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Island hideaways

Taste of paradise in the Maldives

Sean Dowd July 7, 2014

Here at Hayes & Jarvis, we pride ourselves on offering our customers the best destination knowledge and insider tips. So we regularly visit our resorts to get a better understanding of what they have to offer – hard life, eh?!

I recently took a trip to the Maldives for the first time. In fact this was my first ever trip to the Indian Ocean. To really get a feel of what you could experience on a Maldives holiday, I tasked myself with visiting 15 islands over a 6 day period. It was going to be a full-on trip!

En route, I was lucky enough to have a stopover in Dubai, which split the 11 hour flight into two sections. After the 7 hour leg to Dubai, the 4 hours onto the Maldives positively flew by. I would always recommend breaking up your journey like this so you arrive fresh and ready to explore your destination.

Before leaving the UK, a friend of mine had commented that many of the Maldive islands look similar, with their villas, long jetties, white sands, turquoise reefs and pretty palm trees. But, by the end of my trip, I’d discovered that each and every island has something unique to offer its visitors.

Throughout the week I travelled to each island by either speedboat or seaplane, depending on how far north or south I travelled. I must admit I was a little nervous by the thought of taking a seaplane. Despite working in the travel industry, I’m not what you would call a confident flyer at the best of times and going from a Boeing jet to a small propeller-driven seaplane had me a little worried! But by the end of the week I had done eight seaplane flights and had more than overcome my fear. The planes are modern, well-kept and always had three crew on board, making for a far more comfortable flight than I expected. One of the key benefits of travelling by seaplane is the spectacular view you get of the Atolls - simply amazing, and a great photo opportunity too.

Coming down to land in the water and then waiting on an offshore platform was a fun experience. It’s a weird feeling standing on what feels like a large floating raft while you wait for the boat to pick you up but I soon learnt it was a great opportunity to spot pods of dolphins that just love to show off!

On my first night I was lucky enough to stay in a Water Villa. I’d never experienced anything like it! Within minutes I’d folded back the double-glazed doors at the end of my bedroom, walked down the steps off my private balcony and was paddling in the lagoon while snapping a few photos. The villa itself was luxurious with all the modern facilities you could want, just like you would get in a 5-star city hotel room. I was even able to upload my photos to Facebook using the villa’s wi-fi – not that I was trying to make people back home jealous, of course!

By the end of the week I’d seen so much wildlife without even trying. One night I went paddling in the sea and was suddenly surrounded by stingray! Each evening these amazing creatures came to the shallow waters just offshore. The same night I caught sight of baby reef sharks being fed off the end of the jetty. Although feeding the wildlife is discouraged, I have to admit it was an incredible sight. Later that week I saw an 8 foot adult reef shark swim past. Catching glimpse of reef sharks during the day is very rare so I felt incredible lucky right then… and relieved to hear they’re strictly vegetarian.

As well as pods of dolphins, reef sharks, and stingray I saw a vast amount of colourful reef fish while snorkelling. Plus ‘Harry’ the heron, as I named him, standing on the edge of the beach each night, bats swooping overhead as well as various small reptiles running around everywhere. By the end of each day, the chalkboards dotted around the resort showed photos of the animals guests had spotted while out on diving trips, which I thought was a nice touch.

What amazed me the most about all the islands I visited is how happy and friendly the staff were. Many of them have worked on the islands for over 10 years and the majority of the staff live on the island, although you wouldn’t know it. Staff quarters were usually located in the centre of the island, along with all the island’s power generators, discretely surrounded by foliage. It’s amazing really, as a tourist you probably won’t notice how the island gets its power, but each island is very self-sufficient and most follow sustainability programmes.

Whether you’re a couple or a family; whether you simply want to soak up the sun, have a relaxing holiday or take part in all the sports on offer, there’s an island for you. On the larger island you could be relaxing in the spa in the morning and playing golf in the afternoon, while the children are enjoying the kids’ club. The choice of activities is very varied, and each island has a specialist diving and watersports centre.

Lastly, let’s not forget the food. I guess I’m kind of a fussy eater but the dining options were impressive. Even on some of the smaller islands there was an array of choice, with most islands offering a good selection of restaurants serving international cuisine.  All-inclusive packages are more popular than ever and they don’t scrimp on what’s included.

At no point did it ever feel busy on any of the islands, despite being told that many of them were near full. I walked round two or three islands a day and, whether they were 100 metres or 1000 metres across, at no point did I feel surrounded by other tourist. I always had my pick of sun loungers, hammocks or cabanas.

So, all that’s left now is for me to book a Maldives holiday for my whole family – I know for sure they’d love every minute. The only problem is, after experiencing so many lovely islands, which one do I choose?!