the Maldives

Things to remember

  • While we had petals on the bed and a lovely card from our rep, don’t expect constant special treatment just because you are on honeymoon – so is everyone else. Sorry to burst your confetti-filled bubble there!
  • If you use up any toiletries while on holiday, please please take the empty packaging back home with you and dispose of it there. The Maldives cannot cope with excess waste (seriously, google: Thilafushi) so something as small as taking your plastic bottles home with you can make a difference.
  • Go snorkelling – the ocean is beautiful but be mindful of the coral, it’s very fragile.
  • Lastly, as the saying goes “Take only pictures, leave only footprints“.

If you enjoyed this then you might enjoy reading about my favourite things about the Maldives.

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A girl's guide to The Maldives - a brief but handy guide to a paradise honeymoon destination, written by a normal girl!

Hot Water Beach – Tourist Trap or Must See?

Hot Water Beach, New Zealand

Hot Water Beach is one of the most famous beaches in New Zealand. It is often listed as a guide book ‘must-do’ due to the hot water bubbling through the sand, where if you dig in the right spot you can make your own spa pool right there on the beach!

A crowd of tourists digging their own thermal spas on Hot Water Beach in New Zealand
A cluster of people in the hot spot on the beach

Some planning is required when visiting Hot Water Beach as you should aim to visit two hours either side of low tide if you’re wanting to take advantage of this unique attraction. When we arrived at the beach in the morning, armed with some spades we had borrowed from our accommodation, there was already a coach-load of tourists digging and wallowing in one small area of the beach – some were even sipping champagne while soaking themselves in the natural hot springs!

Hot Water Beach - tourist trap or must do?
Jostling for space at the prime digging location

It’s quite an unusual experience BUT you can’t just dig anywhere on the beach and expect glorious hot water to bubble up through. Although the large group of tourists had shown us where we could find the hot water, there didn’t appear to be many hot spots left for us, and when we did find some potential hot spots, the tide came in and filled the hole we’d dug full of cold sea water much quicker than we could dig!

This is the half of Hot Water Beach that isn't full of tourists digging and lolling around in their beach spas.
The other half of the beach was empty!

Eventually, we kind of muscled our way in and got chatting to a group of American tourists who had found a hot spot but weren’t fast enough to create a little sand barrier wall to stop the cold water rushing in. 6 people are better than 2! So we managed to make ourselves a nice little hot water pool but to be honest by this point I was kind of over it.

Dig your own hot spa at this famous beach on The Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand

So is Hot Water Beach a Tourist Trap or a Must Do Experience?

In my opinion, I would edge towards voting it as a tourist trap. Don’t get me wrong, if you want the quirky experience of digging your own sandy spa and wallowing in a bath on the beach, then by all means check out the low tide times, grab a shovel and get digging! However, if you want a pretty and relaxing beach, then try Hahei or Cathedral Cove. And don’t be disappointed if you don’t manage to find a hot spot!

Top Tips

  • Check out the low tide times.
  • Bring a spade. Or hire one from the beach cafe.
  • Take a waterproof bag too.
  • Be careful because the water can be VERY hot.

Have you been to Hot Water Beach? Did you think it was a tourist trap or a must see?

Beautiful Beaches of The Coromandel

Cathedral Cove and Hahei – New Zealand

One of my favourite stops on our New Zealand road trip was in The Coromandel Peninsula on the east coast of the North Island. We stayed in a charming accommodation called The Church in the small settlement of Hahei – the perfect base for soaking up the local beach life.

The Church was one of the nicest accommodations we stayed at during our time in New Zealand as we were on a budget, yet the prices were very reasonable here. We stayed in the Garden Studios which included a private bathroom, basic kitchen facilities such as a fridge, kettle and microwave, as well as a veranda where we could sit and enjoy the beautiful garden right outside.

The Church Accommodation, Hahei, New Zealand. A gorgeous place to stay on The Coromandel Peninsula.
The garden at The Church

Hahei itself was very quiet and pretty but because we were planning our road trip a couple of days in advance, as opposed to 100% winging it, we unfortunately were only able to stay in Hahei for one night, so we didn’t get to enjoy the pristine white sands of Hahei Beach as much as we would have liked. AND I made friends with a dog on that beach!

The picturesque settlement of Hahei in the Coromandel Peninsula of the North Island, New Zealand.
Beautiful Beaches of The Coromandel - the pristine white sands of Hahei Beach.
Hahei Beach

Anyway, we did however visit two of the most well-known tourist spots on The Coromandel – Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.

Cathedral Cove

We visited Cathedral Cove during the late afternoon. We drove to the car park from our accommodation and then took the 45 minute walk from there, taking in the stunning sea views and saying hello to the cows in the field as we passed. On the walk back from the beach I even witnessed (from a respectable distance I might add) two people getting engaged! Awww!

Admiring the view on the walk to Cathedral Cove in New Zealand
The walk to Cathedral Cove

Brown cows in a field on route to Cathedral Cove on The Coromandel in New Zealand

It is sensible to wear trainers or walking shoes on the way there and then change into your flip flops or go barefoot once your feet touch the sand.

We arrived at Cathedral Cove as the sun was setting and the tide was coming in to slowly fill the arch between the two beaches at Cathedral Cove with sea water. We didn’t stay too long as we didn’t want to trek back in the dark but it was really peaceful down there.

The steps down towards Cathedral Cove in New Zealand
The wooden steps heading down to the pretty Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove at sunset
Cathedral Cove at sunset

Beautiful Beaches of The Coromandel - Archway between the beaches at Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Unfortunately there wasn’t a glorious sunset, so no instagram-worthy sunset pictures, but Cathedral Cove is worth the walk regardless. Maybe it was the blue skies and sunshine but Cathedral Cove and Hahei were so pretty it makes me want to cry when I see our beaches back home!

If you’re in the North Island then you must pay a visit to Hahei and linger a little longer than I did. Hahei is around a two and a half hour drive from Auckland.

What’s the prettiest beach you’ve been to? And if you liked this, stay tuned for my post about Hot Water Beach!

Our Sri Lanka adventure: part 1

Sea, Sand and Sri Lankan Surprises

A teardrop shaped island in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a beautiful country of beaches and forests, temples and tea plantations, elephants, monkeys and an assortment of other wildlife. And if that wasn’t enough, it is also home to EIGHT Unesco World Heritage Sites!

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka and you want to soak up a bit of culture rather than just lounge on a beach for your visit, then it’s highly likely that you will be on some sort of organised tour, be it with a small group or a private tour. We decided that we would prefer to mix with some like-minded travellers so opted to do a small group tour consisting of us, 6 other travellers, a guide, an assistant and a driver.

Rather than jumping straight into the tour, we booked ourselves an extra day at the beginning of our holiday, just to get over the jetlag and have a bit of a chill-out before all of the action and sightseeing began. We stayed in the coastal town of Mount Lavinia, at Mount Lavinia Hotel – a British Colonial mansion and one of the oldest and most famous hotels in Sri Lanka.

Mount Lavinia Hotel, Sri Lanka

I had been unwell the day before we flew to Sri Lanka, so when we arrived in the early evening, we ordered room service pizza and watched the thunderstorm from the window. The hotel had kindly provided us with a fruit plate as it was our honeymoon, so it wasn’t all unhealthy!

The next morning I was feeling a lot better and the weather also matched my mood. We pulled back the curtains to find this amazing view…

The view from our room at Mount Lavinia Hotel

Today was going to be a beach and pool day. And the view from the pool area wasn’t bad either!

The view from the pool area at Mount Lavinia Hotel, Sri Lanka

We’d also already met some of the local wildlife in the form of the random squirrels and lizards that roam the hotel grounds.

Sri Lankan lizard on a wall

Sri Lankan squirrel

After lunch we took a walk along the beach, it was very quiet, which was lovely really. Beaches are so much prettier when they aren’t crowded with people. As we continued to walk along we were approached by a local man who was showing us how he was scooping up crabs from the sea, before throwing them back. The next thing we know is we are following him along the beach to see a turtle that had been washed ashore! Not really knowing what to expect we cautiously followed the man down the length of the beach…

Taking a walk down Mount Lavinia Beach in Sri Lanka

Expecting to see one poor lone turtle, we were surprised to discover a little sanctuary, right there on the beach! There were a couple of other locals tending to the turtles and they were showing us the different turtles they had rescued – all different sizes! I just hope they were a legitimate sanctuary, but when you are caught by surprise it’s difficult to research into these things.

Turtle sanctuary in Sri Lanka

Soon after, we headed back to the hotel to sample some Sri Lankan cuisine, before an early night ready to begin our tour the next day…

Stay tuned for part two next Sunday. In the meantime you can follow my adventures on twitter

Paradise in Port Douglas, Queensland

One of the biggest highlights of my trip to Oz was visiting the beauty that is Port Douglas –  a small town in Queensland, around an hours drive from Cairns, and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.

The heart of Port Douglas is Macrossan Street, which is where you will find the majority of shops and restaurants, but the real treasure of this pretty little town is its beautiful Four Mile Beach, a quiet palm tree fringed beach with soft golden sand and just a 5 minute stroll from the main part of town.

Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas

Buried Treasure!
Pretending to bury treasure. I don’t know why!

It was while we were in Port Douglas that we got to mix with a bit of the native fauna in Australia, something I was quite eager to do. We took a day trip to The Rainforest Habitat (or The Wildlife Habitat as it’s now known), an eco tourism award winning centre committed to the conservation of native species via its Wildlife Rescue Program, situated in Port Douglas itself.

It has quite a free roaming environment, allowing you to get close to most of the animals. It was here that I photographed some beautiful birds, including the rainbow lorikeets and I also got to hand-feed wallabies and kangaroos, as well as cuddle a koala!

Rainbow Lorikeet, Port Douglas


Australian birds

Feeding wallabies

Wildlife Habitat, Port Douglas

Feeding the birds at The Wildlife Habitat
My fan club!

mama and baby wallaby

Luckily, not all of the animals were free roaming! There were some pretty scary looking crocs lazing about in their own separate section, I mean, look at the gnashers on that!

Smiling crocodile

The Wildlife Habitat offers presentations so you can learn a little bit more about the animals in its care and as well as an up close encounter with a koala, you can also have your picture taken with a snake or a small crocodile.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day mingling with the marsupials and can’t wait to head back Down Under to meet more of Australia’s furry icons!

If you liked this #ThrowbackThursday post – leave me a comment below!