The Maldives have been called the Atolls of Enchantment. A vacation in the Maldives is a special experience. The Maldives are increasingly a popular tropical destination.
In the Indian Ocean, about 500km from the southern tip of Sri Lanka, the Maldives are made up of 1190 atolls, on 87 of which are resorts. This is a land of white sand, palm trees, turquoise sea and friendly lagoons.
The natural environment is so valued and protected in the Maldives that, though there are a lot of resorts, most are surrounded by uninhabited islands. Island Resorts make full use of these islands, transporting guests by boat to the small, untouched islands for picnic lunches.
Tourism and carpentry are the main industries of the Maldives, but fishing is also crucial. Often the only mark on the horizon will be a dhoni, a traditional Maldivian fishing boat, ploughing through the water with the help of its big sails.
At some resorts, locals take groups out for night fishing under the stars and inevitably return with a good catch, which can be barbecued for you when you return to the resort for dinner. Fishing is done with hand lines or rods and is best accompanied with a glass of cool white wine and the calm, still, Indian Ocean.
The Maldives are becoming renowned for their spa’s. Though most of the spa therapists are Balinese, the Maldivian spas have their own character. They are mostly set on the water for maximum visual and aural relaxation. The water soothes spirits, as do highly trained, sensitive therapists working on stressed muscles.
The spas tend to feature double treatment rooms for couples or friends to enjoy pampering together. Treatments are traditional Balinese, though they often have different titles, but some diversify. The Away Spa at W Retreat and Spa combines the best of all Asian massage techniques, while the liva Grande at Taj Exotica has an Ayurvedic emphasis, introducing a range of traditional Indian therapies and oil blends.
Opportunities to dance at the Maldives are restricted; the emphasis is more on peace and solitude than high-energy clubbing. But at the new W Retreat and Spa, the nightclub 15 Below, offers an enticing night-time alternative. Built 15m below ground, the cool club is small, but atmospheric. The DJs, rotate every two months.
Experienced divers say Maldives diving is among of the best in the world. They have 1000 recorded species of fish, many thousands of reefs and more than 200 species of coral. All resorts have dive sites within an hour’s boat ride, though some will obviously have more to offer than others. Snorkelling is a must.
It is common to see guests snorkelling in the lagoons that fringe each resort, happy to look at the abundant fish life right at their doorstep.
The best experiences in the Maldives are either on, or under, water, so all resorts offer water sports ranging from parasailing and kayaking to kitesurfing, water-skiing and jet-skiing. It is a popular spot for surfing, the fastest growing water sport in the country.
The best season for surfing is the southwest monsoon, from April to October, with the biggest swells rolling in from June to September. Surfing safaris are popular for serious surfers. They range from luxury cruise ships to the more rustic boats, featuring four cabins in which crews cook in the Maldivian style – tuna, usually barbecued.
It is no surprise that the Maldives are a popular honeymoon destination, but their glorious sunsets are for all lovers. It is hypnotic to watch the sun turn a brilliant shade of coral against a purple sky as it gradually descends into the horizon. That is the time you suddenly see previously hidden hotel guests, keen to have their photographs taken in front of the sunset.
Surprisingly, the Maldives are not a natural source of food, with fish and coconuts being the only foods produced. Luckily a rich supply is imported from surrounding areas. Resort chefs tend to look to India and Japan for their greatest culinary inspirations. The range of guests, most being Italians, followed by English and Japanese – is reflected in menus.
One of the greatest attractions of this tropical paradise is to lie on a sundeck, under a beach umbrella, and marvel at how quickly time passes when you’re doing absolutely nothing. You can do nothing by the beach, by your private pool, by the communal pool, on a boat, at the spa or in the lounge areas. Of course, you can always do nothing in your room, many of which are a natural source of entertainment because they are so full of luxury novelties. But why travel to this exotic destination to spend time in your room. I will add that Honeymoon couples are exempt from this last sentence.
You can do nothing with a cocktail, a book, a plasma television, jacuzzi or a beautiful Maldivian swing rocking in the sunshine.
And there is always the bath – most resorts in the Maldives are known for fabulously positioned baths, trimmed with candles and perfect for doing nothing more than watching the sun go down.