Maldives

Tropical ocean adventures

Nowhere is more keenly tied to the sea than the Maldives. With 1,200 islands over 35,000 square miles of Indian Ocean, this tropical nation is more than 99% water. The remaining 1% comprises a multiple scattering of charter-friendly coral atolls, colonised with the utmost ingenuity by 3,000 years of settlers.

Each coral landmass comes with a saltwater lagoon hemmed in by a circular reef and inhabited by the world’s most spectacular marine life. From huge pods of dolphins to whale sharks, sperm whales, manta rays and hammerheads, a wildlife tour here is not about searching; it’s merely about opening your eyes. As a Muslim nation, no alcohol is permitted beyond the tourist resorts, but its intimate relationship with the ocean makes the Maldives a tropical yacht charter like no other.

Malé, the capital city, is unlike anywhere else in the Maldives. It comprises a mighty ring of seawalls, containing a tightly packed high-rise cityscape, cut through with a network of narrow streets and charged with the fractious clatter and bustle of an authentic 24-hour hub. To provide Maldive-style relief from this densely populated cauldron of activity, there is an artificial beach on the east of the city, which provides a venue for watersports and carnivals as well as a cooling summer swim.

Huvafen Fushi is an extraordinary oasis of five-star pampering in a delectable setting. Down at the shore, huge rays come to feed in the shallows, while the chic beachside bar blends seamlessly with the white sands and the tropical waters. The combination of natural beauty and easy glamour is evident all over this island – in the fabulous cocktails, the six gourmet restaurants, the subsurface spa and of course in a location that offers easy charter yacht access to lots of nearby islets.

A short trip west toward the famous fishing and diving destination of the Ari Atoll, the compact Rasdhoo Atoll is a lovely example of its type. It comprises a near perfect ring of coral with Rasdhoo Island at its entry point and a pair of alternative resorts for visitors to consider in the form of Kuramathi and Veligandu. It’s a popular daytrip destination from the neighbouring resorts and it’s also a great place to go diving with hammerheads.

 

The Baa Atoll is the only UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in whole of the Maldives – and Landaa Giraavaru, with its famous Four Seasons Resort, is one of its most glittering highlights. With the Atoll’s vast natural lagoon right on your doorstep and more than 40 acres of tropical island wilderness at your disposal, you can swim with rays and whale sharks, dine at one of three restaurants or head for the dedicated island spa.

Genteel but informal Kanuhura Island in the northwestern part of the Lhaviyani Atoll is a place where classical villas perch on stilts above the water’s surface. The obligatory spa is joined by five upmarket restaurants, a useful watersports scene and even a nightclub. Anchor off this lovely island and head ashore for a gourmet dining experience in spectacular surroundings. With some gorgeous uninhabited islets within easy reach, this highly regarded resort makes a worthy yacht charter detour.

Unlike most Maldive islands, Kaashidhoo is perched out on its own in an expanse of oceanic terrain. Located at the northern tip of the Malé Atoll, it is the fifth largest island in the Maldivian archipelago and as such, it is about much more than just tourism. Bananas, lemons and watermelons are grown here and the lagoon also provides shelter for boats en route to the northern islands. Come here for a more authentic Maldives experience, including Buddhist monuments from before the Islamic conversion.

Around 80% of the islands in the Maldives are uninhabited and while Dhiffushi (on the eastern edge of the North Malé Atoll) is not one of them, its tranquility is beyond doubt. Well-regarded Meerufenfushi Island with its resort, spa, restaurant and bar, is a very short hop north, but the slower, more relaxed island of Dhiffusi makes a fine charter refuge before a return to the happy mayhem of Malé.

Top Ten Maldives attractions

  1. Drop a line, find a deserted beach and enjoy a tropical sunset barbecue.
  2. Dive the drop-off zone of the Ari Atoll for astonishing sealife encounters.
  3. Visit the world’s first underwater nightclub at Niyama.
  4. Treat yourself to a subsurface spa treatment at five-star Huvafen Fushi.
  5. Sample some of the world’s very best big game fishing.
  6. Head to the Malé Fish Market and haggle over the latest catch.
  7. Head west and sample the trendy but opulent W Retreat & Spa.
  8. Dive the Maldive Victory, a sunken cargo ship off the Malé Atoll.
  9. Swim with dolphins, sharks, whales and turtles.
  10. Rest up at Bandos Resort before returning to the urban energy of Malé.

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