Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
I recently enjoyed an AMAZING holiday in the Maldives. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (new) Business Class Brussels to Dubai
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (old) Business Class Dubai to Male
- Review: Soneva Jani Chapter One
- Review: Soneva Jani Chapter Two
- Review: Seaplane transfer to Velaa Private Island (today)
- Review: Velaa Private Island
- Review: Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas
- Review: Soneva Fushi
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (old) First Class Male to Dubai
- Review: Emirates Boeing 777-300ER (new) First Class Dubai to Brussels
Today: Review of the seaplane transfer to Velaa Private Island
Surrounded by pristine turquoise waters, Velaa Private Island is one of the Maldives’ most exclusive resorts. A passion project of Czech couple Jirí and Radka Smejc, this ultra-exclusive all-villa getaway was brought to life by architect Petr Kolar using an array of luxe materials: stone pavements from the desert in Jordan, Indonesian flowerpots, luxury wood paneling from Borneo, and artisan patio furniture from Italy. But the tropical retreat doesn’t just look the part — guests are treated as though the island is their own private paradise, whether they choose to tan by the pool, play a game at the resort’s private golf course, or charter a cruise with the resort’s own fleet.
There are three ways to get to Velaa Private Island, which is located in the Noonu Atoll, 187 km (110 mi) north of the capital city of Male:
- The most comfortable way is to travel onboard the Velaa branded seaplane (9 seats), charged at $10,293 USD per way including 10% service charge and 12% tax. The Velaa branded seaplane is fitted with fine leather and only available for private charter flights. If this Velaa private seaplane transfer option is chosen, guests will experience minimal waiting time at the resort’s private airport lounge prior to the direct 45 minute flight to Velaa Private Island.
- The least expensive way is a shared seaplane transfer (15 seats), charged at $ 600 USD per adult per way (50% discount for children from 2 to 11 years) including 10% service charge and 12% tax. If a shared seaplane transfer is chosen, guests may have to wait at the airport for one or two hours at the resort’s private airport lounge. There may be one or two stops at other resorts prior to arrival at Velaa Private Island as well.
- For guests who prefer to travel by sea, Velaa Private Island offers a private transfer on its luxury yacht Rania, directly from Velana International Airport, Malé. You may either choose a direct transfer to the resort or the journey can be tailor-made inclusive of excursions to untouched reefs along the way, where guests may enjoy swimming and snorkeling prior to arrival. A direct transfer will take approximately 4-5 hours where snacks and refreshments will be served on board. The yacht is equipped with both bedrooms and washrooms and a maximum of 8 guests can be accommodated with luggage. The yacht transfer is available at USD 14,784 per way including 10% service charge and 12% TGST, and is subject to availability.
This is a review of the shared seaplane transfer to Velaa Private Island. Below is my YouTube movie documenting my transfer to the ultraluxe resort.
Upon arrival at Velana International Airport, also known as Malé International Airport, and after passing immigration, guests are met by a Velaa Private Island host, who takes care of the luggage and provides assistance with the check-in at the Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) counters so secure the seaplane boarding passes. There are two seaplane operators in the Maldives: Manta Air is the newest airline while Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) is the oldest air carrier in the country (and also the largest seaplane operator in the world). Manta Air is the most premium of the two airlines: it has a pre-departure lounge open to all passengers and its seaplanes feel slightly more modern and offer a little bit more space per seat. Some resorts work with TMA (such as Velaa Private Island) while others have contracts with Manta Air.
Once checked in for the seaplane transfer, the Velaa Private Island staff transfers guests to the seaplane terminal, which is located on the other side of the airport’s perimeter. The drive to the seaplane terminal takes only 5 minutes. At the seaplane terminal, Velaa Private Island operates its own lounge, where guests can wait for the flight to the resort. While rather small (it’s definitely one of the smaller private lounges at the seaplane terminal), the rectangular space is beautifully decorated in Velaa Private Island’s typical tropical-chic style. There’s a dining area with a few tables and a lounge area with two daybeds, with sliding glass doors opening to an outside balcony with some more sunbeds. Drinks, snacks and WiFi are provided on a complimentary basis. Showers are available to refresh a little.
From the lounge, it’s a short stroll to the seaplane docks. As mentioned above, there are two seaplane choices available: either the Velaa Private Island seaplane or the TMA seaplane. The Velaa Private Island seaplane is private and more comfortable (seating 9 passengers in a VIP layout), while the TMA seaplane carries more passengers (15 in total) and may stop en-route at other destinations before arriving at Velaa Private Island. Below are some photos of the Velaa Private Island seaplane, which is only available for private charters (photos are provided by the resort).
Each seaplane in the Maldives has a crew of two pilots and one flight attendant (alias luggage handler), all of them wearing shorts and operating the plane barefoot. The cabin seats 15 passengers in total, with single seats on one side of the plane and double seats on the other side. Seats are not assigned, so the first ones on board can choose the best seats. There’s no door between the cockpit and the cabin, so you can observe the pilots’ activities when you are not distracted by the awesome views while flying over the atolls. It can get quite hot in the cabin, although some fans cool down the temperature as soon as the seaplane leaves the docks. Also, the seaplane is really loud, and passengers are provided ear plugs for their comfort. There are no toilets onboard.
The flight from Male to Velaa Private Island takes around 45 minutes, although it may be 10 minutes longer in case a stop-over needs to made at another resort to drop-off other passengers. There’s no service onboard, and there’s not much to do, except for enjoying the phenomenal views as you fly over several atolls. For most people, thé iconic image of the Maldives is that of a deep blue ocean interspersed by tiny palm islands surrounded by ridiculously clear lagoons and sugar white beaches. The only way to see that breathtaking view of 50 shades of blue is from the air, and although you will catch a few glimpses of the islands from your plane upon landing or departure at Male airport, the best vantage point for the breathtaking panoramas is offered by the seaplanes that take guests to their resorts. Flying on board a seaplane in Maldives and admiring the picture-perfect archipelago from a bird’s eye perspective is one of the ultimate experiences that the destination has to offer.
To be continued next week (with my full review of Velaa Private Island) …
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