The topic with many pitfalls and nuances: traveling around Maldives by planes or how to fly on a seaplane and reach a remote atoll. I will tell you everything a tourist needs to know to easily move between islands in this paradise. I may even help you save a lot of money, but no guarantees.
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Table of Contents
Traveling around Maldives by planes: general information
To give you a brief and essential overview:
- The Maldives is an island nation with nearly 1,200 islands.
- Any island with a size of 2 by 2 km is considered a large island.
- The country is elongated from north to south, and all atolls have a length of over 1,000 km. You can find the Maldives on the world map.
- Ferries are available, but they are slow and only operate near the capital. If your hotel or island is 200-300-400 km or more away from Male, you cannot reach it by ferry. Only air travel between islands is available.
It is important to understand:Air travel between islands in the Maldives is not cheap. Often, flights within the Maldives can cost as much as a air ticket to Male.
Another interesting fact is that there are about 1,200 islands in the Maldives, of which only about 300 are inhabited, and there are only 17 conventional airports. It is impossible to reach the other islands by regular plane, but seaplanes can land there without any problems. All they need is a pier, and the plane lands right in the ocean.
Types of air transfers: airplanes and seaplanes
As you may have guessed, there are two types of planes available: regular planes and seaplanes. Let’s take a closer look at both.
Air travel between islands in the Maldives on regular planes:
- The main airport in the country, located in Male, has a runway of over 3000 meters and can accommodate planes of any size.
- Local airports on the islands are much smaller and only small planes carrying 30-60 people can land there. The main fleet consists of twin-engine Dash8 planes, as shown in the photo above.
- The main advantages of this mode of transportation are:
- it is cheaper than seaplanes and faster;
- it is not affected by the time of day or weather conditions. They fly at night and in strong winds.
- The main disadvantage is that you still need to arrange a transfer by speedboat from the local airport to your hotel. This incurs additional costs and takes time. In contrast, a seaplane can land directly at your hotel on any island.
You can find detailed information about all the country’s airports, a map of their locations, duty-free shops, and even the ferry from the Male airport in the article linked below. You can also learn about baggage storage, the airport bank, and where to find the counter for your resort island.
Now let me tell you about flights on a seaplane. Although they are not cheap, they are very popular in the Maldives because they are fast, convenient, and relatively comfortable. You can fly directly to any island in the country without complicated transportation.
10 features of flying a seaplane
So, what can you expect and what do you need to be prepared for before booking such a flight?
- Seaplanes only fly during daylight hours.
- The average flying height is 200-300 meters above the ocean, and the views are simply breathtaking.
- Seaplane capacity ranges from 10 to 25 passengers, depending on the model.
- It’s very noisy, and there’s no sound insulation. Earplugs are provided during the flight.
- Seaplanes are very sensitive to gusts of wind and turbulence. Due to their light weight and size, they are thrown around like feathers in different directions. Flying on them is much scarier than on large Boeings.
To compare feelings:Imagine you’re driving on a good road in a new Mercedes at a speed of, say, 180 km/h. It’s fast and overall comfortable. Now imagine you’ve accelerated to 140 km/h on old Honda Civic. The sensations are completely different, and the feelings of comfort and calm are not so much. Flying on a hydroplane is like flying at 140 km/h on a Honda Civic.
- It’s quite cramped on board, there are no flight attendants, and the cockpit is open for you to see. It’s a very interesting experience 🙂
- There’s no air conditioning system, just a wall or ceiling fan, like in cheap hotels 🙂
- Seaplanes often operate like buses. They make 3-4 stops from Male to the final destination, dropping off or picking up tourists along the way.
- A flight on such a plane is not only fast and convenient, it’s also a cool adventure and an unforgettable experience. If your budget allows it, I highly recommend trying it out for yourself.
Carriers, timetable, prices for flights within the Maldives
Let’s get down to specifics. Where is the best place to book tickets for flights between the islands?
Where can I book tickets and check the schedule for regular flights between islands in the Maldives?
- An excellent network of the national air carrier Maldivian is now available between all 17 airports.
- The official website (for purchasing tickets and checking schedules and prices): https://maldivian.aero
- There are daily flights from Male to all 16 airports.
- Tourists are subject to higher rates. On average, a one-way ticket to the nearest airport starts at $100 per person.
- For destinations that are interesting for tourists, such as Funadhoo Island, which is a 45-minute, 400-kilometer flight from Male, which is almost the northernmost point in the Maldives. A ticket to that destination costs $200 per person for a one-way trip, which is $800 for two people for a round trip. These are only the expenses for inter-island flights, which not everyone can afford. Moreover, tickets for seaplanes are even more expensive.
Now let’s talk about seaplanes. There are three major carriers in the country with a total fleet of over 150 seaplanes. Below are the websites and names of these carriers in decreasing order of routes and fleet:
- Trans Maldivian Airways – the largest seaplane carrier between islands and resorts
- Maldivian – the national carrier mentioned above. The link to their official website was also mentioned earlier.
- And the new player in the market, Manta Air.
All three carriers have a list of resort islands on their websites where they have contracts for transporting tourists. The average price for a ticket on a seaplane shuttle flight is about $250-$350 per person one way. That’s $1000 for two people for a round trip.
It is important to know:The main customers (95%) of these airlines are package tourists. Those who have purchased a package tour with a seaplane transfer to the hotel. If this applies to you, all you need to do is find the counter of your airline at Male airport and then enjoy your trip. Booking tickets, payment, coordinating the time and route, everything will be done for you at the hotel.
Last year, a new hydro terminal was opened for these companies at the main Male airport.
Here is a list of cool resorts where seaplanes definitely fly to and where the hotel organizes everything for you at the highest level (click the links for reviews of these resorts, prices, and where to book a tour):
- Soneva Fushi (one of the best hotels in the Maldives)
- Sun Siam
All about individual transfers by seaplane
There are some resorts where there are no regular scheduled flights, or perhaps none of the available times from the airlines suit you. If you are willing to pay, you can charter a seaplane exclusively for you and your party to any island at any time during daylight hours. Seaplanes do not fly at night, even for money :).
To do this, simply leave a request via the feedback form on the website, and they will make you a price offer. If everything suits you, you pay and the seaplane will be waiting for you at the designated time and place.
Tip:But the easiest, most sensible, and least labor-intensive way is to go through your hotel. In all hotels, the procedure for arranging private transfers has been honed, and they have certain discounts and agreements with airlines. Therefore, it is easiest to communicate through them. Everyone does it that way.
But this applies more to travelers who are flying to a luxurious all-inclusive 5-star hotel, where the tour price is from $7,000-$10,000. To find such tours and what to look for, read the link.
In conclusion, traveling around Maldives by planes is not the easiest topic. But to put it briefly: planes fly from Male, they fly often, tickets are expensive and very expensive. So it may turn out that transfers between islands by plane and seaplane will cost you more than the main airline tickets, but that is the reality of the Maldives.
If you want cheap transfers from Male airport to your hotel, look for islands closer to Male, within 100km. And if you have purchased a package tour where such a transfer is already included in the price, relax and enjoy, everything will be done for you at the hotel.
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to the Maldives