We’ve all been (almost) home for a little over a year now. But as things start to open up, we all start to get itchy. Flights are on the rise and destinations are gradually reopening. People who travel for a living are slowly returning to their jobs.

The same goes for travel influencer and avid surfer Nathan Fluellen. “Worldwide Nate” just spent his birthday in the Maldives (Soneva Jani, to be exact) where he was able to disconnect from the outside world and connect with his inner self while sliding down a toboggan in the Indian Ocean from the top of a two-storey villa.

At this time, the Maldives accepts all travelers who arrive with a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 96 hours of arriving in the islands. Corn the testing requirements are a small price to pay for 1) not making people sick and 2) being able to descend the aforementioned waterslide.

“In order to get on a plane to go to the Maldives, you have to take a PCR test and get a negative test result,” Nathan tells us over the phone. “Then when I got to the property the doctor came over, administered another PCR test and I quarantined my villa while I waited for my results. After that, you can walk around without a mask. It was so foreign. It was refreshing to get a taste of the pre-covid experience this way.

While it’s crucial that every traveler makes their own decisions about Covid travel, and many destinations are still under full lockdown, it’s never a bad time for a little travel inspiration. So we asked Nate to share his guide to the Maldives, below.

What is your favorite surf spot in the Maldives?

All over

Probably the best surf spots can be found at a property called Soneva Fushi. I stayed at a sister property called Soneva Jani and went to a surf spot about a 20 minute boat ride from the island. I rode a reef break on the left, the way the islands are organized is that the resorts occupy an entire atoll, my atoll was in what is considered the North Atoll.

What I love about Soneva Jani’s surfing is that they have an eco-friendly surf program and all of their boards are made from recycled materials.

What is your favorite beach in the Maldives?

The north side of Medhufaru Island

Nathan Fluellen

My favorite beach is on the north side of Medhufaru Island. This is where we had a barbecue for my birthday. They cook right on the beach, there’s no pollution there, so you just see entire constellations twinkling against the sky. It’s pretty amazing eating a three course dinner on the beach with nothing but lanterns surrounding you.

At the resort I stayed at, it was much more of the experience on the water. Staying in a stilt villa was great, I could just go out to my patio and climb down a ladder into the water. At low tide the water would rise up to my calf so I could walk about 100 yards in front of my villa and walk to these different sandbanks. Then at high tide you can use the water slide. You just walk to the second floor and slide into the ocean.

Describe the perfect day in the Maldives

Morning – Yoga

Biking around the island was awesome. I would be riding a bike for a morning yoga session, it would only be me and three other people so you have the instructor directly adjusting your posture, this was definitely one of the best yoga practices I have ever had .

End of the afternoon – Cinema Paradiso

After my morning yoga session, I would cycle to a movie theater on stilts, the Cinema Paradiso. It has a Japanese restaurant with a big cinema screen that sits above the water, and you can watch the movie with bluetooth headphones. They do this so that the speaker system does not disturb the island’s wildlife.

All these eco-responsible details, I really appreciated.

Dinner – The Crab Shack

Nathan Fluellen

After, hop on your bike and hit The Crab Shack. They have these different Maldivian style dishes with different crab options. I had a curry crab, a spicy crab, and they had broccoli to go with it that had all of these flavors. You sit there and the ground is the beach, you can walk 10 yards from your table and put your feet in the water, then come back and eat.

What would you consider to be the hidden gem of the Maldives?

Island leisure

Nathan Fluellen

There is a football pitch in the middle of Medhufaru Island that Soneva Jani staff use at night after their shifts. It’s not advertised, not really for the guests, but it was cool to see the staff just having an after work football game. It was the equivalent of watching a good basketball game in a park, because that part of the world, football, is huge. It was refreshing to see, you still get the smiles and the five star service which is second to none, but then you see them stand out and be real.

It’s a cool vibe. I keep telling people that the island is like my happy place.

How to best prepare a trip to the Maldives?

Break the trip

Cross the Middle East to get there. I would suggest people to stop over in Dubai or if they are traveling with Emirates, Qatar or Abu Dhabi. Spend two or three nights there to interrupt the trip and get used to the jet lag. Then you will be able to see the Middle East and the Maldives, you will have an experience for two.

I spent three nights in Dubai and four nights in the Maldives, but I was able to enjoy my time as I was not going to get used to the jet lag. If you were passing through Europe you could interrupt the trip this way, but my suggestion is the Middle East as it is the same time zone.

From Dubai to Male, the capital of the Maldives, it only takes four hours to fly.

What’s the first thing people should do when they land?

Treat yourself

Nathan Fluellen

Well, with your forties, you are going to spend the first night completely in the complex. I would say, really enjoy that first night, let yourself be a little kid. Run, enjoy these amenities, unpack, relax. And then when you go out, enjoy all you can on the island, don’t worry about how little time you spend in your beautiful luxury villa.

Get on the flight ASAP, I took the 4.30am flight, we landed in Mali at 9.35am, got to Soneva around 11am, then got our Covid results around 8pm.

What’s the best way to witness the beauty of the island?

Get the hell out of here

Nathan Fluellen

If you are visiting Soneva Jani, there are many paths you can take to get from one side of Medhufaru Island to the other. What you are doing is transitioning from overwater villas to white sand beaches in this jungle area. You can cycle or walk to the other side of the island. Lose yourself and go on an adventure, it’s almost like being in two different environments on the same island.

Then they have a huge population of crabs, they don’t eat those crabs but there is a lot of natural wildlife on the island. They go out at night, it’s really interesting to see. Go on an adventure in the jungle.

What Kind of Food Should People Expect to Find?

Everything and anything

Nathan Fluellen

It’s a universal menu. For breakfast you get all the things you’re used to, plus a Maldivian version of breakfast. But I just had pancakes, eggs, sausage, all the different meats and pastries. They have a 24 hour ice cream and chocolate room. All these different flavors of ice cream to taste, so the menu is not limited.

The kind of resorts you see in the Maldives that don’t come cheap are designed to cater for a wide range of diets.

What is the thing that someone who visits the Maldives must experience?

So Starstruck

So Starstruck has this elevated dining room, it’s about two stories in the sky. They dine in the evening, between your meals, they have an astronomer who guides you through a presentation on the constellations. It shows you Orion’s belt, the brightest start, different planets. They have this telescope that goes up from a tower in the ground and then you can look at the stars up close and it shows all the different sites.

What did you like best during your visit to the Maldives?

Being off the grid

Nathan Fluellen

The motto of the resort I stayed at was “No shoes, no news”. When you arrive they take your shoes and put them in a shoe bag and encourage you to walk barefoot and not pay attention to the news. Immerse yourself completely in the experience of being on the island. They have TVs but these are just movies not CNN or BBC or local news they really want you to forget about the world you are from and focus on being here in this special space. I like this