Volunteers will be placed amidst the island communities with each island having its own culture and everyone knowing everyone and as such you will find that island life is very different from the capital Malé.
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. 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.
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 by an international flight. The international airport is officially named Ibrahim Nasir International Airport and is situated on an island next to our capital, Malé, a short 5 minute speedboat trip away.
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. There are also sea planes going from Malé to resorts within our atoll but we are unable to get volunteers a seat on these upon arrival. We may be able to get you a seat on one upon departure but this will be at an extra cost to you.
Your choice of transport depends on when you arrive in Malé and your own preference. Departures for the night ferry and speedboat are on particular days of the week so it is important to try and time your arrival to suit these.
Our Volunteer Coordinator can advise you on the best time to arrive for your selected mode of transportation before you book your international travel, and should you need to stay in Malé for one night before transferring to Naifaru, we can arrange your booking at one of the local hotels at a cheaper rate than what you may be able to book directly.
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 matresses, 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.
It takes about 3 hours to reach Naifaru by speedboat. On the way you will undoubtedly get your first glimpse of our beautiful islands and clear blue, idyllic waters.
Travelling through the rich marine life of the atolls, flying fish, small fish being hunted by tuna jumping out of the water or a school of dolphins playing in the water around the boat are just some of the sights you may encounter as you approach Naifaru!
The seaplane is undoubtedly the most exciting way to travel in the Maldives. As a volunteer, we are able to arrange a very 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. This also means that we are not able to arrange for you to go to Naifaru with a sea plane upon your arrival.
We are, however, often able to arrange for volunteers to travel to Malé on a sea plane upon departure. Again, this should be planned in accordance with our Volunteer Coordinator who is able to advise you on the best days and times for you to arrive and depart so that you may be lucky enough to get to see the breathtaking views of the Maldives from a sea plane.
- There are a few considerations to take into account when you plan your stay with us, such as when to arrive and leave. You should consult with our Volunteer Coordinator about this as he is more than happy to help you with recommendations in this regard!
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 aim at arriving on any given Wednesday or Friday, as this leaves you with one day in the capital Male’, and we will then have you transported by speedboat to Naifaru the next day. This ensures that you will not waste any more time than necessary in Male’ as one day is plenty of time to see the capital.
The only fixed transport between Male and Naifaru is the speedboat, which goes between the islands every Thursday and Saturday, leaving from Male’ in the morning at 9:00 AM and leaving Naifaru around 1:30 PM. The speedboat ride usually takes around 3-4 hours.
In case you cannot plan your arrival according to the above, we will try to get you on a night ferry instead, but these do not run on a fixed schedule, and thus may leave you in Male’ a few days before you can depart for Naifaru.
We recommend you plan your departing flight for any given Friday or Sunday. You can then depart from Naifaru by speedboat either Thursday or Saturday. Alternatively, if possible, you can book your departing flight late Thursday or Saturday night (no earlier than 9:00 PM) so that you will not have to spend a night in Male.
In case you cannot plan your arrival according to the above, we will try to get you on a night ferry instead, but these do not run on a fixed schedule, and you may have to leave Naifaru a few days before your flight leaving you with more than one night in Male.
Accommodation in Male
We will arrange for a staff member of your hotel in Male’ to pick you up upon arrival, and he will take you to the hotel.
We will set you up at a small hotel in Male where we receive a cheaper than usual rate for our volunteers.
Once arrived at the hotel, our Volunteer Coordinator will call you and brief you on what is to happen from there in regards to 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.
We offer two kinds of accommodation: our Volunteer House or a local Guest House.
Our Volunteer House comes with a communal kitchen, laundry facilities, dining room, walled backyard and a living room with comfortable furniture, TV and a large bookshelf. All rooms in the house come equipped with fans that can cool you off during the day and fight of mosquitos in the night!
And yes, of course there is free WIFI throughout the Volunteer House!
The Volunteer House is a safe and comfortable place to kick back or socialise with your fellow volunteers. The standard accommodation is 2-3 person single-sex bedrooms, each with their own western-styled bathroom.
Local Guest House
If you prefer single or couple’s accommodation, we offer rooms at a local house for an additional 200US$ per and up to one month. The rooms are quite large and come with their own bathroom.
The local house is situated 10 minutes away from the Volunteer House, and you will be given a house key for the Volunteer House as well so you can enjoy the facilities we offer here!
For Electronic Devices:
For your personal electrical devices: 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.
- 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.
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.
Your programme fee includes food and accommodation, 24-hour volunteer support, local transportation, weekly fishing trips or local island excursions and all materials required for your selected placement. We make a point out of using local providers. 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$1300.
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 both our local breakfast lady, Luisha, and a local restaurant where lunch and dinner are served.
Utilities covers electricity, water, other expenses and Internet is provided by us to the volunteers and is thus included in the programme fee.
We have a local staff of three which we pay through the programme fee. The few paid employees of Atoll Volunteers are local Maldivians, creating jobs for the local community with any foreign staff working on a voluntary basis.
Recreational activities is based on an average cost, but we seek to vary these as much as possible and 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 difference is the donation, used to pay for any materials the volunteer may need on his/her placement, and any remainder will be pooled into our savings and used on our projects or any unforeseen expenses.
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 our application review and your arrival in the Maldives as well as on office overheads, marketing costs and utilities for our office building.
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. At Atoll Volunteers we keep our running costs to a minimum by not having any international offices or international staff, keeping our advertising and administration costs as low as possible and having a policy of transparency which means that as our volunteer, you will be able to monitor what your funds cover and how they are directed into our programmes and community projects.
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 which you are passionate about – you will get to see your time and money put to good use!
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.
August/September 2017 Special – Book now for August or September 2017 to receive 10% off your programme fee. Discount only applies to Marine and Turtle Conservation Programme. Volunteer must arrive before 30th September 2017. Quote ‘TURTLE10’ in comments when applying.
Length of stay
Vaccine 1-3 Weeks >3 Weeks >6 Months Tetanus + Diphtheria X X X Hepatitis A X X X Hepatitis B X X Typhoid Fever X Tuberculosis X
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 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 repellant.
Water – You cannot drink from most taps on the island. There is however a tap at the volunteer house that provides drinking water.
If you were to get ill while on the island, there is a hospital and pharmacy on Naifaru.