By Garima Lalwani
We had taken the usual trips to Bali and Malacca, Australia and New Zealand and now we wanted to travel somewhere different. Being brown skinned, lazing on a beach to get tanned had never been high on our list. When my fair skinned friends talked about the joys of enjoying a cold beer on a hot beach, all I could think of was ice tea on a verandah, overlooking the beach! So imagine my surprise when my husband booked us a trip to the Maldives. He had recently received his diving certification and was eager to explore the famed underwater scenery of Maldives. This was a trip that would change my outlook on Beach holidays.
Mentioned by Ptolemy, invaded by the Portuguese and colonized by the British, today’s Independent Republic of the Maldives lies in the Indian Ocean near the equator. It ismade up of 1,190 coral islands, of which only 200 are inhabited. Ninety nine of these inhabited islands are resorts. Many of the major hotel chains like theHilton, Hyatt, Shangri-La and Sheraton haveresorts here. Someoperate more than one resort in Maldives,like the Four Seasons which runs the Resort at Kuda Huraa and the resort at Landaa Giraavaru.
All international fights to the Maldives land at Male International Airport, which is also known as Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. From here, you make your way to the resort of your choice. You can either stay on one of the islands near Male and a speedboat will get you to yourdestination in minutes. Or you can do what we did, stay overnight in a small no frills hotel on Male and take a sea plane to an island which is further out the next morning.
The scenery that awaited us,took our breath away. Beaches that were bleached white and water as far as the eye could see, the Maldives offers vistas that are truly one of a kind. The resort we had chosen offered Water Villas built on stilts in the water and Beach Villas with ocean frontage. Keeping the ages of our children in mind we opted for the latter.
As I unpacked my many outfits and shoes that went with them, I looked around the room and realized that something was amiss. Where was the TV? We called the front desk to let them know about the missing item only to be told that none of the rooms had television sets. My heart sank. What was I to do with an 8 month and a 2 and a half year old without Barney or Thomas the Tank engine to keep them occupied? I quickly found out that kids aremore resourceful thanwe givethem credit for. All it took was an empty water bottle to keep them busy. The bottle was used to carry water for building sand castles. It transported sand from the beach to the porch. When empty, it was used as a Frisbee to play catch with. When filled, it was a ship to be rescued from the bottom of the kiddy pool. Between the sand, the fishes, the ocean and pool and of course the water bottle, the kids found plenty to do after all.
We started each day with breakfast on the front deck, overlooking apristine beach and vast ocean. This was followed by playing in the sand, snorkeling and reading. Lunch was brought to us wherever we were on the island. At some point we made our way to the pool for a swim. Resort staff walked around with fruits for gueststo nibble on. We added French fries and milk shakes to neutralize the healthy snack effect.
When on a beach holiday showers are not taken first thing in the morning, we learnt, but in the evenings to wash off all the sand and sunblock. Evening is the time to get dressed up and try the culinary delights offered by the various restaurants on the resort premises. We ate dinner as the sun set and the torches and candles were lit. Tired out by their day in the sand and sun, the kids were soon falling asleep. After putting them to bed,we sat outside with our glasses of wine, staring at the star lit sky, till even we could not keep our eyes open.
My husband did manage to get in a day of diving. Made up of 26 atolls, the Maldives offers diving opportunities like no other place in the world. Most resorts offer diving certification classes. They also offer day or night diving trips. Snorkeling is another way to see the hundreds of species of fishes that inhabit the water here. Equipment for snorkelingcan be rented or purchased from the resort shops. Our kids quickly learnt how to snorkel in the shallow waters off the resort on their dad’s back. For those who are more adventurous the Maldives offers a chance tosnorkel with manta rays and whale sharks. You can also swim with turtles or dolphins, depending upon the season and location of your stay.
A county made up of more water than land, Maldivianresorts offers a variety of water sports like kayaking, parasailing and jet skiing. Surfers can head to the Male atoll to catch waves ranging from 3 to 8 feet. If you like catching your own food, you can spend a day, or perhaps a night,fishing. If all you want to do is to relax and get away from the rigors of daily life, this is the place to lie on the beach, listen to the waves and forget about the world.