The Maldives is in so many ways an unusual and unique country. It consists of 1192 islands scattered over an area of 90 000 square kilometres. Despite this wide-ranging area, the total land surface of the country covers just less than 300 square kilometres. It is the lowest-lying country on earth, with an average height above sea level of just 1.5m and the country’s highest point is a mere 2.5m above sea level. The population of Maldives is less than 400 000 people making it the least populated country in Asia. The nearest landmass to the Archipelago is Sri Lanka, about 750kms away.
We were lucky enough to be invited to stay at the spectacular Como Maalifushi resort, on Thaa atoll, one of the southern atolls of the Maldives. The final leg of our journey involved a scenic one hour flight by sea plane from the main Island of Male’, which took us over a deep blue sea, speckled with numerous beautiful and remote coral atolls. It was an amazing experience taking off and landing on the water.
Upon our arrival at the resort, it was immediately apparent that this place was something special. We were welcomed at the jetty by the resort management, bearing chopped open coconuts with straws in to refresh us with ice-cold coconut water. The water villas, those iconic Maldivian structures, which are built on stilts above the calm clear waters of the ocean, turned out to be just as spectacular as they look in promotional pictures. With air-conditioning, a well-stocked minibar, a private infinity pool and steps down to the water’s edge, each villa is its own private piece of paradise.
Meals at Como Maalifushi are exceptional, with specialist chefs preparing amazing dishes of various cuisines. Some of the highlights were sushi, prepared by a Japanese chef at the Japanese restaurant on stilts above the water, with sharks and fish swimming around below us, which we could admire through a big square cut out in the floor. The seafood evening, with grilled lobster and langoustines, was also amazing, but my favourite was the Thai evening, where I got to eat arguably the tastiest food of my life.
The resort offers a variety of activities, from scuba diving and snorkelling to fishing, paddling kayaks and sailing Hobie cats. The water is as clear as water can get, making any snorkelling or diving an absolutely breathtaking experience, especially as there is such an abundance of tropical ocean life such as turtles, rays, fish and corals to be enjoyed, even by beginners in the shallows. One of the underwater highlights was spending 40 minutes snorkelling up close and personal with two whale sharks at night in the lights of a fishing boat. It was like watching the most incredible underwater ballet, performed by these giant fish.
Fishing involved being poled across the flats by a guide on a skiff, targeting flats specialist species such as trevallies and triggerfish. We also cast lures from the deep towards the reef edges for GT’s, barracuda and snappers. I was very fortunate to get a day fishing on the resort’s 68ft Hatteras Sport Fisher, a luxury motorised yacht with every mod con that you can imagine. This produced a stunning sailfish, which I was able to hold in the water for a few minutes, before letting it slip away to continue with its life in the blue.
All too soon we found ourselves embarking on the sea plane again for our return trip, with cameras full of amazing pictures and minds filled with incredible memories. Como Maalifushi is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. With friendly, attentive staff, spectacular scenery and a luxury resort, where nothing is left to chance, it is definitely up there in my top three places to visit.