Sometimes when dreams are about to come true, one is seized by the sudden fear that the reality may not be as beautiful as the dream itself. This was the fear I felt when we were about to arrive in Maldives, for I had been daydreaming of going to these islands for a long time. Looking back, I realise that dreams cannot do justice to a place as breathtaking as Maldives.
We arrived early April one morning in Maldives. The plane started descending but as I could only see water, I thought the pilot was heading straight for the Indian Ocean. All of a sudden, the runaway came into sight, starting right from the edge of the water. The airport at the island of Hulule was very small, actually the whole island is only big (or small) enough to accommodate the airport.
With no prior reservations, we headed straight for the Tourist Information Desk where the representative of a travel agency offered to take us to his office in Male for our reservation at a resort. Stepping out of the airport building, we arrived at the jetty and boarded a dohini, a wooden engine‑powered Maldivian vessel, for a ten‑minute ride to Male.
The plane started descending but as I could only see water, I thought the pilot was heading straight for the Indian Ocean. All of a sudden, the runaway came into sight, starting right from the edge of the water.”
Though it was early morning, the waterfront was bustling with activity. The office of the travel agency had posters and maps on the wall and the brochures we were shown gave me the first clear idea of what Maldives was all about. I was surprised to find that Maldives consists of about 1,200 islands in 26 distinct coral atolls scattered in the Indian Ocean. However, only about 200 are inhabited and 69 of the islands are resort islands on the four main atolls.
It was tough choosing a resort among so many and we spent an hour pouring over the different brochures and asking the agent about them. The prices at the resort depended on the facilities provided and as the distance from Male to the island increased, the prices decreased.
Finally, we decided on Giravaru, a four-star resort, half an hour boat-ride away from Male. As it was not a weekend, we did not have a problem getting a booking and the rates were lower than what they are on weekends.
News of our arrival had travelled before us and some people had gathered at the jetty to receive us at Giravaru. A couple of resort employees had come to welcome us. As for the rest, when living in such a small place, an approaching boat was always of interest.
The sun was a glorious ball of fire, casting all shades of orange and yellow on the sky and the sea. The waves of the ocean were doing a fire dance, gently rocking our boat to their natural rhythm.”
A short walk led to the reception area. The resort was constructed to give one the feeling of a Maldivian village offering comfortable service. The main restaurant and lounge building, with thatched roofs, was laid out in such a manner that the lagoon was visible through tropical green foliage surrounding the island.
In Maldives, a resort island is a world by itself. Developed on an uninhabited island, leased by the government to a company, each island is just one hotel, exclusively maintained in pristine form and serviced for only a limited number of guests.
The cottages were lined around the beach, each with a view of the ocean. Sliding doors led to a sandy patch covered with tropical shrubs and trees, and then a sparkling white beach where gentle waves softly kissed the shore.
In no time, we were at the beach and into the cool, calm and clear waters. As our swimming skills were questionable, we just splashed around and took stock of our surroundings. There were a few other guests, sunbathing, swimming or just reading a book under a shady tree. The beach was, however, not crowded as the number of guests in each resort is limited, giving one the feeling of a private beach.
The sky was a brilliant blue, the sea was absolutely clear and had acquired an aquamarine colour at a distance because of the coral reefs surrounding the island. At times a fish would make its way towards the shore passing near us in the knee-deep water.
Far away, the horizon was lined at a few places with green islands springing out of the blue ocean. The world and its worries seemed far away from us.
After a dip, we decided to explore our tropical paradise. Walking on the beach front, we were surprised to discover that a round of the island took only a few minutes. Moving inwards, we found there was a tennis court, volleyball court, swimming pool (where no one ever took a dip), two well‑stocked bars, a lounge area with TV connected to satellite, a restaurant and dining area.
Far away, the horizon was lined at a few places with green islands springing out of the blue ocean. The world and its worries seemed far away from us.”
There were also a couple of gift and souvenir shops on the island. The lodging area of the workers and a small water treatment plant was at one side, hidden from the main resort buildings and cottages.
Meal times were a royal treat at Giravaru. The buffet meals were mouth‑watering to say the least and most of the guests were sure to gain a few pounds before leaving the resort, as I did. The cuisine was a blend of Asian and Italian dishes, with pasta and cheese in plentiful.
Curried and grilled chicken, fish and meat, fried vegetable rice, all kinds of vegetable dishes, pasta in all shapes and forms, fresh fruits and juices, cakes and pastries were among the things which tantalised the taste buds at meal times. The freshly baked donuts, breads and buns at breakfast were a yummy experience.
After each meal, almost everyone made a beeline for the jetty where handfuls and pocketfuls of food was brought from the dining table to be thrown to the fishes. With the first morsel of food, fishes crowded the crystal clear water, eagerly devouring everything thrown into the water. The fight that ensued caused quite an uproar and at times they even jumped into the air to catch a bite.
I enjoyed sitting on the wooden platform of the jetty stretched out on the sea, watching fishes swim by even when it was not their feeding time. This sight in itself was so interesting, to have gone diving and snorkelling would have been an absolutely enchanting experience. Unfortunately, we didn’t indulge in any activity that tested our almost non‑existent swimming skills, so the famous coral reefs and marine life of the Maldivian waters remained unexplored.
The resort offered facilities for various water activities to be indulged in, both in groups and individually. On our second evening, we went deep sea fishing in a group of about 20 in the resort boat. It was cloudy and cool as we set off and the sea was still a little rough as it had rained in the afternoon.
After travelling for about half an hour into the open sea, the boatman anchored right in the middle of nowhere. Each of us was given a fishing rod with a piece of fish as bait. Some Europeans with us sang songs in their native language as we waited for the fishes to come.
The clouds cleared, the sea became calm and the sun dipped at the horizon. It was definitely the most beautiful sunset I had seen. The sun was a glorious ball of fire, casting all shades of orange and yellow on the sky and the sea. The waves of the ocean were doing a fire dance, gently rocking our boat to their natural rhythm. We were far away from land.
There were no lights on the boat and in the dark there were several shrieks of “Fish! Fish!” Most of it were false alarms as the fishes would make away with the bait.
There was a movement on the string I had cast into the water and I too squealed “Fish!” at which the boat boy rushed with a torch to help me pull up the line. Up came a big, reddish fish which took some time to be overpowered. In the hour we were there, there were only three fishes caught and mine was the biggest. Boy! Did I feel proud of my first fishing adventure!
The nights in Maldives are magical. Sitting on the deserted beach, feeling the soft warm breeze and listening to the gentle music of the waves under a silvery moon can be intoxicating. The starry sky seemed to merge into the ocean which was devoid of any vessels. The tranquillity offered some real peaceful moments that seem like almost an out-worldly experience.
The next day we tried our hand at sailing on the small plastic canoes and boards. Being amateurs, we sailed only in the shallow waters. The rest of our days were spent lazing around the beach, feeding fish, binging ourselves, watching TV and doing precious little.
A T‑shirt my husband bought from the gift shop sums up the place: ‘Maldives ‑ the art of doing nothing’. Indeed, it was fun doing nothing for a change.
With its beautiful beaches and fascinating lagoons, Maldives is one of the world’s most exclusive tourist destinations. Every resort is a Robinson Crusoe brand of island, but equipped with modern amenities subtly hidden away. The country is a haven for those in search of tranquillity as well as for those looking for activity-filled holidays, with opportunities for diving, fishing and water sports. These gem-like islands offer the vision of a tropical paradise and the brochures rightly call it the ‘The last paradise’.
The was originally published in The Review magazine of Dawn.