“Your feet in the sand, delicious food on the table, a sky full of stars and a bright moon, and the sound of waves as the background melody. This is Maldives for you!” said one of the hosts during dinner on Mirihi Island. Mirihi was one of the islands I stayed on as part of my five-day visit to the Maldives, a paradise known for its water of all shades of turquoise, white-sand beaches and tropical climate.
This, I thought, was a great way of explaining the feeling of the luxurious yet simplistically elegant islands of the Maldives, several of which I was able to visit during my recent trip organized by the Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation.
To begin with, let me give a few details about the Maldives in general before going into detail about my trip. The Maldives, which consists of some 1,200 islands, is a tiny country in the Indian Ocean about 750 kilometers south of Sri Lanka. In fact, only about 281 of the islands are inhabited – 195 of them home to locals and 86 with only resorts. It is actually a series of islands built on dead coral; however, there is, of course, still living coral in the ocean, which makes this holiday destination a great place for divers, snorkeling and anyone interested in underwater life. Another interesting fact about the white beaches of the Maldives is that they are actually the product of dead coral, which is what gives them their color and what makes the sand pleasant to walk on compared to regular beaches when the weather is hot.
Now is the perfect time to provide some details about my trip, during which I visited three resort islands, the capital, Male, and another island inhabited by locals.
I left Istanbul for Male via a convenient seven-hour direct flight on Turkish Airlines. The first island I stayed on was Kuramathi Island Resort, 1.8 kilometers in length and situated in Rasdhoo Atoll. It is approximately an hour and 20 minutes away by boat from the airport on the island Hulhule.
Aside from the resort's great range of facilities for families with children, adults and water-lovers with its beautifully situated villas for all budgets, what amazed me the most about Kuramathi was the beautiful stretch of white sand, which lends a priceless feeling of being in paradise with its picturesque sunsets. The island's peaceful turquoise lagoons are great for swimming and snorkeling. If you are a beginner, the staff at the aqua center is nearby to help with activities during your stay. A guided tour for snorkeling at the house reef is an unmissable adventure full of mesmerizing underwater colors.
Kuramathi also offers a superb selection of restaurants where you can enjoy both international and local cuisine. My favorite restaurant was Tandoor Mahal, which offers an exquisite selection of Indian cuisine. Tuna dishes and coconut are basically national flavors of the Maldives, so seafood and drinks made with coconut will always be within your reach.
When you are in Kuramathi, the well-preserved tropical jungle and flora will embrace you warmly to comfortably help you get into holiday mode. Of course, aside from the natural beauty of the island and the friendly and always present staff, made up of Maldivians and foreigners, make you feel at home in the small islands of the Indian Ocean.
After I spent two nights in Kuramathi, my second stop was Kurumba Island Resort, which is actually the pioneer of tourism and resort business in the Maldives, dating back to the mid-1970s. The word Kurumba means coconut in Dhivehi, the official language of the Maldives. Kurumba, a tropical island on North Male Atoll, is conveniently located about a 10-minute boat ride away from the airport.
The resort offers a wide variety of accommodation with several types of villas and a rich selection of restaurants as well as venues for live entertainment, ranging from local traditional dances – called Bodu Beru, the Maldivian dance and drums – to modern bands. Kurumba, surrounded by idyllic white sand beaches and swathed with coconut trees, has a great water sports center where you can go parasailing, jet skiing, tubing and take banana rides or even hop on a catamaran. It also offers motorized or nonmotorized sports for kids, like tube rides. One of the most interesting activities on Kurumba is the glass bottom boat for excursions to see dolphins before sunset. The island resort also has an impressive spa, where you can enjoy a traditional Maldivian or an international treatment to put you fully in vacation mood. The five-star upscale resort has two outdoor swimming pools, along with a children's pool, making Kurumba a kid-friendly vacation destination.
One interesting feature of the rooms on Kurumba Island was that they have partially open bathrooms and shower areas, which are private but the sky is your only ceiling. This is also said to be a traditional way of bathing for locals with resorts keeping the tradition alive.
After two nights on Kurumba Island, my last stop was a one-night visit to the very tiny island of Mirihi, which is named after a Dhivehi word for a yellow flower found on the island. I arrived on Mirihi via a half-hour flight on a seaplane from Male. It was my first time on a seaplane. I have to admit I was hesitant at first on how it would be, but once you are on the plane and you see the beautiful aerial view over the Maldives, you forget everything.
Mirihi is a reflection of “what the Maldives in the old days meant” said one of the hosts on the island. It has a traditional feel with a set up of a resort, yet it gives you a fresh feeling of being excluded from the chaos of the modern world. It is a "no shoes" island; so as soon as you arrive, you are welcomed with a cold coconut drink and the recommendation to take off your shoes to connect with the island. Mirihi is just 350 meters long and 50 meters wide, surrounded by a clear turquoise lagoon and white sand soft as cotton. The reef near Mirihi is rich in coral and a variety of fish, making the island a great place for snorkeling. In addition, you can also go on an excursion for diving, where you can experience the richness of the sea in the Indian Ocean or go snorkeling for an up-close encounter with whale sharks.
The resort has 39 rooms, including some on the island and some over the water. What I found refreshing was that the rooms have no TVs, which helps keep you isolated from the stress of the modern world and allows you to focus simply on yourself and nature. The tropical island, given its size, presents itself as a tiny gem in the Indian Ocean. Mirihi has two restaurants, a bar and a lounge. The impressive Muraka Restaurant, however, sets itself apart as an exclusive window to the Indian Ocean, where you can enjoy the dazzling sunset from its deck while sipping a refreshing drink or enjoying delicious Maldivian lobster.
Mirihi is not a modern resort, nor does it offer luxury in the way of marble floors or infinity pools. Yet, the personalized service at this tiny five-star resort makes you realize that it is the service that makes a holiday enjoyable, not all the sparkly glam. From the water left in your room to anything else you may need during your stay at Mirihi, it is all personalized for you. If you like your tea a certain way, the staff is always happy to make it exactly how you want it. In fact, I never had my coffee so consistently made the same. In short, the staff ensures that you leave the resort happy and looking forward to visiting again.
Whether you want to explore local islands or chill out at a high budget resort with all the glam, the Maldives has a lot to offer with its natural beauty, friendly people and great cuisine.