Backpacking Tips, Maldives, Solo Backpacking, Travel hacks

Exotic Maldives – Not just for the luxury traveler

The crystal waters of the Maldives beckon many a traveler, but this stunning archipelago also gives the impression of a luxury travel destination. Not any more. A small island located in the southernmost tip of Maldives will just steal your heart! It’s a backpacker’s paradise.

Lagoon around Gan island

While immersing in the local culture, cuisine and the mesmerizing underwater world teeming with exotic marine life, you will also get a glimpse of history on Gan Island of Addu Atoll. The island was an important British air and naval base during World War II. You can see perfectly preserved barracks converted into a tourist resort with the old hospital serving as a diving centre.

British war memorial (PC: David Stanley)

Gan island is easily accessible by flight from Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Male. It is  connected to its neighbours – Feydhoo, Maradhoo and Hithadoo – by road with the help of a series of picturesque causeways. Bicycles are the best mode of transportation for exploring these pristine islands of Addu Atoll.

There are plenty of charming boutique resorts dotting the shoreline. Quite affordable too! These cabin style resorts are small, but well-maintained, and no less in comfort compared to the luxury hotels and resorts on other islands in this island country. Although Gan is an all-year-round destination, the best time for water activities like snorkeling and scuba diving is from December to March when the weather is dry and pleasant. The wet season of May through August witnesses heavy rains, but these don’t last long and you’ll find sunny days too. However, due to heavy winds and water current, water activities could get affected.

Interestingly, Addu Atoll is known to be the only reef in the country where manta rays with over five meters of wingspan exist. You will also encounter sharks, turtles and eagle rays all year round. But, that’s not all! Even as a beginner, you can enjoy a safe dive at the country’s biggest shipwreck site near Gan. ‘British Loyalty’ was an oil tanker that used to supply Gan during WWII. Torpedoed in 1944 by a German submarine, it sits at a depth of 33 metres, lying on its port-side. If you love diving, this is definitely the place to be as there is no current and excellent visibility!

Needless to say, snorkeling in the reef is a delightful experience. You can simply step into the water outside your resort and a whole new world will open up underwater. Do not forget to wear fins or water shoes as the lagoon bed has plenty of jagged rocks and sea urchins. If you are a bit more adventurous, head out to the ocean on a speedboat late in the afternoon to spot some playful spinner dolphins. They will follow your boat and entertain you with their antics!

The hospitality of the islanders is what makes Gan island all the more appealing. When you want to take a break from discovering the secrets of life underwater, head to the coffee shops and surrender yourself to the friendly hosts. They have so many stories to tell of the bygone era! What’s more, you will also get a dose of the country’s current affairs and local politics. They have no inhibitions whatsoever in pouring their hearts out!

Souvenir shopping may be a bit challenging though as the island is just warming up to tourists. However, the couple of shops that are mindful of a traveler’s penchant for keepsakes have plenty to offer. You can take your pick from a wide array of quaint artwork on dried coconuts shells and brightly coloured coconut and sea shells deftly crafted in animal shapes. There are elaborate driftwood carvings too to adorn your mantelpiece back home.

Budget-friendly Gan promises to keep you captivated. The joys of simple island life will rejuvenate your mind and body, leaving you relaxed and blissful. A worthy destination for both long (up to 12 days) as well as short (3-5 days) stays.

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