Welsh and Wonderful

A lifestyle blog written by a Welsh lady living in Wales.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Beach Walks and Bluebells

Beautiful bluebells!
Over the Easter bank holiday weekend, I went on a lovely walk along the beach during low tide at Three Cliffs Bay on the south coast of the Gower Peninsula, and discovered the views from the coastal footpath between Three Cliffs Bay and Oxwich. The weather was warm and hazy, and it was lovely to enjoy the beautiful scenery and wild bluebells. We've enjoyed a few sunny spells, and I think that the sunny weather has helped to bring out all the bluebells.
The view towards Oxwich
Wild flowers
Wild primrose
Three Cliffs Bay
Three Cliffs Bay is definitely one of my favourite beaches in the Gower because it's so unspoilt and peaceful.  There were lots of holidaymakers enjoying themselves on the beach, and we felt very fortunate that we didn't have to travel too far to visit this lovely part of the coast. This is one of the most enjoyable walks along the Wales Coast Path, and springtime is probably the best time to enjoy the good weather and beautiful bluebells.

I hope that these photos inspire you to visit Wales!

Thank you for reading! Angharad x
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Top 10 tips for the Maldives


I've written this post to help you if you've never been to the Maldives before and you're thinking about booking a holiday, or perhaps you've booked a holiday and you're thinking about all the things you need to organise to make the most of your trip. I've put together this list of Top 10 Tips, based on my own personal experience of our stay at the gorgeous Reethi Faru resort. We had a fantastic stay, and I hope that this post helps you with planning your trip to the Maldives.
1. UV protective clothing                                                                                                                   
Before you go, I would recommend purchasing a UV protective long sleeved rash vest and shorts/leggings for snorkelling. I didn't know about this beforehand, and when I went snorkelling in my bikini (wearing SPF50!) I burnt my back. There were other people who wore UV protective gear when they went snorkelling, and this is because you genuinely need it if you burn easily. A t shirt may also work but a UV protective one is best.  Don't worry if you think you'll look a bit daft; you won't be the only one, and sunburn is never a cool look (and it's sore too!). 
2. Snorkel equipment   
I would also recommend that you pack a snorkel, mask and fins (you definitely need the fins to protect your feet from the coral.) These items take up a fair bit of room in your suitcase, but it usually works out more costly to hire the snorkel equipment when you're at the resort unless this is included, so check before you go.
3. Snorkelling tours
If you're apprehensive about snorkelling then go on an organised snorkel tour. During our stay at Reethi Faru, we initially weren't sure about where it was safe to go snorkelling (e.g. entry points and currents), and we were a bit worried about getting hurt on the coral, so this was really helpful and gave us the confidence and knowledge to go on our own at various access points around the island. 
4. Photography
Consider getting a waterproof camera to take some underwater shots of all the amazing reef fish and sea life; it really is like nothing else you've ever seen. I didn't have one, but I think I would have enjoyed taking photos under the sea, especially when a turtle came to say hello! I really enjoyed taking photos of all the beautiful scenery, and it's nice to have lots of memories to look back on.
5. Sun
Avoid the sun between 11 and 3. Its the strongest sun we've ever experienced, so find some shade and enjoy a book and a nice cocktail! It got quite hot and humid in the day time, and it was nice at sunset because the temperature was more comfortable.
6. Mosquitoes
The mosquitoes aren't too bad; we got bitten a couple of times but they spray the island every afternoon. Jungle Formula helps, but you really don't need to worry about mosquitoes. 
7. All Inclusive
If you can afford it then definitely go all inclusive. It can be tempting to just go for the b&b option because it appears to be so much cheaper when you're comparing options, but it's usually a false economy. If you're not sure then take a look at the prices for food and drinks and how much you think you'll spend each day. To give you an idea of prices, they add 23% tax on top, so a diet coke works out at about £5. You could probably just have breakfast and dinner if you wanted to save money, but we preferred going all inclusive.


8. No shoes
You won't wear shoes for the entire holiday and you'll enjoy it (and I'm a girl who loves her holiday sandals and flip flops!).  I was surprised by how quickly I got used to walking around the island with bare feet, and it certainly helps with making you feel more relaxed.


9. Seaplane  
I would recommend choosing a resort island which is accessed via seaplane. It bumps up the cost but it's an amazing experience to fly over all the islands.We flew with Trans Maldivian airways, who are only permitted to fly from sunrise to sunset. The beauty of the Maldives is at its best when you can see all the tiny islands below you, and it adds to the adventure of your holiday. The baggage allowance is 25kg, which includes 20kg of checked-in luggage and 5kg of hand luggage per person.

10. Holiday books 
Bring some good books; the Maldives is the perfect location to relax and enjoy a good read! There are lots of fun things to do in the Maldives, but you can't beat relaxing by the pool or on the beach and having a really good rest.


Let me know if you've been to the Maldives before; I'd love to hear what your experiences were! Thank you for reading, Angharad x
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Thursday, 18 April 2019

Nature and Wildlife in the Maldives



The beautiful resort island of Reethi Faru in the Maldives was rich with nature and exotic wildlife,  and there were a few things on the island that we'd never seen before. The marine life was absolutely stunning; there were so many different varieties and amazing colours of fish, it was hard to believe that they were real. Here is just a snapshot of some of the beautiful things we came across on the island!

 Hermit Crabs

Hermit crabs protect themselves from predators by making themselves at home in an empty seashell, and use this to retract their whole body into. As the hermit crab grows larger in size, it finds a larger shell and abandons the previous one. We saw quite a few of these scuttling along the sand, and David kindly picked one up for a photo (I didn't want to get nipped!).

Fruit Bats


I'd never seen Fruit Bats in their natural habitat before, and it was really cool seeing them hanging in the trees and snacking on fruit. As dusk fell, the bats would swoop from tree to tree and were fascinating to watch. Some see them as pests, but they play an important role in seed dispersal and pollination (they also look very cute!). The best time to photograph them was early evening, before they start to take off.


Lizards
Oriental Garden Lizard


Reethi Faru had lots of lizards scurrying around the island, and they all loved posing for photos (as you can see!). The lizards eat mainly insects and help to control insect populations...we'd often see them standing very still, before running off somewhere very quickly. The Oriental Garden Lizard is also known as the "Changeable Lizard", due it its wide variation in colouration and ability to change colours during the breeding season. We also saw geckos in the bathroom of our beach villa; they would appear in the evening to come and say hello!


Beautiful Flowers
Hibiscus
Jungle geranium
Water lily
One of my favourite things about visiting the Maldives was seeing all the beautiful flowers , particularly those which you don't get back home. Reethi Faru had lots of different varieties of plants, trees and flowers, like frangipani, hibiscus, jungle geranium, and water lilies. I love flowers so much and it was lovely to see them in bloom and capture some nice photos.

Palm Trees

When you think of the Maldives you probably think of swaying palms against blue waters and gorgeous sunsets, and Reethi Faru didn't disappoint! There were some lovely palm trees by the swimming pool which looked really striking as the sun went down; I loved how natural and unspoilt the island was.


Stunning Sunsets
We enjoyed some really beautiful sunsets at Reethi Faru; the Sunset Bar had deckchairs on the beach so you could sit down and enjoy the sun going down with a nice drink and some popcorn. Another beautiful thing we saw on the beach at night time was a natural phenomenon called 'bioluminescence', where bioluminescent plankton glowed in the dark and lit up in neon blue patches as the tide came in.

It was such a special experience to stay in the Maldives and enjoy its nature and wildlife. I hope you've enjoyed these photos, and I'd love to hear from you if you've also visited the Maldives!



Thank you for reading, Angharad x
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Monday, 11 March 2019

My guide to the Maldives!

David and I went on a wonderful trip to Reethi Faru Resort in the Maldives for his birthday back in November, and I've put this post together to answer questions about our holiday and to help anyone who's thinking of planning a holiday to the Maldives. 

We initially felt quite overwhelmed when we were researching and planning our trip, as there are over 100 resort islands to choose from and it's hard to know where to start. It actually took us several weeks to decide on where we wanted to go, although I know some people actually spend several months doing their research, so hopefully this post will make things easier for you. 

I've tried to cover everything but if you have any  questions at all, just leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to answer them 🙂


Why Reethi Faru?
We chose Reethi Faru because it opened in December 2017, so all the facilities are new but the resort had been running long enough to ensure that any teething problems had been ironed out.

You get to the island via sea plane transfer, and this was definitely something that we wanted to do, so that was another box ticked. We wanted to stay somewhere fairly small and quiet, and Reethi Faru seemed to fit the bill. Some of the other islands are much bigger with more activities, but we felt that if we'd wanted that kind of holiday we would have booked to go to a large resort somewhere else like Mexico or the Caribbean. We didn't want anything too lively and we really wanted to experience the peaceful and unspoilt beauty of island life in the Maldives.

We thought that the accommodation at Reethi Faru looked lovely and modern; some of the accommodation on other islands appeared to be a bit dated. Reethi Faru also has one of the largest selection of water sports in the Maldives, which was very appealing to us as we enjoy being out on the water. The resort generally has excellent reviews on Trip Advisor and has recently been crowned the leading luxury new hotel in the Indian Ocean. We spent our first five nights in a water villa, followed by five nights in a beach villa, so we could compare the two.

What was the water villa like?
Amazing! It really was like something you see in a holiday brochure. It was fully air conditioned, very spacious, spotlessly clean, and with a comfortable bed. The bathroom had a huge bath tub, outdoor shower and indoor shower. 

The terrace doors overlooked the ocean (we requested to stay on the sunset side, which was kindly arranged for us by the resort), and this opened up to a terrace which is perfect for reading, morning coffee or a glass of wine. You could swim and snorkel right off the steps.


We loved the sea view and enjoyed watching the sunsets from our terrace. We could see beautiful reef fish from the wooden walkway; we even saw an Eagle Ray on one occasion.


What was the deluxe beach villa like?
The deluxe beach villa accommodation itself was lovely, but we couldn't see the beach from our room because it was hidden by bushes (we think that this may have been for privacy.) It was lovely being right on the beach, but overall we preferred the water villa.  
What website did you book your holiday on?
We booked the flights with Emirates and the accommodation with Booking.com.


How much does it cost? 
You'll need to work out your budget when you're planning a trip to the Maldives; it's possible to spend anything from a couple of hundred pounds per night to several thousand. High season is late December through to March, and prices are much higher then.  If you're willing to risk the possibility of some unsettled weather (wind and rain) then there are big savings if you travel off season.

Is it worth the expense when you compare it to other luxury holiday destinations?
Yes and no. Yes - because there's nowhere else in the world quite like it and it really is the trip of a lifetime. No - because it's quite a mission to get there and all the travel and crossing different time zones is pretty exhausting. There are other tropical places which are easier to get to from the UK, like the Caribbean. Nothing compares to the Maldives though, so you have to decide what's right for you. The snorkelling and natural beauty of the Maldives is outstanding. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Maldives then definitely go; some people catch Maldivitis and are hooked for life!

How long did it take to get there?
We travelled with Emirates and had a stopover in Dubai to break up our journey. The plane journeys were 7 hours from Heathrow to Dubai and 4 hours from Dubai to Malé. You then have to get a seaplane to the resort, which took about 45 minutes and costs extra. The total journey time including stopovers averages between 12-15 hours. There is only one direct flight to Malé, which goes from London Gatwick with British Airways, and this takes just over 10 hours.

What was the weather like?
For the most part it was hot and sunny, but we did have a couple of rainy days with thunder and lightning at night time. Island weather can be unpredictable, even in high season. We both found the heat and humidity quite uncomfortable at times, so we enjoyed the shade by the pool with a cocktail and a good book. The sun was the most intense we'd ever experienced; I was really careful wearing SPF 30 but I still managed to burn when we went snorkelling.
What was the spa like?
We visited the spa for a complimentary head, neck and back massage, but we didn't indulge in other treatments because we thought they were too expensive. The spa was very relaxing and beautiful, and if money was no object then you could easily spend most of your holiday there if you wanted to! 

What is there to do?
There are lots of things to do at Reethi Faru; relaxing by the pool with a cocktail, swimming, snorkelling, day trips, and diving. There's a spa, gym, and water sports, so there's plenty to keep you occupied.

Any must-do activities?
We LOVED the snorkelling. It was the best snorkelling we've ever done, and on our last day a turtle swam up to us and came to say hello! We also saw a couple of baby reef sharks and Eagle Rays, which was really cool. We enjoyed a lovely sunset cruise, and 15 min back and neck massage which was included in the all inclusive package. David completed a PADI course to become a qualified freediver (diving without the use of breathing apparatus). It's a great place to learn to scuba dive and freedive.

What do you need? 
We'd never been to the Maldives before, and the thought of being on an island with limited places to buy things makes you think very carefully about what you need to pack. There's a doctor on the island but make sure you bring basic first aid stuff like paracetamol, Imodium and plasters (just in case!). I’d recommend taking your own snorkelling equipment because there's a cost to hire it otherwise. Bring plenty of SPF 30 and SPF 50  and a UV protective rash vest and shorts for snorkelling (the SPF washes off and you will burn, as I sadly discovered!) 

You don't need to wear shoes either; it's a barefoot island and we didn't wear our flip flops for the whole time we were there (and I'm a girl who loves her shoes!). The plugs were UK ones so you don’t need to worry about adaptors if you're travelling from the UK. There were beach towels, a hairdryer, and toiletries in the resort accommodation.

What other things should I consider?
When you're choosing a resort in the Maldives, I would recommend considering the following :
  • What's your budget?
  • Is the island adults only?
  • Do you get there via boat or seaplane transfer?
  • What's included in the all inclusive option?
  • Do you want to stay in a water villa or beach villa?
  • Do you want to stay on a large or small island?
  • What are the reviews like on Trip Advisor?

Would you recommend this as a honeymoon destination?
We didn't go to the Maldives for our honeymoon but I would imagine that this is a great honeymoon destination, providing you give yourself plenty of time after the wedding day itself before you travel (at least a week), as you'll feel exhausted after the wedding day.  Travelling such a long distance and crossing time zones is very tiring, and spending so much money on your honeymoon really ups the stakes in terms of what you expect from the holiday. It can put a lot of pressure on both of you because you'll want everything to be as perfect as it can be, and things don't always go to plan. We were glad that we went on our honeymoon in Europe after our wedding day, as the travel was less tiring and less stressful from the UK, and our expectations weren't as high. We know of other couples though who went on their honeymoon to the Maldives and absolutely loved it and wouldn't have done things any differently. If you want to go then do it!

What's all inclusive like?
All inclusive in the Maldives is different to AI in other holiday resorts like Mexico, for example, so make sure you research what's included in the AI option before you book.

All our AI meals were in the main buffet restaurant; there were a la carte restaurants too but you had to pay extra to dine at these (although the drinks are included). The good thing was that the food in the main restaurant was amazing! We'd go in there thinking that we weren't very hungry, and come away with our plates piled high and go back for seconds! The main restaurant overlooked the beach and ocean, and on one occasion we saw a pod of dolphins swim past which was really special (especially the baby dolphins!).

I know that some might not like the idea of having to dine in a buffet restaurant, especially when you're paying so much, but this was completely different to any other we'd been to and we really enjoyed trying lots of different food, most of which were really healthy with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and curries. The coconut cream & Nutella crepes weren't so healthy, but it's all about balance, right?! 😂 That said, the restaurant did get busy at breakfast and dinner, so it would have been nice to have had the option to dine at other places for no extra cost for more variety.

We had a mini fridge in our room, but there weren't any extra beverages provided in the room, apart from a welcome bottle of wine and two large bottles of water which were provided daily. The resort bars had a really good selection of cocktails and spirits, and the wine which was included was ok. 

Everything extra which you purchase in the resort, including food, beverages and excursions, are subject to Government tax which is around 23%, so bring plenty of US dollars for any extras and tips.
Would you go back?
Now here's the bit which may surprise you; neither of us are in a hurry to go back, for a number of reasons. It's very expensive; the prices for some of the resorts are extortionate, and even the ones that are more within budget are a bit of a stretch. There's also a lot of travel involved to get to the Maldives, and the time difference works against you when you're flying from the west. There are a number of connecting flights to get, so if any of these are delayed then this will affect the rest of your journey. Everything ran smoothly for us, apart from there being a bit of a delay with the last leg of our journey home so this wasn't a problem, but there's more potential for things to go wrong when you've got connecting flights.

We found that the sun in the Maldives was too intense for us; literally from 7.00am it would be burning hot. Towards the end of the holiday I was walking around in David's hat, t shirt and boardies to protect myself from the sun, which is something I've never had to do before!

We loved experiencing what it was like to go on a seaplane and stay in a water villa, but in terms of convenience, weather, and value for money we both prefer the Caribbean. Of course, everyone is different and it all comes down to your personal opinion and preference.

What was your favourite thing?
Definitely the water villa and the snorkelling. We also ate at the Reethi Grill on the beach on the last night and it was magical!


I hope you've found this helpful if you're thinking of planning a trip to the Maldives. 
If you've got any questions then please let me know 😊

As always, thank you for reading! Angharad x
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