I have never been to the Maldives. I am also not a fan of flying! It was, therefore, with a mixture of trepidation and huge excitement that I departed for London Heathrow to Male earlier this year.
The trip started well. I was bestowed with an entire row in economy to myself. Economy is not nearly so bad when you can stretch out across three full seats. It was at this point, on a blissfully empty Emirates flight with a glass of wine in hand, that I decided flying wasn’t so bad.
14 hours and a stop-over in Dubai later, paradise was within my grasp. If you have never been to the Maldives, I highly recommend booking a window seat for your flight. The view of hundreds of tadpole like island appearing beneath you as you come in to land is unforgettable.
A short stopover in Male and the fear of flying was about to take on a new challenge – a sea plane! I found it however a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Looking out from the window, school upon school of dolphins could be seen – it was spectacular.
The sea plane took me to Conrad Maldives Rangali Island from where I was to embark upon my first short boat transfer of the trip. A speedy 10 minutes later I had seen flying fish, a dolphin, two baby reef sharks and at last – my first paradise island. And what a beautiful gem it is.
Mirihi Island, I had read, has only 37 villas and is a haven of peace and tranquility. Nothing could be more true. The second I arrived my bags were whisked away, a refreshing drink placed in my hand and my shoes handed over – “we will take these to your room for you, please feel welcome to remain barefoot throughout the duration of your stay” intoned a charming member of the team.
I spent my first afternoon exclaiming at the beauty of the views from my over water villa, jumping straight from my deck into a myriad of fish below and snorkelling with the dive team where, amongst an abundance of fish and coral in every colour imaginable, we spotted turtles, reef sharks and peculiar sea cucumbers!
Following an indulgent nine plate tapas and wine tasting, the sound of the sea lapping against the shore is enough to lull even the lightest of sleepers into a wonderfully deep sleep.
The next day I set out on the adventure of a lifetime – a chance to swim with the majestic whale shark.
Whale sharks, though daunting in terms of size, are harmless to humans, feeding mainly on plankton and small fish and moving at the average speed of just three leisurely miles per hour.
About two hours into our blissful sailing trip we spotted the Maldives’ largest sea inhabitant and without a second thought, leaped into the deep water.
Snorkelling alongside these gentle giants is a breath-taking and humbling experience. They are extremely friendly and seem not to mind humans, swimming nail-bitingly close to you.
Buzzing with adrenaline we enjoyed a pleasant sail back to the hotel where a delicious feast and accompanying cocktails awaited for my second and final night at this slice of utopia, to be enjoyed before an early start and a mammoth journey the following day…
More on that to come! For now, some eye candy…