Write: ÖZGE KUTLUK Photos: POWELL JOHN
MADE UP OF PRECISELY 1,192 ISLANDS, THE MALDIVES AWAIT YOU WITH THEIR TURQUOISE WATERS, WHITE SUGAR SANDS AND FABULOUS HOTELS.
Viewed from the air, the Maldives look like a work of art consisting of white dots dabbed with random brush strokes on a tub of turquoise paper marbling liquid. Seven hundred and sixty kilometers off the coast of Sri Lanka, the Maldives are scattered like pearls over a vast 90,000 square-meter area in the middle of the Indian Ocean. With crystal clear lagoons, coral reefs, fine white sand like talcum powder and quiet island resorts that let you leave city life behind completely, this maritime republic of 1,192 islands is expert at spoiling its guests. And with its luxury spas, it symbolizes the perfect holiday many travelers dream of.
Some 900 of these islands, some of which are no more than tiny sand hills like insignificant dots on the ocean, are completely uninhabited. Maldives residents live on 200 of them, and about 100 are reserved for the hotels. Passengers landing at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on an artificial island immediately adjacent to the capital, Male, are transferred immediately to their island resorts by motorboat or small seaplane. Visitors rarely cross paths with the locals in the capital Male. Unless, of course, you join one of the tours organized to the Maldives villages on one of the islands near your hotel.
AN ATLANTIS STORY
The islands that make up the Maldives lie along a historic maritime trade route that stretched between the Arabian Peninsula and the Malacca Straits, which lie inside Malaysia’s territorial waters today. That overseas trade has played a key role in shaping every aspect of life on the islands. The Dhivehi language spoken by the local people comes from Sanskrit; the tea drunk at breakfast from Sri Lanka; the curry dishes from India. Despite being a country surrounded by water, the Maldives suffer from a serious drinking water shortage, which they have solved by desalinization of the sea water. I learn, for example, that desalinated sea water is even used at a soft drink bottling factory in the Maldives. An interesting thing about this distant and quiet island republic traversed by the equator is its elevation, which is close to zero. The highest land mass on the islands is a two and a half meter rise on Addu Atoll! With its incredibly rich aquatic life and underwater visibility of up to 60 meters year round, the Maldives are one of the best places on earth for scuba diving and snorkeling. If you have not yet made the acquaintance of the underwater world, the Maldives is the place to do so. You can enroll in one of the certificate programs arranged by your hotel’s diving center, or simply dive in and observe this colorful world by snorkeling along the coral reefs. You will not believe the variety of tropical fish in bright neon colors you’ll see during this extremely simple and risk-free activity undertaken at the exact point where the coral reef meets the ocean depths, and you won’t want to come out of the water! Some activities are unchanging in Maldives island resorts from the most modest to the most luxurious: like feeding the giant fish that come to the light at night, spoiling your body with a renewal treatment at a spa, enjoying the seats carved in the sand on the beach and evening feasts at tables lit by torches… Being on a deserted island has never been so grand!
BEAUTY OF THE BLUE
If intimacy with the sea is what you’re seeking, then chose a bungalow on the water. In those with a glass floor, the room is lit from below and you can see hundreds of underwater creatures. For families with children on the other hand, garden villas are ideal.
(AYADA Resort Manager)
“A popular destination with tourists seeking a break from city traffic and crowding and life stress in general, the Maldives promise an unrivaled holiday experience amidst the turquoise sea, white sands, untouched coral reefs and hundreds of underwater creatures. Among the activities guests enjoy are diving, surfing and snorkeling.”
Sri Lanka is only an hour away on Turkish Airlines’ Male - Colombo flights. It’s worth exploring the south of the country, the Galle area in particular.
Before deciding on your hotel, it’s a good idea to have a look at the size and decor of the rooms on the internet. For your visual pleasure, it’s important that you have a room with a private terrace.
Transport from the airport to the hotels is by motorboat or seaplane, both of which have limited capacity, so your luggage may arrive later than you do.
Almost every hotel offers a limited choice of restaurants on its own island. You may prefer a hotel that offers half board.
WHEN TO GO
Be mindful of the rainy and extremely hot season. December to April is the dry season when the weather is warm, the humidity low and the chance of rain minimal. Between May and November there is a lot of rain and the humidity rises.