As the world slowly awakens from its forced sleep, I dreamed of those faraway destinations that promise a place of wonder. You, too, are probably ready to trade in your stay at home for what is called a “revenge” trip – that is, revenge for the pandemic.
The Maldives is such a place, so far from our daily life, so different from home it evokes the possibility of experiences that scream like a siren song, singing “Come on, have the adventure of a lifetime here.”
The Maldives is a distant paradise, a small country made up of tiny islands in the middle of the deep, warm blue sea, located near the equator in the Indian Ocean. The country has been open to U.S. visitors for the past year or more (with COVID-19 protocols in place for travelers), as its single-resort islands are ideal places to socially distance oneself during regular periods, as well as in the event of a pandemic.
And the reality is that the Maldives live up to what you imagined in every way, as I learned on a recent pre-pandemic trip. So sit back and join me on an armchair tour – and start making your own plan for an unforgettable getaway as our world once again becomes a safe place to explore.
It’s an intimidating trip from Southern California, whether you choose to head east or west, as in either direction this country of 1,192 islands is basically on the other end. of the world. There’s no easy way to get there, and the trip will probably take you around 30 hours door-to-door, with at least two flights needed (and a long layover in between) to get to Male, The capital of the country. which is pronounced “mall-deeves”.
I chose to head east, on Turkish Airlines from LAX via Istanbul, as I knew from experience that this meant flying on a top notch airline that offers free tours of Istanbul to passengers with long layovers. . It is a wonderful way to spend your free time while waiting for the flight to Male; or business class passengers can relax with their access to the legendary Turkish Airlines lounge.
Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific will transport you in the other direction, to the west via Asia; and Emirates can get you there via Dubai.
Once in Male, you’ll take a quick shuttle water taxi from the airport to the seaplane dock, where a small plane will fly you to your chosen resort – all 245 of them are on the beach. ‘one of the 200 inhabited atolls on this string of islands that stretches for more than 500 miles.
As we hovered over the brilliant blue waters, one thing quickly became apparent to me as these island atolls unfolded beneath our wings – whatever resort destination you choose in the Maldives is probably the only place you are going to call home. you during your stay in the country. Most of them are private resorts, which means that whatever you experience will take place there.
A few resorts, including the Four Seasons Maldives at Kuda Huraa, are a short ferry ride to a larger island (Huraa), but most are exactly what you’d imagine the Maldives to be – a secluded paradise, a secluded resort centered on water sports and beach games, meals by the sea, spa interludes and the serenity of the overwater bungalows.
I always think of world class scuba diving which is why I ventured out to two different resorts in the Maldives. After traveling so far to this pristine place, I was dying to see different parts of this famous underwater nirvana. So, my first stop was at the Heritance Aarah Resort on Raa Atoll, a luxurious location with overwater villas and suites over the ocean, as well as pool and beach villas.
Set in the middle of the green-blue ocean, this gorgeous all-inclusive has five bars and six restaurants (and room service as well), serving classic cocktails, wines, and choices ranging from an international buffet to specialties. of seafood, Sri Lankan, Indian and French cuisine, and street food. There’s snorkeling, kite or windsurfing, jet skiing, flyboarding, sailing – and the scuba diving I had come for.
It would have been easy to bask all day, overlooking the water while sipping bubbles, especially since my home base was an overwater suite with its own infinity pool. But when I’m in a new hot water paradise, for me it’s about squirming in a wetsuit, donning a heavy tank, taking a giant leap and launching into that crystal-clear water. .
From the moment you start to descend, it’s like swimming in the most amazing aquarium filled with corals your mind can imagine. Sea turtles meander alongside, white tip sharks elegantly pass by, and – if you’re lucky, like me – both a school of spotted eagle rays and a silvery crowd of razor-sharp barracudas crept into view during the tour. my very first dive.
Finding so many wonders under the sea, as well as meals of fresh seafood and flowing wine in Heritance, made it difficult to detach, but having the chance to visit another place in the Maldives was a powerful draw, as the creatures under- Marines vary widely in different parts of the 500 mile long island chain.
I headed south to the Mercure Maldives Kooddoo on Gaafu Alifu Atoll. It is another picturesque seaside resort with a breathtaking coral lagoon protecting the calm waters of the atoll. This lagoon allows you to swim right off the deck of your villa with snorkel gear in place, where I’ve spotted small turtles, baby sharks, and little rays that like to linger in these protected areas around the path terrace of the overwater bungalows.
The Mercure is a small, cozy resort with 68 villas, two restaurants, two bars, and a white-sand beach with an infinity pool nearby. Like virtually every resort in the Maldives, it has its own diving operation, as well as other water sports equipment ready for guests to create their own adventures.
In this part of the country, manta rays and whale sharks often come to visit, eating plankton and giving you what is arguably one of the most sublime experiences of your life, swimming with these gentle giants of the deep. It was not the right season for whale sharks (August to November is the best), but I encountered a huge manta ray that swam right away and peeked at me as I smile at him right away, making my first daydreams in the Maldives come true perfectly.
It’s a long way to go, that’s for sure, but a trip to the Maldives is worth it, especially if you’re celebrating a honeymoon or an anniversary (or if you’re making a big trip you missed while taking shelter. on site) – or are quite simply ready to make this legendary destination the first post-pandemic adventure of your life.
Anyone can try scuba diving there – just ask for a resort dive experience (a dive shallower than we do) and you will soon know if to join the underwater world and become one. with fish is also part of your dream.