When I started planning my holiday to the Maldives I knew that there were two main factors of importance for me –
1. I wanted to see the local side of the island and participate in as much community-based tourism as possible, &,
2. I wanted to learn about ecotourism in the region and environmental initiatives helping to preserve the natural beauty of these islands.
So, naturally, when I found out that the Maldives had an eco-friendly local island I was quick to jump on the opportunity to head there.
Ukulhas is a small island located in the Alif Alif Atoll (an Atoll is a collective group of islands) with a population of a little over 1000 people and can be reached by local boat or speedboat from the capital Male.
I learned that in 2014 Ukulhas achieved a Green Leaf award for its outstanding services on protecting and preserving the island’s environment. (Eco tick of approval #1)
Public Ferry from Male: Villigili Ferry Terminal | Duration: 4 hours | Cost: $3.50USD pp | Time: Mondays & Thursdays (depart at 9:00 am)
Speedboat from Male Harbor: Jetty No: 06 | Duration: 90 minutes | Cost: $50USD pp | Time: Daily at 09:30 am and 16:00pm
My first impressions of the island were that it felt untouched. There were no flashy hotels, no tall buildings or construction sites, just the feel of the laid-back Maldivian local life I had come to absorb during my travels. Hopping off the speedboat I was welcomed by Ukulhas Inn in a petite red vehicle, what would have to be one of the smallest “cars” I’ve ever ridden in. With the island spanning a mere 1 square kilometre, the need for motor vehicles is almost redundant. (Eco tick of approval #2)
We drove through the sandy laneways, about 3 blocks to the guesthouse. Colourful houses line the streets, inconspicuous guesthouses amongst them. The scenery was noticeably clean compared to the main island of Hulhumale. Unfortunately, excess development comes with detriment to the natural environment, a topic I wish to explore later on when I visit one of the more developed islands. For now, I take the tranquil energy of this sleepy town.
I chose Ukulhas Inn because of their partnership with ecotourism company Secret Paradise Maldives and was pleasantly surprised to learn about their commitment to plastic reduction (This was the first hotel I had stayed that didn’t give me some sort of single-use plastic item on arrival – Eco tick of approval 3).
Did you know? Tourism has only been open to local islands in the Maldives since 2011. Ukulhas opened to tourists in 2012.
Use this link to receive $20 AUD off your booking at Ukulhas Inn – https://www.booking.com/s/21_8/7438bbf8
My first day on Ukulhas was a day to explore this green island and to get my bearings. There are two tourist beaches located on the island, within less than 3 minutes walking distance from most guesthouses. Tourists beaches and local beaches are separate in the Maldives as it is an Islamic country and customs are to be respected.
As I headed down to the beach on my first day and the ocean came into my view a voice in my head said: “this is the Maldives”. The postcard images I had seen online was what was right before my eyes. I was in paradise.
When to go
During my stay (October 2018) the whole island was peaceful and quiet. Many mornings I would have the whole beach to myself, and even in the afternoons, there were just a few tourists.
The peak seasons are from November to April, with another small peak during August. There is not necessarily a change in seasons, as the island maintains an average temperature of 29 all year round. Even the rainy season can be quite sporadic and severe storms are very rare.
I spent the afternoon taking it all in. Grabbed a snorkel from the guesthouse and had a peek at the in-house reefs. The island is surrounded by reef, and while the reef clearly showed signs of damage (caused by a combination of tourism and coral bleaching) there was still an abundance of fish, including almost all of our favourite friends from Finding Nemo.
After snorkelling, I took a long walk along the beach to watch the sunset. Ukhulas boasts an incredible, uninterrupted sunset from the western side of the island. You can sit and relax and watch as the many hermit crabs make patterns in the sand.
After sunset, however, the town sleeps, with only a few restaurant options for dinner aside from the guesthouses. I chose to catch some shut-eye for my big day in the morning – Swimming with Manta Rays!
Where to eat
Most guesthouses have dinner options but if you’d like to eat out there are a few choices as well.
Sea La Vie: Thai & Local food. | Try: A Thai Curry
Olhumathi Restaurant: Local & International food | Try: The Chilli Octopus
I spent a total of 3 nights on Ukulhas which I felt was a decent amount of time, it really is a relaxing island so aside from snorkelling, swimming or lazing around on the beach there is not much else to do.
In the afternoon on my last day, I had the chance to interview the council to talk about the island’s sustainability methods and winning the Green Leaf award back in 2014. I met with Shaukath Ibrahim, the council president and we spent the afternoon discussing the environmental initiatives that have seen Ukulhas lead the way in waste management here in the Maldives. It was wonderful to see that this movement had stemmed from a desire to preserve this natural environment and it clearly shone through when seeing how well preserved the island was.
Transport to Ukulhas: $50USD
Accommodation: $75USD per night | Double room
Food: Average cost for a meal $10USD
Drinks: Average cost for a juice $2USD
Manta Rays Excursion: $70USD
Have you been to Ukulhas? Or do you have any questions about travelling there? Please leave comments in the section below or contact me on social media.