My travels to the Maldives keep dragging me to this tiny island of Ukulhas, remotely located, in the middle of North Ari Atoll in Maldives. There is something special about this tiny Pearl in the middle of Ari Atoll. For those of you who are still wondering where to take your next vacation in the Maldives, let me help you.
Here are my top 10 reasons to visit Ukulhas any time of the year.
With the white Sandy Beach stretching endlessly and a crystal clear lagoon that is second to none, Ukulhas is still a lesser known paradise. It’s a beach goer’s dream. If you are like me and love to spend dawn to dusk on the sun chair (with an occasional dip in the beautiful blue ocean), then Ukulhas must be on top of your bucket list. This is probably the most gorgeous bikini beach for tourists on any of the local islands in the Maldives.
A quiet early morning walk on the beach, that stretches more than halfway around the island, can start your day with the sounds of waves and pieces of coral clicking together rejuvenating your energy and is an awesome way to begin your day . Baby sharks play in the waves as they roll onto the sand and some days a heron may be majestically standing at the water’s edge just waiting to have its picture taken.
After breakfast, (or before), grab a towel, sunscreen, water, a book, some toys (for the kids) and snorkeling gear then head to the beach. Find your perfect spot on the beach and get settled onto your sun chair. West Sands offers sun loungers and beach towels for hotel guests, right in front of the hotel beach. Take a few minutes to absorb the surroundings – beautiful turquoise water, blue sky, green vegetation, sounds of nature and know you are in paradise. There’s lots of space to spread out and build sand castles with the kids or find a secluded space to spend time with your loved one. A day at the beach is never complete without a swim and/or snorkeling in clear, clean, warm ocean waters.
As the sun drops in the sky, the panoramic views of beautiful sunsets will take your breath away. It’s the picture perfect view for Instagram worthy pictures or maybe the perfect backdrop for a romantic dinner on the beach, with your feet at the water’s edge.
When you go to Ukulhas, snorkeling is an absolute must. The house reef of Ukulhas is just 20 meters wide and is home to all sorts of wonderful fish, baby sharks, turtles, coral, starfish, eagle rays, sting rays and more sea creatures that will peak your interests. It’s breathtaking to see how all these fishes of different kinds and colors and sizes live in harmony with each other. Take your time and explore the reef as some areas are better than others and you’ll want to see it all. Snorkeling is great fun and can be done by all ages and amateurs to pros. The edge of the reef has some of the best fish activities and it will captivate you for hours. Even the shallow areas have many beautiful colorful fish to entice the children and new swimmers. What’s more, if you ever get bored of the house reef, then it’s time to go on an excursion to a postcard beautiful reef minutes away from Ukulhas. Live reefs, with colorful coral gardens and fishes and other marine life will be sure to keep you in awe. Ask the concierge and friendly hosts at West Sands to organize a trip for you. The hotel also offers you complimentary snorkeling gear and an amazing local guide who will take you around.
Maldivian people are naturally warm and hospitable wherever you happen to be. The hospitality of the people of Ukulhas is extra special. When you arrive on the island you are greeted by the friendly locals, smiling children, and elders all making you feel so welcomed the moment you step on Ukulhas. I’ve had the opportunity to observe life on the island and it is evident that family is a very important part of the lives of the people of Ukulhas. The language of the Maldives is Dhivehi but many locals speak English.
Ukulhas is still fairly untouched and the natural vegetation creates a very relaxing, beautiful environment. The big overgrown trees and colorful flowering plants can be found everywhere on the island and help you leave all the hustle and bustle behind. Most hotels and guest houses do not rise above the canopy, unlike some of the popular islands of the Maldives, but actually blend into the natural surroundings of the island. The locals have a true respect for their island and take care of the island with daily cleaning of the island and beaches. Ukulhas retains the essence and character of a natural island environment where young and old alike can relax, breath in the fresh air and enjoy the sand, sun and ocean adventures.
If the snorkeling is not enough to surprise you, I guarantee you swimming with Mantas will. The island is the backyard of the manta rays. They are so majestic yet adorable and you can literally swim with them with just a mask and snorkel on. It’s an ultimate bucket list buster. You can even join a cruise and see dolphins in their natural habitat just a few minutes away. Or castaway on a virgin island for a day. If spending time with loved ones on a tiny patch of sand in the middle of the ocean with crystal clear lagoon stretching as far as the eye can see surrounded by all shades of turquoise is something you would enjoy, then a trip to a sand bank can be arranged. The surrounding waters of Ukulhas is literally nature’s playground. There are many more excursions that can be arranged both romantic or family oriented activities to make your visit to Ukulhas memorable.
There is no particular cuisine that is special to Ukulhas. However, if you are lucky enough to enjoy the island cuisine the distinct flavor of fresh herbs and spices. The bountiful reefs around Ukulhas fill up their dining tables. Freshly caught reef fish barbequed on local style grills with coconut shell fire is almost a staple fish for the locals as opposed to a luxury for most of us. As a westerner you will be amazed by the variety and choices you can get in the restaurants in Ukulhas. There is a nice Thai food experience, or a four course buffet in West Sands hotel and of course fresh seafood is always on the menu. I have never eaten such fresh tuna and wahoo. If you don’t see an item on the menu, inquire if it is available as they may be able to accommodate you. The life in Ukulhas is in most part self sustainable. Their back yard gardens are filled with bananas, breadfruit, mango and other tropical fruits vegetables.
Hotels and guest houses can be found around the island. Wherever you decide to stay, you will be about a minute walk from the beautiful beach. Ukulhas is a kilometer long and almost all accommodations are towards the western tip of the island. West Sands, where I stay and am writing this piece, is right in front of the beach. Many of the accommodations bring the beach inside with sandy floors in open air common areas. Staff members are very friendly and want to assist you in any way they can to help you enjoy your stay. And they are not ridiculously overpriced. Many people still wonder about the option of choosing a lavish resort when they think of Maldives. With the exception of a cold beer or perhaps a glass of wine over dinner, I have no particular reason to choose a resort in Maldives. Some of the rooms and suites in these guest houses and hotels are arguably equivalent to a room in a resort. They come with all modern amenities like showers, open bathrooms, air conditioning, paraquat flooring, free WiFi, balconies and gracefully decorated interiors, high quality linen. Honestly, I think the quality of accommodation in Ukulhas is seriously underrated.
The moment you step onto Ukulhas, time stands still. You are taken back in a journey through time, where the peacefulness and tranquility awaken your true senses and you connect to yourself. As you explore the island you get a total sense of community. To see the children playing and adults socializing in the harbour front area is heartwarming. Walking around the community you can stop and say hello to elders, see children in their school uniforms, women playing ball or stop at a grocery store, all activities that you would miss on a resort island.
I was on the island during some of the World Cup games and was amazed to see locals watching games at the screen set up at the front of the island and more watching at a local restaurant, Retro Royal. The camaraderie among the locals was amazing and a joy to watch. I also have had the pleasure of participating in the community celebration for Eid Al-Adha which involved a huge pot luck supper created by all the locals bringing food to tables set up in the harbour area for all to enjoy. Boduberu (cultural drumming, singing and dancing) entertainment followed the meal. Again the cohesiveness of community was obvious as everyone helped setup and take down the venues like a well oiled wheel. Sitting outside under the beautiful star filled night watching a community come together in celebration will forever be in my memory.
If you are an avid diver, Ukulhas can accommodate your desire for underwater adventures. There is a dive shop on the island to assist with diving inquiries. There are two world renown dive sights just off of the island. Hafsa Thila is located southwest of Ukulhas with beautiful clear waters so visibility is high. You’ll find a diverse marine life living at the Thila including fusiliers, tuna, surgeonfish, scorpionfish, big-eyed jacks, octopi, moray eels, turtles, white tip and grey reef sharks. Maaya Thila is located northwest of Ukulhas and is suitable for day and night dives. The diverse marine life I Clyde parrot fish, triggerfish, clownfish, batfish, turtles, moray eels, octopi and in the deeper water, white tip and reef sharks.
Ukulhas is a tropical climate with warm temperatures all year round with sunshine most days. The easiest way to describe it is perhaps ‘endless summer’. Like everywhere in Maldives, Ukulhas observe two monsoons during the year. South West monsoon from May to July is when you can expect some rain. The temperature remains at 28-30 degrees Celsius and even when it’s raining it’s still warm. And it doesn’t rain all day. Throughout the South East monsoon, from July to April it’s always sunny and humid. Don’t forget to wear a lot of sunscreen and drink lots of water.
Note: This post was written by Susan Moore.