Technically, the Maldives was our 8th honeymoon. Travel lush that I am, I travelled to the Turks & Caicos, Paris, Muscat, Istanbul, Zanzibar, Kenya and Cape Town between getting married and visiting the Maldives. However, I had very specific honeymoon criteria and since the Maldives was the first destination to meet them, (Tropical Island… Check. Exotic location… Check. Water Villa… Check. Minimum of 10 days… Check. No friends or family allowed… Check.) I consider the Maldives our official honeymoon and now one of my favourite holiday and scuba diving destinations.
A short 4 hour flight from Dubai, the Maldives is made up of 1190 coral islands, abstract drops of land scattered across the Indian Ocean south of India. Naturally luxurious with white sand beaches, turquoise water and beautiful coral reefs, about 90 of the islands are developed by resorts. On this occasion, we chose to stay at the Constance Halaveli. It had just opened that year and my husband found a terrific half price deal with Only Exclusive Travel. Now it is among the top ranked luxury resorts in the Maldives.
Walking around the secluded island is like turning the pages of a glossy travel magazine, still turquoise water, dazzling sand, palm trees swaying gently in the breeze. The resort felt private and luxurious without being pretentious and the staff was helpful and friendly yet discreet.
We usually ate breakfast by the sand and walked along the beach, occasionally dipping our toes in the shallow warm water where little white tip reef sharks like to swim in the early morning. And we spent many afternoons by the main pool. A lazy lunch in the shade. Shisha by the pool. Tropical cocktails at the bar. Their Puerta Colada (a pina colada made with tequila instead of rum) and Eldermint cocktails were so divine I convinced the impossibly nice bartender to share his secret recipe, although I have never managed to make one that tastes quite as good.
Other afternoons were spent soaking up the sunshine from the private deck of our villa, reading a book or simply watching tropical fish and stingrays swim through the clear water below us. The water villa was bright and spacious with high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows, even in the bathroom where we could still see fish dart by below us.
When we felt like venturing into the inviting water below the snorkelling was, to say the least, pretty awesome. The clear, tropical water and coral reefs in the Maldives offer some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving in the world. To snorkel here you don’t even need a boat. Simply descend the steps from your villa and immerse yourself in life under the sea. Lively and exciting, breathtaking and peaceful, all at the same time.
Of course, no honeymoon would be complete without delectable food. Overall, the food at the resort is very good but Jing, the Asian-inspired restaurant over the water was fabulous. And a perfect sunset? Done. The pictures below were all taken as we made our way to the beach for cocktails one evening. Watching the sun set on a boat cruise while sipping champagne is also a nice option.
One of the reasons we chose to visit the Maldives was to go scuba diving and we managed to get our PADI license (including an orientation dive in Oman) with just a week to spare. A couple of days later I got a sinus infection! The bad news is that meant no diving for me. The good news is that meant we had no choice but to plan a second trip to the Maldives… I had no issues with snorkelling though, and the dive instructor suggested night snorkelling might be fun to try. I was a little nervous about entering the water at night but I agreed. How scary could such an idyllic, paradise be?
The answer is… scary! In fact, the scariest thing I have ever done in my life. Long after the sun set, my husband and I boarded a boat with our guide and headed towards another reef. It was dark except for the stars and when the guide instructed me to jump into the ocean with only a life jacket, flippers and a flashlight to protect me, I didn’t think anything could be more scary. I was wrong. Being in the dark wasn’t so bad. The surface of the water was faintly lit by the moonlight and we floated effortlessly with the current, spotting beautiful florescent coral, the odd moray eel and tropical fish as they passed through the thin beams of our flashlights. It was quite nice if you didn’t allow yourself to think about what was lurking in the dark.
That said, I will never forget the moment we entered the brightly lit water at the end of the island pier. Suddenly everything beneath the waves was under a spotlight and I knew exactly whose company I was in. Barely three feet beneath me, enjoying the same current, was a family of giant manta rays, some of them the size of small automobiles. To my left was a school of jack fish, each of them as big as me and so close I thought I would bump into them. I tried to swim backwards against the current and ended up with a mouth full of sea water instead. Then I looked to my right and stopped breathing all together. Lurking at the edge of the light were five nurse sharks, the long, grey, bottom dwelling ones that stare at you with dead, soulless eyes. The ones you only see in scary movies or on the Discovery channel.
I wanted to panic but forced myself to breathe. What was I going to do really? I was bobbing around in the ocean surrounded by giant manta rays and sharks. I chose to do so. Surely the people watching me from the pier thought I was a crazy and for a moment, so did I. My husband reached out to make sure I was okay (Im sure it was because he was as scared as me) and I bravely decided that I was lucky to be in this moment. This time when I looked up I noticed how gracefully the huge rays moved and how the jack fish shimmered silver, blue and gold in the light as they darted around the pier. I tried not to notice the sharks at all. We are still not friends.
Ten days passed quickly and it was time to board our seaplane back to the airport in Malé, the capital of the Maldives. Our flight back to Dubai didn’t leave until late so we took a short boat ride from the island airport and wandered around Malé for a little while. With a population of 100,000ish people, every last inch of the small Island is filled with colourful buildings and parks. We had dinner at Sala Thai Restaurant which was delicious (you must know by now how much I love Thai food) then went to Hulhule Island Hotel (within walking distance from the airport) and had a couple of drinks by the pool until it was time for our flight.
I have already returned to the Maldives a second time and would return again in a heartbeat. I’m going to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda first…