Escapist fantasy in the Maldives
By Shamlal Puri
| January 25th 2015
Hugging the Arabian Sea in the north and the Indian Ocean in the south, is the Republic of Maldives, an island country with a chain of atolls dispersed around.
It lies south-east of India and some 470 miles south-west of Sri Lanka.
This 116-square mile former Portuguese and British colony is near the Indian-ruled Minicoy island in the Lakshadweep Archipelago in the north and the historical and controversial UK administered Chagos Archipelago in the south.
There are a total of 1,190 islands in the Maldives Archipelago of which only 200 are inhabited.
Of these, 105 islands have holiday resorts. Described as a heaven of tranquility, the Maldives is a perfect destination for those seeking the holiday of a lifetime in serene surroundings.
Its sun-kissed pristine white sandy beaches, where fish swim happily in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and smiling locals offer you a warm welcome saying “Maruhabaa” in their Dhivehi mother tongue.
This island’s population of 350,000 have African, Sri Lankan, Indian and Arabic ancestries. Maldivians largely depend on tourism and fishing for their livelihood. There are very attractive resorts dotted all around the Maldives with top class facilities catering for rich tourists.
You are transported into a different world the moment you step into “rooms” at sea, fitted with modern indulgences.
To add to the pampering, there are underwater spa rooms and underground cellars. You can see pristine waters at the bottom of your ocean bungalow’s glass floor.
Sheer luxury immersed in surreal beauty in a private courtyard onshore. It is simply an enchanting haven for a romantic retreat. A butler is on hand to look after your needs.
Gourmet delights prepared by global chefs are on offer with the choicest cuisine. A stretch of private beach beckons you.
Bespoke cruises and reef journeys in a traditional Maldivian dhoni (boat), give you memorable moments. Those who prefer to stay on the shore can go for spa treatments that will ignite your senses and bring you out of your shell.
The most attractive thing about the water villas standing on stilts in the crystalline waters of the Indian Ocean is that they offer a mesmerising feeling living in luxury with the sea beneath your feet.
In the evenings, you can relax on the water deck watching the colourful sunset and through the glass-bottomed floor watch lots of fish gliding through the crystal clear waters.
Each resort has a limited number of water villas and hence is not overcrowded.
There are plenty of attractions around these resorts, including snorkelling, jet skiing and diving. Most guests are offered villas not away from the reef and some have their own a few steps down from their private deck to the coral below.
The starting point of your holiday is Male (pronounced Mah-lay), the capital of Maldives, and a city with a population of just over 100,000.
The city offers a chance to see the real Maldives. Here motorcycles line the streets. There are an estimated 100,000 motorcycles in the Maldives with a bulk plying in the capital.
Though a majority of tourists head for the glamour and glitz of the resorts, sumptuous buffets and infinity pools, it is worthwhile to spend a day or two to savour Male’s flavours by visiting the local markets, walking in the narrow streets past the colourful high-rise buildings, shopping in the small number of shops or taking an evening stroll in the Mulee Aage.
Among the local attractions are the Grand Friday Mosque, Hukuru Miskiiy (Old Mosque), Artificial Beach, the Tsunami Monument and the National Museum.
Upon arrival at the main gateway, the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Hulhule Island in Male tourists are transferred to the nearby seaplane terminal. A seaplane ride provides a breath-taking experience.
Rangali Island, located 25 minutes from Male by seaplane, opens up new vistas of premium luxury.
The five-star Conrad Maldives Resort is spread over two stunning islands with water villas surrounded by remarkable coral reefs.
This resort is the birth place of the world’s first undersea restaurant Ithaa in Alifu Dhalu Atoll.
Dinner served 16 feet under the water is memorable.
You tuck in seafood, meat and vegetable dishes as marine life glides all around the glass encased diner and take in 180 degree panoramic views of coral gardens surrounding it.
A meal here can cost just over $300 (Sh27,000). The island of Bandos is a perfect setting for that romantic getaway. Perhaps two weeks will be sufficient for perfect bliss.
The sense of calm and serenity that the island emanates is truly out of this world.
The gentle waves of the sea, the whistling breeze, the rustling of the palm fronds on the beach will help transcend you from the hurly-burly rigours of daily life back home.
This aural feast, complimented by an all colourful visual one, where the turquoise waters of the lagoon, the lush green vegetation, the pearl white beaches, azure blue sky and generous offerings of golden sunshine inspires in us just one question — is this a meeting between heaven and earth?
In the Dhivehi language, Herathera means a hideaway or sanctuary.
The Herathera Island Resort is just that. Here you find the unspoiled natural beauty offering the peace and relaxation sought on a holiday with a beautiful lagoon and stretches of white, sandy beach in this, the only resort on the island some 20 minute by speedboat from Gan International Airport, on Gan Island.
Gan is also about a 70-minute seaplane flight south of Male’s International Airport.
Your flight crosses the equator then continues to Gan.
The Kuramathi Island Resort retreat offers unique experiences for everyone in a natural setting. It is described as an emerald jewel in the turquoise Maldivian waters with acres of greenery, spectacular beaches which taper into an endless sandbank.
Due to its isolation, the Maldives is expensive but if you are looking for a holiday getaway, it will be well worth every penny. Emirates and Qatar Airways fly from Nairobi to the Maldives.
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