Ten Days at Sun Siyam Vilu Reef, Maldives: A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Stephen and I went to Whitstable for our 15th wedding anniversary. It was a marvellous weekend spent in an old Fisherman's Hut, sampling all the local seafood, and walking our Golden Labrador Molly on the beach. It was lovely but we began to hatch a plan for something altogether more glamourous for our 20th anniversary and so the saving began. We chose Maldives because it was the one place I thought we’d never be able to go to. Our brief to the travel agent was quite specific – we wanted a water villa with a private splash pool, we wanted to fly (not sail) from Malé to the island, and we wanted an all-inclusive option because the majority of complaints from travellers about the Maldives were related to the costs involved in not going all-inclusive.

Was the travel agent able to deliver that within our budget? Of course they weren’t and the trip landed up costing twice what we’d been anticipating. It was a lesson in working with travel agents after decades spent planning travel ourselves. Do we regret anything? Of course not. We were treated to ten days of five star treatment, the likes of which we hadn’t had the privilege of enjoying before.

View of the Indian Ocean through the ViluReef swing  | Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

If you've never spent ten days on a tropical island before and you're wondering how you would spend the time, allow me to share what we did to celebrate our milestone anniversary trip.

Flying on a Seaplane

Propellor and engine of a seaplane viewed over the islands of the Maldives | Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

We flew by seaplane from Malé to the tiny island of Meedhuffushi in the Maldives' South Nilandhe Atoll. The journey was exhilarating and we were able to see some of the 1192 islands that make up the Maldives from the air.

Getting Our First Glimpse of the Water Villas

Water villas at Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

Our excitement began to build following our landing on the water and we got our first glimpse of the water villas as our plane taxied to the landing point. Our villa is to the very left of the photo, with the infinity pool visible in white.

Waking Up to this View Each Day

We chose a Grand Water Villa with Pool featuring a private infinity pool and sunset views. We woke up to views like this every day and it was absolutely magical. There were steps leading down from our deck into the water and we were able to snorkel under our villa.

Top tip: the Grand Water Villas are west-facing and don’t get much sun during the day, so you’ll want to head to the pool or beaches for some sun.

Enjoying Cocktails on the Beach

Enjoying cocktails on the beach at Sun Siyam Vilu Reef. There is a swing hanging in the midground and the Indian Ocean in the background

I’m hesitant to say this, for purely superstitious reasons, but Stephen and I are exceptionally lucky with weather on our trips (Great Britain excluded, of course). The weather forecast had predicted thundershowers for our entire late-November trip, with the ‘good’ season for visiting Maldives only really starting in late-November and ending in April.

The first couple of days were indeed grey but we took the time to relax on the beach with cocktails and simply unwind. We were able to run under cover when the torrential rain arrived, usually in the afternoons, and we were somewhat protected from the intense heat that would arrive later in our trip.

Top tip for bars at Vilu Reef: the cocktails are really watered down which isn’t great for a luxury resort. We soon learned that it was better to order spirits or wine because then you knew what you were getting.

Snorkelling For the First Time

A sandy beach with palm trees in the foreground and the Indian Ocean in the background | Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

It brightened up a lot of our third day at Vilu Reef and we decided to go snorkelling. It was my first experience snorkelling and I learned that taking photos underwater is a LOT more difficult than it looks, especially if you learned to swim in 2018, you’ve never snorkelled before, and your goggles keep steaming up.

An underwater scene of black fish swimming alongside a reef | Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

I also learned that fish will sink their sharp little teeth into your thighs if you don’t keep moving, all the while the sun is slowly burning you to a crisp. Despite the steep learning curve, it was an incredible experience and the reef was pristine.

Top tip: wear a surfing t-shirt when snorkelling to prevent severe sunburn on your back.

Relaxing by the pool

Relaxing in the shade by the pool | Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

It certainly began to warm up on our fourth day on the island and we took the opportunity to relax in the shade by the side of the pool. It wasn't all relaxation though, a woman began to struggle in the pool and her husband called for help. Stephen calmly dived in, put her head above water and swam her to the shallow end, where she could catch her breath again. It all happened very fast!

Enjoying a Sunset Cruise

The view of Vilu Reef from the water  | Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

On the Wednesday evening, we headed out for a sunset cruise around the island and enjoyed stunning views of the island, delighting in the thrill of the ride and the wind in our hair. I was very pleasantly surprised that I didn't experience any seasickness but slightly sad that we didn’t spot any dolphins!

Breakfast With a View

Dosa with spiced potato filling on plate with Indian Ocean in background | Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

Perhaps my favourite part of each day was enjoying breakfast with a view each morning. The food was exquisite at Sun Siyam Vilu Reef and it helps that I was willing to be adventurous. It was here that I learned to love dosa with spiced potato filling. I would never have chosen these savoury pancakes before and now they're a favourite.

Watching the Sunset From Our Private Deck

Sunset from the deck of a water villa in Maldives | Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

Each evening we watched the sunset from the deck of our water villa. We'd enjoy shandies from the mini-bar and take a dip in our pool, all the while watching the beautiful pink, blue and orange hues in the sky. It was quite magical and a welcome chance to cool down after the very warm days.

Relaxing on the Beach

| Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

The beaches at Vilu Reef are pristine and the Indian Ocean water a perfect temperature. I spent many an afternoon simply sitting in the water, gazing into the distance. Stephen took the chance to go jet skiing while I paddled.

Top tip while jet skiing: don’t wear brand new Oakley sunglasses unless you specifically want to lose them and contribute to plastics in the ocean.

Swimming With Fishes, Reef Sharks and Stingrays Around Our Villas

| Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

The water villas at Vilu Reef form a leaf shape around a lagoon and it is full of fishes, reef sharks and tiny stingrays. They were beautiful to see but not so easy to photograph. I certainly kept my distance from the stingrays but the reef sharks don’t really scare me.

A Moonlight Dinner for Two Under the Stars

| Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

Perhaps the most memorable evening was a moonlight dinner under the stars to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary (which is actually in March but November seemed like a better month to travel). We enjoyed scallops, lobster, prawns, laksa and much more and were treated to a dedicated waiter.

We did have a funny experience during our meal. We ordered a bottle of Prosecco – my favourite – and the waiter delivered a $700 bottle of champagne. He insisted it was correct when I questioned him and it was only when the manager came to see how our meal was that it was resolved. I explained that I’d wanted Prosecco and the manager spotted the Very Expensive Champagne, whipped it off the table, and returned with a Much More Reasonably Priced bottle of Prosecco. We had a good laugh.

Couple's Massage in the Spa

The Salon at Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

No romantic anniversary holiday would be complete without a couple’s massage and the spa at Vilu Reef was spectacular.

Couples massage at Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

We lay side by side for 90 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Top tip for massages at Vilu Reef: try the Vilu Herbal massage featuring treatment with a special blend of herbs in heated herbal pouches. I could see Stephen melting into the bed out of the corner of my eye and it was lovely to see!


Our stay at Sun Siyam Vilu Reef was a once-in-a-lifetime dream and we’ll be filled with memories for the rest of our lives. Would we return? Probably not. We prefer our holidays to be more down to earth. Somehow that makes our experience even more special.

It took me a long time to post this! It was a big trip to condense into one post and last year did not go as planned in terms of blogging. I’m slowly catching up with posts and will return with more tales from my big birthday trip to South Africa last year.

15 comments on "Ten Days at Sun Siyam Vilu Reef, Maldives: A Once in a Lifetime Experience "
  1. I enjoyed this post, i cannot pick one single favourite image as they are all so good and oh, let me congratulate you and your significant other on this milestone. the photos and text are all so wonderful. i am happy for your experience!

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  2. Well done.. great review :)

    Did you do any reading on the history or culture of the Maldives, before you left home? Or were you just hoping for fabulous ocean views, swimming sports, massages and great food/drink? I don't even know if guided tours would have made sense on a 1000+ small islands, or organised lectures.
    Hels
    Art and Architecture, mainly

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    1. I did indeed. I'd already had some knowledge of the difficulties experienced in the region following the 2004 tsunami and the ethno-demographic makeup of the population. While there, we spoke to a young waitress who told us that there are many uninhabited islands that local teenagers go to on weekends. That would be my idea of paradise!

      As it turned out, we did not leave the island for the duration of our trip except for the sunset boat tour.

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  3. Truly once in a lifetime experiences. I'd be scared of those sharks

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    1. They are tiny - just a foot long. With their pointy noses, I think they'd struggle to get a bite of a human. Sting rays, on the other hand, terrify me bacause of what happened to Steve Irwin

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  4. Man alive, Mandy! For such a milestone wedding anniversary (CONGRATULATIONS!), you can both be proud of making it happen and enjoying it to the hilt, even if it WAS double the price you expected as well as with some no-noes. I love your positive attitude of it all and how no matter how long ago it happened, you have brought it back to life here for us. BRAVA. [Top tip to Ginnie, who has skin cancer: do NOT go to the Maldives! But, I already knew that!]

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    1. Oh no! I'm sorry you have skin cancer - I know from a friend how scary that is and how many lifestyle adjustments it requires. I'm usually so good with sunscreen (thanks to a teacher I met at age 12) so I was embarrassed that I got sunburned and that I let it happen twice to Stephen

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  5. Ohhhh, Mandy, nice to meet you and your loved one on this incredible "once in a life time" trip. Like Ayush, I have to say I cannot pick one picture that stands out. THIS is paradise and don't you love it to one time splurge and just DO IT.... these are the memories to make and to keep whatever happens on your path in life. Enjoy every day to the fullest and ignore what other people say. I love it that you were able to make this trip. I hope your leg did not bother you and that your eyes are okay again. Thank you for sharing this incredible trip with us. Wonderful, wonderful pictures. Have a great day!!!

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    1. Hi! *waves* we were lucky this trip was in November 2022 (it took me ages to type it up) - my eyes are mostly recovering now and so is my ankle

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  6. Congratulations on your milestone anniversary. It looks like you had a fabulous trip of a lifetime :-)

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    1. It was marvellous Cherie! Such a great trip

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  7. Thank you for sharing your holiday of a lifetime, Mandy. I enjoyed every picture and your write-up, and was really pleased to see you, too!

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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  8. Wow, what a fantastic place to celebrate your anniversary - luxurious bungalows, electric-blue seas, and blissed-out vibes: What's not to love?! A popular destination thanks to its stunning beaches and perfect year-round weather, the Maldives is heaven for adventure-seekers, honeymooners and everyone in between. I am glad you had a great time :) Aiva xx

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