The sun hits my face as I sit in the pool, book in hand, watching the sea plane land with new arrivals, as it does every afternoon. The ocean spreads out in front of me, clear and blue, the light dazzling off it like little diamonds to the horizon. I feel calm, I feel happy, and in that moment I realise there is nowhere closer to paradise that I have been than The Maldives…
Before heading to The Maldives, I thought I might get bored – a week of doing nothing, my husband said with glee. But I never do nothing, I thought. I also fundamentally don’t like the idea of sitting on an island, made purely for tourists, with people waiting on me. It feels so wrong. But when we arrived at Ja Manafaru the magic hit me instantly, and honestly, I could have stayed for months.
Here’s how I spent a lazy week on a single island in the Indian Ocean, not bored for a single second.
1. Enjoying the beaches
As I walked along the beach for the first time, feeling the sand in my toes, hearing the waves lapping the edge of the beach, I thought what I was seeing couldn’t be real. The pristine beach, the amazing colour of the water. And even better, having it all to ourselves. Utterly, stunningly, unbeatably beautiful.
Enjoying the beach
The beautiful beaches
2. Relaxing in our overwater villa
As we walked along the board walk to the expanse of villas stretching in to the Indian Ocean, I could scarcely believe my eyes at how big they were. Inside there was a massive double bed, a huge bath looking out to the water, a shower with a see through floor so you could literally see the fish swimming beneath your feet. All topped off with a sun terrace and private plunge pool which were beyond luxurious. In typical English fashion, we put the kettle on and had a cup of tea in the pool!
3. Island flyovers
Seeing The Maldives from above is quite special. Boarding the tiny little sea plane made me feel a little apprehensive as there wasn’t much space and well, it has to land and take off on water….I did feel a little bit sick, but then the views were incredible and it was a fun experience.
4. Snorkelling and Ray feedings
The amount of fish you can see snorkelling in The Maldives is amazing. There are so many in the clear blue waters. We also really enjoyed feeding the rays, and liked watching the white spider crabs on the beaches at night.
There are so many things you can do activity wise in The Maldives, from dolphin watching to boat cruises, to diving, to sea kayaking and wake boarding. I chose the slightly more land based sea golf! They are biodegradable balls filled with fish food, so you can hit them in to the ocean with a completely clean conscience!
6. Admiring the sunrise or sunset
Whether you watch from your sun deck, a boat or from your dinner table, sunrises and sunsets in The Maldives are spectacular. Make sure you get a chance to watch both and just enjoy the magic of the moment. I got up at 4.45am to watch the sunrise quietly with a cup of tea and was completely taken aback by its beauty. Sometimes when I’m stressed now I remember sitting there on the deck that morning and it calms me.
7. Eating and drinking
The food is so good in The Maldives. It consists of traditional curries, lots of fresh fish and sushi too. We didn’t have a single meal we didn’t like. Alcoholic drinks are expensive though, as the resorts have to import them in. Alcohol is also only allowed on resort islands so please be respectful of local religions and customs.
8. Indulging in a massage
You might as well while you’re there, right? Most resorts have amazing jungle or beach spas which really help you leave feeling relaxed and recuperated. By the end of this holiday I was so relaxed that even a flight delay didn’t bother me.
And so, after my reservations about going – what did I think of The Maldives when I left? That is a complex dilemma which I’ve thought a lot about since.
On the one hand – there is no denying that the experience was out of this world special. It was luxury to the extreme, beauty to the extreme and exactly what I needed to stop and relax. However, I did feel like there is also a huge divide between local life and tourism on the islands, as there are separate islands for each. This means there is a limited impact on local culture, but it also means visitors don’t really step out of the paradise bubble and get to engage with local culture either.
It’s also really easy to enjoy the island you stay on and not think about your impact. Tourism is having a huge, complex impact on this country. Yes it’s bringing in a lot of money and providing jobs (albeit I would be willing to bet most of the money doesn’t go to the workers, but to large hotel chains), but it’s also impacting waste disposal (there are whole, toxic islands where waste is just dumped and is leaking in to the sea) and diving is destroying the reefs, creating imbalance in this delicate eco system.
In fact, scientists believe The Maldives is the world’s third most endangered country due to climate change. Some predict it won’t even exist in as little as 50 years!
So my conclusion is absolutely, go to paradise and take gorgeous photos of beaches just as I have because honestly you won’t get bored. But also have a think about how your visit impacts the eco system, how to respect the cultures and traditions and above all else, appreciate the amazing staff who work tirelessly to ensure you have a great time and probably don’t earn a lot for it – don’t be an arrogant, rude, entitled tourist.
Thank you so much for reading! Did this post make you want to go to The Maldives? Have you ever been? Let me know in the comments below – stay safe and happy travelling.