What’s the best date you’ve ever been on? How about gazing at the translucent rings on Saturn at Soneva Fushi’s own observatory while a resident astronomer explains how Maldivian fishermen follow the stars over the Indian Ocean? Then, feeling hungry, negotiate the hanging rope walkway across to the resort’s tree-top restaurant, a fairy tale spot with delicious fresh cuisine served high above the jungle gardens, sugar white sand and azure ocean below.
Well, it’s one way to work up an appetite. Or kayaking, paddle-boarding, jet-skiing, snorkelling, parasailing, windsurfing, kite-surfing, spa treatments or just relaxing in a private paradise that is almost too good to be true. Kick off your shoes, lose your worries and reset mind and body.
Lying 600 miles southwest of Sri Lanka and India, this island nation is truly remote and as such has boasted a reputation for exclusivity and uber luxury. The archipelago is dispersed over a vast 115 square miles and is broken down into the main groups of Malé Atolls, Central Atolls, and South Atolls. Only about 200 of these idyllic isles are inhabited. Several are made up entirely of a single top class resort offering the highest levels of service and comfort such as OZEN by Atmosphere at Maadhoo, Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru and Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi. In 2009 however, the Maldivian government granted permission for guesthouses to welcome overseas visitors making it possible to travel the Maldives on a more attainable budget. If you can splash out however, the low May to October season is the time to do it. Statistically there is a higher amount of rainfall but overall there is still plenty of sun with highs around 29 °C. Costs at this time can as much as halve and you get much more space on the resorts. Seas can be a little rougher which is fantastic for surfers and there are of safe areas to swim as many islands are protected by the encircling reefs.
Once the not insignificant question of budget is out of the way, you may still find it difficult to decide between islands. Look carefully as some resorts specialise in honeymooners, in families, in watersports, or in Ayurvedic Spa treatments. Due to the distance between islands many people pick one resort and stay for a couple of weeks. Wonderful though that is, it is possible to visit local islands such as Maafushi, Guraidhoo or Dhiffushi. Each has a distinct personality and is fascinating to explore, meeting people, wandering unpaved streets past cafes, mosques, schools and beautiful local beaches. Not least, you can visit Malé, one of the smallest capitals in the world with its bustling fish market, colourful buildings and national museum.
The true wonder of the Maldives lies under the water which sparkles with so many vibrant shade of blue. Here you’ll experience some of the best snorkelling and diving in the world with unbelievable visibility and excellent chances to spot whale sharks, manta rays, sting rays, dolphins, sea turtles and shoals of tropical fish in their thousands. Most resorts offer diving excursions and lessons while enterprising locals have established live aboard diving experiences which can last a week or more.