The adventure begins right when you are landing at the Malé airport. As the aircraft starts descending, all you can see is the sea from window panes on both sides. It’s a regular sight to watch passengers screaming aloud as the plane touches down, because they feel it’s nose-diving into the clear blue sea while it lands on a narrow strip of land. It’s a joyride! Even while taxing, all you see is water around you. That’s when you realize you’ve reached paradise!
The Malé International Airport (now rechristened as Velana International Airport) is quite old-world, not for the charm but for the scale. The baggage area is though a small room where you’d only see bottles of spirits all around. No, you’ve got me wrong. There’s no liquor store, it’s a Muslim nation. That’s why people who’ve brought along any liquor will have to unfortunately take out from their bag and hand over to the authorities. Wait. Don’t panic. Don’t call your agent to cancel the booking if you’ve made one. Because spirits are freely available at the resorts.
The immigration process at the airport is quick and hassle-free. Even though it’s a small airport, there’s nothing to complain about (the worst airport is Sri Lanka’s Colombo airport, more on that later). As you come out, you wouldn’t see any roads. Because the airport is on a tiny island, very close to capital Male, and there are just sea-planes and speedboats to ferry you around. We had the speedboat as the shuttle from hotel, and that’s when we tasted our next adventure. The speedboat is an experience in itself, it vrooms across the sea in a jiffy, splitting the water into two parts as you see the spumes rising on both sides. If you dare to come to the front deck, you wouldn’t be able to take a picture because of super windy situation. Just sit back and take in the views. The Maldivian waters are blue of various hues, so clear that you can see the sea bed.
Maldives is made up of about 1200 coral islands grouped together in 26 atolls. One of the most dispersed countries. There are about 100 coral islands converted into resorts, while 200 odd more are inhibited. This makes a vacation in Maldives a lot different from any of beach vacations. Because not many places on earth can boast of having a single resort on a full island, across all its islands. Though islands are really small, which you can cover in less than half an hour on foot, they are big enough to accommodate beach villas, over water villas, restaurants, spas, bars, swimming pools, gaming arenas, open air lounges, activities areas, and much more. And since there is only as much people there on the island as living in that resort, the beach of that island is never crowded. In fact one gets enough privacy here, reason why it’s a great deal for honeymooners. The mush factor gets over the top as honeymooners can even choose for an exclusive, romantic dinner on a secluded island, if their resort has that facility.
Staying in Maldives means you wouldn’t go for beach hopping, shopping promenades, clubbing, Big Bus Tours, rural visits, hiking etc. You are on an island for the rest of the trip doing almost nothing. Which makes it an idyllic place. No distractions, just admire the natural beauty, walk around the lush tropical vegetation & palm trees, set your bare feet on the unbelievably white sand, watch the lagoon, laze around and calculate time in zones, not hours. Because time passes by languorously, just how the universe intended it to.
Yet there is a lot to do in Maldives. You may choose to visit the capital Malé on a speedboat. A charming city, Malé is where you would find civilization. Not only it is the world’s lowest capital (just 2 meters above sea level) but one of the cutest too! Jostling for space are cafes, souvenirs stores, houses etc. The whole city can be covered over foot in an hour. That too a leisurely walk. The cemetery there is beautiful, a must see. The president’s palace is more of a big villa that you pass-by, and as the guard says, wait for some time and you might see him on his evening walk! The historic Friday Mosque is a large, beautiful monument with a golden dome that warrants a visit. It’s a feel good city, where everyone looks happy. Just like any island country where joie de vivre reigns.
For the adventure junkies and impatient souls, a (marine) world of watersports awaits. A plethora of options like Deep Sea Diving, Reef Snorkeling, Canoe-ing, Banana Boat, Wave Surf, Jet Ski, Catamaran Sailing, Parasailing, Water Skiing, and what have you! Just check with your resort what they have on their activities list. Do not miss the evening Dolphin Cruise, where they take you on a spirited voyage (Grapes on board) and you’d see many dolphins. Don’t worry, it’s not the after-effect. These are for real!
While at the island resort you would have chosen, the best thing to do is just sit around and watch the sea. The whites of sand accentuate the blues of water. The water is light blue along the beach, and you can see a clear demarcation where the blue gets darker in a ring, then changes colors across the horizon. Yet the sea bed is so transparent that you can catch the kaleidoscopic fishes go about their routine, frolicking around, showing the diversity in their colors, shapes, sizes, textures, patterns, gait, characteristics…it’s a nature’s gift that you witness, wondering how much more nature can surprise you with its wonders.
Though the French Polynesia has been always popularized in Hollywood movies, Maldives can easily rival the claim for the ideal paradise. While luxury is synonymous with Maldives as it features many exclusive and ultra luxury resorts, yet Maldives comes across as humble and sincere. It may boast of an underwater restaurant, spa, and even a nightclub, yet Maldives steers away from the superlatives. Though there aren’t many options for the budget travellers here, yet there is a growing culture of inclusion – locals running guesthouses on the inhabited islands while public ferries making them accessible.
So here’s how a typical day in an island resort looks like. You wake up in the morning to a view of beautiful blue sky punctured by specks of clouds, have breakfast at a cabana overlooking the sea, take your book to a cozy little corner at the beach and lie down under the umbrella on a lounge chair. It’s early noon. You realize that the sun is up, have your lunch at a beach shack, go for a nap or a spa. It’s early evening. You go for a stroll around the island while the sun sets. Then you go for a swim, have a drink by the poolside, the stars are up and the moon heralds a bright night. It’s dinnertime. You have the supper at a glass domed restaurant under the stars yet in an air-conditioned comfort, followed by a live performance of Bodu Beru music & dance, and it’s already bedtime. Time passes by dreamily and you would not even realize your trip is over!