Postcards do not lie. These are my thoughts as we cruise over the azure blue and green waters of the Indian ocean, with white islands interspersed between them.
We are gliding over beautiful atolls and I can see the white foam of the surf cascading their borders and the fringes of the white sandy beaches, surrounded by waters with a colour so unbelievably turquoise – with water villas spanning outward, this surely must be a dream!
I am amazed when the plane touches down in Male’s Ibrahim Nasser International Airport, in the Maldives. Yes, I am here, in the Maldives and I can barely believe it myself, as we clear customs and walk to the edge of the island to hop aboard our speedboat that is going to take us across to the Anantara Veli where this wanderluster is going to be spending the next week!!! PS you can get a local WiFi Sim from the airport, which costs $17 for both the sim card and a 14 day bundle.
The hotel is a 30 minute speedboat ride from the airport. Cold towels and a cold drink in hand, off we go, into the navy blue water out of the airport, past the island of Male, all built up with semi high rise buildings, waves and surf crashing over our boat as it slices through the water.
Drumbeats and more cold towels welcome us at the jetty at the Anantara, and we are taken straight to our over water bungalow and checked in with a cool ginger cranberry drink. We had asked for a bungalow away from the jetty ferrying people across to the sister resort Dhigu and Villa 165 is a good one. It has a beautiful view over the lagoon surrounding the resort, and we can jump straight off our balcony into the water and snorkel away.
I am serious. Postcards and those pictures in the glossy magazines of clear, blue crystal waters and white sandy beaches and water villas and green palm trees swaying lazily in the breeze – they tell the truth. The resort has beautiful beds and hammocks with bright blue cushions strategically placed, where you can just lie and meander in your thoughts. This is paradise, utopia on earth and almost surreal. This beach experience is like none other that I have had.
I dig my toes into the powdery, white sand in glee, and jump around like an excited child when I see that the bathroom in our water villa has an open bottom next to the shower and I can see the colourful, tropical fishies! Excited much? I know now that every time I close my eyes and imagine the perfect holiday, The Maldives will be top of my list.
Staying in an over water bungalow is an essential Maldivian experience. Being able to climb down the ladder of your own balcony and straight into the clear waters below, to snorkel and marvel at the world beneath, to hear the waves lapping gently across the stilts as you fall asleep….there are just no words to describe this experience.
I quickly get comfortable by the infinity pool at the Veli, soaking in the sun for the first couple of hours, sipping my signature Pina Colada while watching the waves lap along the shore and the pool seeming to cascade into the ocean. With nothing but an endless stretch of time before me, I could get used to this.
The resort is beyond spectacular – the best bit being that there are no screaming, snotty children in the pool (I like kids, but just not drooling all over in the pool) – those are on the neighbouring island hotel, Anantara Dhigu.
In true five star resort fashion, the Anantara has its signature touches. The waiters come round every hour or so with some goodies, and today we were treated to a fresh smoothie shot and some delicious fruit skewers! Divine in the heat of the afternoon.
Lunch is the Anantara burger and a pizza, shared between M and I. Presented beautifully, we dig in, but sadly the quality of the food is not worth the steep price tag attached to it. When reviewers say that resorts in the Maldives are pricey, they are right. Be prepared to spend $ 500 a day if you want to have a good time. And don’t think about it (I know its hard not to), but, just enjoy it.
I think after lunch, I am going to try and snorkel. Dare I, a non water baby, be able to snorkel? I am intimidated by the ocean, but comforted by the thought that this is a lagoon and not the open sea, I am willing to take a baby step and try.
The fish and coral life beneath our villa is stunning….there are blue fish, zebra fish, finding nemo type fish…coming to the Maldives and not snorkeling would be sacrilege. I do find it hard at first. I try with reef shoes on, leaving the flippers for later and sadly I keep getting water in my eyes because I just cannot seem to get comfortable with the idea of not being able to breathe from my nose….but my wonderful husband coaches me, and once I get the hang of it, I am kind of gliding away, totally in awe marveling at this other world beneath the surface. I am still not brave enough to glide over coral but I have the rest of the week here and before we leave, I will have mastered the art of snorkelling.
I have cast my footsteps on this glorious part of the earth, quite literally dug my heels into the wet sand, and I feel truly content at this point in time.
We decide to walk to one of the cushy looking sun beds by the edge of the island to marvel at the sunset in this slice of paradise.
The day comes to an end much too soon for my liking, and as the sun sets we sip away on our sun downers and marvel at the beauty of this island.
We decide to dine at Baan Hura, the Thai restaurant at Veli. Having been told that this is a very popular place to eat at, we arrive at 7 to get a good table (you can book but tables are on a first come first served basis, or so we are told) and we get what we think is the perfect spot, outside on the deck, overlooking a well lit area which is full of manta rays.
Wow. Tomorrow, I must master snorkelling some more and appreciate this marine life. The water is so clear that we can see the spiny lobsters from where we sit as well!
We have a wonderful waiter, who serves us with an interesting Thai appetizer, which is a betel nut leaf into which you put diced cucumber, lemon, groundnuts, chili, dried prawn, some sauce and roll up and chew. A bit like bhel puri in a paan leaf.
The experience of sitting on that deck, watching the waves crash on the reef, yet the serenity of the marine life below us is an experience no camera lens can capture. The feeling of calm and serenity that washes over you cannot be described. You just sigh with happiness, and accept that you are blessed abundantly, and life is good. The Maldives makes you fall in love again…with life itself.
The food at Baan Hura is amazing. They are generous with their portions, and we chose Baan Hura Set 1 which is a 4 course menu, for $ 150 for two pax. You get a starter with papaya salad, chicken satay and a grilled tiger prawn, tom yam soup, beef in oyster sauce, chicken green curry, vegetables, fish in three sauces, rice and dessert. We were stuffed by the time we finished our soup! And they are very good about substituting…M is allergic to shellfish so they were flexible about giving him chicken and beef, at no added cost. We were not able to finish our food and so our sticky rice pudding was packed to take away, and the meal was ended by our waiter making a fish on line out of palm leaves, awesome! All in all, a cliché I know, but a perfect end to a perfect day.
….to be continued