When it came to planning a celebration to mark my 30th birthday, a memorable trip was always top of the list.
I was bitten hard by the travel bug at an early age. For me, the excitement of visiting somewhere new starts weeks, even months out thanks to an in-depth planning process. So, why the Maldives?
The Maldives is somewhere I visited when travelling solo in 2020 (just before covid struck). I went on a dive holiday around the southern atolls which focused primarily on sharks. It was love at first site (or dive).
With so much to see, it always amazes me when people ask whether you can get bored in such a beautiful part of the world. Also… the the Republic of Maldives is huge; a glorious array of atolls which are made up of tiny, picture perfect islands. It would take you weeks on end to sale from top to bottom, so there’s certainly a lot to explore.
The north tends to be a little more touristy, but as you venture further from Male and thus, the international airport, you are transported to a more serene, tranquil way of life. The islands become more distanced, sea planes less frequent and hotels adopt more of a barefoot bohemian vibe.
It’s also worth noting that South Ari is home to the Maldives largest Marine Protected Area encompassing 42 km² of coral reef habitat. The south is therefore home to some of the best marine life in the world with sightings of mantas, whale sharks and pods of both spinner and bottle nose dolphins being the norm.
If you’re thinking of visiting these beautiful islands, I would strongly urge you to get on the water and visit different areas.
Needless to say, if you require a little more convincing (this tends to be the men who are worried they will spend their entire trip frying on a sunbed), let me take you on a journey of our highlights…starting with a week on Emperor Serenity, where this time we focused on the central atolls.
Each day, we did three different dives. These varied from channels with exceptionally strong current (if you’ve never experienced being attached by a reef hook 30m below surface with water blasting into your face, put it on your bucket list).
Yes, the conditions can be challenging, but to see the huge schools of fish, turtles, rays and sharks dancing amongst the waves is utter magic. Strong currents also = far better visibility so it’s a win-win.
We also enjoyed leisurely thila dives where we paused at the manta cleaning stations, waiting for the gentle giants to say hello.
A clip of diving with mantas if you want to see a little more from under the sea:
Even on the surface, the wildlife sightings continued! Proof of Clem in his happy place below.
No island hopping experience would be complete without a visit to deserted beach… add a bbq, bottle of wine and music and you’re in for a perfect evening.
And let’s be honest…is there a better way to celebrate your birthday than opening a bottle of bubbles, on a yacht in the middle on the Indian ocean, with your husband and new friends in tow. Absolutely not!
Accompanied by the sun setting and the open water becoming a playground for the local dolphins.
Another bottle…just for good measure.
Our week on Serenity sadly came to an end, but week two was where things got fancy (this was my 30th, after all!)
After quite literally months of trawling reviews, I came across the Ozen Life Maadhoo. Claiming to be the only true all-inclusive in the Maldives, it had a lot to live up to. Add on the fact that this stunning hotel also costs nearly £2,000 per night during high season (Jan to March), and suddenly you have exceptionally high expectations.
The photos really do the talking, but I’m pleased to say that the Ozen didn’t disappoint. Infact, it exceeded all hopes!
From the moment we arrived back to Male airport, we were led onto a beautiful boat decked out like a private jet. A quick 40-minute ride later and we started to approach Maadhoo.
Staff greeted us with live music, tailored conversations, a welcome gift and within minutes we were introduced to our butler. Off we went for a tour of the island, stopping off at the ice cream hut which produced fresh flavours daily.
As expected, the beaches, pools, spa and restaurants were utterly dreamy. But it was the water villa that really stole the show!
Added inclusions such as sunset fishing trips, couples massages and unlimited branded champagne (cue the Moet), meant that this hotel surpassed ever standard we had imagined.
Mornings were early (by choice) thanks to the stunning sun rise, but also lazy. A strong espresso on the deck, brisk ocean swim, followed by possibly the greatest shower in the history of bathroom views, led us nicely into breakfast.
As you’d expected from what is essentially a six-star hotel, the breakfast was iconic. The sprawling buffet included freshly made juices to order, homemade cakes, honey’s from different regions of the world, cured meats and a fruit station that offered the rarest of goods!
Topped off with the option to order bespoke waffles, eggs royale, banana pancakes and of course, a full English, and you were very much set for the day.
Following a not-so-light meal, we’d head back to the water villa and make the most of the surroundings. World class snorkelling on your door step was the main highlight. We would relax on our sunbeds until we spotted the next eagle ray, black tip, turtle or colourful fish then scurry back down the steps to take a peak.
Champagne at midday became a luxurious habit for the week. All that swimming took its toll.
Then off to lunch we went (with eyes eagerly peeled incase we spotted yet even more dolphins or sharks).
After feasting on salads, sushi and freshly cooked fish with a bid to remain remotely healthy, we would venture down to one of the island beaches or pools, never far from the butler who kindly ensured we didn’t go thirsty.
Clem made more of an effort to stick to champagne, wine and cocktails, but I became obsessed with the resort’s homemade lemonade! Utter perfection in 34-degree heat.
After making the most of the water-sports and other activities available, it was time to swap sandy toes for the spa…an over the water one in true Maldivian style!
Having couples massages included was such a treat. Normally, we don’t tend to bother with the spa as we love being outdoors, but I’ve never felt so relaxed!
Not forgetting a final dip on the ocean to cool off before getting ready for dinner.
The options for dinner included Palms (French) which offered some of the best meat and fish dishes we’ve tried, as well as a fine dining Indian and Asian restaurants which perched over the lagoon on stilts. Finally, there was M6M…one of very few under water restaurants in the Maldives.
There’s no denying that a lobster dinner with a view like something out of the Little Mermaid was stunning. However, our favourite was the Indian, without a doubt!
Given that the Maldives is so close to India, we couldn’t wait to try the varying dishes. Thanks to the attentive waiters and chefs, we went off-menu and instead had our own taster courses created based.
They consisted of battered yogurt balls, paneer shashlik, marinated lamb, a black garlic prawn curry, rogan josh sauce, sea bass masala and smoked chilly beef curry all topped off with pistachio ice-cream and truffled coconut.
Nights draw to a close relatively early in the Maldives, which suits me to perfection!
The norm is to retire to your villa by midnight at the latest, ready for a 7am start where the island is full of energy thanks to the beach yoga, ocean swims and the hustle of breakfast. Definitely a routine I could get used to.
The tan may have faded, but the memories will last a lifetime…
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