Travelling to the Maldives in COVID times
Written by Penny Baines
We were lucky enough to escape to Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives in January before the third national lockdown began and while we were still in Tier 3. It was the most wonderful, rejuvenating and much appreciated holiday after almost a year of restrictions.
To enter the Maldives, we were required to present a negative PCR test certificate at the airport, issued within 96 hours of departure. This was perfectly straightforward given that we had various options close to home. In the end, we booked our test through our local doctor who emailed a digital copy of our results to us the next day. This was attached to our completed passenger locator form and we were ready to fly.
Social distancing measures at Heathrow Airport
Our experience of London Heathrow was fine, albeit somewhat unnerving, given that everything was being cleaned within an inch of its life – which was obviously a good thing! Terminal 4 was almost deserted and everyone was warily avoiding everyone else and wearing a mask.
The boarding of our British Airways flight was carefully staggered, with just three or four rows making their way to their seats at a time. We were each given a sanitisation kit as we entered the plane and the crew all wore masks and gloves throughout the journey. We were asked to move around the plane as little as possible, which kept mixing with other passengers to a minimum, and to keep our masks on at all times except when eating and drinking, which we were more than happy to do.
On arrival in Malé, as you might expect, the airport wasn’t quite as slick as Heathrow but we passed quickly through immigration with our digital COVID certificates. Having retrieved our bags, we were immediately met by some of the charming team from Six Senses Laamu, all wearing masks and kitted out with hand sanitisers and warm flannels, who guided us through to the domestic terminal for our flight to Laamu.
Laamu Island, The Maldives
Although it’s undoubtedly a long journey to get to the island, it was worth every moment. Six Senses Laamu is glorious. The island itself is exceptionally beautiful, encircled by turquoise waters and white, sandy beaches. It is sustainable, low-impact, relaxed but highly efficient with impeccable service – barefoot luxury at its best. You remove your shoes when you step on to the boat for the final leg of the journey and do not put them on again until you return to the airport! The staff are friendly and efficient, and the food in all three restaurants and the pool bar is superb.
We were staying in one of the over-water villas with direct access to the sea, from where we spotted turtles most days. Although you could spend your days here doing very little and soaking up the sunshine by the pool or on the beach, there is more than enough to keep you fully occupied. Laamu has an excellent gym and spa, and they provide daily complimentary yoga and pilates classes outside.
Over-water villa at Six Senses Laamu, The Maldives
However, the real emphasis here is on the ocean and marine life, which is simply breathtaking. There are some truly fabulous experiences on offer. We went on a deep-sea fishing expedition one day and a dolphin cruise one evening where we were surrounded by spinner dolphins – doing exactly as the name implies high out of the water.
Snorkelling and diving at the Six Senese Laamu, The Maldives
The house reef, which is no more than 20m in front of the main bar area, offers snorkelling and diving, as if you have stepped (or swum!) into a tropical aquarium. If you wish, you can explore it with a guide every day at 11am, free of charge but frankly it’s so accessible and startling, that I think we must have spent at least an hour drifting over it almost every day. It’s perfectly possible to swim anywhere around the island, and there is also a dive centre where you can do your PADI Open Water qualification. This is well worth it if you can because to see the big manta rays on the further reefs, you need to be qualified to 20m.
Overall, this is a beach paradise and there are also plenty of opportunities to learn about marine life and conservation – the instructors were both exceptionally knowledgeable but also hugely patient and enthusiastic. A particular highlight was a private snorkelling session with a guide, where we were taken about 30 minutes south on a speedboat to a ‘coral garden’ – pristine perfection. If you don’t see turtles, reef sharks, stingrays and eagle rays, and about 50 varieties of glorious fish, then you will have kept out of the water.
One couple we met enjoyed a delicious private picnic of lobster and seafood on a remote sandbank and another friend loved her back-of-house tour where she learned about the sustainability of the island – their recycling and waste disposal processes, their hens and their amazing kitchen garden where they grow as much as they can. Cooking lessons with a Sri Lankan chef are also available here. We’ve made a note to do these next time!
It was with great reluctance that we left Six Senses Laamu at the end of our stay but we will return. If the regulations still require it, the resort doctor will organise your PCR test for return to the UK. In fact, there had been no recorded coronavirus cases on the island among staff or guests at the point we were there, although had we tested positive, we would have had to self-isolate for another two weeks at the resort – no great hardship! We filled in our passenger locator forms for UK immigration, and a short boat ride later, we were back at Malé airport. Once again, everything worked well, and before long, we were on our flight home after 10 days in heaven.
Six Senese Laamu, a perfect escape for COVID times
Six Senses Laamu was superb in every way, with outstanding management, and such is the beauty of the island that one’s thoughts of lockdowns and the pandemic are very quickly dispelled. In our opinion, this is the perfect escape and we would recommend a holiday here to everyone.