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Maldives Getaway

BLUF: this was the best five-day vacation ever! Though the Maldives were never on my list of must-see destinations. There was something about the combination of the high prices and the limiting factors of being on a tiny island that turned me off. Also, I found the idea of going to the Maldives extremely decadent, even if I could afford it.

But I figured I had to do something special for my 40th birthday. Hosting a party for my family and friends was out of the question because I live in India—though I considered flying them in. Once I calculated the cost of flying in five people, plus housing and entertaining them, I had basically justified taking a five-star vacation. If the choice was between entertaining other people, or being entertained… it wasn’t really a choice at all.

From Mumbai, it’s easy to reach many exotic destinations. But Male, where the Maldivian international airport is (and where half of the population lives), is only a 2.5-hour flight away. I didn’t want to leave my kids behind for too long, so this was ideal. Once we landed in Male, we had to take another hour-long flight to the island I wanted to go: Laamu. I could have picked an island closer to Male, but after I read the description of the Sixth Sense resort, I was sold.

Five-star eco resort

Just as I imagined, taking a sea plane was a fun part that fitted well with the overall exciting and high-end experience of visiting the Maldives. We waited in a chic lounge, which we had almost to ourselves, until it was time to board the “turtle nest”—the decorated private plane operated by the resort. Flying over other islands was a beautiful and slightly surreal sight.

When we landed near Laamu, we were met by our GEM (guest experience manager) Hamza, who would assist us in all of our undertakings over the following days, from proactively making restaurant reservations to (appearing out of nowhere and) taking Polaroid pictures of us to planning birthday surprises. When we touched land a whole team of staff, including the resort manager, was there to welcome us.

I’d never been to an island resort or vacationed at a five-star hotel before so I was pretty much amazed by everything. The resort covered the whole island, with plenty of different areas and activities for us to explore. We had our own bikes, which carried wood-carved name tags with our initials. There were 59 flavors of (free) ice cream to try, complementary snorkeling trips, outdoor movies, and much more. Our ocean villa had every luxury imaginable, including clear glass floor panels so we could see sea creatures swim by wherever we were. The entire island was so stunning, and everything was so well organized, we could hardly believe our eyes.

What really struck me was—the major reason I’d chosen this resort in the first place—that everything was rooted in the principle of ecological sustainability. Nobody wore shoes of any type, there was no plastic to be found anywhere, etc. Granted, we were too lazy to take a tour of the scientific research center; we preferred viewing living corals underwater over hearing about the most recent bleaching event from a scientist.

Island activities

We only had four nights on Laamu island, so I was determined to make good use of my time—especially now that I was aware of all the possibilities. Every time my husband asked a question (“Should I open this bottle of champagne?” or “Should we take this surfing class?”) my answer was: yes please! Perhaps I was a little too enthusiastic because by the third evening I could barely make it through dinner without my eyes closing involuntarily.

Diving was my main goal and I took a diving trip every morning at 10:30. It was amazing every time, but nothing beat the second dive when we saw four large manta rays and observed them for 5-10 minutes each as they swam over us and socialized with each other. Before my daily dive, I’d typically already completed a barefoot run around the island and an exquisite breakfast. We spent lots of time snorkeling the house reef in the afternoon. My husband has a great hunting eye and spotted (and managed to film underwater) grazing turtles, stingrays, and sharks. Reef sharks aren’t dangerous, apparently, though the larger ones are a little scary at first.

We took a cocktail-making class and ate at each of the island’s restaurants once: sushi at Zen, dinner with wine pairings at the beach, Asian street food at Longitude, and a four-course steak and lobster dinner at Leaf. Though I skipped the lobster because I’m mostly vegetarian and couldn’t bear the idea of eating this cool animal I’d just been observing in his cave tucked under a coral reef.

Low/Rainy Season

The resort we stayed at had less than 40% occupancy, which was great. All of the regular services and food options were available but we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. There were some other couples from Australia, East Asia, France, and especially Germany, but we didn’t run into them often enough to strike up a conversation. We all lived in our own paradise bubbles.

Because we went to the Maldives at the end of May, which is the start of the raining season, the price was lower than usual. The occasional showers didn’t get in our way—actually, it was kind of nice that it was overcast most of the time instead of searing hot. The few times the sun really broke through we fled the beach in search of shade. The only time the rain was annoying was when I couldn’t go to a dive site I wanted. But we went there the next day, saw massive manta rays and moray eels and turtles and sharks… and all was well.



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