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Sri Lanka and the Maldives: the perfect family holiday

Helena Blog Maldives Sri Lanka Holiday Header

Helena and family head to the Indian Ocean for a twin centre holiday in paradise.

This year I am celebrating a milestone birthday, so I felt that I needed to cheer myself up and treat the family… what better way to do this than by travelling to a completely new destination. The Maldives has always been on my bucket list and with Sri Lanka just an hour’s flight away, it would be foolish to do one without the other, surely?  That’s how I justified it to myself, anyway!  We are a non-diving family of four – two teenage boys – and keen snorkellers looking for a mix of sightseeing and relaxing. We felt this trip would provide the perfect mix of things to see and do to meet all our needs. We couldn’t wait to get started!

Sri Lanka

I put together a tailor-made tour of Sri Lanka for the first week to take in the highlights of this beautiful country, followed by three nights in the Maldives I deliberately arranged the itinerary this way round so that after a week of early starts and all-day sight-seeing, we would have three days to unwind and relax at the end.

With a choice of airline carriers into Sri Lanka’s main city Colombo, ranging from direct flights from Heathrow with SriLankan Airlines to those with stop overs in the Middle East with Emirates, Qatar or Etihad, we decided to opt for Qatar Airways via Doha. The times worked well for us, and the price was competitive which influenced our decision.

All Diverse Travel holidays are tailor-made according to what our customers want to experience and this holiday was no different. Beach and relaxation were top of my list so we started our holiday with a couple of days in Negombo, one of the major beach resorts on the island. The rest of the week we travelled across northern and central Sri Lanka on a private tour with our own guide and driver. During the week, we visited the elephant orphanage, took a jeep safari across the Minneriya National Park, and toured the UNESCO World Heritage site of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.

We met monkeys in temples, paused for peacocks, witnessed mammoth statues of Buddha, and climbed the rock fortress of Sigiriya, the ‘Castle in the Sky’. Visiting Kandy, the ‘City on the Hills’ and last capital of the Sri Lankan Kings before it fell to the British, was one of the main highlights of the tour. Kandy is another World Heritage Site that’s set up in the hills with breathtaking views over the whole area around the city.

Tea plantations in the mountains and cascading waterfalls amidst beautiful landscapes ended our tour all too soon.

We spent our final night in Colombo due to its proximity to the airport, ready for an early start in the morning. It was sad waving goodbye to Thilak, our wonderful driver, but we were excited about our next adventure. Soon it was time to board the SriLankan Airlines flight and welcome another curry for breakfast!  Next stop, Male Airport in the Maldives.

The Maldives

Our resort choice was Boutique Beach, a popular diver’s resort in the renowned whale shark area of South Ari Atoll. The resort is located on the local island of Dhigurah, which has the choice of a long speed boat transfer or a much shorter – and more exciting – seaplane and boat transfer. We opted for the latter. The arrangements ran like clockwork on arrival.  A representative from Boutique Beach met us and checked us in for the seaplane, and just a couple of hours later, we were up in the air, flying over the islands that I’d only even seen on other people’s photos!  What an experience… and one that will stay with me forever. The seaplane flight was everything I had imagined and more. This is an absolute must in my opinion if you’re visiting the Maldives!

Our arrival arrangements were seamless: a 30 minute seaplane ride to Lux* Island Resort to find the speedboat already waiting, ready to take us on the final leg of the journey, just a further 10 minutes over to Dhigurah.  As the boat arrived at the jetty, a pick-up truck from Boutique Beach was already there waiting for us and drove us and our luggage through the palm trees alongside the white, sandy beach to our final destination of the holiday.

A fantastic welcome awaited us at Boutique Beach as all guests here are presented with a king coconut drink on arrival along with an ice cold towel, both of which were very welcome after a long, hot day travelling! It’s clear that customer service is a priority at the resort, from arrival all the way through to departure.  The air-conditioning was already on in our room, along with a rustic welcome message across the bed, made out of leaves.  We headed straight to a much-needed lunch, and then the afternoon was spent exploring our holiday home from home in the Maldives.

Directly opposite the guest house, through a gateway of palm trees is the soft, white sandy beach that stretches the length of the island. The turquoise waters are crystal-clear, warm as a bath, with waves gently lapping at the shore. This very quiet location has a shaded table and seating area and a couple of sun beds in the sand, perfect for a quick dip. We had arrived in paradise.

Boutique Beach is a dive resort run by divers for divers. It really does tick all the boxes for an unforgettable Maldivian holiday. Life here works around the diving and snorkelling schedule which is set each evening the night before. There are six rooms in the guest house at this small, private resort. Guests meet at 7.15pm each evening, when the diving brief for the following day is given, along with the start time, number of dives and finish time. Then it’s off to dinner under the stars at the roof top restaurant, courtesy of the Sri Lankan chef. The routine here is very much eat, sleep, dive, repeat… so by 9pm, all lights are out and alarms are set for early the next morning. 5.30am for a 6am breakfast in our case as we arrived on a Thursday night and things start earlier on a Friday, to allow the dive boat crew time to get back for afternoon prayers.

There were two dive/snorkel sessions both mornings that we were there (on some days there are three). The dive boat caters for everyone, snorkelling, diving or even just swimming. The dive leaders were all on board and headed up small groups of divers / snorkellers with each guide/instructor. Our family of four was assigned the Dive Base Leader and we went into the water for 45 minutes to an hour on each snorkel.  Always on hand, the crew were ready to help with cups of tea, water and fruit / snacks between dives, as well as helping us with our kit when we came out of the water. 

Our two days snorkelling ticked off all the marine life I had hoped to see and more!  Whaleshark and manta on the very first snorkel! Turtles with baby turtle and reef sharks on the second, as well as eagle rays, Napoleon fish, parrot fish, trigger fish, rainbow squid and all the usual suspects. Day two was spent snorkelling on the house reef at the nearby island of Vilamendhoo, which is renowned for its marine life. We spent an absolutely incredible two days at Boutique Beach and we’re still talking about our whaleshark encounter daily. Amazing doesn’t even cover it!

As our holiday came to a close, we had endless family discussions about what we’d seen and experienced and haven’t stopped since we returned home. The memories will last a lifetime and I feel so happy to have been able to offer our children this amazing experience. Both Sri Lanka and the Maldives are beautiful countries with so much more to see than what we managed in 10 days. They are both an excellent starting point for a longer Indian Ocean adventure, as well as incredible destinations for a standalone trip.  I absolutely can’t wait to return to both countries someday soon.

Interested in a Sri Lanka or Maldives holiday?

Sri Lanka is ideal for:

  • Fascinating culture and sightseeing tours
  • Stunning tropical beaches and lush food
  • Spectacular national parks and wildlife reserves
  • Diving and snorkelling in its own right – not just as an add-on to the Maldives.

The Maldives is ideal for:

  • World class diving and snorkelling
  • Huge range of resort and liveaboard options to suit all budgets
  • Picture postcard scenery and powder fine sandy beaches
  • Epic underwater action combined with topside relaxation

Or why not combine the two destinations for a perfect twin centre holiday!

If you would like to chat about visiting Sri Lanka and/or the Maldives, please give Helena a call on 01473 852002 or email us and she will be happy to tell you more!

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