A Deep Dive into the Maldives

Do you think you could fall in love with island life? Our very own Personal Travel Planner, Debby Hayley, certainly has. Paradise for her means the Maldives, and she’s been lucky enough to have 19 holidays there in the last 28 years! Debby shares her love affair with us.  

With a job like mine, I’ve had the opportunity to travel everywhere, but the Maldives really is my most favourite place in the world. To go there 19 times, we could have paid off our mortgage by now, but then we wouldn’t have the amazing memories we have, which is probably why my husband and I keep returning every couple of years. Nowadays, when the photo memories flash up on my phone, I can immediately feel the atmosphere of the islands. The draw for me is the simple beauty of the pure ocean and the pretty islands scattered throughout it. The Maldives never asks anything from you. You can just relax and enjoy the peace and tranquillity. 

We first went on holiday to the Maldives in 1995, and, as we flew in looking out of the plane window and seeing all the atolls, I can still remember how surprised I was that it looked exactly like in the travel brochure. With so many uninhabited islands, there really isn’t a prettier view. Back then, we landed in a teeny-weeny airport that had a thatched roof, but today the airport and runway have been extended.   
On our first trip, we stayed in a resort in North Male, and it was very Robinson Crusoe. Think coral-built shack huts with corrugated roofs, a rusty fridge that sang to us at night, and the shower, well - that was just a pipe! I wouldn’t dream of sending people to a place like that, but it certainly was an experience and back then, we were probably more about the destination than the accommodation.  

As a young boy, my husband always wanted to dive, and over the years he’s actually got to instructor level. On that first trip he stripped off his clothes and got into his snorkelling gear the moment we arrived; he was that excited.  

We returned to the same resort five years ago for our 30th wedding anniversary and the island now has better infrastructure. The huts have been completely renovated, yet it remains pretty. One of the waiters told us he hadn’t even been born when we had first visited! It’s been amazing to watch how this sparkling island nation has matured.  

We usually travel just the two of us, but we’ve also travelled to the Maldives with friends, and each time it’s been a different experience. When our son was nine and our daughter was 12 we took them to Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa, which was a really special experience for them and a lovely week.

Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa

  • Indulge in a tropical island paradise set among the warm clear waters of the Indian Ocean
  • Surrounded by a spectacular house reef.
  • Break up your day at a choice of restaurants and bars serving delicious dishes

Find out more about Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa
Of all my Maldivian experiences, my favourite would be the one time we arrived at Komandoo Island Resort & Spa, which is an amazing adults-only island resort. It’s extremely quiet - the only sound is the sea. The staff promptly checked us in and took us to our beach bungalow. It was a glorious day, the sun was really shining and, as we looked out across the sea, we saw baby sharks hunting in the shallows in the light blue water. It was an incredible scene to witness, and we both stood there with tears in our eyes, not speaking, aware of how lucky we are. 

Komandoo Island Resort & Spa, Maldives

  • The Maldives' leading adults-only resort
  • Private resort on The Island at Komandoo
  • Deep focus on luxury and wellbeing

Find out more about Komandoo Island Resort & Spa, Maldives
My ideal day in the Maldives has also become a routine. I always wake up very early, make myself a coffee and then go and sit out to watch the waves breaking and the sunrise. It’s a time where I can think my thoughts without disturbance - no phones ringing or someone talking, literally just me! Then we both head off for a very lazy breakfast. Because the Maldives is an Islamic nation you won’t find bacon or pork sausages but that’s more than compensated for with other dishes.  

If I feel like diving then we both go off to the boat with our gear, otherwise my husband goes and I enjoy a spa treatment. Or, we might both go and do some snorkelling around the island. You don’t need to be a diver to appreciate the Maldivian waters, snorkelling is enough. The atolls are cut out in channels, and you can see the sea descend into darkness, which is where the big fish are. You can hear your own breathing so clearly when you snorkel. It’s exciting, like being on a rollercoaster ride. This feeling stays with you forever. Then, all of a sudden, it’s lunchtime, which again is another lazy affair. 

In the afternoon we sunbathe or find somewhere under the shade and have a lovely doze. We tend to grab a sundowner from the bar as the sun sets, before going back to our beach bungalow to get ready for dinner. 
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I’ve had some of the most delicious, perfectly aromatic, and spiced curries in the Maldives, as many of the chefs are Sri Lankan and Indian. However, you're just as likely to find pasta, burgers, salads, and chicken on the menu, as well as an amazing selection of fresh fish, such as red snapper and tuna, and there are often BBQ evenings on the beach. Considering you’re on an island in the midst of a massive ocean, it’s impressive to see so much variety - the cooks do extremely well. I’ve never sat and not fancied anything!  

After dinner we sit in the bar and enjoy a nightcap. Most evenings there’s some sort of activity, perhaps a presentation from the dive centre, or the local people do a dance performance or sell their local handicrafts, or sometimes there’s even a small disco. You’ll never find the Maldives to be a rave place though, it’s generally very low-key. We then tend to have an early night before doing it all over again.  

I remember when we first went, I took so many pairs of shoes and pumps and never wore them. Most islands are just sand, even in the bar, so nowadays I go barefoot most of the time, and my feet always come back feeling exfoliated and smooth – it’s a weird feeling when you come home and walk on the carpet! Nowadays, I take one pair of sparkly flip flops for the evening and some basic flip flops for diving, as the boat can get very hot and burn your feet. (Be sure to take your sun cream and use it amply. The Maldives is right on the equator, so even when it doesn’t seem hot, protection is extremely important).
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I’ve been snorkelling and diving in other parts of the world and while the reefs are sometimes nicer, you never come across something surprising like you do in the Maldives because of these channels. You might suddenly have a shoal of eagle rays swimming under you, and we’ve even had the joy of swimming with wild dolphins a few times.  

One time, we were snorkelling and could hear the dolphins clicking but couldn’t see them then, suddenly, they were underneath us, jumping out of the water. It caused quite a stir with the people back on the beach. Everyone stood up from their sunbeds and watched us as the dolphins splashed and nosed around us for a whole 35 minutes. When we got back to the shore, we were treated like celebrities: ‘Were you the couple with the dolphins?’ I’ve also snorkelled with a whale shark, the largest in the ocean. It’s got great big eyes on the corner of its face, and when you come eye to eye, all you can think is I know what I’m thinking, what are you thinking? 
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When we renewed our vows on our 25th wedding anniversary at Komandoo Island Resort & Spa, we went to a dive site and saw the most amazing underwater worlds. There was a 25-metre white tip shark on the reef, with his mouth wide open in a vulnerable state as he let little sharks clean his teeth for him, like he was at the dentist. Then, a playful manta ray swam about us for an hour, which was unusual and special. She even caught the end of her fin on my face! 

Because the coral is so protected the diving and snorkelling are guided experiences so that guests don’t interfere with or touch the animals. They are always really well organised, and you can learn so much about the day-to-day of the tropical fish in the reef. These really are the most beautiful waters in the world. Due to their protected status, most islands only offer non-motorised watersports like kayaking and windsurfing, but there are a couple of islands on the outer reef now beginning to offer motorised watersports in the main ocean.  

Many people don’t realise that the reefs can be ruined. They are living creatures and if the sea warms by a few degrees, they get bleached and die. There are a few resorts like Ozen Life Maadhoo that allow you to participate in planting coral reefs into frames that are then placed in areas where they know they will flourish. 


With family rooms and a kids club this all-inclusive resort is great for families. The INDULGENCE™ package includes champagne breakfast, dine around, access to the wellness centre, and gym. An adventure excursion, a sunset fishing trip, unlimited snorkelling, and non-motorised water sports are also included. Plus you can dine at the underwater restaurant while the kids enjoy a programme of activities.

Find out more about OZEN LIFE Maadhoo
The Maldives is the ultimate place to switch off, redefine yourself, and learn how to forget about work, the shopping, the laundry, and even the children! In all my years of arranging holidays to the Maldives, I’ve never once had a guest come back and say that they were bored - in fact they are more likely to tell me they want to book again! 

In the Maldives, you're not going to a hotel on an island, you're going to an island that is the hotel! Many of the staff stay there for two to five months and work 12-hour shifts, so you usually get to see the same people every day, which means you receive exceptional and extremely personal service. They remember exactly how you want your omelette cooked or what and when you might like a drink, which if you were in Europe, you’d have to pay thousands of pounds for. These little touches are true luxury.  

One thing that you may not know about the Maldives is that the islands cannot be purchased so the hoteliers rent them, and there are rules that they have to upgrade them every few years. All the resorts are good for culture and nature lovers, but if you want to take a day trip to Male I'd suggest a resort in North Male. 

If you’re thinking about the Maldives for your honeymoon, I would suggest Komandoo Island Resort & Spa or LUX* South Ari Atoll Resort & Villas. If you’re planning to travel with children, choose one of the larger islands where there are bigger kids' clubs and the kids can run around freely, such as Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa, or Meeru Island Resort & Spa. Kuredu Island Resort & Spa is also great as it has a golf course.

Meeru Island Resort & Spa

  • Experience luxurious paradise on a secluded island escape
  • Friendly hospitality and tropical accommodation for a deluxe, comfortable stay
  • A range of fun water sports on offer, with something for the whole family

Find out more about Meeru Island Resort & Spa
If you’re seeking the best diving adventures, I’d recommend Veligandu Island Resort & Spa as it has an amazing dive site called Finger Point where you can get an adrenaline rush from swimming with large hammerhead sharks - you’ll need your wits about you!  

There’s always talk that the Maldives are going to disappear with rising sea levels, but we heard this back in 1995, and while sandbanks do change the shape of the islands, the islands themselves, so far, remain. My advice is just go - and kick off your shoes the moment you reach the jetty! 

Start planning your dream trip to the Maldives today, paradise is just a call away… 

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