2020 put a stop to most travel, leaving even the most innovative operators stumped with borders closed, flights cancelled, and a definite sense of dread in the air. With old favourites like Mauritius and the Seychelles sealed off to South Africans, and pandemic status likely to be around well into 2021, many have given up on the idea of an island escape… But guess what? Maldives island resorts are open for business. They’re ready and waiting to welcome guests, and have some of the world’s best systems and procedures in place to keep COVID-19 out.

We hear that some celebrities and wealthy UK families have even moved to their Maldives resorts of choice for a month or two at a time, because the island retreats carry far less risk of COVID-19 than their own neighbourhoods, not to mention endless sun, glorious food, tranquil oceans, and extreme privacy.

The best part? You don’t need a private submarine or endless airport transfers to get there. In fact, a direct flight from Johannesburg will have you in paradise in under nine hours.

Priority Escapes director, Francois Swart, went to the Maldives over Christmas to test things out (tough job, but someone had to do it…) and was overwhelmed by the professionalism, excellent service, and unobtrusively safe environment that he experienced.

“The Maldives was named the world’s leading destination at the latest World Travel Awards for good reason, and now it’s better than ever,” Francois confirmed. “These resorts have fine-tuned their entire operations, and once you’re there it’s like being in a very luxurious bubble, far from the worries of the real world.”

The beauty of Maldives geography is that it automatically limits the number of people you can come into contact with. Unlike Thailand or Mauritius, where you would encounter visitors from multiple other resorts at beaches, shops and attractions, most Maldives resorts are each located on their own small island, and many have as few as 20 – 50 rooms.

Staying in a water villa with spacious rooms, your own private pool, and the ocean as your front yard, is extremely cost-effective at the moment – prices are truly unbelievable. But even the beach bungalows are well-spaced and secluded. Why would anyone want to leave that room, really?!

[divider] SAFETY FIRST[/divider]

On arrival at your resort, you’ll have your temperature checked and will be provided with sanitiser. Your luggage will also be sanitised, so you don’t have to worry about who has handled those suitcases along the way.

Each resort is very clearly committed to keeping guests as safe as possible. Measures include:

• All staff have to quarantine for two weeks when they return to the island (if they have to leave for any reason).
• Increased cleaning regimes have been implemented throughout the resorts.
• Staff are on standby to sanitise loungers on the beach and at the poolside, before and after you use them.
• Same thing at the gym, spa, and with sports equipment such as jet skis and kayaks – everything is sanitised before and after use.
• There are sanitising stations at the entrance to every restaurant or common area, where you are required to sanitise before entry.
• In the unlikely event that someone does contract COVID-19, resorts are required to keep 10% of accommodation held back and available for quarantine. This will be used for any guest or staff member who displays symptoms, and an on-site nurse will check on them regularly.
• Travel insurance is also available to cover you in case of COVID-19 infection while you’re on holiday.

• Cancellation policies are extremely flexible, so if you catch COVID-19 before you depart, you can reschedule or get a refund, no problem. You’re safer in the Maldives, and so is your money!


The BIG surprise: no masks at the beach and pool. “It was a bit of a shock to the system when I first arrived, but when you go to open spaces such as the beach or swimming pool, everything is so well distanced and everyone is so careful with sanitising and maintaining that distance, that you don’t have to wear a mask,” says Francois. “It took some getting used to, but it was great!”

[divider]RESTAURANT ETIQUETTE[/divider]

Safety measures in the resorts’ restaurants are a high priority:

• Tables have been rearranged and floors are marked to ensure social distancing at all times.
• Guests are allocated the same table throughout their stay.
• Meals are served a la carte wherever possible.
• When there is a buffet, everyone must put on a mask and gloves to go up to the buffet stations.
• Social distancing must be adhered to at all times in the restaurants.
• Quality remains impeccable! These resorts are famous for their incredible cuisine, and that certainly hasn’t changed at all.

For the ultimate social distancing and romance, book yourself a beach dinner under the stars – it’s magnificent!

[divider]FLYING HIGH[/divider]

All you need before you go is a negative COVID-19 test and to fill out an online government screening questionnaire, and you’re in. This is one of the few places in the world without quarantine requirements right now (and for the foreseeable future). While there have been cases of COVID-19 n the Maldives, the vast majority have been in the capital, leaving the picturesque islands to relax and soak up covid-free sunshine.
South Africans will also need to have a COVID-19 test before returning to SA, and resorts are fully equipped to help with this. Costs range from $80.00 per test.

In addition to those tests, you’ll have your temperature screened:
– On arrival at your departure airport
– Before boarding your flight

– On arrival in the Maldives, before clearing customs. You’ll then be whisked away directly to your boat or seaplane transfer, all of which are fully sanitised before and after each use too.
Masks are compulsory at airports and during flights, and seating is planned to optimise social distancing.

It’s extremely comforting to know that every other person you encounter will have had these same screenings and tests.

Priority Escapes is working with Air Seychelles to provide these direct flights, and the relatively young fleet of aircraft compare well with comfort levels on Emirates and the like. They are also equipped with state-of-the-art air filtration systems, which make virus transmission even less likely.

As we step into the new year (with a massive sigh of relief!), it’s clear we still have a few more months of pandemic to deal with, but there’s a lot we can do in those months. Priority Escapes fully intends to make travel a reality in these months and beyond, and we hope you’ll join us to explore the new opportunities that this crazy new world is creating.