After my experiences with Airtours not bringing my luggage back from the Maldives, I vowed never to go on holiday with them again. However, this trip was already booked, so I didn't have much choice.
The Bahamas was somewhere I'd always wanted to go, so when JMC started doing charter flights there, and the price of package holidays dropped, I started to investigate the various hotels in the brochure. One of them, the Viva Fortuna, looked too good to be true. The price for a fortnight was £960 each for an all-inclusive package covering all food and drinks. So I asked on the Internet and other people had been there and enjoyed it, so I went ahead with the booking.
I've been to Australia on several occasions. The first time was back in 1991 just after I'd left university. I took 3 months off and went backpacking. It was on the Great Barrier Reef that I first learnt to dive. I've since been back several times and written up my diving and travelling experiences there.
Since I originally wrote this report, the dive school has changed management. I went back again in 2012, and had a much more enjoyable experience. The newer report is here.
Our flight was with Monarch. The plane was an Airbus 300 and it was pretty cramped with not a great deal of legroom. Still at least we didn't have to pay for our headphones and you did get a complimentary, if very small, bottle of wine with your meal.
I booked the holiday back in April. I was somewhat amazed to not be able to get my first choice island, and settled on Meedhupparu instead. We arrived at Gatwick airport about two and a half hours before takeoff and there was absolutely no queue at all. Clearly the events of September 11th had mad a lot of people cancel their holidays. So we were quite surprised to find that the plane was quite full, though there were still some spare seats. The reason was that they had combined the Manchester and London flights. The next surprise was that we weren't stopping in Bahrain, as had been
Following our experiences with the boat trip last year, we decided to pay the extra £120 for the sea plane transfer. It was money well spent. The flight takes about 45 minutes and gives you a good view of the atolls from the air. We arrived at Kuredu at about 5pm. The boat didn't get in until about 11.30pm. All of the luggage is sent on the boat to reduce the weight for the seaplane, so it was essential to have some suitable clothes for the evening. Some people had to walk around in jumpers
This was our third trip to the Maldives in as many years so, on arrival at Male, we knew exactly what to expect and had changed into T-shirts and shorts on the plane. As we watched the other passengers wilt in the heat of the barely air-conditioned airport, we knew that we'd made the right decision.
The formalities always take a bit of time because of the customs checks. After we'd cleared the airport we transfered to the boat that was to take us to Kuredu.
The flight to Male, the capital of the Maldives, is quite a long one. It took something like 9 hours to Abu Dhabi, 1 hour to walk round duty free, followed by a further 4 hours. Still at least, they'd almost finished the new airport building, so it was a lot better than last year. They might even switch the air conditioning on next year too.