ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Publication Date : 24-10-2012
Mention casually that you'll be spending time in the Maldives and you can almost see your friends turning green with envy. Such is the reputation of this island nation in the Indian Ocean that it is today regarded as a dream destination by tourists from all over the world.
Advertising agencies may have overused the word "paradise" in trying to sell the chain of atolls and their luxury resorts, yet the Maldives is one of very few spots that merits such a title.
No matter where you choose to stay, you are guaranteed white sandy beaches, the stunning turquoise sea and a licensed resort with eco-friendly architecture and landscaping.
More than a million tourists, more than half from Europe and the remainder from other parts of the world, Asia among them, are expected to visit the Maldives this year. Tourism has been the main income earner of this tiny country of only 289 square kilometres, for the past several years. Official figures say tourism accounts for 30 per cent of the tiny country's annual revenue but sceptics say the actual figure is probably much higher.
And the money brought in by the tourists is huge. Once visitors arrive at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Male (pronounce Ma-le), they are transferred directly to their resorts, which are located on uninhabited islands exempt from the strict laws prohibiting alcohol in the Muslim state.
Maldives is a "captive destination" in the truest sense of the term: once you place your feet on an island, you won't leave for the duration of your stay.
Our group of media along with a TV production team from newly launched "IN" Channel caught just a glimpse of Male from the airport before catching the last seaplane of the day to the Dusit Thani Maldives. Thirty-five minutes later, having been transfixed by the sight of the atolls dotted over the ocean, we landed by the pier and transferred to the island's speedboat for the last leg of the journey to Mudhdhoo Island, Baa Atoll.
Many believe that the Maldives is an ideal destination for honeymooners but I would say it is more a destination to enjoy with those you love - both friends and family members. Love is important, as there is nowhere to go and nothing to see beyond sea, sun and nature although there are many things to do, among then diving and dolphin spotting in the company of marine biologist Lauren Arthur.
But you can also be lazy, kick off your shoes and do absolutely nothing but chill at your villa, which regardless of type, comes with a pool and a staircase down to the clear blue sea.
There's kayaking and windsurfing too, as well as and cycling, and it is definitely worth paddling in the Infinity Pool and contemplating the ocean. For those who still need to de-stress, indulgence can be found at the Divana spa.
Thais will be happy to find their favourite foods at Benjarong, which also offers the best view of the sunset. But all the restaurant outlets offer distinctive flavours and are worth visiting. We particularly enjoyed the seafood barbecue and the delicious tuna - a Maldives speciality.
Getting around the resort is possible on foot, by buggy or on a bike. There are clear signs posted around the resort and you are unlikely to get lost on the island.
The staff are very attentive and always pleased to help. "It feels good to meet people and it's more fun working than resting," confided one member of the Thai staff.
Each villa comes with a personal butler, who will be more than happy to provide you with what you want, when you want it, and for those who can't do without a caffeine fix, there's a coffee maker in the room.
And being captive isn't so bad when you have good Wi-Fi.
You may be in paradise but you don't have to be out of touch with the rest of the world.
The seaplanes only operate in daylight hours: check-in times are typically 6am to 4pm.) If your flight arrives too late, you will need to overnight in Male before flying the next morning. If you have a flight out of Male departing before 9.30am, again, you will need to spend a night in the capital.
Baggage allowance on the seaplane is 25 kilos per person hand luggage. If your luggage is heavier, you will be charged US$2 per kilo.
Your handbag will be piled in a stack at the back of the seaplane so if leave your brandname bag at home. if you really love them.
Travelling light is recommended. Leave the high-heels at home.
To avoid peak rates, visit the Maldives during the rainy season. Downpours rarely last longer than half an hour.
The hotel can arrange a party for you on a private small island (called Sand Bank) as well as a diving trip or a trip to spot dolphins.
"Eagle ray soft toys" are placed in all guest villas and can be adopted for just $40. Proceeds go to Dhonfanu community projects including education.