The stunning local island of Ukulhas in the Maldives has numerous advantages. I can confidently recommend it for your vacation as you will find a magnificent beach, a vibrant house reef with turtles, and encounters with sharks and other marine life. Read on for a detailed and beneficial review of Ukulhas Island.
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Table of Contents
Pros and Cons of Ukulhas Island
In reality, there are hardly any cons to Ukulhas Island, but let’s begin with the pros:
- Relatively easy, inexpensive, and fast to reach from Male.
- A vast and fantastic bikini beach stretching approximately 1 km. Not many local islands offer such a great beach for tourists.
- A living house reef, and most importantly, it is close to the shore. You can easily swim to it from the beach without having to travel to a neighboring atoll, 50 km away, to encounter sharks, manta rays, or turtles. All of these are within a radius of 5 km from the island. The turtles even reside in the house reef.
- The island has excellent infrastructure, with all necessary amenities such as shops, souvenir stores, diving centers, hospitals, cafes and restaurants, and even a gym. The locals have a school, a stadium, a police station, and a mosque. Overall, it is a highly developed village by local standards.
- The island is quite verdant, with a lot of accommodation options right amidst the palms and jungle. Almost all housing options are on the first line. Although no one has a sea view, it usually takes only 50 meters to reach the beach.
The only drawback to Ukulhas is that it is slightly more expensive than other budget and popular local islands. Accommodation and restaurant prices are higher, and excursions are on average $10-20 more expensive. I will discuss prices further in the article to give you a better understanding of the price difference.
Interesting to know:In my opinion, Ukulhas is more expensive than other local islands because most of the tourists here are from Europe, with many Italians, as well as citizens from Eastern Europe such as Poles, Serbs, and Bulgarians.
For example, on Ukulhas, roughly 80% of tourists are from Europe, while on the neighboring island of Thoddoo, 80% are Russian. Both islands are beautiful, but it’s an interesting observation.
Also, I want to point out that when I say Ukulhas is more expensive, it doesn’t mean it’s expensive. There are local islands where prices are even higher, like the paradise island of Thinadhoo, which is like a private resort. On Ukulhas, prices are about 20% higher than on the most budget-friendly islands, such as Maafushi.
Ukulhas Island: General Information
Here’s some summary information about the island:
- Ukulhas Island on the map and coordinates, so you understand how far it is from Male: 4.215130, 72.864413
- The island’s dimensions are 1800 meters by 250 meters, which are the most standard sizes. Most local islands are approximately the same size.
- The population is 900 people, which is also a standard indicator.
- The distance from Male and the airport is 69 km.
Ukulhas Island is located in the North Ari Atoll, also known as Alif Alif Atoll. The central island of this atoll is Rasdhoo (marked on the map above). All state ferries from Male go through Rasdhoo.
- The island is often called Ukulhas, but the letter “h” is usually not pronounced in the Dhivehi language. Therefore, it’s correct to say “Ukulas”.
Interesting to know:In official sources or ferry schedules, you may come across the name AA.Ukulhas, don’t be alarmed, it’s its full name. The first letters AA indicate the atoll where the island is located, in this case, Alif Alif. Since there are 24 atolls and almost 1200 islands with many islands having the same name, this method helps avoid confusion.
How to get there: ferry and speedboat
There are two ways to get to Ukulhas today: slowly and inexpensively on the public ferry, or quickly and expensively on a private speedboat.
Let’s start with the ferry and everything you need to know:
- The ferry departs from Male here: 4.1778933454409435, 73.51715264607135
- The ticket costs $4. You don’t need to buy it in advance, you can buy it directly on the ferry or at the ticket office inside ferry terminal.
- Travel time is about 4-5 hours.
- Route number 303 AA.THODDOO – MALE.
- The ferry runs twice a week:
- Male to Ukulhas: Monday and Thursday. Departure at 9:00 am, arrival at 1:05 pm. If the weather is bad, there may be a delay of up to an hour.
- Ukulhas to Male: Wednesday and Sunday, departure at 9:45 am and arrival in the capital at 2:10 pm.
- A useful article about public ferries in the Maldives, how often they are cancelled, what the peculiarities are, how much they rock, where to see the current schedule online, and how to read it :).
Speedboats are much easier, which is why they are the most convenient and popular transport between Male and Ukulhas. Here’s what you need to know:
- Two daily trips in both directions, with one trip on Friday because it is a public holiday.
- Male to Ukulhas: at 9:30 or 10:30 am depending on the day of the week, and another trip at 4:00 pm.
- Ukulhas to Male: at 7:00 am and 2:00 pm.
- Ticket price: $40-60 one way. Always buy tickets in advance, there may not be any available on site, and the carrier needs to know that you need to be picked up.
- Travel time: 90 minutes. The speedboat goes directly to Ukulhas without stopping at Rasdhoo.
- The main carrier on this route is the OdiApp service. Links on where to look for and buy tickets can be found in the article: speedboat transfers between islands.
Accommodation and Dining: Features
It’s quite simple. The main type of accommodation on all the local islands are guesthouses. On Ukulhas, there are already over 40 of them. To put it simply, they are just like regular hotel rooms with a large bed, air conditioning, refrigerator, and a separate bathroom. There may or may not be a shared kitchen, but there are no private kitchens anywhere in the Maldives.
The unique feature of any accommodation on Ukulhas is that it is very close to the beach. Since the island is very elongated, the bikini beach is over a kilometer long, and almost all tourist accommodations are located in this part of the island. So, no matter where you stay, you’re only 50-150 meters away from the beach at most. There are many places to stay where the beach starts right on the guesthouse’s property.
- The largest selection of guesthouses and hotels on Ukulhas can be found on Booking, a website that is convenient for any travelers.
- When I mentioned prices earlier, this is what I meant. On budget local islands, the average price for accommodation ranges from $50 to $100 per night. Accommodation on Ukulhas is a little more expensive. Prices usually start at $60-$70 per night.
- Keep in mind that breakfast is usually included in the price almost everywhere.
There are no problems with dining either. Firstly, almost every hotel or guesthouse has a cafe/restaurant. Secondly, there are already over 10 local restaurants on the island. You won’t go hungry. There are no expensive restaurants here, and prices are standard: dinner for two with a large grilled fish can easily be less than $30.
The article in the link covers everything about Maldivian cuisine, payment methods, taxes on the receipt, tips, and of course, what to try for tourists.
The beach of Ukulhas island: sharks, turtles, manta rays, bioluminescent plankton
Important:For those who have read about the Maldives, it’s known that tourists can only swim in open swimwear in special designated areas called “bikini beaches” on local islands. More general facts about the Maldives can be found here.
There are many islands where the bikini beaches are very small and overcrowded, but the beach on Ukulhas is just amazing with its fine white sand stretching over a kilometer long, free loungers, and plenty of shade. There is enough space for everyone.
- Coordinates of the center of the bikini beach: 4.211629826545715, 72.86639133292792
During low tide, you can walk along the water’s edge on this beach. During high tide, the water rises up to the greenery, and in some places, it may not be possible to pass. There is a magnificent sandy spit near the southern part of the island.
In the photo above, you can see the end of the reef very close to the bikini beach and the sand bank (1). The best snorkeling is always near the drop off where the reef ends and the ocean begins. At Ukulhas, it only takes 1-2 minutes to swim to this boundary.
A few more comments on the photo above:
- 2 – there are turtles living here, and you can often see 2 or 3 in one place. Take your mask, fins, and go snorkeling. If you swim directly at the boundary of the reef and the ocean, you may even encounter reef sharks. They are not dangerous, and there is no need to fear them. At dawn, around 6 am, manta rays swim here, but they are deep-water creatures, and it’s lucky to see them in shallow water. Usually, a separate excursion is required to see mantas.
- 3 – a point in the port at the corner of the pier, where you should come every evening at sunset. Nurse sharks come here, and local fishermen feed them fish heads. Come here right after 5 pm.
Many locals keep huge macaws as pets, and in the evening they sometimes gather in the area around number 4 to let these beauties fly and socialize with each other.
Of course, all these activities – turtles, snorkeling, feeding sharks in the harbor, and macaws – are free.
Everything about snorkeling in the Maldives: what to wear, why the rescue buoy is important, who you might meet, and much more in the article linked below.
It is important to remember thatthis is all a living reef and wild nature, not a zoo. No one should be touched, let alone fed bread from the restaurant. Mantas and turtles can get seriously ill from it. Swim nearby and admire.
There is also a rare phenomenon of luminous plankton observed on Ukulhas. Unfortunately, the island is not very fortunate in this regard, as the plankton is usually carried by currents from the northeast, where there is a port and a dump. Therefore, there is not a lot of glowing plankton on the island, but it does exist and we have seen it personally. There is much more of it on neighboring Rasdhoo and Thoddoo. Here are two tips for you:
- When you check-in at your guesthouse, ask where you can find luminous plankton. They will know for sure, as it depends heavily on the season, weather, moon, and so on. Say the magic words “Luminous plankton” – it’s not a spell from Harry Potter books, it’s just how the locals refer to this natural wonder.
- Also, don’t stay at home; walk along the beach every day between 8 pm and 10 pm. This is the best time when the plankton shines the brightest. This phenomenon is quite rare, and even during high season, it may not be visible every day.
- Check out this comprehensive and informative article on when and where to find bioluminescent plankton in the Maldives.
Excursions and activities
If you didn’t encounter anyone on the reef, don’t worry – all of these inhabitants can be found at spots within a radius of 5-10km from Ukulhas. You can easily join any tour or activity with them. Here’s what you need to know:
- If you’re looking for a tour or any activity in the Maldives, you need to go to a diving center. They are the main organizers of your water-based entertainment.
- Today, there are already three or even four diving centers on Ukulhas. Walk around – there are four streets on the island – and find out what each one offers. While the basic set of tours is the same, each center has its own perks and peculiarities.
Overall, you can count on great activities and tours on Ukulhas:
- Snorkeling safari. There are plenty of reefs around Ukulhas, and each diving center takes you to its own. The program usually lasts for two hours, and prices start from $20. You can guarantee meeting turtles, and some options include food (at a higher price).
- Sand Bank – this is what they call the sandbar or uninhabited island of Fushifaru, which is 2km from Ukulhas. You can take a picnic and get some great photos there. Prices start from $30.
- Manta Ray – snorkeling with manta rays. There is a manta point just 5km from Ukulhas, and if you’re lucky, you can meet 20-30 individuals. The tour usually takes place early in the morning, as the mantas go deep during the day. Prices start from $30.
- Whale Shark – snorkeling with whale sharks starts from $50, but such excursions usually cost around $100. At the house reef and in the port at sunset, you can only meet reef sharks and nurse sharks. Snorkeling with whale sharks on wild reefs is a whole different level – highly recommended!
- Fishing. You can find options for beginners starting at $20-30 to catch small tuna on a line with a weight. For professionals, there are deep-sea fishing options for marlin at $1000 for the whole day.
- There’s also diving, starting from $50 per dive.
- Visiting neighboring resort islands with food and drinks for the whole day also costs around $100 per person. You’ll feel like a millionaire vacationing with other millionaires 🙂
You will definitely love Ukulhas Island. It is an island without any obvious downsides. The only advice is this:
- Two weeks on any local island is a lot, even on such a cool one as Ukulhas. You will know every corner of the island after a day and have explored the entire reef in three days. If you can lie on the beach all day without moving, then there are no issues. But if you are an active traveler, you need a plan!
I always advise my friends not to be afraid of changing islands. During a two-week vacation, you can easily spend 4-5 days on three different local islands. You will have many more emotions and impressions. Ukulhas is lucky to be surrounded by an atoll with many cool local islands where you can have an equally amazing vacation.
- A neighboring island, Rasdhoo (Alif Alif Atoll), is just a 50-minute ferry ride away.
- There is the unique Thoddoo Island (Alif Alif Atoll), where you can see the brightest glowing plankton on the atoll, and there are also many turtles living on the house reef. It’s just a two-hour ferry ride through Rasdhoo.
- And then there’s the cherry on top, the island of Dhigurah, which you can only reach by boat from Male, although it’s closer in a straight line. It can take a day or at least the entire daylight hours to get there. It’s a mythical place where whale sharks live.
In conclusion, Ukulhas Island is definitely one of the top ten local islands in the Maldives. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than the other budget islands, but only because of the European tourists. Your stay on Ukulhas will be unforgettable, and it’s a great place for both active travelers and families with children. This is where you will experience the real Maldives with its rich underwater world and diverse excursions.
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to the Maldives
- Flight tickets and the best deals
- Hotels and guesthouses on any island: Booking
- Tour packages (from budget to luxury): Expedia
- Comprehensive insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual SIM card with internet package at the same price as in telecom store in Male