How to Surf the Maldives on a budget (and with a toddler)
Updated: Aug 5
Always dreamed of visiting the Maldives, looking out of a seaplane window at turquoise atolls? Surfing pristine waves and floating in the clearest of manta ray inhabited waters ? Thought the Maldives was only for honeymoons and expensive surf boat charters? Well think again !
Maybe you enjoy surfing but don’t think you’re good enough or want to spend your WHOLE trip on a live aboard surf charter? Perhaps you’re also keen to see some Island culture and not just a cabin and the ocean?
Or maybe you have a family and a surf charter isn’t feasible and a resort island is too expensive.
I am a self confessed island addict, having grown up on a small English island and travelled to as many tropical islands possible. Then becoming a travel consultant planning island hopping, round the world trips for 10 years, I know how to plan a tropical island break.
Being a new parent I now have more requirements to fulfil than before. I needed to minimise travel time and be in a great location suitable for small people.
After researching lots of Maldivian islands I decided Thulusdhoo atoll offered the perfect combination of local charm, quick transfer by local speed boat plus lots of surfing & diving options.
To my partner’s dismay the local islands are dry islands and so alcohol free. Which is not what he wanted to hear after our first long haul , 15 hour journey with our sleep dodging, teething toddler !
Where is Thulusdhoo and how to get there?
Thulusdhoo is 28 km North of Male (where international flights arrive into). The island is the capital of the Kaafu Atoll which comprises 107 islands.
Directly in front of the airport you'll find speedboats leaving for Thulusdhoo a few times a day and taking just thirty minutes. We went with River Speed which cost $30. There's cheaper ferries that can be taken but we decided that after a long haul flight we'd want to arrive as soon as possible,
Where To Stay
We chose to stay at Surf Yoga Camp Thulusdhoo which was located just 200m from the bikini beach. We wanted to be right by the bikini beach to be able to go as often as possible with our daughter.
The Surf Yoga Camp was also ideally situated right next to ´Cokes’ Surf break. The surf camp was great because they had healthy, Italian & Brazilian influenced, homemade food designed for hungry surfers. Perfect for breakfast lunch & dinner when our daughter was too hot to wander the streets looking for a local eatery.
The Surf Yoga Camp has a range of rooms available from £50/night including breakfast and you can add on as much or as little surfing as you like.
From the hotel you can walk two minutes over the bridge and through a cool forest to jump in and paddle straight out to ´Cokes' surf break.
The Surf Yoga Camp will happily arrange daily boat trips to reach the best surf spots besides their home-break "Cokes", such as Chickens, Ninjas, Sultans, Honkys or Jailsbreak.
If you're not on a budget we liked the look of the rustic barefoot chic vibes of Samura which was from about £150/night. They were also in a great location on bikini beach and had gorgeous looking rooms. Although they weren't geared up for surfing, more relaxing in a hammock kinda vibe.
What's the difference between a local Maldivian island and a Maldives resort?
The local islands are Muslim and so you can’t saunter through the streets in your bikini. You can however get a tan and wear swimwear on the designated ‘bikini beaches’.
Our daughter is mad about the ocean and so being close to the bikini beach with her was perfect.
On a local Island you will find small supermarkets, a range of locally owned and expat owned restaurants to choose from, schools, mosques, ATMS etc. Which is perfect if you enjoy experiencing a bit of local culture, tasting local food and the seeing daily life of Maldivian peoples.
Surfing in Thulusdhoo
The main surf season in the Maldives runs from March to October, with the peak surf season being June to August, when the biggest and most consistent swells arrive. However, tropical storms can be more common from June to August. September and October are also very consistent months for swell, with winds being less variable and tropical storms less frequent.
This wave is located on the uninhabited island of Villingilimathi Huraa, next to Thulusdhoo Island (just on the other side of the channel). This long left-hand wave has two sections where you can easily get barrelled on the last section of the wave. Named chickens after an old chicken farm close by which no longer exists.
Another wave close to the Island of Thulusdhoo, is a right-hander recommended for intermediate to experienced surfers especially when there's big swell. The wave is a hollow right-hander breaking over a shallow reef. It's known as one of the best waves in the Maldives. The name came from the Coca-Cola factory being nearby on the island of Thulusdhoo. Works best with winds from the south and northeast.
This wave is a slow right-hander, perfect for beginners and long-boarders. Best conditions on W-NW winds with a moderate S swell. However, swells bigger than 1m ruin it. This wave, which is also known as “Piddlies”, is probably the best surf spot in the Maldives for beginners.
This wave is ideal for those who want something more challenging, it’s definitely not one for beginners or low-end intermediates! It handles some solid sizes offering awesome tube rides for those who dare.
Located near Thaburudhoo island (near the same island as Sultans), some consider this to be the best wave of the Maldives, although not always as popular as Cokes and Chickens. When the conditions align it is a true World Class wave! It is a super long, left-hand wave that can double in the second section.
What else is there to do in Thulusdhoo ?
We stayed for a week in Thulusdhoo and despite being a tiny island there's plenty of activities to keep you busy if you don't fancy surfing.
There's lots of boat excursions to go to different snorkelling spots. We chose to go to see the turtles (because it was the closest one in case our daughter didn't enjoy it). We only saw one turtle from afar but we did see black tip reef sharks (one of which I'm sure spyed me then came to the surface and started towards me). I stopped filming him and got out the water! We were also lucky to see dolphins to our daughters delight, as she's too young to snorkel and the boat driver blasted out ´baby shark' songs from his speakers to entertain her while we took turns snorkelling.
There's also specific snorkelling trips to see Mantas, Sharks and to visit a beautiful sandbar. The water is insanely clear so you could make the most of it and do a few snorkelling trips if you love being underwater.
Go for a wander through the village away from bikini beach and you'll find some local eateries with Maldivian people eating there. We ordered the best fish curry with roti in one! Also highly recommend buying random fried goods from local sellers. We tried all sorts of samosas and fish cakes that were super spicy, delicious and cost pennies!
Even though there's surf to be had, the beaches are generally calm,o protected from the waves by the reefs. This means they're great for a bit of chilled paddle boarding in turquoise lagoons. It's possible to rent boards directly from the beach and if you're up for a challenge it's possible to paddle out to ninjas where you can practice catching small waves.
The Maldives North Male' Atoll is the best location to see beautiful reefs, sharks, manta rays, big schools of fish and even the occasional whale shark.
There's almost 30 dive sites accessible from Thulusdhoo each offering a unique backdrop to your underwater exploration, from shipwrecks to caves and drop offs.
The average water temperature is a balmy 28°C and the visibility normally falls within the following ranges:
Jan-May: 20 m -50 m
May-Dec: 15 m -25 m
Manta Ray season is between June and November with the best site to see them being Lankan Manta Point.
White tip reef sharks can be seen all year round at chicken corner and Thulusdhoo channel sites.
Coca Cola factory
When you say you're going to the Maldives people don't expect to visit a Coca Cola factory! Home to the only Coca Cola plant in the world that uses desalinated water. If you're stuck for things to do or just think it's funny you can actually have a tour of the factory if you fancy! Tours are normally at 9am & 2pm but double check beforehand.
Travelling with a toddler in the Maldives
Travelling with a toddler was certainly different from our previous baby free trips. We spent midday in our accommodation for nap time, backpacks were now full of nappies & beach balls and no longer were the days of leisurely meals!
Most places don't have high chairs and our daughter hated the cloth seat we bought to contain her on a normal chair. So mealtimes became a tag team operation taking it in turns to read a menu whilst the other explored the restaurant collecting leaves, throwing coconuts and climbing any step. The exploration and games carried on until until food arrived followed by attempting to feed her before her attention waned. Luckily in Thulusdhoo there were lots of homemade swings hanging from a lot of the beach restaurants which were great!
Getting around with a little one
We took our yo-yo pushchair and ergo baby carrier. Both came in super handy at different points in the trip.
Nappies whilst travelling
We brought enough eco nappies, biodegradable nappy bags and reusable nappies for the trip. Seeing the rubbish dump burning waste on arrival made made happy we'd done so! Nappies are available in the local supermarket though if you're caught short!
Jet lag with a toddler
Yes jet lag was a thing with our five hour time difference. However it wasn't as bad as you might expect. We had a few mega naps on the first few days to catch up on sleep lost during the journey, then we made sure to get outside in the daylight as much as possible to readjust our body clocks. After the first few days we were pretty much on local time albeit with 5am wake ups with sunrise. Travel blackout panels might have been a good idea to combat this. However we just rolled with the early mornings seeing as we weren't going out late anyway.
Naps whilst travelling
Our daughter now naps once a day for above 1.5-2.5 hours. It's a bit hot and the sun is a too strong at midday in asia to be napping in a pushchair or baby carrier. This meant that naps mainly happened back at our room with the air conditioning on. When we were travelling from place to place we tried to plan our bus/tuk tuk/train to coincide with nap time as these moments cooped up were the hardest to manage with a lively toddler.
Toddler Travel Vaccinations
Before we went away we consulted the MASTA website to check what vaccinations were required for our trip. We made sure our daughter was up to date with the recommended vaccinations however she was too young to have some so we had to be extra vigilant with regards to her being bitten by animals such as dogs, mosquitoes stings and taking care with drinking water.
Toddler health whilst travelling
We were extra careful with our daughter not to drink water in the shower while bathing to avoid illnesses from waterborne bacteria & viruses.
Child safe mosquito repellent, anti mosquito stickers on her clothes and long clothing all ensured she only got about three mosquitoe bites during our whole one month trip. Which is way better than I managed for myself!
All in all it was so amazing to share our love of travelling with our daughter and give her experiences of a lifetime; seeing dolphins, monkeys, and parrots. Some might say what's the point as she won't remember it but then what's the point of any early childhood experience? I believe they all contribute to their development and outlook on life. Nonetheless our next trip (when she's two and paying 75% fare on flight tickets) we may well travel closer to home to enjoy shorter journeys and maximum beach time!