Beautiful necklace of emerald gems lying on the blue velvet of the Indian Ocean is aptly called Maladiv, ‘garland of islands’ (in Sanskrit). The archipelago of 1,200 circular, oblong and crescent-shaped coral islands are scattered across the ocean. A quarter of these are either inhabited or house tourist resorts. Male International Airport is exclusive to Hulhule Island.
The Maldivian government guards its endangered treasure islands fiercely with policy guidelines. This has ensured that private resort operators like Soneva Fushi Resort and Spa have set global benchmarks on eco-friendliness. Only one resort exists on each island.
EhereeEtha, literally meaning ‘it is there’ in local Dhivehi language is the favourite phrase at Soneva Fushi (island). These words on directional signboards on the paths at Kunfunadhoo Island leads to reception, the nerve center of all activities at the island resort.
The unofficial dress code is shorts and a T-shirt with no footwear. Being barefoot is quite convenient to ride the bicycle, the only mode of transport on the island and to walk on pure white sand and into the clear turquoise waters of the sea.
Amphibian seaplanes connect most resort islands in the Baa atoll (group of Islands) to Male International Airport. Exciting journey on the small plane unfolds gem like islands in the ocean deep below. Seaplanes land on water near the island and a dhoani takes guests further to the jetty at Soneva Fushi. An exclusive back-to-nature experience with simple sophistication and sensitivity to appreciate basic things awaits at Soneva.
Luxuries here came with a natural, local feel in design, architecture and service. Each villa has its own stretch of beach. Dense vegetation of the patio separates neighboring villas. A by-lane to each room ensures privacy from trespassers.
Lying on the beach sofas staring at the ocean and its horizon becomes a favorite pastime. Swimming and snorkeling to observe beautiful coral formations in the shallow lagoons of the sea is a thrilling experience. Walking back into the open-air private bathroom at the villa and plunging into the bath (tub) at the backyard garden is a sheer luxury.
Small organic garden, heli-pad, another jetty and Soleni diving school can all be explored on foot or on a bicycle. Environment friendly measures at the island include usage of discarded sleepers from railway tracks in England for staircases in the villas and used and discarded telegraphic poles from Indonesia forming the pillars for the bar.
Magnificent palm-shrouded islands with their silver beaches and fascinating lagoons make Maldives a paradise for underwater diving, fishing and water-sports.
A private shallow lagoon enclosed by a coral reef surrounds Kunfunadhoo and makes for an ideal snorkeling, diving and water sports venue. Learners and novices get the help of professional instructors at the PADI diving school.
With no other engagements to distract, indulging in food becomes a favorite pastime. Choice of indoor seating on neatly cut logs or outdoor lunch service under a canopy of casuarinas trees extends the feel of the beachfront. Dinners turn exotic whether at the open air dining, at a seaside moonlit barbecue or at an intimate meal by lantern on a private beach served by traditionally dressed waiters.
Charm and sophistication in a delightfully understated way at Soneva Fushi makes for a lifetime memory.
Local people don’t live on the resort Island as a norm, thus guarding their privacy and traditions.
A cultural excursion to nearby village on Eydha Fushi, gives a peek into the local culture. It is self-contained village with a hospital, school and a mosque for its 2,500 people. Small stores sell imported utility items and clothes. Buildings painted in white look bright with reflection of the blue-green sea water. Some old houses are built of corals, usage of which is now banned. One can watch traditional experts’ build dhoanis by mixing local phune wood with some imported wood.
Intriguing small capital city of Male can’t be missed. Most of its 65,000 people are migratory workers from other islands. Fisheries and tourism form main occupations here. Contrary to resort islands, activities here are restricted to land as there are no beaches owing to its reclamation.
The main mosque, Presidents Palace, fish, fruit and vegetable markets are some interesting sights here. Business and shopping streets are all near the main jetty off Bouthakurufaanu Magu (street).
The peace and serenity, the anonymity, coral reefs and clear turquoise water of Maldives leave a lasting memory.