Whether your first view of the Maldives is from the window of a jet plane, a sea plane or from a boat, you cannot fail to be thrilled. The islands of The Maldives are jewels carefully dropped into the Indian Ocean. What ever you might have imagined, whatever pictures you have seen, nothing can really prepare you for their beauty.
As far as island paradises go, The Maldives are the real thing and more. Pale crescents of sand made up of millions of tiny pieces of coral, draped in swaying, emerald palms and fringed by a glossy, turquoise sea.
Fifteen years ago I visited The Maldives for the first time, and indulged in the kind of holiday, which at the time I though was beyond my wildest dreams and certainly my means! Memories of swimming in the warm sea with manta rays gliding past. Spending the days wearing little but swimming things and shorts for a whole week stayed with me, and I always hoped that one day I might return.
My much hoped for return, albeit to a different island happened about a month ago and was laden with expectation and excitement. Particularly as holidays in recent years have generally been active, multi centred and filled with challenges. A week on a beach, in a resort is something I hadn’t experienced for a long time. In fact my husband expressed genuine concern that I wouldn’t be able to stay still. His concern, I might add, was totally unfounded. When you wake each day to surroundings as beautiful as those in the Maldives, the need to be on the move all the time soon ebbs away.
I appreciate for many the journey to get to The Maldives may be a little off putting, particularly for a week, and to be honest getting there is pretty epic. It involves a 10 hour flight to Columbo in Sri Lanka and then a further 1 1/2 hours to either Gan Island or Male the Capital of The Maldives However the time different is only 5 1/2 hours making it much more doable for a week than say West Coast America or Thailand where the flight times are similar but the time differences are much greater, 8 hours and 7 hours respectively.
Life in and on the Water
A big draw for many to The Maldives is the diving. The Maldives are renowned for their exotic and varied sea life. I am not a diver but my husband is and he managed to fit in 5 dives whilst we were there and assured me they were some of the best he had ever done. Diving with reef sharks, turtles and manta rays is the norm. I can also vouch for the snorkelling. I have snorkelled in lots of fabulous places but never have I genuinely felt like I could have been swimming in an enormous, exotic fish tank. It was stunning, the coral and the abundance of seal life all just a very short distance from the shore was like nothing I have seen before.
When we weren’t in the water we were often on it. Kayaking is always good fun and we enjoyed doing that, but an absolute highlight had to be the boat trip we took to see dolphins. Dolphin trips are renowned for being disappointing. We have done those trips where you pay a lot of money and if you are lucky may see one or two dolphins somewhere in the distance. Despite this we can never resist taking another. This one was far from disappointing. A trip of about 45 mins on the calmest blue waters and suddenly we were surrounded by at least 100 spinner dolphins. They swam along side our boat, they lept out of the air, spinning and diving and then leaping again giving us a personal show of their clever playfulness. I know my picture does not give that impression but it was truly wonderful and a real privilege especially as our boat was the only one in the middle of the ocean witnessing this incredible natural spectacle.
Our trip wasn’t planned weeks ahead and was the result of a late deal. Consequently we did not have a huge choice were we stayed. If i’m honest it was luck rather than judgment that took us to The Shangri-La Villingili Resrt and Spa. However I doubt we could have chosen better had we spent days pouring over websites and brochures. The Shangri-La was luxurious and beautiful and utterly relaxing. We stayed in a villa which was a similar size to our entire house in London. It also had it’s own pool from which we could look out over the ocean. It came with bikes so that we could pretend we were getting a little exercise by cycling to and from breakfast or the beach! We were utterly spoilt. As you can imagine it was very hard to leave. The Maldivian people are kind and gentle and we were well cared for and completely looked after throughout our visit.
As you might expect from an island nation, seafood is a speciality, and there is an abundance of locally caught fish and shell fish. Tuna cooked to perfection on a BBQ, crab and lobster doused in lemon and garlic and grilled and thick juicy prawns oozing freshness. Tropical fruits are plentiful and pineapple, papaya and mango is the norm at breakfast. The fruits and produce grown on the island was a regular feature of the delicious deserts which often included edible flowers too! The Shangri-La has 3 restaurants each with their own speciality and all very good. As part of our all inclusive deal we could choose where we ate each night. (such a dilemma!)
The Maldives was just as dreamy second time around. There is something very special about these islands and as an indulgent and delicious pre Christmas sunshine filled tonic, they are pretty perfect.