The Maldives: Your next remote working destination?

Posted on 10 February 2021

The Maldives takes the tropical island paradise concept to its ultimate conclusion. We bring you a sample of three of heaven’s offerings.

Meeru waterfront: more tropical island cliches than you can handle? ‘Never too many,’ I hear you shout.

With more people than ever working remotely nowadays, your office is where you want it to be. The new buzzword for 2021 is ‘workcation’, blending business and leisure like never before.

One couple from Canada, Neal van Beers and his partner, Charmaine Sanchez looked into this trend when they decided to seek warmer waters during the unforgiving Canadian winter.

Here, they live a laid-back lifestyle of business and leisure, snorkelling and suntanning between virtual meetings.

On more of a vacation style trip Justin Fox went to see what all the fuss around the Maldives is about:

Words & Photos by Justin Fox

From my Emirates porthole, I watched the first islands drifting in and out of wispy clouds beneath us: emerald eyes set in a dark sea. Down we glided, over lime-green shallows, reefs, the white wakes of motorboats. Suddenly sea became land as wheels thudded on tarmac: we’d landed in Malé, capital of the Maldives.

I had come to the islands with a group of South African journalists as a guest of Maldives Tourism during those strange weeks just before lockdown. ‘Hello, doll!’ a voice called across the arrival’s hall. It was old friend Allison Foat, former Capab prima ballerina and about as fun a fellow traveller as you could wish for on an island adventure.

Inter-island hops are by speedboat or (thrillingly) by Twin Otter floatplane.

Our group gathered, introductions were made. Then, as in Venice, we stepped out of the terminal straight into a water taxi. Along the quayside stood groups of pale tourists, hot off the plane from the wintery north: British honeymooners, a loud posse of Spaniards and tall Scandi families. Like moulting insects, their woollies and coats morphed into straw hats, skimpy dresses and sandals.

The boat engines roared and we raced out past a line of palm-fringed atolls. Within an hour, Meerufenfushi Island hove into view. Our taxi slid into its harbour and tied up behind a graceful two-masted ketch.

Goeie môre, almal, welcome to paradise!’ said manager Nadine Kruger – from Pretoria and all charm. ‘Meeru opened in 1976,’ she said as she led us to our rooms. ‘It’s one of the oldest and best-loved resorts in the Maldives. Each resort sits on its own island, only one per island. They’re like little republics.’

Our villas were dotted among the palms, each with an indoor/outdoor bathroom, spa bath and air conditioning to counter the intense heat. I pulled on a bathing costume and joined the others on the beach where, true to the postcards, a lone palm tree with coiffed fronds leaned over the water, a swing dangling from its bendy trunk. I looked for litter and there was none. I looked for clichés and they were everywhere.

Couples ambled by, some flagrantly honeymooning. Others were lounging in hammocks, swinging back and forth in couples’ swings, strolling along the waterline hand in hand or posing next to the cut-out letters that spelled ‘love’ on the sand.

Dhiffushi, Meeru’s sister island across the channel, is inhabited by locals who also embrace island-style chilling.

Although we weren’t staying in the Water Villas, we wanted to shoot them for our various magazines (and for Facebook/Instagram bragging). The interiors were impossibly plush and each had a staircase from the bedroom down to the water. Journalist Noxolo Mafu was wearing just the right outfit – a white summer frock, big straw hat and trendy sunglasses. With long dreadlocks, high cheekbones and a gorgeous smile, Nox was the perfect model, and she posed for me with good humour.

Top-end accommodation in most Maldivian resorts is the water bungalows – these are on Meeru.

Later, Nadine took us on an island tour, showing us the Duniye Spa (anyone for a coconut-milk hair mask or pinotage body polish?), Asian Wok Restaurant, golf driving range, tennis courts and dive centre. The island also has plantations providing fresh greens for Meeru’s restaurants, and a desalination plant.

‘Site inspection’ done, we boarded a speedboat and crossed the channel to visit neighbouring Dhiffushi, the easternmost island in the Maldives. Many resorts have just such handy adjacent isles where staff and locals reside.

‘About a thousand people live on Dhiffushi and it’s less than a kilometre long,’ said our walkabout guide Hassan Nazeeh, leading us through the narrow lanes. ‘Apart from those working in tourism, it’s mostly fishermen here.’

Playing castaway on a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ sandspit a short boat trip from Meeru.

Children played in the sand streets, women wove palm-frond mats on verandas. Gardens overflowed with frangipani, coconut palm, papaya, breadfruit, mango and pomegranate. We passed a handful of guesthouses and a mosque with a spindly minaret. I was struck by the silence. ‘Yes, here it’s totally peaceful,’ said Hassan. ‘No dogs, no alcohol, very few cars. It’s a quiet life but we love it like that.’

The following day was all activity. Most of our group opted for kayaking, Keith Bain lay in the sun with a hat over his face, and I went windsurfing. Cleaving out towards the reef in a fluky northeaster, my board slid over coral bommies and shoals of colourful fish. The water and air were tropical balmy and the sailing delightfully soporific.

Next, we boarded a large motorboat and set off for a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ sandbank cruise. The enormous lagoon was dotted with isles, its eastern horizon a line of surf breaking on the atoll’s outer reef and beyond it, the Laccadive Sea.

Wallow your way to the pool bar for delicious lime daiquiris at Adaaran Meedhupparu.

We sidled up to a banana of white sand and dropped anchor. Our team donned masks, snorkels and fins and tipped over the stern into a throng of tropical dandies – parrot fish, Moorish idols, surgeon fish, snappers, butterfly fish.

Our next resort destination, reached by water taxi, was Adaaran Club Rannalhi, a much smaller island that lies southwest of Malé in South Malé Atoll. The foliage here is lush, the beaches small and intimate. Most of its villas are double storey with a hint of the vernacular in the form of colonnades and palm-frond roofs.

After a lazy afternoon on the beach, we headed for sundowners at the waterside bar. Parrot and bat fish cruised between the stilts below us while a grey heron stood on a table scanning the water for supper. A juvenile black-tip reef shark glided by. Too big. Then a nurse shark. Way too big. The sun slid towards the water bungalows and turned scarlet. Supper arrived in the shape of platters of crayfish, prawns, salmon and tuna.

Sublime sunset views from the bar at Adaaran Club Rannalhi.

The landing felt like a controlled crash: a loud thud, a water detonation, then spray drenching the fuselage. We bounced over uneven water and sidled up to a jetty.

The showpiece of this resort was, once again, the gorgeous water bungalows – large white villas on stilts linked by a semi-circular jetty. Within the water-villa compound there was a swanky private restaurant, swimming pool, bar and a lovely garden.

I had one of the best snorkels of my life here, on the house reef, along the edge of a coral garden thronging with colourful reef beauties as well as several sleek pelagics roaming the big blue beyond.

Grey herons scan the water for supper at the bar at Adaaran Club Rannalhi – this juvenile black-tip reef shark was too much of a mouthful.

By now, there was a vaguely Titanic feeling about our trip. If Covid-19 predictions were to be believed, this could be our last assignment for a very long time. ‘Best make hay, darlings!’ said Allison. So we did – whiling away the time remaining beside the pool or bobbing to the bar in its midst for delicious lime daiquiris. The French honeymooners grew increasingly porno in the shallow end.

Alas, it was time to exchange paradise for flight connections via a Dubai Airport in the initial throes of the coronavirus. We had our last swims, packed and gathered on the jetty to catch our airborne airport shuttle.

Water Villas, Adaaran Meedhupparu.

The Otter took off into the westering sun, banked over Meedhupparu and headed south. Staring at the passing atolls I was thinking about the tropical island fantasy and how, in the Maldives, it’s been perfectly tailored for the middle-class, long-haul tourist. It’s a packaged escape from the metropolis, catering for your every need and ticking every cliché box. The islands are manicured, the paths raked, the buffets are scrumptious, there are no snakes or dangerous animals, no crime, no traffic and there’s always entertainment on tap.

They offer a particular brand of 21st-century heaven, with free Wi-Fi, Instagrammable locations (some of them marked as such), spa baths, hammocks, all-you-can-eat-and-drink packages, spa treatments and endless pampering. If you want to remove every ounce of travel hassle and float in a dreamy bubble of post-Covid tropical-island bliss plucked straight from a Mainstay or Bacardi advert, a Maldivian resort is just the place.

Trip Planner

Getting There
Check specials but probably the cheapest and quickest flights to the Maldives are with Qatar via Doha, from around R13 800 return.

The best way to travel to the Maldives is by way of all-inclusive packages with flights. Contact your travel agent or check out the resort websites below for discounted deals for 2021. Seven-night Meeru packages from R27 360 pp sharing.

Meeru Hammock

Stay Here
Meeru Island Resort & Spa offers a vast array of activities, spa treatments, excursions and dining options (the curries and desserts are to die for). Try scuba diving (fabulous), perfect your golf swing, play tennis, rent a bicycle or kayak around the turquoise lagoon. Accommodation options start from $524 (R8 000) pp a night sharing full board.

Adaaran Club Rannalhi offers pristine beaches, good scuba diving and a relaxed environment with easy access to Malé. There’s a range of water sports, fishing, a spa and excursions to nearby islands. Accommodation starts from $230 (R3 795) pp a night sharing all-inclusive with speedboat transfers.

Water Villa interior, Adaaran Meedhupparu.

Adaaran Select Meedhupparu is a luxury resort with a wide range of fine accommodation. There are land and water sports, an excellent spa as well as excursions to local islands. Meedhupparu has good windsurfing, fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving. Rates start from R5 138 pp a night sharing all-inclusive for a double beach villa and transfers.

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