Planning a Dream Vacation to the Maldives

If This is Paradise, Sign Me Up

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In planning our honeymoon—the location of which has changed a dozen and three times; the current frontrunner of which I’m not telling…for now—countless people have asked “why not the Maldives?” Our stipulations are excellent beaches, sugary boat drinks, top-notch diving and complete remoteness. So why not the Maldives? Well, first and foremost, I’ve been there before, and we want this to be an experience neither of us has ever had, somewhere we can both enjoy as first timers together.

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

But let me just tell you I’m not sure you can find a more stunning landscape than the Indian Ocean island nation. There’s just so much to say about this hidden nook of the world that I know not where to begin. It took a full 30 hours from San Francisco to reach the private island on the northernmost atoll in the Maldives—a flight to Hong Kong to Singapore (with a nine-hour stopover) to Male to Hanimaadhoo, then a 45-minute midnight speedboat ride to Manafaru—but it was worth every second of it. Missing a full day of your life is odd, though, completely eerie at that. I’ll never quite get over that fact when flying westbound over the International Dateline. I never did experience Monday, Nov. 26, 2007 (but from what I hear, I didn’t miss much), but at least on the way back I had two Dec. 2nds to brag about.

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

Once I touched down in Male, the capital of the Maldives, with only a sole minor mishap at customs, a record for me, I was met by the lovely Diana, who at the time was the Beach House at Manafaru’s head of sales and marketing, and quickly ushered to the domestic terminal to catch our flight to the north which was departing, oh, the second we reached the gate. Forty-five minutes after leaving Male, we landed softly in Hanimaadhoo, the cutest little airport I’ve ever seen—and do I mean little. After disembarking and walking to the terminal, we retrieved our luggage at a small stone table and sign that said “baggage retrieval”—how quaint is that? Then, we hopped a speedboat that would take us to our final destination. By this time, it was well after midnight, I had been traveling nearly two fulls days, and unfortunately I was unable to see any of the scenery  in the pitch black night as we sped by. But all in good time.

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

A single wooden jetty jutted out into the vast azure Indian Sea as a handful of staffers made their way to its end to greet me with a smile and class of an inviting ginger-and-honey concoction served up in an authentic coconut mug. Women in Maldivian garments adorned my neck with fresh-flower leis, as the general manager, a deeply tanned Frenchman, and his charming Uzbeki wife extended welcoming hands. In the distance, faintly lit grass-and-bamboo-topped huts, the island’s water villas, floated atop the placid waters. Once I was escorted to my beachside bungalow-–-you needn’t check in upon arrival; that’s conveniently taken care of at the airport in Male—the only sounds in the distance were the gentle waters lapping against the white-gold sands and the occasional breeze whipping against the oversized banana leaves that line your private back garden. The occasional lizard popped its curious head out from behind a rock, but I was already too well immersed in your lava-rock-bottomed pool to notice. Welcome to paradise; you can check your stress at the door. And one thing’s promised: You’re never going to want to return to the real world again. (And believe you me, it was tough to leave once my time there ended.)

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

They (being the GM Phillipe and wife Veronika) told me to wear sunscreen—at least five times, that is—but I simply didn’t listen. Blessed with my dad’s complexion and what I thought to be easily tannable skin, I declined. A half hour after sitting by my (yes, MY) pool, I had completely new tanlines and a crispy top layer of epidermis. Daily I would slathered myself from head to toe with SPF 50, which is stronger than I think I used even as a child, a minimum of five times. I want to come back golden, not cancer victim, after all. Yet, despite my precautions and their warnings, I still turned into a crispy tomato regardless. People traveling to the Maldives, take heed: The intense equatorial sun is not kidding around.

The whole purpose of my trip was not solely vacation (though I managed to finagle a whole lot of that, as well), but rather to cover a resort opening. Well, as often happens in the hospitality industry, the soft opening was pushed back a few months. My ticket (first class, Singapore Air), however, was already booked. So they let me come out and, well, have the resort to myself (half of which was still a construction zone, it must be said). Still, construction zone or not, having your own slice of heaven in the middle of the Indian Ocean all to yourself (save a few workers scattered here and there)? Not shabby.

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

To keep me occupied, they organized my days full of scuba diving and spa treatments on deserted isles (like the one above) and visits to local villages. Not a rough life at all. To be frank, I would have been content never leaving my pool and villa.

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

To this day, many moons and five-star resorts later, I’d easily say the Beach House is still my favorite spot of anywhere in the world. It’s only a shame SVV wasn’t there to experience it with me. (I sound like a broken record, as I say that after every trip!)

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

The great thing about the Maldives is there are no seasons per se: It’s sunny year round. Some people claim they “need” a change in climate; I say, bring on the sun. I could live in this perfect 80-degree weather year round. Though it is a bit stifling, humidity wise—you think the South is bad in the height of August? Try this on for size—there are sacrifices one must make for a killer tan and perfect scenery.

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

Because the country is so small, you’re never more than a few minutes walk from the water. The ocean is still and remarkably clear, and the foliage is a mixture of palm, banana, coconut and mango trees, among others.

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

 Maldivians are particularly proud of the the three Guinness Book of World Records the country holds, the most notable being that the country has the highest rate of water in the world, 99% of it in fact! Its 1,192 island components only make up roughly 300 square kilometers (sorry, the CIA Factbook doesn’t work in miles), or just over 1.5 the times of DC, and the islands disappear and reappear depending on the tides. How’s that for a country under water?

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

 The Maldivian people are some of the most genuine and naturally charismatic people I have ever met. The men barely graze five-feet tall, and the women could all shop at Limited Too and Gap Kids. Kind of made me feel  a bit like Gigantor, all towering 66 inches of me, but I just wanted to put them all in my pocket (Lord knows they’d fit) and take them back to the States with me.

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

 With such close proximity to so many other countries—India is just an hour’s boat ride north, though you can’t cross international waters that way—the Maldives are a unique blend of Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Indian, Malaysian, *insert random Southeast Asia country here* culture, particularly where the food is concerned. I sampled everything from lamb chops to pumpkin curry to fish salad for breakfast to gazpacho. The menu definitely never got boring.

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

 They were determined to send me back a size bigger, I quickly came to realize (perhaps to ensure they’d keep their record as world’s tiniest breed). Each meal, breakfast included, was no fewer than five courses. Every time I was stuffed to the point of keeling over, another plate would appear under my nose. And how can you not eat it when a cute little Maldivian man with a huge smile hand delivers it to you? After just the first day, I had Diana ask the kitchen staff if we could have light lunches from then on. So for the next midday meal, they brought out a plate of sandwiches. Perfect. And then another, and then another. In the end, the “light lunch” consisted of six platters. Sigh. When I returned home, I really had to amp up on the Bikram and running, as I was sporting a brand new belly to accompany my old. It was all worth it, though, every last bite.

maldives, travel, photography, beach house, manafaru

COMMENTS
  • January 27, 2010

    When I die I want to either come back as a Labrador retriever or as a travel writer. Sheesh. Sounds awesome!

  • January 27, 2010

    What about Mauritius?

    But that looks pretty flippin’ sweet!

  • January 27, 2010
    Caitlin

    I’d love to be in any one of those photos right about now! I’ve always been REALLY intrigued by the Seychelles.

  • January 27, 2010

    I think a luxury safari would be an awesome honeymoon!

  • January 27, 2010

    You could always end it with some beach/dive time in Zanzibar.

  • January 27, 2010

    Stunning. Note to self, investigate a month in the Maldives.

  • January 27, 2010

    Lovely, just lovely! Except for the intense sun part. I’m so fair skinned that I’m pretty sure I’d burst into flames five steps outside. But the rest looks just amazing.

  • January 27, 2010

    When do we leave?

  • January 27, 2010
    Rudi

    Dear Diary,
    If ever I retire,this is the place I want to leave rest of my life.

    :0)

  • January 27, 2010

    Can I borrow your life?

    Seriously? This is totally my dream.

  • January 27, 2010

    So wait, is this where you’re going for your honeymoon? I got lost in the pictures and your description of life in Maldives. Definitely a place I’d love to visit.

    Are you still going to Mammoth in March?

  • January 27, 2010

    And, sold! You see, I LIKE Hawaii but ultimately I’m a white-sand, warm-water girl. Hawaii has brown sand and FREEZING water.

    I can’t wait to hear what you finally decide!

  • January 27, 2010

    Love. 🙂

  • January 27, 2010
    Sarah

    chartering a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands was the best island/beach vacation i’ve ever – EVER – had. And you’d be surprised at exactly how little you need to know to get yourself a sailboat. *ahem*

    I’m officially adding the Maldives to my “Absolutely have to go there” list. Thanks – loved this post.

  • January 27, 2010

    Maldives was a holiday plan that fell through last year. These lovely pictures remind me that it should remain on my list of “must-go-to” spots.

  • January 27, 2010

    So beautiful. And I can’t wait to find out where you guys are going!

  • January 28, 2010

    Fiji is pretty amazing! The Cousteau Resort is one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed in my life, it reminded me in a lot of ways to what you just wrote about above- http://www.fijiresort.com/ I don’t dive (bad ears) but my sister does and said it was the best she has ever done. The resort is awesome, great food, friendly staff, a ton of fun activities like kayaking, hiking, snorkeling right from their dock. It’s a piece of paradise, only downside is lots of mosquitoes, but that’s hard to avoid in tropical settings! You can also get a boat to take you to a completely private island owned by the hotel for a romantic day!
    Another suggestion if you wanted to go the Africa route- I’m planning a safari for my family for the summer right now with this awesome company And Beyond, they have an amazing beach resort in Tanzania- http://www.andbeyondafrica.com/luxury_safari/tanzania/zanzibar/and_beyond_mnemba
    Congrats on the wedding, I’m sure the honeymoon will be awesome wherever you go!

  • January 28, 2010
    kelly

    These photos are gorgeous, and I so want to go to these resorts, but $800 a night on the low end? Ouch!

  • January 28, 2010
    Bethany

    The Maldives have been on my list FOREVER of places I am determined to visit one day — and this post really solidified that. It looks amazing.

  • January 28, 2010
    Susan

    Do you have any suggestions for a sand-n-sunshine destination around late December? I’m thinking somewhere more exotic than Mexico or the Caribbean, but still (fairly) budget-friendly. Any ideas?

  • January 28, 2010

    Okay, you’ve got to do your research and a resort you love in Indonesia…. that’s your spot, I’m telling you. Bali is gorgeous but too touristy. If you hit up the more remote islands, they’re perfect. Amazing diving, amazing beaches…

  • January 28, 2010
    Mark

    Thank you for this wonderful post. The Maldives is at the top of my go-to list. Not only just because of it’s beauty but also that I’m told this wonderful country could be gone long before I pass on.

    I’ll live through your photos and the photos of others until I can make the trip.

  • January 28, 2010

    What a wonderful post! I’m so glad I came across your blog. I love how you’ve detailed all of the elements of vacationing in the Maldives, from the exciting island entry to the food and culture. I think I’ve just found my new favourite blog 🙂

  • January 29, 2010

    Definitely bookmarking this post! I’ve always dreamed of travelling to the Maldives. The Indian Ocean has been on my list forever – never having dipped my toes in its turquoise water yet…hopefully, I’d get the chance some time between now and when I die!

    30 hours to get to the Maldives?? At least you had a 1st class Singapore ticket!! Most of us will be slumming it in coach. LOL.

  • January 30, 2010
    slynnro

    Next Year. Five Year Anniversary. WE ARE GOING.

  • February 1, 2010

    The Maldives look absolutely beautiful! I want one of those huts in the water…

  • February 2, 2010
    Sonja

    The Maldives and Seychelles look beautiful and I, too, am looking for a honeymoon spot. I wonder if either islands have had any problems being so close to Somalia though…

  • February 3, 2010

    We thought about this for our honeymoon too. Perfect reading material for a dark January morning – thanks for reposting!

  • February 3, 2010
    Erica

    How breath taking are your pictures?! Must have been fabulous to be one of the only guests on the island. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again… I WANT YOUR JOB!

  • May 8, 2011

    Hey, I was one of those five 😉 ! Hey, do you feel like going “public” helped your readership? I’ve considered it several times and am semi-public now (if anybody I knew came across my blog, they’d instantly know it was me), but recently I’ve come across some new information about how to handle the stress of being public that makes me want to really go public. Sorry if that sounds technical. Any thoughts on handling the stress of being public?

    • May 8, 2011
      Kristin

      Haha, you were, you were. You mean going “public” in terms of attaching your name to your blog? It all depends on your career. It’s been helpful for me in the fact that several travel editors now read my blog, and I’ve gotten assignments from magazines who reached out this way. However, that comes with a price. I really have to watch what I say now, always. There are SO many things I want to blog about that I can’t because I constantly have to worry about who’s reading and who could Google and find that post and what they might think and if they would hire me for an assignment or not. So I guess there’s good and there’s bad that come with it.

      • May 8, 2011

        Yes, by going public I mean attaching your name to your blog. Having to watch what I say is EXACTLY why I haven’t gone public. Not in terms of career, because it’s not a career for me, but in terms of family and anybody that would want to hire me down the road or research my business, so I guess that does have to do with career down the road. I do have another outlet for those things I want to post, though, so perhaps that could turn into my outlet for good. Personal posts on PSD is one aspect I’ve been wont to interject sometimes, and realize I’d have to let that go if I did attach my name to my blog. Thanks for your thoughts, girl!

  • November 2, 2014

    Awesome pictures I must say. Was searching to the recent pics of Maldives to see how they enjoy holidays and ended up in this awesome travel blog. Many regards from Maldives.

  • June 20, 2016

    i would love to go to Maldives for my honeymoon…

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