An important aspect of your time at Atoll Volunteers will be experiencing island life! You will be living on our island of Naifaru. Whilst we are the capital of Lhaviyani Atoll, with over 6000 inhabitants, we have that unique ‘small island’ community, where everyone knows everyone, and are one big family, that we welcome you to join.
On the islands, the majority of people, both young and old, are incredibly friendly and welcoming. Many of the friends you make may invite you into their houses for coffee or even dinner, and will be happy to spend hours passing the time with you in the evenings chatting, playing games or walking around the island meeting other friends.
Volunteers will need to adapt to living on the island within the community, showing respect for their culture and beliefs, not only in the way that you dress, but also in your communication with local people. This is a strictly Muslim country, and as such, female volunteers will need to cover their shoulders and knees (even when swimming), and there is no alcohol found on our island. Most people will be very aware of your presence here, and happy to welcome you to their island, so in return please be sensitive to their beliefs and accepting of the fact that their way of life may be very different from your own. We encourage our volunteers to immerse themselves into this different culture, and hope it will broaden your perspective of the world.
So relax, take it easy, and enjoy the sunset with friends. After all, this is island life.
Although we are a remote island in the Indian Ocean, we are very easy to get to.
The first step is getting to the Maldives on an international flight. The international airport is officially named Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, and is situated on an island next to our capital, Malé, only a short 5 minute speedboat trip away. It is likely you will need to stay a night in Malé before your transfer to our island, Naifaru the following morning. Our Volunteer Coordinator will arrange this stay for at our Partner Hotel, Park House, and includes a pick up service from the airport and to your boat transfer the next day. Please note your accommodation in Malé is not included in your programme fee, and will need to be paid in cash on arrival.
There are two possible ways of getting to Naifaru from the airport. The two possibilities are the night ferry and the speedboat, both of which go straight to Naifaru. Your choice of transport depends on when you arrive in Malé and your own preference, however, in the majority of cases volunteers will take the speedboat. The speedboat departs Malé at 8am on a Thursday and Saturday, and so we recommend arriving into the Maldives the previous day so as not to miss the early morning departure! Please note, the speedboat to Naifaru is included in your programme fee.
It takes about three hours to reach Naifaru by speedboat. On the way you will undoubtedly get your first glimpse of our beautiful islands, clear blue, idyllic waters and you may even be lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins!
The night ferry takes approximately ten hours to reach Naifaru and is the standard method of travel by Maldivians. The upper and lower decks of the ferry are laid wall to wall with mattresses, allowing you to bunk down for a good night’s sleep. You are fairly likely to be travelling with a number of people returning back to the island so this is a great way to start meeting the locals. The ferry captain and his staff are also from Naifaru and will make you feel very welcome.
The seaplane is undoubtedly the most exciting way to travel in the Maldives. As a volunteer, we are able to arrange a highly reduced rate for your transfer, but at these vastly reduced rates our volunteers must fly on standby, meaning that we can only confirm your seat the night before your flight. Please note this option is only available for your departing transfer to Malé .
- There are a few considerations to take into account when you plan your stay with us, such as when to arrive and leave. Our Volunteer Coordinator will be able to assist with helping you plan this, in the meantime, below you will find some useful information.
Upon application, we will email you a document with arrival information along with other relevant documents to help you prepare.
In general, we recommend that volunteers arrive into the Maldives on a Wednesday or Friday. The boat transfer to Naifaru leaves early on a Thursday and Saturday, and so it is advised to stay in Malé the night before so that you don’t miss it! Therefore, we recommend that volunteers arrive into the Maldives on a Wednesday or Friday. This also ensures that you will not waste any more time than necessary in Malé, as one day is plenty of time to see the capital. A representative from our partner hotel will collect you from the airport and take you to the hotel. They will also escort you to the ferry terminal for your transfer to Naifaru the following day.
The speedboat then takes around three hours to reach Naifaru, where our Volunteer Coordinator will be there ready to meet you at the harbour. We will then take you to be settled into your room at Aqua Inn, and give you a thorough Welcome Presentation and tour around your new island home for the next few weeks!
The boat from Naifaru to Malé leaves on a Thursday or Saturday, and usually arrives back into Malé between 3pm -5pm. Please note, that due to unpredictable weather conditions, boat departures back to Malé can be cancelled last minute, however, in these cases we do everything we can do find alternative transport for you. We therefore recommend that you plan your departing flight for a Friday or Sunday and stay one night in Malé, just in case the boat is in fact cancelled. A representative from our partner hotel will collect you from the ferry terminal and take you to the hotel. They will also escort you to the airport for your departing flight the following day. Alternatively, you can book your departing flight for late Thursday or Saturday night (no earlier than 9:00 PM) so that you will not have to spend a night in Male.
Accommodation in Male
If you require accommodation in Malé before or after your programme, our Volunteer Coordinator will arrange this for you at our Partner hotel, Park House, where we receive a discounted rate for our volunteers. Please note that your accommodation will need to be paid in cash on arrival. This includes a pick up service from/ to the airport and to/from the boat transfer.
Once arrived at the hotel, our Volunteer Coordinator will call you and brief you on your transfer to Naifaru. If you have to stay for a time in the capital, they can brief you on what to do while you are waiting, and you may ask them any questions you may have.
- There are a few considerations to take into account when choosing your duration with us here at Atoll Volunteers.
We offer durations from 2 to 12 weeks, but generally advise our volunteers to sign up for at least 3 weeks to get a fuller experience. If you choose our shortest duration of 2 weeks, you will of course get to contribute to the work we do, as well as get a chance to enjoy your time with us in the Maldives, but depending on your arrival in Male’, you may have to spend more than a few days in the capital on either end of your stay meaning you will not be at your placement for 2 full weeks when transportation is included.
To maximise your time with us, please read the Arrival & Departure section and plan accordingly with our Volunteer Coordinator.
Please also note that the length of your stay will also affect the type of visa you can enter the Maldives on. If you are volunteering for less than 30 days, you can enter on a Tourist Visa, and all we require is a scan of your passport and your flight details.
If however you are volunteering on our teaching or medical placement for any duration, any of our other programmes for over 30 days, you will need to come on a Business Visa. For this you will need
- A prove of degree in a related field
- A color scan copy of your passport
- A passport sized photo (less than 3 months old)
- A medical report (we will provide the necessary forms to be completed by your doctor)
- A police report (less than 6 months old)
- A completed and signed vetting form (we will provide the form to be filled out.)
In some instances we will be able to accept volunteers coming on a business visa without a completed degree, provided they can supply proof they are currently enrolled in a degree program in a related field.
During your stay with us, you will be living in our comfortable guest house, Aqua Inn.
Volunteers will be in shared, single-sex rooms, usually shared between two volunteers. Each room has it’s own private on-suite, western-style bathroom. The guest house also comes with a communal kitchen, laundry facilities, and living room with comfortable furniture to relax in on an evening. All rooms in the house come equipped with fans, and free wifi.
Your accommodation in Naifaru is included in your programme fee. If you would prefer your own private room, this can be arranged for an additional $62.50 per week.
All bedding is provided, however you will need to bring your own towels!
In the Maldives we use the British three-pin plug. The outlet is 230 V. If you are from a country that uses different plugs/voltage (such as the US, mainland Europe or Australia), you will need an adapter.
Aqua Inn is a safe and comfortable place to kick back or socialise with your fellow volunteers, and will soon feel like your second home!
- Q: It is safe?
- A: Yes, we have a 100% safety record with no incidents since we started. None of our volunteers have ever experienced violent behaviour whilst volunteering with us, nor will you. The Maldives is a very safe country and this is especially true for the remote islands like Naifaru.
We provide safe accommodation, where you can always ask the volunteer coordinator for help.
While the risk of violence is close to zero, we do encourage our volunteers to make sure that they are responsible with their belongings when outside the volunteer house.
Should you ever feel unsafe, we have a 24-hour hotline. Also, there is a police station on the island in the unlikely event of anything happening. With the island’s small size, the police is never more than a couple of minutes away.
- Q: How do I prepare myself for my stay?
- A: Once you have signed up for a programme, we will email you our volunteer guide and arrival information. The volunteer guide should help you with any questions you may have as well as in regards to which preparations to make. The arrival information takes you through all the airport procedures on arrival. If you still have questions or doubts, please do not hesitate to contact our volunteer coordinator as she will be more than happy to help you!
- Q: When should I arrive?
- A: You should liaise with us before you book your flights, and we will then make recommendations on arrival and departure flights.
Please read the Arrival & Departure Section for more.
- Q: What is the easiest way to get to the Maldives?
- A: The international airport next to Male’ has connections to many other airports throughout the world.
The cheapest flights are usually via Sri Lanka or the Middle East (Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai).
- Q: Who will arrange my flight to the Maldives?
- A: It is up to you to organise your flight. However, we are happy to assist you with advice and we encourage you to organise your arrival and departure dates with us to ensure that you get the most out of your stay.
- Q: How will I get from the airport to Naifaru?
- A: We organise all domestic transportation for you within the Maldives.
Before you depart on your flight to the Maldives, you will be given arrival information about the procedures at the airport. A local will be waiting for you to pick you up and bring you to Male’.
Airport transfer to Male’ is by a small ferry at a rate of US$2.
We will organise for you to be set up at a discounted rate at a hotel in Male’ until transport is available to Naifaru.
Transport to and from Naifaru is included in the programme fee and you will be briefed about your arrangements both before arrival in the Maldives and upon arrival at your hotel.
- Q: How do I get from Male’ to Naifaru?
- A: We organise the transfer from Male’ to Naifaru as part of the programme fee. Usually we will get you on a speedboat or ferry depending on your time of arrival.
- Q: How can I get around the Maldives?
- A: The usual form of transportation in the Maldives is by a boat. Either by a dhoni (traditional Maldivian wooden boat), ferry or speedboat.
Sea planes are also an option, but guests at resorts are always prioritised.
Living in Naifaru
- Q: Where will I stay?
- A: When volunteering with us, you will be staying at our local guest house. Please read the Accommodation section for more information.
- Q: Will I need a mosquito net?
- A: No, you would not have much use of it. There is no risk of malaria in the Maldives and the mosquitoes that we have can be chased off by having the room fan turned on at a low spin during the night.
- Q: What will I eat?
- A: You will be staying near a restaurant, where you will be having breakfast. Here you have a variety of local Maldivian dishes and a more “continental” style breakfast (toast, jam, eggs and sausage). An all time favourite is the Maldivian dish mashuni and roshi, which is a mix of coconut, tuna, chilli, a local lettuce-like leaf and thin pancakes.
Lunch and dinner are served at local restaurants, a charming little place where you have the choice between any one dish and a drink. The restaurant serves a variety of Maldivian, Asian and Western dishes. There are several restaurants on the Island and we are having a cooperation with some of them, and we are constantly working on trying to get more partners, so our volunteers have more choices.
If you have any dietary needs, like vegetarianism, please inform our Volunteer Coordinator beforehand, and she will make sure that these are met as much as possible.
- Q: What happens upon arrival in Naifaru?
- A: When arriving in Naifaru, you will be received by our Volunteer Coordinator and a local staff member that will take your bags and bring you to your accommodation. After this, the Volunteer Coordinator will take you for a meal, following which you will be given a welcome briefing and a tour of the island.
- Q: How do I get around on the island?
- A: Our Island is only 53 hectares, and walking from one end to the other only takes 10-15 minutes. Transportation in Naifaru is usually by foot. There are a few cars on the island as well as a number of scooters and motorcycles.
- Q: Will I be able to go on more than the weekly excursions?
- A: Yes! Atoll Volunteers provides a free excursion once a week. Usually this is to an uninhabited island or fishing, snorkelling etc. Provided you can get the time off from your volunteer project, you are free to go on more excursions for a small price.
Furthermore, there are a few good snorkelling sites around Naifaru and you will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy these for free.
- Q: Is it possible to visit a resort during my time with Atoll Volunteers?
- A: Yes! There are a number of resorts across the atoll and some provide discounts for our volunteers in recognition of their contribution to the island communities.
Provided you can get the time off from your project duties, you may arrange a visit to the resort at the end of your stay. You can organise this either before or during your stay with our Volunteer Coordinator.
- Q: Is it possible to dive with Atoll Volunteers?
- A: Unfortunately not at the moment, but we are working on establishing diving as part of our marine programmes and as a recreational option for our volunteers. We do, however, have a good relationship with a local diving centre at a resort, and we can get you on a free transport to this centre.
- Q: Do I have to wear a head scarf?
- A: No. Although the Maldives is a Muslim country, it is not required to wear a head scarf and it is not uncommon for some local women to go out without a scarf.
- Q: What am I allowed to wear?
- A: When in the local community, females are required to cover their knees and shoulders and not have a deep neckline. When in the Volunteer House and on most recreational excursions, you may wear what you like.
- Q: Can I wear my bikini/swim wear to the beach?
- A: When in the local community, females are required to cover their knees and shoulders, even at the beach. When in the Volunteer House and on most recreational excursions and resort visits, you will be allowed to wear your normal swim wear.
- Q: Is alcohol allowed?
- A: No, not on the non-resort islands of the Maldives as alcohol is prohibited by law. If you are really thirsty for a chilled beer or cool cocktail, we can arrange for you to visit one of the nearby resorts either as a daytrip or staying overnight.
- Q: What are the language requirements?
- A: Most people in the Maldives speak a high level of English. The local language is Dhivehi, but you will not need to learn any phrases to get by in the island communities.
Where does my money go?
One of the most frequently asked questions by potential volunteers is “Where does my money go?” and we wanted to ensure that it really was reaching the community it was intended for. Unlike many volunteer organisations, Atoll Volunteers is run by a local NGO, meaning that 100% of your programme fees goes to benefit the local island community. One of the main reasons we broke away from other partnerships was that volunteers money was not going to where it should do; the community. Therefore we began independently hosting our own international volunteers in 2012. In this way, you as a volunteer, can see exactly where your programme fee is going.
Your programme fee includes food and accommodation, 24-hour volunteer support, local transportation, weekly island excursions and all materials required for your selected placement. We make a point out of using local providers to further benefit our community. For instance, the food you receive as a volunteer is prepared by local restaurants.
The diagram above illustrates the average expenses we have for a volunteer based on a three week placement of US$1868.
Domestic Transport covers transport between Male’ and Naifaru. Visa fee includes the visa itself and administration charges.
Accommodation covers your accommodation in our Volunteer House.
Food is based on three meals from a local restaurant where breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served.
Utilities covers electricity, water, other expenses and Internet.
We have three local staff we employ for maintenance work and completing our accounts. The few paid employees of Atoll Volunteers are local Maldivians, creating jobs for the local community and providing them with valuable skills for their future. All our international staff (Volunteer Coordinator and Marine Biologists) are here on a voluntary basis.
Recreational activities are based on an average cost, but we seek to vary these as much as possible. One trip may be snorkelling at neighboring island Veyvah, while another would be visiting the small community of Olhuvelifushi across the atoll, and thus costs differ for each trip.
The remainder is the donation, which is pooled into our savings and used on our important community outreach and conservation projects, as well as critical improvements to our Marine Centre.
Some programmes have higher running costs, like our marine conservation programmes, which is the reason why they are more expensive.
Atoll Volunteers is a non-profit organisation, and we have a policy of transparency which means that you are always welcome to look into our books and see what your money is spent on.
Additional to the programme fee is the administration fee. This US$200 fee helps to cover the administrative costs involved for the time and work between your application review and your arrival in the Maldives as well as on office overheads, marketing costs and utilities for our office building.
Whether you join our marine conservation, medical, sports or teaching programme, your fee will play a big part in helping our community and assisting in an area that you are passionate about – you will get to see your time and money put to good use!
We offer a number of various disounts for volunteers. If you are unsure if you qualify, please ask our Volunteer Coordinator.
Group Discount – If 8 people book as a group, you will get one placement free of charge.
Returning Volunteers – If you are returning to Atoll Volunteers we offer a 20% discount.
Early bird special – We offer a 10% discount on the programme fee to anyone who confirms their placement three months in advance. A booking is confirmed once we have received the required documents and the programme fee in full.
Whilst the Maldives is a developing country, it is also very safe. As with all travel abroad, we do however, offer some health advice for international volunteers.
Length of stay
Vaccine 1-3 Weeks >3 Weeks >6 Months Tetanus + Diphtheria
Please note that this table is a guideline and you should always check with your doctor if you are in doubt. If you have any special conditions or allergies that might affect your stay, please let us know.
Mosquitos are not a big problem in the Maldives, but we would recommend bringing an insect repellent.
You cannot drink from most taps on the island. Whilst the water in Aqua Inn is safe to drink, we recommend drinking the bottled water provided. However, it is perfectly safe to use for brushing your teeth!
If you were to get ill while on the island, there is a hospital and pharmacy on Naifaru, and our Volunteer Coordinator will escort you to help.