When you think of the Maldives the first thing that comes to your mind are the white sand beaches and its crystal blue waters. With over two hundred resorts, the Maldives are world-famous as a holiday destination. My chance to visit this wonderful place came with an irony – I had to leave Thane behind. For the most of 2016 Thane went on and on about visiting Maldives. It seemed like such a far out idea at the time. Then miraculously, thanks to this modeling thing we call work, I got an amazing opportunity to visit THE Maldives, courtesy of the Woman & Home magazine. We were both stoked and bleak at the same time because it is THE couples’ destination on the planet and I was going solo.
It was a bit of a mission to get to my paradise island. The journey went on for 17 hours – Cape Town to Dubai, then Dubai to Male and finally a boat. Upon arrival, the sight of the country’s capital Male was impressive and bizarre. The city is a tiny island a few meters above the sea level. It resembles a bee hive with its buildings packed so closely together, with new ones being built at the same time. Literally, it looks like someone took a slice of a city and let it float in the middle of nowhere.
The boat ride from Male airport to the South Male atoll took only 25 minutes and I had arrived to my little paradise for the week – Velassaru. A few honeymooners and myself were greeted by the international staff – managers Byron, Myla and Carlos, the main chef. Everything around looked picture perfect as I disembarked on the jetty.
After I relaxed a bit in my deluxe villa munching on the insane amount of complimentary snacks, I was ready to explore. It took me a bit to acclimatize to the heat and the humidity so I set to ‘discover’ the island with a turtle-like pace which is quite appropriate as Velassaru means ‘turtle island’. It takes only 25 min to complete a lap. There are 129 rooms (bungalows, different types of villas etc ) and about 300 staff lives on the island to cater for the guests. In late April, when I visited, it was already the beginning of the low season so they were running on 65% capacity. Being so close to the main airport, Velassaru is always busy but you don’t feel it.
Even though the island is a tiny, there is lot of entertainment – sunrise/sunset boat cruise, snorkeling, kayaking, jet ski, SUP, scuba diving, photography class, marine centre, yoga, spa, gym, tennis court ( dare to tennis in that humidity ) – or simply chill by the pool or the beach and roast ( sun is very strong here ). Plus all that usual romantic things-to-do for couples.
On the sunrise boat cruise I met a diving-enthused couple from Philadelphia, Dina and Chris. We missioned around together once I was done with my photoshoot. We went snorkelling around the island and scuba diving. With 1192 coral islands organised around 26 atolls, Maldives are a popular diving destination, especially for its Manta rays. Our diving instructor took us to Embudhoo canyon which is about 100 m long reef with a 3m top reef that rops as a steep wall to more than 40 m. I was impressed by the eels, bright colourful fish and reef sharks. The second dive spot were the Vaadhoo Caves with 150 m long reef wall, 3 to 40 m deep. It was more impressive and the current was stronger. We saw beautiful coral formations, a few eagle rays, turtles, dogtooth tunas and many more types of fish.
Most days revolved around relaxing at the beach or by the pool. The nights were reserved for rich buffet dinner with my team where we smashed the curry section and afterwards chilled to the sounds of live music. The highlight of the week was definitely the tandem parasailing with my new colleague Cici. It exceeded any expectations as we saw dolphins jumping around the island and the endless horizon.
I must come back with Coco!
Maldives: 390 000 people dispersed over 90 000 square km
Capital: Male 133,412 people and an area of 5.8 square km
Average ground level: 1.5 meters over sea level, highest point 2.4 meters
Biggest challenges: garbage disposal ( currently sent to Thilafushi, artificial island built in 1991, can be seen from Velassaru ) and high risk of submersion due to the rising sea levels and
Plan B: relocate the population to Sri Lanka or India
Crazy fact: new resorts being built as I write