Whatever you do, make sure you choose your airline seat wisely as you fly into the Maldives. Fight for that window seat with an unhindered view and your Maldivian experience might well start even before you set foot on the island nation. The prettiest views of the country’s atolls and contrasting shades of blue are usually from up above. Maldives is a cluster of close to 1200 islands. The country’s total area is just 300 square kilometres spread over an area of roughly 90,000 square kilometres making it one of the world’s most geographically dispersed nations.
Get Male out of the way (if you must) before you head to your island getaway:
It’s best you look around Male as soon as you arrive. There’s a good chance you will not want to leave the comfort of your island resort till it’s time to fly back. The capital is just five minutes away by boat from the airport, earmark around two to four hours for your Male discovery walk. Male’s most historic landmark is not imposing but has a striking presence. The Malé Hukuru Miskiy (Friday Mosque) dates back to the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar I and was constructed in 1658 entirely with coral stone. The interiors of this UNESCO World heritage mosque are a treasure trove of Maldivian art including woodwork and lacquer carving. The Mulliaage, the country’s presidential palace is one of the prettiest buildings in Male and was built about a century ago in a British colonial style. If you have resilient olfactory nerves there’s no better place to explore than Male’s fish market. Only line fishing is permitted in Maldives (to address ecological concerns) and you can see the finest varieties of fish including exotic yellow fin tuna as you walk around the market. There’s also a local market that sells local produce including vegetables and local delicacies like the yummy Bondi sweet that is made with palm sugar and coconut. This famous Maldivian sweet is wrapped in dried banana leaf – Salami style, perfect to carry back home.
Ultimately every Maldives experience is about the sun, sand and the myriad shades of blue ocean. The country is home to over 100 top class resorts. It’s not all premium resorts though; you can also opt for smaller beachside guest houses and hotels in Male that are relatively inexpensive. Club Med Kani is one of Maldives’ finer resorts; it’s a thirty minute speedboat ride from the Male International airport. Like most resorts in Maldives, a long dramatic walkway across the water leads to the resort. The resort has over 200 rooms including suites on stilts and beach villa; the entire property spans out like a palm tree from a lagoon. Club Med is one of the pioneers of ‘all inclusive’ holidays and your package at the resort includes everything from food to activities (except scuba diving and para sailing) to unlimited beverages. Club Med has a choice of ocean facing bars and restaurants but there’s probably no better place than your own little private beach if you check into one of the beach villas. The beach is also a haven for beach combers – exotic shells in all different shapes and sizes.
There are at least ten diving sites with crystal clear water all within thirty minutes by boat from Club Med – perfect whether you are an amateur snorkeler or a certified diver. With 1100 species of fish, 5 species of sea turtles, 187 species of corals there is another world waiting to be discovered. Most resorts organise snorkelling lessons and if there’s one place you need to overcome hydrophobia it is the Maldives. It’s not unusual to spot dolphins in these waters, just make sure your camera is on ‘burst mode’. In the unlikely event you tire of snorkelling, try your hand at sea kayaking or sailing (on windy days) – adrenaline rush guaranteed.
Every beach destination has top notch resorts, vibrant sunset bars and a range of water sports but what sets Maldives apart is its myriad shades of blue. Maldives’ coral reefs are partially responsible for the gorgeous blues – from bright turquoise to shimmering cobalt that make every picture prettier. As you head back home it’s these blues that will give you withdrawal symptoms especially if you are back on that window seat with a view.
Getting there: The most convenient domestic flight connections to Male are via Kochi or Thiruvananthapuram, you can also opt to club Maldives with a short break in Sri Lanka and fly to Male via Colombo.
Where to stay:
The W Maldives is tucked away in one of Maldives’ many atolls and is a 25-minute seaplane ride from the Male airport. Rooms start at about $1000 at this luxury abode.
Club Med Kani is a great option for families and groups. You won’t need your wallet here (unless you’re ordering expensive Champagne or Spirits) once you’ve paid for an all-inclusive holiday that covers food, activities and alcoholic drinks. Prices start from about $700 (Per person on double occupancy) for a 3-night holiday.