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I was curious to see how the Trans Maldivian Twin Otter seaplane experience differed from the Maldives Airlines Dash 8 experiences I’ve had in the past. Trans Maldivian has about 45 of these planes in their fleet, so they’re buzzing all over the place in the Maldives.
Boarding for our flight was called at 4:30PM. There were six seaplanes at the “terminal.”
We could walk onto the dock straight from the back of the St. Regis lounge. There were no formal boarding passes, but rather the 14 of us were escorted to the plane.
I’ve actually never been on a seaplane before, so I was excited about this.
Our seaplane was at the far left dock, where the captain, first officer, and flight attendant/baggage handler were hanging out.
There’s no assigned seating on Trans Maldivian, so if you want your choice of seat, be sure you’re among the first to board.
As an aviation geek, the best part of these planes is that there’s no door between the cabin and cockpit. Of course this meant that I selected the single seat in the first row.
One quick caution about the first row. As soon as the engines start there’s a fan that blasts in your face, and there’s no way to turn it down. On one hand it’s sort of refreshing, on the other hand it blows really hard. On the return flight I sat in the center seat in the first row, which is really the best seat for the cockpit view. It’s like riding in a plane’s jumpseat. It also doesn’t have a fan directly in front of it.
Boarding took only a couple of minutes, and the flight attendant gave us a very quick safety briefing. It took maybe 30 seconds, and he was talking at 100 miles per hour and his English wasn’t good, so I didn’t hear a word of the demo. I did hear him say our flight time would be 45 minutes, though. That was the last time we saw him, as he sat in the back of the plane for the rest of the flight, by the bags.
Once that was done, the captain and first officer got on the plane.
All Trans Maldivian pilots seem to wear flip flops, which they take off once they’re in the cockpit.
We quickly started our engines, and then “taxied” out to the takeoff area. That was quite fun, as it was sort of like taking a boat ride.
While there’s not a formal runway, there is a specific area where planes take off and land, given the quantity of traffic in the area. After a very short taxi, we were cleared for takeoff.
I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous, simply because it was my first time on a seaplane. To my surprise, the climb out was gradual and smooth as silk. I was at ease just a few seconds after takeoff.
We had great views of Male after takeoff.
From there we had more great views for the first 10 minutes of the flight.
The St. Regis is about 80 miles from the airport, though for about half the flight there wasn’t much in the way of views, as there were a limited number of islands.
The seaplane is really loud, and there’s not really much to do. There’s no service or movement in the cabin, and soon enough we were already descending. Since I had a view of the instruments, I noticed that we cruised at about 5,000 feet, and, at about 120 knots most of the way.
By 5:20PM we touched down at the St. Regis. Obviously they leave a bit of distance from the dock when landing, so we touched down a few hundred meters from the resort, with the overwater villas in view.
From there it took a couple of minutes until we arrived at the dock. What a fun flight!
The return flight was very similar. This time around I selected the center seat in the first row, which had such cool views, especially on approach into Male. The only other interesting aspect of that flight was that the pilots weren’t “local” — instead the captain was Canadian, and first officer was German. What interesting lives they must have…
Trans Maldivian Airways bottom line
Taking a seaplane in the Maldives was super fun. While the plane is louder and not as comfortable as the Dash 8, I preferred the seaplane experience for a few reasons:
- The views are better, since you fly lower
- It’s so cool to be able to look directly into the cockpit the entire flight
- It’s convenient to arrive directly at the hotel, rather than having to take a further transfer after landing at one of the domestic airports
If you’ve taken a domestic flight in the Maldives, what was your experience like?