Just back from: Maldives
Tell us more… I spent five days exploring an island nation I’d always dreamed of visiting, in as many different ways as possible – by land, sea and sky. I stayed at Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa which is tucked away on a private island in the southernmost atoll of the archipelago. If you want a far-flung, middle-of-nowhere island escape, this is it.
In a nutshell… I can confirm: the Maldives looks just like it does in the brochures. The water is that blue. The sand is that white. The over-water villas are as epic as you imagine. But there’s more to these tropical isles than meets the eye. Drag yourself off the sunlounger and dig a little deeper to find abundant wildlife, rich culture and fascinating history.
Good grub? Fishing is the second largest industry in the Maldives, after tourism. Fishermen still catch tuna using traditional pole and line methods – and I found plenty to eat in the form of the ubiquitous tuna curry, as well as mas huni (chopped tuna, coconut, chilli and onion) and flatbread, which makes for a tasty breakfast. A visit to the fish and produce markets of Malé, the capital, was an eye-opening experience – a true taste of local life. Fish-flavoured crisps, anyone?
Defining moment? Two incredible wildlife experiences stand out in my mind. First, coming face-to-face with a sea turtle for the first time – a traveller’s rite of passage. And secondly, being entertained by hundreds of playful spinner dolphins which surrounded our boat during a sunset cruise. Unbelievable.
If you do one thing… Get a glimpse of local life by visiting the inhabited islands – I toured Addu City by bike, exploring an old British military base and stopping for ‘short eats’ (local spicy snacks) at a local cafe. Malé’s also worth a day or two, with its impressive Islamic Centre and ancient coral stone mosque.
Fav activity? I like to climb up mountains when I visit a new place – but the Maldives is the world’s lowest country... So while summiting the nation’s highest point, Mount Villingili (5m), was a novelty, I decided to find a different way to get a bird’s eye view of paradise: parasailing. Soaring above the deep blue lagoon was remarkably peaceful – as if I wasn’t relaxed enough!
Quintessential experience? It’s undeniable: the Maldives is a wonderful place to chill out. How you relax is up to you. Sunrise yoga overlooking the beach; snorkelling along the reef spotting colourful fish; or indulging at the spa – whatever it is, it’s time to unwind!
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Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out where our picture editor, Claire Richardson, just got back from.
Emma Sparks travelled to the Maldives with support from Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.
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