Angie Aspinall finds much to occupy her on the dry land of this Indian Ocean paradise
THINKING of the Maldives conjures up images of pristine, white, sandy beaches, blue ocean views, swimming, snorkelling and diving. But, if you’re not a ‘water baby’, you might think twice about booking a trip to a tiny island surrounded by water because, after all, what else is there to do in the Maldives but enjoy the ocean? Non-swimming travel writer Angie Aspinall accompanied her scuba-diving husband on a two-centre Maldivian break to find out.
Dine under the sea
At the exclusive adults-only Hurawalhi Island Resort in the Lhaviyani Atoll, you don’t need to be able to dive or swim to enjoy a close-up view of the dazzling native fish and corals. In fact, you don’t even need to get your feet wet!
Hurawalhi Maldives boasts the world’s largest all-glass undersea restaurant: the spectacular 5.8. At 5.8 metres below the surface, this magnificent restaurant is accessed be descending a spiral staircase, with the water level being revealed through porthole windows at each new turn.
Whether you opt for the sunny, dazzling lunchtime dining offer, or one of the two evening dining options, life under the sea will be revealed to you in all its splendour. We enjoyed the early evening time slot, which enabled us to enjoy our first three courses in sunlight, and we watched the sunset from a whole new angle. Excitement amongst our fellow diners mounted, and the atmosphere changed as night fell, and we were treated to a glimpse into another world – one subtly illuminated for our pleasure and delight.
Each of our seven courses was beautifully presented, and greeted with much enthusiasm (and clicking of cameras), and there was a feeling of camaraderie and bonhomie among the diners who came from Japan, South Korea, China, and America.
Learn a new skill
It’s not all snorkelling and diving in the Maldives. Some resorts put a great deal of effort into meeting the needs of their non-swimming/non-diving guests and none more so than the Amari Havodda Resort in the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, 400km south of the capital Male.
At this relaxed, family-oriented resort, there are many activities for all ages, including a daily Kids’ Club. There is also an interesting range of classes and demonstrations –yoga, ice sculpture, fruit sculpture, cocktail-making and Italian and Japanese cookery.
Having enjoyed a stunning meal at the Ember Robatayaki restaurant earlier in our stay, and knowing nothing about Japanese cooking, I enrolled on a three-hour one-to-one Japanese cookery class with head chef More. During the afternoon I learned how to make sushi; cut sashimi from fresh tuna; make tempura-battered vegetables and noodle ‘trees’; and Teriyaki Beef Stir Fry. The lesson also includes the student enjoying a leisurely lunch, as they get to eat every dish.
Visit a turtle sanctuary
The Atoll Marine Centre on Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll is the only marine conservation centre in the Maldives which is run from a local island rather than a resort. Nearby resorts support the centre by offering excursions to guests which include guided tours of the island and a visit to the turtle sanctuary.
The centre is staffed with a team of international volunteers, whose work includes rehabilitating turtles that have lost limbs, or have been affected by ingesting pollutants such as discarded plastics. This sits alongside projects in environmental education and community engagement.
We were amazed – and saddened – to see just how many injured turtles were being cared for in the tiny centre. The majority of turtles we saw in the hospital tanks were Olive Ridleys. These turtles, much smaller than the Hawksbills and Green varieties, tend to spend their time in deeper waters than their larger ‘cousins’, and it is thought this is why they are more prone to getting tangled in discarded fishing nets. In addition to losing limbs to nets, many of the rescued turtles also needed help with their ability to dive and manage their buoyancy.
It was a privilege for a non-diver like me to see these beautiful creatures at close-quarters, albeit in tragic circumstances but, by visiting and donating to the centre, we can all do our bit towards marine conservation whilst in the Maldives.
Dining under the stars in a warm climate is one of the great luxuries of travelling abroad. At Amari Havodda, when they invite you to a beach barbecue, they pull out all stops and create a lavish banquet: champagne on arrival, private dining tables (with white linen tablecloths) and colourful lanterns. Freshly made bread, colourful salads and sushi on the buffet table, while sizzling on the barbecue there’s mussels, lobster and fresh tuna. With a waiter service to top-up our champagne glasses throughout the meal, and a brightly shining moon and a sky full of stars, it all combined to make a truly magical evening.
Indulge in a spa experience
Almost as famous as the diving in the Maldives, are the world-class luxury spa experiences. If your travelling companion is busy enjoying a dive or a snorkel, why not treat yourself to a relaxing massage?
At Hurawalhi’s Duniye Spa, their ‘Sense of Touch’ signature massage combines both African and Oriental healing traditions, and uses Thai massage-type poultices of ginger and lemongrass, followed by the application of African potato body balm to revive the senses and enrich the skin with anti-oxidants and deep hydration – much-needed after a morning topping up the tan. What’s not to love?
While at Hurawalhi, I also enjoyed some reflexology, a Balinese massage, and a Thai massage which left me feeling great for the rest of the week.
On the very last night of our two-week, two-centre holiday in the Maldives, we enjoyed a couple’s spa experience in a double treatment suite with private terrace at Breeze spa at Amari Havodda. After our full body massages, we donned our robes, sipped our champagne and enjoyed our canapes on the terrace in our very own private tropical garden. What a wonderful way to end a superb trip.
Hurawalhi Island Resort: www.hurawalhi.com
Transfer from Male to Hurawalhi Island Resort by sea plane.
Amari Havodda: www.amari.com/havodda-maldives/
Transfer from Male to Amari Havodda by plane and speed boat.
There are no direct flights to the Maldives from Manchester Aiport. Indirect you are looking at any of the middle eastern carriers – Emirates, Etihad, Saudia, Turkish or Qatar.