Maldive Islands: One by One
While it may be the case that no man is an island, practically every resort in the Maldives is its own island, and they are exquisite destinations. Of the republic's 1,100 tiny tropical jewels stretching through the Indian Ocean southwest of India and Sri Lanka, about 200 are inhabited and nearly half of those are designated resorts. To visit, it's optimal to sample a few; island-hopping from the capital Male by seaplane, speedboat and charted airline.
You might start at the Conrad Maldives where you're first greeted at the airport in capital city Male by the hotel's efficient staff and escorted to a luxury airport lounge with a delicious buffet and high-speed wi-fi to await the half-hour ride by a seaplane staffed with barefoot pilot and steward. Arriving at the resort, the staff lines up on the dock, to escort you to the lobby, set on the sand -- no shoes are required for the rest of the visit.
The Conrad comprises two islands joined by a long boardwalk and room choices vary from beachside villas and suites to overwater villas perched on stilts over the ocean. To snorkle, you simply walk down the villa steps or wade into the water off the beach. SCUBA, parasailing, and lounging are other activities. Spa treatments are administered in villas with the sea lapping below between the wooden slatted floor.
One of the larger resorts, the Conrad has seven restaurants and four bars. The Atoll offers multi-ethnic buffet choices for breakfast and supper, and at the spa, the Mandhoo serves food based on the four elements, and for a special treat, diners in the Ithaa Undersea restaurant enjoy their meals with fish swimming all around its "aquarium" walls.
After flying back to Male, you meet a speedboat dispatched by the Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef, which whisks you to the tiny island of Hembadhu an hour away. In five to ten minutes, you can walk all the way around the island, choosing among "Delight," "Indulgence," and "Nirvana" --beach and overwater villas which surround the central facilities: the Latitude main dining room, the Reef Bar, Open-the Grill, the Jiva spa, dive center, and recreation room.
The ocean front infinity pool includes a Jaccuzi, snorkeling is excellent all around the island and after a half-day training, SCUBA divers can explore the popular nearby shipwreck. A popular daily activity is feeding the dozen or so hungry stingrays who show up daily around 4:30 pm for hand-fed hunks of fish.
Dining for visitors ranges from triple-lobster laws at the seaside grill, or fresh pizza created at the open air oven. Alternatively visitors can arrange for sandbar picnics out at sea or the staff will carve a table and bench out of the sand for an elegant surf-side picnic.
Back to Male, where a comfortable hour-long commercial flight on Maldivian Airlines delivers you to the southernmost Addu Atoll where it's a short boat hop to the Shangri-la Villingili,
where a host assigned to each villa greets guests and drives them off in beach buggies to settle them in. A much larger island, the Shangri-la provides each villa with white bicycles for "commuting" to the Dive and Water Sports Centre, the Eco Centre, the Chefs Garden, the Cool Zone for kids, the Golf Course. There's a daily menu of nature walks, stretching lessons, tilapia feeding -- and on one of the golf tees you can "hike" to the highest spot in the Maldives -- 16.7 feet above sea level.
Treatments in the resort's elaborate Chi Spa are carried out with a complex of rooms devoted to each guest. Its signature Kandu Boli Ritual massage includes soothing strokes with heated coconut oil and cowrie shells.
Choosing among resorts, what you are almost guaranteed is incredibly beautiful surroundings -- each islet a nugget of green vegetation surrounded by a ring of pristine white sand beach which in turn is enclosed by a coral ring in the turquoise sea. The hotels are staffed by efficient, accommodating professionals. Most resorts provide wide-screen TV's, complimentary snorkel equipment, fitness rooms, daily bottles of water, pillow choices, and extraordinarily efficient wi-fi service.
Alcohol isn't allowed in the Muslim Maldives but is sold by each resort. Although almost all food has to be imported. The cuisines tend to be remarkably sophisticated, a mixture of creative International cuisine mixed with dishes of Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Indian influence. Meals and activities are priced in US. dollars, and are costly -- a reason to consider signing on for half-board with breakfast and dinner included in the rate. Be sure to inquire about the cost of transportation back and forth to the international airport in Male -- if not included in the resort fee, the resort may be able to provide a favorable rate.