With its sandy white beaches and visa on arrival, picturesque Maldives left me spellbound!
The reality of the unadulterated beauty in front of us was better than what we saw in the pictures; it was paradise.
In 2016, a colleague of mine happened to take a trip to Maldives, and showed me his pictures when he came back. I didn’t know much about Maldives at the time, but the moment I saw the pictures, the extraordinary beauty and splendour of the place blew me away, and I immediately placed Maldives on my bucket list of the ‘must-see’ places around the world.
Soon after, I did my initial research and realised the trip would be an expensive one. Thus, it was a couple of years after being introduced to Maldives that I finally got the chance to visit, as I planned a five-day trip with my wife for the Hudhuran Fushi Island in Maldives.
The Maldives is a group of 1,200 or so islands in the Indian Ocean below the Southernmost tip of India, and it has a small population. The location is such that the weather is tropical throughout the year, giving it sandy white beaches, lots of sunlight and unpredictable rainfall.
The best thing about planning a trip to Maldives was that there are no stringent visa requirements. Travellers just need a passport with a validity of more than six months and a valid hotel reservation, and the visa is given on arrival. The price range of resorts varies greatly, and travel sites sometimes offer discounted rates, so be sure to check those if you plan on going to Maldives.
After looking at all our available options, we chose the Adaaran Prestige Ocean Villas, which was around 20 kilometres from the Male International Airport. The villa had excellent reviews, and the pictures promised us the type of experience we were looking for.
Thus, it was in April of 2018 that we set off for our trip to Maldives. As our plane descended towards Male Airport, we got our first glimpse of the beautiful cluster of islands forming the nation of Maldives. The clear blue seas and the splendid resorts built on shallow waters could be spotted from afar. I would recommend getting a window seat if your flight is during the day, as the first look of the islands from atop is a sight to behold.
We were a bit surprised upon landing at the airport, as given the popularity of the place as a tourist destination, we had expected the airport to be a big one. However, the airport was quite small and consequently, there were long queues at the immigration control desks. A few shops and eateries were present at the airport, but other than that, one would hardly call it fancy.
Our resort’s representative was present at the airport, and after about an hour’s wait, our ferry was ready to take us to our resort. Apart from a few hotels in Male city itself, the rest of the resorts are only reachable either by boat or by sea planes. Since our resort was not very far from the airport, we were to travel through a shuttle boat.
The 25-minute long boat ride was quite bumpy and fun, and gave us the opportunity to view some of the beautiful islands of the Maldives. Almost each island had a resort built on it.
Upon arriving at our resort, we were welcomed by the manager, and margaritas were served to us and the other group of guests. Our fellow tourists consisted of a diverse group, mainly Chinese, Europeans, Americans and Australians. The resort assigned us a personal butler who managed our check-in, and gave us a tour of the resort on a golf cart.
Vivek, our butler, had been working at the resort for the past eight months or so, and had a warm and friendly presence. The resort workforce comprised mainly of local Maldivians and some expatriates, and throughout our stay, they were courteous and always ready to provide guidance and assistance when it came to places to visit and activities to partake in. Everyone could communicate in English, so we didn’t experience any language barriers throughout the trip.
The resort was sprawled across an area of around 94 acres. The beach and garden villas were located on the main island, whereas the ocean villa we had booked was located at a 10-minute walking distance from the main island. The ocean villas were connected to the main island by a beautiful wooden pathway built over clear blue ocean water.
The moment we saw the villas, we were left spellbound by the sheer beauty around us. They had been built on shallow waters, where the water level varied between two and five feet, depending on the tide and the time of the day. Each villa had a direct staircase leading to the ocean, and a sun deck where one could sit all day long and observe the beauty of the clear blue waters and its marine life. But more on that later.
Sometimes when one sees pictures of a breath-taking place on the internet, one is a bit sceptical over whether the place is really visually stunning in reality, or whether the picture has been photoshopped. However, the reality of the view in front of us was better than what we had seen in the pictures while planning the trip. The unadulterated beauty of the nature at display was truly spectacular.
The beach on the main island was absolutely beautiful – covered by white sand and coconut and palm trees, it was almost like we had entered paradise. The name of the island, Hudhuran Fushi, means white gold island, referring to its white sandy beaches. One could just lie for hours on the beach, enjoying the view, the sunset, and the soft breeze of the ocean. As the light ocean breeze is blowing almost all the time, the weather is pretty comfortable if you are at the beach for hours.
The local cuisine has influences from Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines; it includes different types of curries (vegetable, daal, chicken and fish) and rice. There were also a variety of continental dishes available to cater to the demands of the tourists and diverse tastes. In all, we enjoyed our food and spent no time missing the food back home.
The clear blue water of the Indian Ocean was full of marine life. We saw multiple varieties of fish, such as sword fish, sting rays and a host of other fish whose names we did not know, but we appreciated it and were in awe of it all nonetheless. The clear water allowed us an unobscured view of the marine life, and safe to say, we were left speechless.
We happened to come across blacktip reef sharks swimming around the deck of the resort restaurant, and were told reef sharks are quite harmless, as they only prey on other fish. People who are fond of snorkelling would definitely be able to enjoy the marine life in more detail.
Our resort offered a range of water sport activities including snorkelling, jet ski rides, parasailing, scuba diving, boat cruises, dolphin views, and submarine cruises. Riding the waves and accelerating the jet ski across the Indian Ocean was an adrenaline pumping experience which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Our five days at the resort went by in the blink of an eye, and before we knew it, it was time for our departure. On our return journey to the Male Airport, we were lucky to spot a school of Orcas (killer whales) which were a truly magnificent sight to behold, and capped off what was already a trip to remember.
The warm hospitality of the locals, the spectacular sights and the natural beauty of the island was much more than we had expected, and we resolved to visit Maldives again, hopefully sometime in the near future.
All photos: Ahsan Nadeem