Flying over the crystal clear waters of the Maldives is exciting and alluring. Slowly, hundreds of atolls and small islands come into view. The deeper blue water gives way to shallower pools of turquoise surrounded by coral reefs, that gently encircle the almost completely flat islands. Then more impossibly pale blue water and a stark ring of powder white beach enveloping a central nugget of emerald green forest. You’ve pretty much found paradise!
We flew into Malé, the capital of The Maldives via Sri Lanka, from New Delhi. We were met by the friendly representatives from our destination Paradise Island. Before we had time to think, we were told to put our watches back an hour and were on a fast boat flying towards our home for the next few days. We felt ourselves coming alive as we smelt the spray coming off the waves. It felt like it had been too long since we were at sea and we were loving it!
Photo credit: Ibrahim Asad
After about 30 minutes we arrived at our beautiful resort. Once the boat stops, you realise how very hot and humid it is. Immediately we were handed exotic welcome cocktails and shown to our room. Despite the relative smallness of the island, our room felt like it was miles away from the main lodge. It was a garden cottage surrounded by casuarina trees and a stumble away from the pristine beach and warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
Our room had an enormous double-bed, a spacious bathroom and a secluded outdoor shower. The air-conditioning was set at 16 degrees, but it seemed to only achieve about 25, for which we were very grateful.
Although we had eaten quite well on the plane, it was time for dinner and we were excited to experience the delights of the main restaurant. Suddenly you realise the size of the resort as the dining venue was huge and there were so many guests who later also manage to vanish just as quickly, because the island is so well laid out with palms and trees secluding each room. The dining-room was semi-open air and boasted a buffet that catered for every taste and nationality. Our waiter Ahmed encouraged us to share a table with another South African couple, which we thought was a terrible idea, so we were indulged with our own private corner for the duration of our stay.
The Maldives is not a cheap destination. Bottled water is pricey and all watersports and even snorkel gear is charged for. We kicked ourselves for not bringing our own snorkels and fins as we ended up paying $10 per day each, to hire the equipment. It was however worth every cent. The reef right outside our bedroom was amazing and teeming with colourful fish. We could hear the enormous parrot fish chomping away as they fed on the coral. They were completely unperturbed by us being an arm’s reach away from them.🐠
We were keen to go out catamaran sailing and wandered down to the watersports area to enquire about taking a boat for a sail. Unfortunately they won’t let you out without a local skipper who has a knowledge of the reef. Instead we took a boat trip out to Banana reef. It was quite a long ride but stunning to be out at sea. After the boat was anchored we were allowed off and spent an hour exploring the reef. Although the fish were bigger, there was surprisingly not much more to see that we had on hand at our own beach! 🐡
Back on what we thought of as our home reef, Geoff got bitten by a cute little Picasso Trigger fish that left a sore mark on his leg. We discovered a resident moray eel sneaking in and out of the coral. He was lovely to watch even though I was a bit scared of getting too close, especially when I saw his big teeth. We also saw lots of unicorn and surgeon fish. Another interesting sighting was an octopus! He inked up as soon as he saw that we were looking at him too closely! 🐙
After breakfast each day we would slather on block-out and head for the water. We would pass people lying in the sun and would marvel at their ability to remain there until sunset. We watched with morbid fascination as a British girl turned pink, then lobster red, but made no attempt to curtail her sun-worshipping.
At dinner in the evenings we would monitor her progress. Dubbing her “The Pink Lady” we could see the raw patches of skin where she had already peeled, burnt and blistered again. And sure enough, she was back on her sun lounger after breakfast. All this to go home to England and wear her winter woolies?
We got more than enough sun just through all the snorkelling that we did. Our routine was to snorkel in the morning and be back in the relative coolness of our room, watching HBO, or lying on our veranda under the trees with a book when the fierceness of the midday sun kicked in.
Each evening after dinner there was organised entertainment including crab racing, dancing and cooking demonstrations. Despite our relaxed lifestyle we were always ready to head for bed and of course a movie instead.
The Sunrise restaurant at the opposite end of the island specialised in seafood and is a superb spot to overlook the lagoon. In the distance we could see the waves crashing onto the reef. We enjoyed working our way through the different types of cocktails on the menu!
On our last evening we spoilt ourselves and enjoyed a quiet dinner at the sunrise restaurant. It was wonderful to enjoy the peaceful surroundings, the lapping of the water and the cooling ocean breeze as we enjoyed eating lobster under the stars.