The magic that is Maldives

Stars, sand and sharks: The serene, isolated islands have it all for tourists seeking a true getaway

by RAHMAN DAROS/ pics courtesy of Kurumba Maldives

EACH time you come back from a holiday with that awesome tan, you are bound to be asked where you had been.

If your answer is either Bali, Ko Samui or Phuket, you might just get a response like: “Ahhh…nice place. I was there just last week.”

Or, you might just get that simple “aaahh…” as the other person moves on to another subject.

However, if your answer is Maldives, chances are, the conversation might be stretched a little longer, and the next few questions you’d get would be even more specific.

“Is the water really that crystal clear? Did you dive? Or snorkel? Did you see any Hollywood stars? Were there sharks?”

A number of couples choose the Maldivian beaches to bear witness to their wedding ceremonies

It is a fact that all land-loving travellers would want to go to Maldives at least once in their lifetime.

Maldives’ reputation as one of the most beautiful holiday spots on Earth has rarely been challenged.

Being one of the quietest and most secluded areas on the planet, Maldives is touted as a gem to many holiday-makers.

Formed by more than 1,000 coral islands off the western coast of India, the island nation is famous for its reputation as the glamorous vacation destination.

Maldives is used to receiving many celebrities and high-profile people for their holidays.

Names like Michael Phelps, Rob Lowe, Fernando Torres, Dita Von Teese, Dannii Minogue and the late Joan Rivers are among the many well-known people who have spent their time on this magnificent island.

Perhaps it is the sugar-white sandy beaches, the inviting turquoise waters and the glorious sunset that attract many to come to this fantasy island to fulfil their dream vacation.

Another inviting factor is that all Maldivian resorts, about 100 in total, are on their own islands.

There are endless activities to do in the inviting waters, like snorkelling and knee boarding

That means, all the facilities on the resort of your choice — restaurants, sports facilities, entertainment and bars — are the only ones you will have access to throughout your stay.

The islands might be small, but they are also among the most beautiful in the world. Really.

Plus, they are safe. There are no hawkers selling sarongs or cheap T-shirts, and there are no touts outside your resorts offering taxi tours.

“Dhonis”, or traditional Maldivian boats, used to be the only mode of transportation ferrying locals and visitors from one island to another until speedboats came into the picture.

Now, where should you stay, you might ask? Well, those in the know would certainly suggest Kurumba Resort.

Since it is one of the oldest resorts in Maldives (it opened its doors in 1972), you’d be assured that it is pretty ahead in the game, as this writer discovered.

The stunning tiny Maldivian island of Vihamanafushi, located in North Male Atoll, is 20 minutes away by boat from the Male, the capital island of Maldives.

Just like any other resort in Maldives, it offers clear skies, a clear horizon and clear waters; plus, the beach is to die for.

Serenity is never far from reach in Maldives, as it is also a destination for the affluent in addition to its isolation

From pool villas to beach bungalows, one thing

for sure is that you would just drop your luggage, discard your flip-flops and walk straight to the beach the moment you set your foot on this resort.

Serenity is an important essence of Maldives, and since it is more likely a playground for the well-heeled, it never feels too crowded here.

If romance is in your agenda, Kurumba is the perfect place for you. In fact, most resorts in Maldives offer the same kind of privacy that you long for.

Perhaps Maldives is also the kind of place where supermodels and their soon-to-be-ex-boyfriends go for their kind of retreats.

However, do take note on the local customs. As Maldives is an Islamic republic, with the natives mostly Sunni Muslims, there are certain things that you need to observe.

Remember, public nudity is definitely a no-no.

The skies, horizon and waters of Maldives are clear and clean

While pork and alcohol are widely banned, you may find the latter being served at other resort hotels that cater to foreign travellers at a high price.

Speaking of price, everything on the Maldivian islands is in US dollars. A small can of beer can cost you a staggering US$6 (RM24) to US$12.

A can of Coke, on the other hand, may cost between US$2.50 and US$3 depending on which island you are on. The cheaper option would be at any sundry shop in Male.

On top of that, you would also need to factor in the 10% service charge and 8% government tax added to your final bill.

So, do your maths. Since alcohol is a prohibited item, forget about bringing in your own duty-free bottles, as the officers will happily confiscate them at customs clearance.

As for outdoor activities, there are plenty of options. The sea provides endless fascination.

There are water sports, a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)-certified deep-sea diving school, snorkelling and knee boarding.

You have a choice of tennis, ping-pong, volleyball, a fitness centre with trainers’ supervision and walks with the in-house horticulturalist or activities as safe as cooking classes with the chef.

While lazing around on the beach or by the pool area, you may come across your own entertainment that money cannot buy.

You will catch sight of fellow holiday-makers, mostly from mainland China and Taiwan, walking around the resort or strolling along the beach under the sun while holding umbrellas.

Or, you could also observe countless wedding ceremonies on the beach — since the resort is surrounded by pristine, sandy beaches, it is nice to wander around the whole island barefoot while catching a glimpse of the horizon.

Along the shores, you will always be accompanied by magnificent marine creatures. If you’re lucky (depending on how you see it), you might be greeted by a shark or two that would glide right to the water’s edge.

With all villas, bungalows and rooms attached to open-air shower areas, one may find the bliss of bathing under millions of Maldivian stars.

Now, that is one heck of a shower, especially during your most ridiculously perfect holiday!