2 independent reviews for Maldives on a shoestring, small group tour

Reviews for Maldives on a shoestring, small group tour

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review 10 Feb 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Hard to pin down any one specific part as it was all memorable. However, things that really stand out are visiting the deserted sandbank by speed boat just as the tide was starting to recede and then the speedboat taking off and leaving us on this small stretch (eventually!) of sand in the middle of the ocean with nothing but a table umbrella for shade and a cool box of drinks! Also, an evening in Guraidhoo when our lovely friendly hosts at the guest house led us to the beach in the dark where we discovered they had secretly cooked us a lovely meal, laid it out on a table by candlelight and lit a fire beside us to keep us warm. I was so touched I could have cried. Oh, and the night I stood in the shallow waters and stingrays washed over my feet and we saw a large school of dolphins going past, followed closely by a logger head turtle and then some sharks......... I said it was hard to pin it down to one thing!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Just go for it. It was even better than we expected. The literature does state that alcohol is made available where possible during the tour on 'excursions' away from the local islands. We found this not to be the case at all so, if your holiday is not complete without a tipple or two, do bear this in mind.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

There is a massive problem with rubbish on Hulhumale and to a lesser extent, Maafushi. The main culprit seems to be plastic water bottles which are all over the place. This is a serious matter which we believe is being addressed via educating local people that it is not acceptable to throw rubbish in the street or into the sea off local ferry boats. It is not safe to drink the local water so we had to buy bottles and considered crushing them and taking them home with us but this created a space issue. Even putting them in bins makes you wonder where they end up. The holiday benefitted local people in the sense that we stayed in local guest houses and shopped in local shops. We ate with a lovely local family on two occasions in Guraidhoo but not sure if it benefitted them half as much as it benefitted us! We didn't join in the hermit crab races so maybe we supported conservation by not doing so. We were told they all get put back on the beach. I hope so.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I would highly recommend it. There were only two of us on the tour when we went so we had our own personal guide. We were probably a bit spoilt by this but of course larger groups would have just as much fun as we did.

review 1 Jan 2014

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Candle lit dinner + sunset on the tiny sandbank island.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take shoes for swimming as seabed can be sore on the feet.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Provided employment for local people. Did not reduce environmental impact ... extra plastic waste, poor tourist fishing damaged some coral.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Very enjoyable.
Sent e-mail to encounters 20.01.14 E-mail sent to encounter 04.07.14 JP

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you for taking the time to provide us with your valuable feedback. I wanted to get back to you regarding your comments on plastics and the way that our tour impacts on the local environment. I think it is important to note that it is not just about education and awareness of our business and our clients, but also an education and awareness of the local community. Local Island tourism is less than 3 years old and many concerns that travellers raise – rubbish, potential health and safety risks based on the western world, water usage etc… existed before local island tourism was even thought about, because for the locals that was their world and they didn't/don’t know any different. Since the introduction of local island tourism improvements by the local community particularly on islands such as Maafushi which has a large tourism industry now have been made and are continuing to be made. When we first visited at the beginning of 2012 every street was littered, now the island has a rubbish collection system and the streets are maintained. It may not be 100% perfect but it is a huge step forward. Unfortunately, however, until there is a national waste scheme to deal with the tons of rubbish produced the bigger picture issue will not be resolved. With regards to fishing, again I have seen it myself where the anchor is just thrown overboard with no care for the coral. Most fishermen, even those who perhaps work with the tourism industry, do not understand or appreciate the importance of the coral reefs to the Maldives. To them it is not the wonder and beauty that we as tourists see it but as a habitat from which they gain finance – lobsters, octopus, fish. Fortunately, however, coral does grow back. A reef off an island in South Ari Atoll was decimated by developers throwing building rubble and concrete on to it. However, 4 years later it is an amazing table coral garden. If our guides witnesses bad practice then he will at an appropriate time highlight it with the individual concerned, tourist, supplier or operator. Should an operator/supplier repeat this practice then our local manager will get involved to ensure it isn't repeated. The Maldives authorities have taken some positive measures in order to protect exploitation of the marine environment. Among this includes protected marine sites, prohibition of catching turtles and other endangered species, and banning shark fishing (although it does still happen illegally). The whole idea of this tour itinerary in the Maldives is to stay on local islands rather than luxury resort islands that may be internationally owned by major hotel chains. Through doing this, we aim to: Use locally owned infrastructure. • To help put profits into local hands in order that they can benefit directly • To use services developed and managed by locals Provide employment and business opportunities for local people. Respect local customs and culture. • We want our guests to learn about local customs and cultural practices whilst respecting local dress and behaviour requirements Limit the physical impact of trips and work with our partners to educate and improve awareness within local community. • Wherever possible travel by public and not private transport. • Encourage our guests to deal with waste appropriately, lead by example and where possible take plastic waste home (mentioned in our welcome letter) • Brief our snorkellers on reef etiquette • Coach and educate our suppliers and local partners. I hope the above information is helpful in explaining how we try to limit our impact on the local environment of the Maldives when operating our tours.

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