One never forgets the first glimpse from the air of the enchanting Maldive Islands. I remember the thrilling helicopter ride from the airport in Male to my resort in the Baa Atoll. There, in the turquoise water, was the tiny island of Kunfunadhoo, lying on its back as it were, and squinting up into the sun. It’s a small island, covered by dense, tropical foliage. The luxe villas sit on the sugar soft sand with untramelled views of the ocean. One lazy afternoon I spotted a school of dolphins not far away.
The resorts, many of them listed among the top luxury hotels of the world, cater to every sybarite whim. They are designed for comfort and superb aesthetic appeal. But even with the al fresco baths, the Egyptian linen, the restaurants that serve gourmet food and Campari cocktails for sundowners, the charms of the resort life here pale in comparison to the natural splendours the Maldives is so blessed with.
There is the sea, everywhere you turn, changing colour with the hours, from sparkling aqua to the deepest blue. It holds some of the most fascinating underwater spectacles one can ever hope to see. Adventurous travellers will, of course, go deep sea diving and swim with sting rays, if not sharks. Even tentative swimmers like me cannot go to the Maldives and not be tempted to put on their snorkeling gear. It’s a wonderland down there, a coral garden of the most amazing beauty with fish in the colours from a paint catalogue darting about them. After a morning of discovering those underwater splendours I was kicking myself that I didn’t have the stomach or the skills for diving.
But you don’t need great swimming skills to enjoy one of the most relaxing and enjoyable activities the visitor to the Maldives has access to: night fishing. The resort’s activity manager suggested we try it and I was ready. Close to sunset, we set off from the resort’s jetty in a little motor boat. Miles into the ocean, the engine was switched off and the boat merely rocked gently. We had our fishing tackle and instructions on how to use it. Even an amateur fisherman/woman learns to see what the great fishing stories are all about. There is a sense of tranquility as you sit there, silent, waiting… And then that unmistakeable tug and you know you’ve landed one. Mine was a red snapper, smallish, I admit, but I shall never forget that moment. And yes, I was very tempted to exaggerate its size while telling friends about my trip. It was also the first and last fish I’ve ever caught.
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