Hello again to those who have been following my journey! (And welcome to those just joining.) It's Ben Schlappig here again, the full-time traveler behind One Mile at a Time, and the guy who introduced you to my uber-luxury travel lifestyle all made possible by using miles and points. In our series with Jet Set, we're going around the world in 21 days... all in five-star luxury, and booked at the very last minute.
In my last post, I was wrapping up a luxurious and culture-packed whirlwind stint in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Our next destination on this crazy journey was the Maldives. While I realize that my fascination with the UAE may be a bit unusual, I think everyone has seen pictures of the Maldives and dreamed of visiting. It’s every bit as beautiful in person as it is in pictures, and for many, it’s a once in a lifetime destination. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Maldives a few times, thanks to miles and points.
The UAE is a great stopover point when traveling from the U.S. to the Maldives, given that it’s only a three- or four-hour flight from Dubai or Abu Dhabi to Male. So I love flying to the UAE, spending a couple of days there getting acclimated to the general timezone, and then continuing on. In this case we were flying Etihad business class from Abu Dhabi to Male, which was a pleasant flight, though in the scheme of flights on this trip, rather unmemorable.
The number of airlines flying to the Maldives the past few years has greatly increased, so you have more options than ever before. There are nonstop flights there from Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East, India, et cetera. Best of all, many of the new flights that have been added the past few years are on airlines where you can redeem miles.
Most top resorts in the Maldives are located on private islands. The Maldives is estimated to have about 1,200 islands — roughly 200 are inhabited by locals, 100 by resorts, and the rest are uninhabited.
As a result, getting from Male Airport (in the capital of the Maldives) to the individual resorts is often half the adventure, as it involves a flight, and often a seaplane transfer on top of that.
Maldives from above
This flight within the Maldives comes in one of two forms.
Some resorts are best reached by seaplane, which means you get to fly straight to the resort, and “dock” in the water outside. Meanwhile other resorts are best reached by planes which land at airports closer to the resorts, and then you take a seaplane to the resort.
The best option depends entirely on the location of the resort and distance from Male Airport, though in all cases the hotel will arrange the transfer for you.
Our flight from Abu Dhabi to Male landed at around 2 p.m., at which point we began our transfer to the brand new St. Regis Maldives, located on Vommuli Island. I was super excited to check out this hotel. Due to its location, the St. Regis uses seaplanes for their transfers, meaning that you can fly straight to the resort.
Upon arrival we were greeted by the airport staff and then brought to the seaplane terminal. This is in a completely different part of the airport than the international terminal. Most hotels provide shuttles between the international terminal and seaplane terminal, but the St. Regis takes it to the next level — they provide a Bentley transfer.
This is so ridiculous that it’s amusing. The St. Regis apparently owns the only Bentley on the island, and they use it to drive guests for the short five-minute drive between the terminal. I do have to wonder where the car gets its maintenance, given that it’s one of a kind on the island!
NBD, just the only Bentley on the island!
The Bentley dropped us off at the St. Regis’ private airport lounge. That’s right, the St. Regis has a private lounge at the airport for their guests, where you can wait until your seaplane is ready for departure.
The lounge was elegantly appointed, and the decor reminded me of what you’d expect from most St. Regis properties.
The lounge manager introduced herself, and offered us drinks and afternoon tea. The lounge even has a shower, should you want to freshen up before the flight to the resort.
St. Regis airport lounge
Our flight to the resort was departing at around 4 p.m., so after a wait of about 90 minutes, we were called for boarding.
These seaplane flights are super fun. The plane seats about 15 people, and the flight took 40 minutes. Thanks to how small the plane is, it flies at low altitudes and slow speeds, so the views are incredible en route. It really gives you perspective on how remote everything in the Maldives is. Over the course of the flight we flew over dozens of islands, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the total islands in the country.
Getting there is a wonderful — signature — part of the Maldives experience.
The natural beauty is truly breathtaking. Even while flying you can often see to the bottom of the water near the islands, thanks to how crystal clear the water is.
We arrived at the hotel about an hour after we boarded, and immediately found ourselves in paradise. As much as the journey to get to the Maldives can be a long and exhausting one (even in first and business class), it’s well worth it the second you arrive.
Stay with me for more of the fabulous Maldives!
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Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!
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