Dollops of dreamy, creamy sand spooned over a shimmering jelly-blue sea; from the air the tiny islands of the Maldives are a mouthwatering sight. Closing in for landing over the swaying palm trees which help define this fabled and fabulous constellation always brings a shiver of anticipation (as do the seductive tendrils of overwater bungalows which have become de rigueur here). You are about to become a very, very spoiled castaway.
Depending on the tides there are over 1000 individual coral islands which make up the world’s lowest lying island nation. Bobbing along at an average of 1.5 metres above sea level has its drawbacks (slipping back into the sea being the big one) but on the plus side it means that taking a dip in the balmy embrace of the Indian Ocean is as easy as rolling out of bed! Although many would-be creatures of the sea may find it hard to leave the decadent appointments of their resort. Luxe digs are in abundance here, and most have loved-up couples firmly in their sights – think overwater bungalows, bathtubs with ocean views, gourmet cuisine and world-class spas.
Little wonder then that the Maldives has taken on an almost mythical quality for honeymooners and romantics, holding them in thrall since the 1970s when tourism started to eclipse traditional fishing as the area’s most important industry. Now the waves of international visitors which arrive by boat, straining to catch a first glimpse of the scenery promised by a thousand postcards, travel brochures and magazine covers, keep the local economy well and truly afloat. They come for the unique geography, pristine lagoons and fantastic snorkelling (glassy waters, coral gardens and swarms of exotic fish) and most recently, they come for the surf. At Male airport the tower of boards waiting to hit the waves flags the fact that the secret is out about surf points such as Jailbreaks (Himmafushi), Honeky’s and Sultans. The best waves are on offer during “surf monsoon” March to October and local operators will get you to many of the most spectacular points which are situated off the Maldives’ patchwork of uninhabited islands, perfect for non-surfing partners who just want to soak up the sun.
This may seem like a place of dreams, but the good news is that the islands of the Maldives really are picture-perfect. Just remember to see them soon; opinion is divided over claims that rising sea levels will repossess this bounty of sun-kissed isles forever, but why risk it!
Related article: Truly, Madly Maldives