Can’t believe we’ve been and we’re back and I’m 30 oh em gee! In case you haven’t already and wanted to, you can view my own take on 30 for 30 here.
I had the best birthday ever and it’s more than I ever could have imagined. I’m so grateful to Preetam and Arjun for making it super special and extending the celebrations out for a whole week!
Preetam was such an amazing father out there (like he is here but x a gazillion). He handled Arjun pretty much the whole week – I think I only changed 3 nappies the whole time we were out there! It was part of his way of ensuring I had a relaxing time. That thoughtfulness meant so much as when I’m at home, I’m constantly on the go so it was nice to switch off a little.
Maldives is pure paradise. Most people that we know that have been to the Maldives have been for their honeymoon. We skipped the other destination for honeymoon part as we had a destination wedding in Goa and it made sense to make the most of Goa’s beauty at the time. Having been to the Maldives now I do wish we’d gone sooner – perhaps before having a baby. It’s definitely doable with a baby, but certain things such as snorkelling couldn’t really be done as a pair, we had to take it in turns. I think had we not been to Dubai (which is the easiest place in the world to take a baby), I probably wouldn’t have even noticed.
Nevertheless, we left with some amazing memories of pure bliss and Arjun really enjoyed himself. I think he really likes the heat!
I left with overcoming so many huge fears:
1) I never ever thought I’d stay in a water villa. It’s been a fear of mine from ever since I can remember. The thought of being in the sea really freaked me out. But I did it! It helped that we had surrounding villas and were located where the tide at it’s highest came up to my shoulders.
2) Not only did I manage to stay in a water villa, I also managed to ride out a whole nights storm. That completely freaked me out – especially when the lightning felt like it was right outside our window and the thunder was so loud it shook the ground. Hearing the sea getting rougher over night also really petrified me but after a few hours I got used to it and slept right through.
3) I snorkelled! Well kinda! For those of you that know me personally, know I’m not really a dare devil and I’m the opposite of an adrenaline junkie. To me, even dipping my head under shallow water is scary (it’s part of the reason I can’t swim properly!). But I did it! I managed to snorkel in shallow water and I’m so glad for it – I saw so many beautiful different fish. And to top it off, the night after the storm, Preetam refused to go in the sea as he said cold water draws sharks. I didn’t really pay much attention to it – since when did he become an expert in sea life! I went in the sea (I was the only one in it!), and after an hour or two he told me to get the Go Pro ready as there was a shark a few meters away from me. I don’t think I have ever moved faster – unfortunately away from the shark, not towards it! I really wish I hadn’t panicked, and I had experienced that. Instead, we went for a walk at the end of our jetty and spotted loads of sharks. I was so excited! It was really amazing and I was so grateful for the rain the day before which meant they all came to say hi the next day!
4) I sort of overcame my fear of crabs … Ok maybe not but my shrieking did get a lot less by the end of our trip!
Here’s a little summary of our trip …
We had a long night the night before flying but Arjun woke up smiling but yawning as though we’d kept him up! I was apprehensive about the flight and had been for weeks. Especially given how terrible our flight to Dubai was the last time we went on holiday (Click here to see our review on Dubai).
Our flight was at 5pm which was different to our usual night flight timing.
We got picked up by a chauffeur at 1.30pm (the perks of Emirates business class) and set off. When we arrived at the airport, as we were unloading our luggage Preetam (thank God!) noticed that Arjun’s carry on luggage was missing. Panic!!!! Luckily as we’d left on time, there was little traffic and we live so close to Heathrow, we were able to quickly head back to collect. Surprisingly both Preetam and I were pretty relaxed about it. Id usually be completely thrown by something like that but I figured panicking and losing control wouldn’t help the situation so I remained calm. The extra drive also meant Arjun got his afternoon nap in so it worked out well!
Once we checked in, we headed over to the Emirates lounge. I’ve only ever flown Virgin upper class before so assumed the Virgin lounge was how all the other lounges are. To my dismay the Emirates lounge doesn’t offer a spa, games are, children’s play area or an a la carte menu but it definitely wasn’t bad!
They had a buffet which had a good variety of food as well as a tea and coffee area. Arjun loved zooming around on the carpeted floor and had a great time plane spotting from the floor to ceiling windows.
FLIGHT: LHR TO DXB
WOW! Just WOW! What an absolutely amazing experience! I remember when Preetam booked this trip telling him to forego business class this time as it isn’t the cheapest destination to fly to but he insisted on as he wanted to make my birthday perfect from start to finish. I was so grateful for his kind gesture.
The interior of our aircraft was stunning – a lot more space than what I’m used to with Virgin. This was the first plane seat that actually accommodated Preetam’s height (he’s 6’4). The seats are huge, we were sat side by side as opposed to opposite each other and there was ample space for Arjun to play and explore. Their technology on board is so advanced with iPads and a brilliant entertainment system. Arjun was so impressed and intrigued by all the flashy buttons surrounding him. You even get your own personal mini bar.
For those of you that know me, know that I really don’t like flying. I’m pretty pathetic on a plane and if anything I’m a burden to others haha! This is the first time in years I chose not to sleep the whole way through but to actually watch a movie.
The only negative I’d have for both the outbound and inbound flight (LHR to DXB and back) was the service. Although the air hostesses were very friendly and smiley, on several occasions we had to ask for the same thing twice before we got it. A little surprising as the outbound flight was pretty empty.
The meal standard was good – we didn’t feel like we were on a plane and they even bring you freshly heated bread rolls and garlic bread (my fave) which Arjun especially enjoyed. The lingering smell of garlic after wasn’t so great for us though haha!
We gave Arjun milk on take off to stop his ears from popping and shortly after he fell asleep and napped. He enjoyed playing with the flashy gadgets in the plane as well as his own toys. He managed to pass his time between napping, eating, playing with his toys, playing with the aircraft gadgets and watching Mickey Mouse on the in flight entertainment. He was an absolute angel on this flight and didn’t cry once. On landing, he was pretty content watching Mickey Mouse so we didn’t bother with a milk bottle and he was fine.
FLIGHT: DXB TO MLE
As it was pretty late UK time by the time we departed, Arjun was pretty sleepy which worked out well. He was an angel on this flight too and we had no tears. The airhostesses gave Arjun a teddy bear in every colour which was sweet and kept him busy for a while.
Overall our journey to the Maldives was brilliant – I was super nervous about two flights and dealing with a crawling baby on a flight especially after our outbound journey to Dubai when we went in February but it was perfect compared to what I’d imagined!
OUR HOTEL: GILI LANKANFUSHI
We decided to go with Gili Lankanfushi as our friends (thanks Sundeep and Mandy!) recommended it and also as it’s rated number 1 in the world on trip advisor. We wanted to see what all the fuss was about and if we were going to do this, we thought we’d do it properly!
The pictures looked absolutely amazing, breathtaking. I had really high hopes!
When we got to Male airport, we were taken to our island via speedboat “Gili Goes Quickly” (all their modes of transport are named). As soon as you board the boat, your shoes are taken and safely put away – this hotel adopts a “no shoes no news” policy. It was a really nice start to the holiday – being able to absorb the glistening sea and our surroundings for the week. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I felt really content and calm at that moment. Arjun enjoyed the boat ride where he sat in his daddy’s arms and watched the world whizz by.
As we arrived closer to our hotel, the views were stunning, so peaceful, so tranquil yet so breathtaking. It looked exactly like the pictures if not better. The natural beauty of the Maldives is mesmerizing. I always find it so fascinating that places in the world like this exist – so far from our reality back home!
As we arrived there for 11am and check in was at 2pm, we were shown around the tiny island on a buggy by Shifzen. Arjun was loving it. Once we’d had our tour, we were taken to a temporary villa located on land till our room was ready. The room was nice enough for a few hours. We all fell asleep for a few hours as we were so tired from the flight and extremely jet lagged – it was early hours of the morning in the UK at this time.
Once our room was ready and we’d had a quick nap, Shifzen took us over to our villa. The ride to our villa was overwhelming – wow this was going to be our home for the next week! I felt so blessed and grateful.
We got to our villa (villa 11 located on jetty 1) and we were immediately wowed. The villa’s are huge – even the standard ones we stayed in, and the views from every possible room are stunning. We ended up spending a lot of our trip in the villa and made the most of enjoying the sea. We got to see stunning view of the sun setting from our villa too.
I loved the shower here – it’s an outdoor one where you walk down a little walkway bridge where you have a rainbow of fish swimming beneath you. From the shower you get a gorgeous view of the sea (thankfully the sea and its contents don’t get a view of you back!). I’m quite fussy with showers – this by far was the best one I’ve ever come across.
I was so so impressed by how much this hotel had catered to having guests with a baby. I hadn’t actually requested anything but they took their own initiative to supply nappies (and they were the right size! I presume they based them on his age), Johnson’s bath products, a steriliser, a bath tub and a potty. In addition, they’d also provided sand toys for Arjun’s beach days. I was so impressed! They really went over and beyond and that attention to detail was really appreciated – especially as I know the Maldives isn’t your typical location for a baby holiday!
Our luggage was in our villa before we arrived so once we’d absorbed the fact that these beautiful surroundings were going to be a familiar site for the next week, we started settling in. There’s plenty of hanger space (even with my OTT packing!) and drawer space in the bathroom. The only negative about the bathrooms are that there’s no AC and you’re hot and bothered pretty quick after a shower. I quickly realised, this wasn’t the right place for me to do my hair and make up after a shower so set up in our bedroom on the desk.
In the mean time, our bicycles were delivered. I opted for a tricycle so that we could carry Arjun around with us in the basket at the back. I love the idea of bicycles – it made getting to places so quick and easy.
Although I was a little uncertain initially, it was really refreshing not wearing shoes around the island. It made the whole trip feel a lot more relaxed. At times, I found the soles of my feet burning when the midday sun was at its peak, but my feet soon toughened up!
The whole atmosphere here is so relaxed.
I was nervous about taking Arjun to the Maldives as I didn’t want to upset any honeymooners though I was quickly pleasantly surprised by how many other families and babies were at the hotel. Also, there is so much space, you barely interact with others – unless you choose to!
Arjun enjoyed his stay here, he was entertained by the staff, loved being in the sea for the first time and especially loved the heat as well as his bike rides!
We spent one day at the beach but to be honest we were quite happy relaxing in our villa – it was so much easier with Arjun. The infinity pool was ok and pretty empty but again we only used it once.
The breakfast selection, although not as wide as your average mainstream hotel (obviously as this is more of a boutique hotel and there are fewer guests), was great and they’d pretty much make you whatever you requested. Parontas are not on the menu but we ordered them a few times even outside of breakfast.
The freshly made papaya jam was out of this world and I still crave it! I wish I was able to bring some home with me.
The selection of fresh fruit is divine. You select your fruit and they cut it for you there and then. It’s amazing how different fruit and veg taste abroad – so much fresher and easier to digest. The Gili Lankanfushi have their own vegetable garden where much of the cooking ingredients are sourced – the food was always bursting with flavour.
There is a complimentary wine cellar located next to the breakfast area which also includes freshly made chocolate truffles – I’d recommend the peanut truffle! Delicious! Chocolate for breakfast – you can’t go wrong!
The food generally was really good here and Chef Hari went out of his way to accommodate our needs and was so personable. We are vegetarian but had no problem with food options here. For example one evening we really fancied Mexican, Chef Hari improvised to cater to our needs. They had no black beans so he was able to make his equivalent using drained baked beans! He also made us tacos, quesadillas and churros. The food was amazing.
Outside of breakfast, we often ordered food that wasn’t on the menu and we were catered for well.
The waiters are super friendly and would often pinch Arjun and keep him entertained while we enjoyed a meal.
After a few days we soon found his favourite drink of coconut water appearing at every meal – a nice personal touch that all the staff remembered.
The service was impeccable at its best but was slow at times. The first day we arrived we had a few teething issues with food orders (either wrong or didn’t appear at all) but once we flagged to Shifzen, we were visited by one of the managers who apologised and after that we experienced nothing but smooth service. It isn’t about having small issues on holiday, it’s more about how the hotel deals with them. We were really impressed by the way the hotel handled the situation.
On certain nights they have themed buffets for dinner. We only got to try the Mediterranean night which was good. There are two restaurants here – the over water bar and the Japanese restaurant which we didn’t get around to trying. Although it sounds like a little, as mentioned, there wasn’t any shortage of food options as we often ordered outside of the menu.
I woke up feeling quite strange on my birthday. I hadn’t slept much and it felt really strange to be 30. I don’t usually even think twice about my age on my birthday but this year felt different. I decided that I was going to do a 30 for 30 gratitude exercise to reflect on my life to date and to count my endless blessings … Well 30 of them anyway!
When Arjun woke, he gifted me my birthday card which he’d made (with daddy’s help!). It was a cute pic of us from a photo shoot we had last month. I’d already received my birthday gifts at home (my new phone).
After breakfast, we lazed and lounged and pretty much spent the day mooching about the villa which was nice. I literally did what I wanted – swam when I wanted, napped when I wanted and wrote my 30 for 30 blog post whilst admiring my view.
That evening I got dressed in a new dress (not often I get to dress up these days!) and did my hair and make up and we set off but I had no idea where we were going.
Shifzen decided to take us on what I thought was a detour through the hosts village where they stay – I was so impressed by it that I totally forgot about my dinner and was more interested in this mini village. After showing us around we were taken to a secluded part of the beach (I found out later it was quicker to access through the host village!). Preetam had planned a surprise sunset dinner on the beach. It was so so beautiful. The sun was going to be setting shortly and I stood there for a short while absorbing the stunning view right in front of me. Not a bad way to be spending my 30th for sure!
Asad our lovely waiter for the evening, cracked open some non alcoholic champagne and we kicked back and watched the sun go down – the natural light was soon replaced by beautiful lanterns surrounding us. It was so peaceful, all we could hear was the sound of the sea rumbling softly in the background.
The menu was picked by Preetam especially (working with Chef Hari) and I found it so comical. He tried to incorporate all my favourite dishes in to one meal. Starters were two types of paneer and paronteh – that was a meal enough for me! Both paneer dishes were amazing and I still crave the chilli paneer! I was so grateful to have paneer as I was missing Indian food badly. I was so stuffed after “starters” though I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage mains.
Mains were Thai green curry, tempura, pad Thai and stir fry tofu … Oh em gee! I was going to explode! It was all so delicious but I didn’t manage to eat as much as I’d have liked to! The Thai green curry was the best I’ve ever tried.
Dessert was a trio mix.
Arjun had a pumpkin purée which Preetam couldn’t keep his hands off!
Although the menu was so random and crazy, I really appreciated the effort and thought. It still makes me laugh! Haha! Only Preetam!
Half way through the meal Arjun got bored so Asad took him and entertained him while we finished our meal. I really liked that about the Maldives – the staff were so baby friendly and would take any given opportunity to take him for a little stroll.
Once we’d finished our yummy meal, we headed back to our room where Shifzen had decorated our day bed with balloons and a birthday sign. I also had a delicious cake.
Pretty much anything is possible in the Maldives – be it dinner on a private island, dinner on the beach or private dining. We decided to have a private BBQ midway through our holiday and I’m so glad we did.
Chef Hari prepared us all the food we love – tofu, paneer, halloumi to mention a few!
Asad again was our host and I was pleased to see him as it felt like he already knew us well.
He lit our deck with lanterns and we sat by the sea as we watched the sun go down and ate our freshly made food.
It was nice for us to be in our villa as all of Arjun’s things were accessible.
We decided to book a private viewing at the jungle cinema for our last night. We opted for The Lion King for selfless reasons – we thought it’d be nice to watch a movie that Arjun would also enjoy. It’s also a childhood favourite of both Preetam and I.
Asad was our waiter for the evening. It was nice that we had Asad for all our dining experiences as it made the service that much more personal.
The cinema is absolutely amazing. It’s a huge screen literally in the middle of foliage and huge trees branching over you.
We started the movie whilst having dinner. We went for a simple dinner that evening – pizza and chips! We then moved on to the sun beds where we enjoyed lounging and having popcorn (though I was pretty stuffed by this point!).
It was an amazing experience and I’d definitely recommend it!
Overall our stay was beautiful and I couldn’t have wished for a better 30th. Shifzen made our stay so easy by arranging pretty much whatever we were after. We just had to mention it once and we could consider it done. If we ever go back, I’d definitely be requesting him again. He was so patient and willing to help.
FLIGHT: MLE TO DXB
We met a lovely flight attendant, Feraz, on this leg who made this flight so easy. He more or less gave us a really personal service for example got the change table ready for us when we needed to change Arjun’s nappy.
The flight was empty again so we were told to help ourselves to another seat for Arjun which again was a great help. Arjun was wide awake as it was a morning flight but he was in good spirits. He was loving the attention from the crew members who were coo’ing over him – Feraz took him over to the others for a little while.
This flight made up for what an angel he was on the other three haha! As it was a day flight, Arjun was wide awake and so got bored after a while.
I was really tired so poor Preetam ended up dealing with him the whole way.
Nevertheless it snapped us back to reality and meant we could appreciate the amazing experience we just had! We are still suffering with the holiday blues!
What holiday destinations would you recommend for our next trip?x