BENGALURU : If the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown saw everyone making banana bread and dalgona coffee, this phase of the pandemic is all about enjoying the sun, sea and surf in the cerulean waters of Maldives. The internet is rife with memes of Bollywood celebs jet-setting to the South Asian island country. The trend seems to have caught up here too, with Bengalureans and Sandalwood stars also taking a short breather on international waters. Actor-producer Sharmiela Mandre, who recently returned from her Maldives holiday, says she felt miles safer at the airport than at any mall in the city. “At the moment, since domestic fliers are more, the international airport has fewer people anyway. Flights to Maldives are just two hours long, and both ways, the seats were half full,” she says.
Currently, many Indians have been travelling to two destinations for holidays: Dubai and Maldives. “After the lockdown, I was looking forward to a beach vacation. Dubai would have a city vibe and not much to do besides shopping or eating. Maldives, on the other hand, has plenty of activities,” says Mandre, adding that she spent her five days there, indulging in snorkelling, deep sea and scuba diving, and kayaking.
She wasn’t the only Sandalwood star who turned to Maldives for a short escape. Shanvi Srivastava, who visited the islands last month, tells CE the prerequisite of getting a Covid-19 negative test 96 hours before flying helped put her safety concerns at ease. “Isolation measures starts from the minute you arrive. Each resort in Maldives has its own boat to ferry you from the airport, and these also have limited seating. When I went, there were just three of us on the boat,” says the actor, who like Mandre, spent her trip chasing sunsets and waves.
The archipelago is home to over 1,000 islands, and many resorts and hotels are an atoll in themselves. Praachi Tantia, the founder of Fly Me Travels, explains why this works well in favour of Maldives. “The hotels have limited rooms and human interaction, as compared to any other country. A lot of hotels are also offering all-inclusive packages, which lures the customer to enjoy the resort and not worry about paying for additional meals and packages. Maldives also has visa on arrival, so this also works well for last-minute travellers.”
This made planning the trip easier for Ruhi Meman, a social media influencer from Bengaluru, who booked her flight tickets two days before her journey. “My boyfriend and I paid `35,000 each for the round-trip tickets, while our stay, which had an all-inclusive package of three meals, boat transfer and snorkelling equipment, came up to US$3,500,” says Meman, adding, “Though the resort was completely booked, it’s big enough to allow everyone to maintain safe distance.” While she has visited Maldives before, this trip turned out to be more special since her boyfriend popped the question here. “I did have jitters about travelling to an international destination before but now I’m at ease. I might even plan a trip to Dubai next month-end.”
Fun and fare
Praachi Tantia, founder, Fly Me Travels, says Maldives offers a range of packages to tourists, starting from `25,000 to `10 lakh per person for three nights. “Hotels offer speed boat, seaplane and domestic plane transfers. The further away it is, the more expensive the journey to the hotel gets,” she explains. Since October, Tantia has received many enquiries, out of which 80 per cent have turned into sales.
“Maximum travellers to Maldives are from Mumbai but many are from Bengaluru as well. Flights used to be priced at `20,000 from Mumbai and `13,000 from here, but due to heavy demand, it has seen an increase by two times on certain dates,” she adds. A Cleatrip spokesperson told CE flight fares from Bengaluru to Maldives in December this year are 45 per cent higher than last year.
Besides Maldives, Bengalureans are also heading to UAE and USA, while New Delhi, Goa, Kolkata and Mumbai remain domestic favourites this month, according to Cleartrip spokesperson