Maldives: not quite priceless – Independent Online

By Kevin Ritchie

It’s difficult not to run out of clichéd superlatives when you tell people about the Maldives: it’s even worse searching where to start.

For one thing, when you’re at the resort, it’s actually frowned upon to wear anything more formal than shorts, T-shirts and slip-slops: bare feet are actually de rigueur. It’s always warm on the islands and the sea temperature was 28°C when I was there.

For another, the place actually looks the way it does in the brochures. The different blues in the sea – from light blue, to turquoise, all the way through to indigo – are not a trick of some graphic artist but actually like that, while the sand is blindingly white – all the more surprising since the country was battered by the tsunami on Boxing Day.

The Maldives survived the tsunami far better than any of the other Indian Ocean countries it struck. In fact, on the resort where I was, Meeru Island Resort, it was hard to see what damage had been caused, because the resort was operational a week later and all the repairs had been completed about three weeks after that.

Meeru Island Resort caters for various types of guest, from hard-core divers wanting to get in as many dives as possible each day, all the way through to the romantics and the newlyweds wanting to get away from it all.

Accommodation ranges accordingly, from standard rooms at R7990 a person until the end of April, increasing in luxury through the land villas, the jacuzzi-land villas, the water villas and, finally, the newly launched jacuzzi water villas at R15000 a person.

These rates, with the exception of standard rooms, include seven nights’ accomodation on full board, return airfares on board Air Seychelles and speedboat transfers between the airport and the resort.

I stayed in the jacuzzi water villas which are incredibly luxurious wooden chalets topped with thatched roofs and complete with DVDs, colour TV, surround-sound and bar fridge.

Each chalet is built on stilts 3m above the lagoon and has a patio in the front and a walled-in jacuzzi deck on the side with a staircase that leads directly into the warm lagoon water.

Guests staying in the jacuzzi water villas eat at the Meeru Village’s Maalan restaurant, an open-air buffet spot, or they can choose to eat at the Asian Wok on the southern end of the island, which specialises in Southeast Asian cuisine or on board the Haagern, a floating restaurant moored in the harbour. Besides a coffee shop, there are no fewer than four fully stocked bars.

You will also find a lending library, a jewellery shop, a gift shop and a fully equipped gym and spa.

At night, entertainment is laid on, from cultural dance shows through to discos, movies, crab races and live bands.

By day, the resort comes into its own. There’s a beautiful swimming pool that’s quite superfluous, given the pristine beach that circles the island leading down to the protected lagoon. Snorkelling kit can be hired from the Ocean Pro Dive Centre, but if you’ve got your own you can save on the extra expense and spend your entire day snorkelling around like an extra in the cast of Finding Nemo.

The dive centre is staffed by a team of professional divers from all over the world, who can train you from scratch to become a Padi Open Water Diver in four-and-a-half days or, if you’re already qualifed, get you all the way up to Dive Master level. The Maldives are recognised as one of the 10 best diving spots in the world, so if you’re going to dive, or are already a diver, this is the place to do it.

The Love Boat, a motorised yacht, goes out into the atoll for an entire day, stopping at manta-ray feeding stations to allow guests to snorkel with the rays, followed by lunch on board and more snorkelling off a little island on the western rim of the atoll.

If snorkelling doesn’t do it for you, you can take a submarine trip and photograph the reefs, go on a sunset cruise, go for a flip in a seaplane or try your hand at big-game or just hand-line fishing.

Daily boat excursions to the capital, Malé, and the neighbouring island, Dhiffushi, are ideal if your shopping urge is going unmet.

It’s an incredible experience, but there are potential problems even in paradise.

Full details are available from the link below:

Source URL: Google News

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