Bad Things About The Maldives – 34 surprising things no one tells you about

Did you hear only great things about The Maldives and wonder if it’s all true? I mean, nothing is perfect in life so, how can this place be as good as everyone says? Well, the answer is simple: it’s not! So read more to find out the bad things about The Maldives that will make or break your trip!

Now, before you start picturing pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, let me tell you a little bit about my personal experience in the Maldives. I’ve been fortunate enough to explore three different types of islands during my visit – resort islands, small local islands, and big local islands. And let me tell you, it was not all sunshine and rainbows.

Don’t get me wrong; there were moments of pure bliss and enchantment. But like any other destination, the Maldives has its fair share of drawbacks that can catch even experienced travelers off guard. And the worst part is that no one speaks about the not-so-shiny parts of this place. And I hate it! Be honest, for crying out loud! Maybe you can understand my blog name now…

During my time on resort islands, I encountered some issues that were hard to overlook. Despite their luxurious reputation, these secluded paradises can come with a hefty price tag. From overpriced meals and drinks to additional charges for activities and excursions, budget-conscious travelers like myself might find themselves feeling a bit financially strained.

But it’s not just the cost that raised eyebrows; there were also instances where I felt disconnected from the local culture. Resort islands tend to cater more towards international tourists, which means you might miss out on truly immersing yourself in authentic Maldivian experiences. Visiting a local island will fix this for you, right?

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View from the beach towards a gorgeous white sand beach - It's hard to believe I could actually gather so many bad things about The Maldives, huh?

Well, indeed, exploring small local islands offered a refreshing change of pace. However, keep in mind that facilities and infrastructure may be limited compared to their luxurious counterparts. From basic accommodations to fewer dining options, it’s essential to adjust your expectations accordingly.

Additionally, when venturing onto big local islands inhabited by locals, cultural differences and language barriers can sometimes pose challenges. While interacting with friendly locals is undoubtedly rewarding, it’s important to respect their customs and traditions to ensure a positive experience.

Now, I don’t want to discourage you from visiting this captivating archipelago. Understanding the potential downsides can help you plan a more balanced and fulfilling trip while keeping you prepared for what will come your way. By knowing what to expect, you can make informed decisions and create unforgettable memories while exploring this tropical paradise.

Yes, it’s true guys, there might be affiliate links in this awesome, free post. This means that if you decide to buy something that you find here, and you use one of my links to do so, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I plan to use this money on ice cream, chocolate, and to travel more so I can write these useful guides for you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

General Bad Things About The Maldives

As there are multiple options when visiting the Maldives, each with its advantages and disadvantages, I have decided to split the post into three main areas: general bad things about the Maldives, disadvantages when visiting resort islands in the Maldives, and challenges when visiting local islands.

It’s still pretty exclusivist

Even though it opened up lately, with great opportunities to visit local islands in the Maldives, this destination is still hard to get to, in more than one way. It is not only quite expensive if you want to have an awesome experience that you’ll remember forever, but it’s also unique in other ways as well – you have dedicated resort islands, where an island is a hotel, you can only get to these islands by using their transportation options, and it’s quite hard to even try island hopping.

Still, there are some things you can do to save money on your trip to the Maldives, so that you can enjoy this tropical paradise without selling any of your kidneys. There are also options on how you can travel between some Maldivian islands, including 12Go (you can find a widget below), and if you want to and have enough time on your hands, you can try island hopping by getting one of the dedicated tours you can find above.

The flight takes a long time

As the Maldives is quite far from everything (maybe except India and Sri Lanka), a flight here will most probably be a long one. This is not only uncomfortable, but it can also become quite expensive. Luckily, there are quite a few companies that fly here, especially long-haul from Europe or mid-haul from Southeast Asia or the Middle East.

If you’d like to reduce your costs for the flight, check out services like Dollar Flight Club or Going (Formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) or hunt down offers on Secret Escapes. The flight is the least interesting part of this trip and the one you can save some good money on, and these services are perfect for this.

The long flight has an advantage as well though: the environment is still in good shape. Aviation-produced pollution is a thing, and it severely affects the quality of the water, thus influencing marine life. Since this archipelago is basically in the middle of nowhere (technical term), it still has its coral in good condition, or at least as good as it can be, compared to other places in the world.

You should stay for at least 7-10 days

As the flight is so long, and the trip door to door will be even longer as you have to transfer from the airport island to your final accommodation, coming here for just a few days will be next to impossible. I mean, it can be done, of course, but you’ll be in such a rush that you’ll miss a lot of what The Maldives has to offer. This makes it a bit hard to organize, as it will easily become the central trip of the year, with all the stress this entails. Check out my 10-day Maldives itinerary for a few ideas on activities you can try.

On the upside, you will actually get to enjoy a relaxing vacation if you come here. The very slow rhythm of the islands will make you truly unwind, and you’ll get to enjoy this trip as it’s intended to be: a chill, peaceful vacation for your body and soul.

Things don’t always go according to plan

Due to the geographical particularities of this destination, everything is highly dependent on the weather. Yes, there are better and worse times to visit The Maldives, even if it’s a tropical paradise. Boats and planes cannot be used during strong winds, and how the weather will decide to behave is pretty much a gamble. Since the area of the archipelago is quite vast, having accurate weather predictions is absolutely impossible.

So yes, you’ll have to plan everything with some leeway. Not only when it comes to planning your transfers, especially if needing to catch a transcontinental flight early in the morning, but also for day trips you might want to take. If you want to see the mantas, don’t plan the boat trip towards the end of your vacation, as you never know if it will happen.

Transportation to the islands can be expensive

Indeed, getting from the airport island to your final accommodation can sometimes cost as much as your long-haul flight. Especially if you need to take a water plane, there’s a big chance that it will cost you more than you expect (I’m talking $500-$600 here, per person!).

If you choose a resort that is further away from the main airport island though, you have a better chance of a quiet island with an unspoiled coral. Remember, water clarity and cleanliness vastly affect the state of marine life, so going further away from the main airport will be worth it. Plus, the views from the water plane are something to remember forever!

Sea plane view in the Maldives - one of the ways to travel between islands in the Maldives

Public transportation is limited

One way to limit your expenses while on a trip is by using public transportation. It’s a top-budget tip in my book, as it’s not only convenient but also environmentally friendly. But what do you do when public transportation is almost non-existent?

Well, you make the best of it. There are public transportation options available in the Maldives, but only between local islands, with a very small chance of getting to see a resort island as well if using this method. A good hybrid solution is a semi-private ferry, that up to 50 people use at a time, but they have fixed schedules and decent prices. You can find out more about traveling between islands in the Maldives from my dedicated blog post.

There are sharks in the Maldives

Uh-oh, we’re in trouble! This is exactly what I thought when I first saw a shark in my vicinity. I’m absolutely proud of myself for not crying instantly, but to be honest, I cried for about half an hour after I left the water. That music from “Jaws” will never leave my mind, I tell you!

But the shark species in the Maldives are not dangerous, if you behave correctly. This means that you should allow them some space and respect (just like you should allow women, for example). You should also not be in the water if your resort practices shark feeding at certain hours (and maybe avoid these resorts as that’s highly unethical). And you can read more ways to stay safe in the Maldives by reading my blog posts, of course.

There are mosquitoes in the Maldives

Well, to be honest, unless you go to Iceland, there’s really not that much you can do to avoid mosquitoes, no matter where you go in this world (I’m curious about Antarctica though…). Mosquitoes are an issue in the Maldives, on some islands more than others, so keep this in mind, especially when preparing your packing list (hey, I have a helpful PDF packing list for you as well, check it out below!).

What’s good though is that they are not very dangerous, since the area is not prone to mosquito-borne illnesses. There’s a series of actions you can take to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the Maldives, including using insect repellent and choosing islands that don’t have a lake or pond. And, of course, as always, have travel insurance, no matter where you go and for how long are you staying.

It can be boring

There, I said it! It can, indeed, be boring for some people. If you’re the sort of person who cannot stay put for longer than a few hours at a time, then The Maldives is going to be boring as hell! There’s not that much you can do here, as the islands are so small, a stroll surrounding the island being as short as 20 minutes. Yes, I said (wrote) minutes.

If you enjoy water sports though, there are plenty of things for you to do here. You can spend your whole trip in the water, either above or below. Some islands also offer gyms, yoga classes, coral “planting” and similar activities, but let’s be honest here, this is not the reason you’re going here.

There are not that many tourist attractions

If you’re looking for a cultural trip, this is not the place for you. While you can, of course, visit a few of the local islands, either by using a tour or by yourself, you will finish everything in about half a day, maybe a day if you’re walking slowly and stopping often.

You will find traditional, cultural experiences on the islands as well, but I cannot say for sure how authentic they are, since they’re catered to tourists. In my experience, you rarely see something authentic if the audience is made of tourists, so keep this in mind when you see that traditional Maldivian dance or similar activities, provided by your resort.

You are not allowed to drink alcohol in the country

Well, it’s not entirely forbidden, but it is affected by some special laws. As the Maldives is under the Shariah Law, alcohol consumption is prohibited for the locals. Alcohol is available on the resort islands though, as these are catering to tourists, and there are a few other ways you can enjoy an alcoholic drink while visiting the Maldives.

If you’re tempted to just bring your own booze, refrain yourself from doing so. One of the top things to know before traveling to the Maldives is that alcohol import is highly regulated, and it is illegal for you to bring anything of this sort in your luggage. Please be respectful of the local culture and follow the rules!

The weather can ruin your vacation

Even though the temperature here is constant throughout the year, The Maldives has a dry and a wet season. While going during the wet season will be cheaper, this might mean that you can have rain every day, sometimes without a break for weeks. Or you can have great weather despite the season, but you’ll never know how it’s going to be before you get there.

To get the best mix of nice weather, fewer crowds and affordable prices, choose one of the best times to visit the Maldives, either November or February and March, avoiding the Valentine’s day and school holidays, which are the worst times to go to The Maldives. Just my two cents, if you’re traveling that far, you should do it right, as there’s a big chance you won’t come here again.

It’s slowly disappearing

Unfortunately, The Maldives might be disappearing until the year 2100. This might not sound bad, as we’ll probably not going to live that long (although medicine is advancing so who knows?), but it’s the country the most affected by climate change in the world.

What can we do to delay or remove this risk? Anything possible to limit the climate change affecting the world. We can reduce the carbon footprint, use less plastic (using an insulated water bottle helps with this), buy high-quality items that will last a lifetime, and use coral-safe sunscreen to protect marine life.

The coral is very damaged

Climate change severely affects the temperature of the water, and the coral is mostly bleached due to it. This is the case everywhere in the world, not only in The Maldives, and they’re making a lot of efforts to try to protect the one they have and build new coral as well.

This will, of course, depend from island to island, as some of them have still a good reef, but some don’t even have a house reef, thus making you depend on day trips for snorkeling. Read the reviews carefully about the island you’re going to and you’ll find out what’s the state of the reef. Ignore the pictures, they’re rarely realistic; there’s probably nowhere in the world where the coral reef looks like in National Geographic videos anymore.

One more thing you can do: use reef safe sunscreen or, better yet, a water suit when you snorkel or dive. This will protect the environment while keeping you safe from sunburn (read here for more ways to be safe in The Maldives). Of course, never step on the coral and try not to touch it as well. And if you can participate in various activities to rebuild the coral, do so.

Highly needed items are quite expensive

If you happen to be out of sunscreen or insect repellent, you’ll have to pay a significantly higher price than expected. As you are on an island, it’s not like you have hundreds of stores available and you can “shop around”, so you’ll have to pay the price if you want to be safe.

How to overcome this? Have a good packing list, of course (you can download a PDF with my checklist below). Be sure not to forget these items, as without other things you can mostly do without. Oh, and don’t forget a power plug adapter. Even if most hotels will offer you one, it’s better to have yours that you can use on all your trips. I have used mine for so long and in so many places, I always say it’s the best $20 I have ever spent.

Other must-have items for your Maldives packing list? Well, since water can be safe to drink, you should have a water bottle and maybe also a SteriPEN water filter. You might also want to bring in some water shoes with you, and there’s a longer discussion to be had about how should you dress in the Maldives. And if you’re planning to tip everyone who caters to your needs while here, find out what’s the best currency to bring with you on your trip.

Limited access to medical care

Due to the particular geography of this destination, you will enjoy some quiet time on your small island, but there’s also limited access to medical care. While most resort islands have some small medical cabinets available, and bigger local islands have medical units, you cannot be sure your medical needs will be handled very quickly.

How to overcome this? If you know you need medical care often or have the potential to, maybe avoid The Maldives, or go to a bigger local island. This will affect your experience though as a secluded island will always be different than a crowded local island. This is the only reason that’s keeping me from going back for the moment, as my kid has some special needs that sometimes require medical attention, and I know he cannot get it there.

You are not allowed to fly drones

Wait, what? But, what about those awesome Youtube videos you’ve been watching? Well, you can fly a drone, you just need a special permit for it. This measure is in place to protect the peace and privacy of the guests. Who would want to hear a drone hovering above their heads when they’re trying to relax at the pool or, even worse when taking a shower in the outside bath from their secluded beach villa?

What can you do? Usually, you are allowed to fly a drone above sandbanks, as there’s really no privacy here to be protected. And you can talk to the owner of your accommodation about this, as they’ll know what you can do about it. Or you can relax, make a timelapse on your GoPro, and breathe in the tranquility.

Everything is more expensive than expected

While I have told you a few ways to save money on your Maldives trip, unfortunately, I cannot really pay for your trip. What annoys the hell out of me is that you cannot properly estimate your needed budget.

Especially on resort islands, prices are shown without tax and service tax, so what you see as a price will end up being about 20% more expensive in the end. And if you decide to include a tip (find out more about the proper tipping etiquette here) for your servers, it can go up to 25-30%.

There are a few potentially dangerous animals

Now, don’t start panicking, nothing will happen to you if you’re respectful to the environment and give these animals their space. Let me give you a few examples:

  • Sharks – there are a few potentially dangerous shark species, but they’re mostly timid and don’t attack unless they’re provoked. Learn how to act around sharks in the Maldives and you’ll be alright.
  • Mosquitoes – I know, they don’t seem so dangerous, but in the world, I think mosquitoes make more victims annually than sharks. Use insect repellent and apply all these other tips I mentioned in the related blog post and you’ll be safe as well.
  • Stingrays – the Ray family is actually pretty chill, but sometimes they might attack if they feel threatened. Unfortunately, they tend to hide under a small amount of sand in shallow waters, so sometimes people step on them by mistake, and they sting because well, this is threatening to them. Be careful when entering the water and wear water shoes if possible (find out if you need water shoes from my related post).

Bad Things on Resort Islands in The Maldives

What? There are bad things about The Maldives that affect even the resort islands? You’re not in for a perfect holiday if you decide to splurge on a resort? What is this nonsense?

It is, in fact, the reality. I hate to break it to you, but nothing is perfect in life, even this paradise on Earth. While some of the items in this list will not affect you at all, it’s good that you’ll have an idea on what to be prepared for.

It is quite expensive

There, I said it. No matter how many budget tips I have for you, no matter what you do to reduce your costs, if you choose a resort island, it’s going to be expensive. There’s realistically no way to get here for as low as a few dollars, no matter how much you try.

You cannot easily go from one resort to another

As each resort has its own way of getting there, there’s virtually no way for you to change resorts without going through Male. So if you want to change resorts during your stay, you’ll basically waste a day just with the transfer, no matter how close the islands might be.

The only way to change islands easily is to stay for a few days on a main local island from the atoll, and later move to a resort island from the same atoll. You’ll have to discuss this with the people at the resort though as they’re the only ones who can confirm if this is a valid option for you. Check out these ways to travel between islands in the Maldives for more info.

You cannot just leave for the day

If you’re bored one day and would like to do something different, you’ll have to hope they have availability for a day trip. As you’re confined on the resort island, you are highly dependent on the resort for everything.

This means that if you don’t like the prices for the spa, well, you cannot go to another island and compare. Or if they don’t offer a particular trip you’d like, there’s nothing you can do about it. And if you’re bored and just want to see something else, you’ll have to ask if they have availability for one more person (or two) on their trips scheduled for the day.

You cannot book trips or spa treatments outside of the resort

This goes back to being confined to a particular island. As one resort is one island, you can only use the amenities from the island you booked. This creates what is called a monopoly, which explains the prices.

Now, usually resort islands have more than one restaurant, but only one of them is used for All-Inclusive packages, and the other ones serve food a la carte, as in: you’ll have to pay for it separately, no matter your package (maybe they’re included in Ultra All Inclusive packages on some islands though).

But when it comes to the spa and day trip options, you are really limited to the options available on your island. So if you know you’ll want to use these services, check them out and make your reservations upon arrival, to be sure you get what you want.

The coral is a hit-or-miss

While this is true for most islands, as climate change is affecting marine life in general, the effect is amplified on the resort islands due to over-tourism. I’m sorry to say it, but people are idiots sometimes. I saw tourists stepping on the coral, breaking parts of it, and even trying to leave with parts of shells. I saw people touching turtles and trying to follow sharks.

So yes, the coral can be blooming if the resort is actively trying to improve it, but it can also be severely damaged from years of welcoming tourists who have no respect for the place they’re visiting. Your best bet? Reading reviews from Booking before choosing the island. Even if you use other ways to book your accommodation, the reviews are written by people who have been there recently and can tell you the current state of the reef.

Sometimes it’s hard to sleep in villas

So, you fly until what feels like the end of the world, you pay a lot of money to stay in an awesome water villa or an amazing beach villa, and you cannot sleep? What?

OK, before you cancel your trip, just know that this might happen, but it’s not sure to happen. While reading reviews on Booking or similar platforms, I have noticed that some mention they couldn’t sleep due to the air conditioning making a lot of noise. The thing is, as the temperature is quite high, you cannot really turn it off for the night.

What’s the ideal with the in water villas though? Apparently, the waves make a sound all night, and in some overwater bungalows it can be pretty loud. And yes, you cannot really turn them off, can you? So take this into account if you’re a light sleeper, and check out the reviews before you make a decision.

Challenges When Visiting a Local Island in The Maldives

One of the ways to reduce your costs and diversify your stay is to visit a local island. They have been opened to the general public only fairly recently though, so some islands are more crowded than others, but what matters is that you are respectful to the local community you are visiting.

And yes, there are some disadvantages when visiting local islands in the Maldives, and I’m happy to share them with you so you can make an informed decision. You can also find out more about local islands in the Maldives from my dedicated post.

You have to use only the bikini beach

As The Maldives is a very conservative country, the rules on the local islands mention a dress code that has to be followed by everyone. Based on this dress code, you can wear a bikini swimsuit only on the tourist beach, and you should dress modestly while strolling on the island.

This rule applies to both women and men, and you should find out before you choose your island if they do have a bikini beach, as not all islands have one. Sunbathing topless is prohibited everywhere, even on resort islands though, so please keep this in mind no matter where you go.

You cannot find alcohol

The Shariah law prohibits the consumption of alcoholic drinks, so you cannot sip a cocktail at a pool when you’re visiting a local island. While there are a few ways to drink some alcoholic drinks in the Maldives, please be aware that you are not allowed to import alcohol in the country and if you try, the legal consequences might be bad.

You have to cover yourself when walking around the island

In addition to only using the bikini beach if you’re wearing a classic swimsuit, dressing modestly when walking around the island is expected as well. You don’t have to buy anything really, just wear clothes that are not very form-fitting, and that cover your knees and shoulders. Read more about mistakes to avoid in the Maldives before you start packing!

It can be crowded and dirty

Especially if it’s a bigger local island, and also full of accommodation options very affordable for tourists (I’m talking $25/night), you might find it very far from the idyllic place you expected. These islands tend to become very crowded and dirty and you will probably be disappointed if you choose to stay here.

What you can do instead is to still choose a local island, but a smaller one, with just one to three accommodation options available. On these islands, the coral is usually still untouched and the island itself is more relaxing and clean.

You hear the call to prayer from the mosque

This is technically valid on the resort islands as well, but it’s more noticeable on local islands as there are more mosques here to cater to the bigger population. The call to prayer is not in any way disturbing for most people, but if you’re a light sleeper, it might be problematic for you on certain occasions.

If it’s Ramadan, you have to be very conscious

If you’re going to a local island during Ramadan, it is customary to not eat or drink in front of people who are fasting. On resort islands this is not the case, you won’t even notice there’s a difference, but on local islands, you should be aware of this custom.

They’re not always very environmentally conscious

What? The islands are almost disappearing and the coral is bleaching due to environmental issues, but they’re not environmentally cautious themselves. How can that be? To be frank, it’s not OK to generalize, as some behaviors are better than others, but I have noticed a few things while visiting the Maldives.

On local islands, for example, we often received bottled water to drink. It’s OK, the water is not safe to drink so the intentions are good. But that plastic is most probably not recycled, and we consume quite a lot of water while staying in such a hot climate. Their waste management capacity is not the best as recycling logistics are hard to adjust to tiny islands spread around a large area.

On various occasions, waste from other islands can wash over the shores of local islands. I’ve seen videos from friends where the bikini beach was full of leftovers from what looked like the dinner from a resort island nearby. I mean, it’s biodegradable, but not at all a view you want to encounter on your beach vacation.

On resort islands, on the other hand, the open buffet types of meals definitely lead to a lot of food waste, especially for carved fruits that are there mostly to look nice, but not to be consumed. They also pollute the waters as they’re using smaller speedboats and make more trips to the airport to bring in tourists, instead of using bigger boats and making fewer trips.

And don’t even get me started on using waterplanes, as these cannot possibly be eco-friendly. They usually offer you water in reusable bottles though, and sometimes they grow their vegetables on the island, so at least there’s that.

The food might not be great

If you’re going to a bigger island, you can probably find plenty of restaurants with various options, so this might not be a problem. But on small local islands, where you have at most one “restaurant” on the island, and you depend on your accommodation for food, you’ll be disappointed with the options you’ll have.

If you’re not a foodie though, the price difference will be so worth it! We paid for 6 nights on the local island twice less than on 3 nights on a resort island. This makes it 4 times cheaper! And we didn’t choose one of the higher-end resorts, it was Bandos, one of the most affordable resorts.

Internet is not easy to find outside of the hotel

If you’re on a resort island, you’ll most probably have WiFi everywhere on the island. On local islands though, this might not be the case. There are a few options to get internet in the Maldives, but probably the easiest one for you will be to get an eSIM from AirAlo. This way, you can have it ready to use right from the beginning.

Public display of affection is frowned upon

As with other mistakes to avoid in the Maldives, this is one faux pas you want to be aware of. In a Muslim country, public display of affection is quite frowned upon, and you should conduct yourself in a respectful manner on local islands, even if you’re here on your honeymoon.

Bad Things About The Maldives – The Takeaway

So, we’ve explored the stunning beauty and enchanting allure of the Maldives throughout this blog post, or let’s call it what it is: a rant. But let’s face it, no place is perfect, not even this tropical paradise. It’s important to acknowledge that there are a few downsides to visiting the Maldives, and I’d rather you know it and be ready. With proper planning and preparation, many of these shortcomings can be easily addressed.

Firstly, one of the main concerns about the Maldives is its reputation for being an expensive destination. Yes, it’s true that some resorts can be quite pricey, but by doing thorough research and opting for budget-friendly accommodations or guesthouses, you can still experience the magic of this incredible destination without breaking the bank.

Another aspect to consider is that the Maldives is a remote location, which means getting there might require multiple flights and transfers. While this can be slightly inconvenient, with careful itinerary planning and utilizing travel tools like flight aggregators and free travel apps, you can streamline your journey and make it as smooth as possible.

Furthermore, being an archipelago made up of over 1,000 islands, transportation between islands can sometimes be a challenge. However, by researching transportation options in advance and pre-booking inter-island transfers or excursions with reputable operators, you can ensure seamless island-hopping adventures.

Additionally, like any popular tourist destination, overcrowding can sometimes be an issue in certain areas of the Maldives. However, by choosing less crowded islands or visiting during off-peak seasons, you can enjoy a more tranquil experience away from bustling crowds.

Lastly, while the marine life in the Maldives is breathtakingly beautiful and diverse, coral bleaching has unfortunately affected some parts of its reefs. Nevertheless, by supporting eco-friendly tourism practices such as using reef-safe sunscreen and avoiding damaging activities like touching or standing on corals during snorkeling or diving trips, we can all contribute to the conservation efforts and help protect this fragile ecosystem.

In conclusion, the Maldives is undoubtedly a destination that offers unparalleled natural beauty and unforgettable experiences. However, it’s essential to approach your trip with realistic expectations and proper planning. By doing so, you can address many of the potential bad things about the Maldives and create a memorable vacation in this tropical paradise.

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