There are some places that defy expectations. You can spend hours researching a destination, finding pictures that take your breath away, so much so that you can never imagine it’s that stunning in real life – only to find that, if anything, the pictures didn’t do it justice once you get there. The Maldives is one such place, and I was lucky enough to go there on my honeymoon last month. Best decision ever!
It was one of the first things my now-husband and I booked after getting engaged, so we’ve had almost a year of anticipation. Hours of trawling the internet, browsing brochures and chatting to our Kuoni rep before waiting 10 whole months for the main event. Well, it was worth the wait!
We were heading to Maafushivaru, a tiny island with just 48 villas, and renowned for being a honeymooners’ favourite. But, for me, getting there was just as much of an experience as anything else – it was my first-ever long haul trip, a 12-hour flight in total, and I think I’m one of the few people who actually enjoyed the plane food (it’s still a novelty for me!).
I can’t deny that I was a little anxious when we were landing on the tiny runway of Malé, itself a small island – the thought of overshooting it and landing in the sea may have crossed my mind – but once there, we were expertly directed to our seaplane transfer, and excitement took over.
The seaplane journey is undoubtedly one of the highlights of a Maldivian holiday, and if you head to an island that’s far enough away from Malé, you’ll get one as standard! Flying over the mysterious atolls below is a truly memorable experience – thousands of tiny specks of land and lagoon emerging from the ocean, stretching out as far as the eye can see; it’s amazing to think that they formed at all, let alone how they’ve coped with rising sea levels in recent years.
The landing is exhilarating and far smoother than expected, and the jetty – or a few wooden crates bobbing in the middle of the Indian Ocean – is surely one of the most unique landing spots you’re likely to encounter. From that, you’re transferred to a traditional dhoni boat for the short trip to your destination, and you’ve got perhaps the most picture-perfect way to enter a resort that could ever be imagined.
From the moment I stepped off that boat, I was in awe. Everywhere I looked, I saw a photo plucked straight from a magazine – turquoise seas that are impossibly blue, palm trees gently swaying in the wind, wooden huts jutting out into the ocean, gleaming white parasols peppering the beach, an endless blue sky above. It’s no coincidence that we’ve got thousands of photos from our time spent there.
Nature was abundant at every turn, too, from the tiny lizards dashing up trees to the surprisingly large fruit bats swooping between them, not to mention the hundreds (and hundreds) of crabs that scuttled their way onto the beach at night, and the baby ones that zig-zagged across the sand by day, tiny specks of translucent white that look nothing more than bits of fluff at first glance. And did I mention the turtles?
It took a few days for it to sink in that we were actually there, that this was reality and not just me daydreaming about something I’d seen in the brochure – a dream come true in every sense of the word. Another adjustment was the fact that we didn’t have to do anything – not a thing – unless we wanted to. After months of wedding planning (the final few weeks being particularly frantic) it took a while to adjust, but it soon became a welcome change, and we quickly settled in to the “no news, no shoes” way of life.
What followed was 10 days of pure, unadulterated bliss – walks on the beach, snorkelling straight from our villa, cocktails by the pool, sunset cruises, music and film nights, dancing on the deck under the stars, chess in the bar, watersports, local island trips, turtle safaris, cooking classes, spa treatments, private island escapes, dinners on the beach, and the most spectacular sunsets you’re ever likely to see.
Our overwater villa was the stuff of dreams – granted, it could probably do with a bit of TLC, but what do you expect when it’s at the mercy of the ocean and the elements? – and I couldn’t take my eyes off the view through the floor-to-ceiling windows, or the stunning panorama from our balcony. The island itself was small and perfectly formed, taking at most 10 minutes to walk around the entire thing, but never once did it feel cabin-feverish or crowded. It was relaxed, peaceful, and just what we wanted for our romantic getaway.
And the food? Considering we were on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, I was seriously impressed at the quality and variety on offer. The all-inclusive package offered a fantastic buffet at every meal with a different theme each night – ranging from Maldivian specialties to Mediterranean and beyond – together with afternoon tea and snacks, and as many cocktails as you could manage, all expertly made. Sipping a cocktail with the sand between your toes – it doesn’t get much better. There was an overwater Japanese restaurant, too, which cost extra but was divine, and definitely worth the indulgence.
The service was impeccable, from the Water Bar boys and restaurant waiters to the Lounge staff, spa attendants and reception – having done my research, I asked if we could move to the overwater villa right at the end of the jetty when the current guests checked out, and were able to do so without question – everything in their power was done to ensure we had an amazing a stay as possible, and we certainly did.
As you can imagine, it was a serious struggle to leave! Luckily, we were continuing our honeymoon with a few days in Dubai, otherwise it would have been even more heart-wrenching. Still, I was genuinely sad as I had to walk back down towards the final dhoni of our trip – Maafushivaru (and the Maldives in general) will always have a piece of my heart, and I’m determined to go back. 10-year anniversary, perhaps?