I know we’re nearing the Maldives when the passengers around me start oohing and aahing. “Oh my gosh!” the woman next to me exclaims, leaning over for a better view.
Looking below, I see what she means. The seas are an azure blue, with tiny white-sand islands sprinkled liberally across the waters below. Encircling each island is a light turquoise ring, a color I’ve only seen in photos.
Suddenly, the 22 hours of flight time seem worth the trip.
Reaching the Maldives can take some time. To find the country on a map, locate the tip of southern India, then move your finger southwest in the Indian Ocean. See that string of dots? Those are the Maldives, an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls. Only 192 islands are inhabited by the country’s 350,000 residents.
Travelers to the Maldives fly into Malé, the capital. From there, most take a boat or seaplane to their resort. Each resort in the Maldives is its very own island. This means each resort must be self-sufficient, providing its own power, water, dining and even medical care, if needed.
If you like nightlife, shopping and entertainment, the Maldives is not for you. But if you enjoy snorkeling, diving and relaxing on the most perfect beach you’ve ever seen, this is the place.
The Maldives is synonymous with island luxury. Accommodations in the Maldives range from budget B&Bs to private villas that run into the thousands per night. (One luxury villa in the Maldives was named in the Top 10 Most Extravagant Places to Stay and quoted at $30k per night.)
The Maldives is an Islamic nation. As I would be told several times during my trip, “We love to welcome everyone, from Christian to Hindu and everyone else. All are welcome here.”
While Maldivians follow Islamic tradition in dress and food on the local islands, resort islands follow their own rules. They operate like many other beach resorts around the world, and most serve alcohol and pork.
There are more than 100 resorts islands in the Maldives ranging in size from 1.5 miles across to just a tenth of a mile. I plan to visit four of them.
My first stop is Baros, a luxury resort about 25 minutes by speedboat from Malé. Baros was one of the first resorts in the Maldives. Opened in 1973, it is a romantic destination popular with honeymooners. Baros also has its own reef encircling a pristine lagoon, which makes for excellent snorkeling.
The resort has a private, intimate feel, with 45 beachside and 30 water villas. The décor in my beachside pool villa uses deep woods and high ceilings. I like the plush king bed and luxury bathroom, as well as the private outdoor shower. Behind the villa, I discover a private yard with plunge pool, a shaded wooden veranda deck with a canopied four-poster daybed, and my very own private section of the beach.
I’m pretty sure I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Although I have no desire to leave my villa, I soon find that dining at Baros is a pleasure. All produce and food supplies must be brought in by boat, but the cuisine is fresh and innovative, with a wine list that many restaurants would envy. We linger at sunset over drinks at the iconic Lighthouse Lounge, and have an amazing dinner at The Cayenne Grill. With all this good food, I know it will be hard to stay trim for my bikini during the trip.
Baros is an adults-only destination. One of the highlights at Baros is a private dinner on The Sandbank. It’s just what it sounds like – a private dinner for two prepared and served by your own private chef on a small sandbank in the middle of the crystal blue sea at sunset.
On our last day at Baros, a friend and I spend the morning snorkeling. We walk straight into the sea from our villa doors, and within minutes we’ve reached the reef. Hundreds of colorful fish and bright coral surround us. The water is so warm that it almost feels like a bathtub. We snorkel until we tire, and then walk back along the shore, happily chatting about what we’ve seen.
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