The Maldives is one of only a few destinations in the world that I’ve found that truly lives up to its reputation. It is an atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean made up of hundreds of small islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, on which I’m sure every ‘stranded on a desert island’ poster, film, or postcard was based. The Maldives are usually reserved as a luxury or once-in-a-lifetime trip to celebrate something special. Kenny and I had just celebrated our wedding in Washington DC a couple of weeks before, so our special occasion was our honeymoon.
We travelled with Emirates Airlines from London, with a brief stopover in Dubai. Emirates had just introduced the brand new A380s to their fleet and the comfortable double decker aircraft made the long journey much more bearable. But even if we’d been on a smaller aircraft, the trip absolutely would have been worth it.
On arrival at the airport in the capital of Male, we transferred to a small sea plane that delivered us to Huvahendhoo Island in the Southern Ari Atoll.
We had researched various hotels on many islands but decided on Huvahendhoo as Lily Beach Resort was one of the only hotels that offered an all-inclusive package. As most of the islands are so remote and isolated, the hotels tend to gouge their customers, though the cost is probably justified since stocking these tiny enterprises must be expensive. For us, going to an all-inclusive resort allowed us to relax and not have to balk at menu prices or worry about penny pinching in paradise. Though the upfront price was higher, the peace of mind of knowing everything was paid for was worth it (and I dare say we gave them a run for their money when it came to the open bars…). The view as the sea plane approached the isolated island instantly confirmed that we’d made the right choice.
The resort is on its own island. It boasts various bars and restaurants as well as a water sports outlet, spa, and beach amenities such as hammocks and an infinity pool. The island’s accommodations consist of individual beachfront villas, as well as a string of sea villas that stretch out along a jetty over the shallow oceans of the reef.
We’d decided on a trip to the Maldives not just for our honeymoon, but also to take full advantage of the incredible coral reefs the islands have to offer. We’d taken our PADI scuba diving certifications in Egypt with the intention of getting a few dives under our belts, so we’d be more comfortable and experienced in open water. Lily Beach has its own dive shop onsite that sends two trips out every day to the nearby reefs, most of which are to unbelievable reefs off completely uninhabited islands.
Our dive team was amazing and perfectly balanced our safety with our wish to be left to explore the reefs on our own instead of constantly having to be led by divemaster. This also allowed the non-divers to have more attention as they snorkelled on the surface. On the way back from one of our dives one afternoon, the boat’s crew insisted we don snorkelling gear. We did as we were told and, when some indistinguishable chatter came over the boat’s radio, they immediately stopped the boat and told us to jump into the open water. We foolishly dived head first and, when the bubbles from the splash cleared, we were face to face with an enormous whale shark! It was about 18 feet long and easily could have swallowed us whole. Luckily, whale sharks are docile, and feed primarily on plankton.
Our hearts were in our throats as we swam next to such an enormous creature. We have been diving many times since, but that remains one of our most memorable experiences.
The beach surrounding the resort was kept immaculate during the day by both the staff and the guests. This really stood out to me because at so many resorts around the world tourists often don’t care about their surroundings when they’re on vacation. They stub cigarettes out on the street at Disney World or leave beer cans or plates of fries and ketchup on the beach until birds divebomb unsuspecting sunbathers. But Lily Beach was pristine and every person on the island took care to keep it that way.
And if the laying around of the beach wasn’t relaxing enough there was also a spa set over the water. We enjoyed a couples massage with the standard tables, but with glass floors us so we could watch the fish below.
The evenings are chilled and, with such an expansive seascape, it was impossible not to relax. Every evening we were treated to picture perfect sunsets.
Each night there was live music in at least one of the restaurants, but it wasn’t the overpowering music that echoes with banging bass around typical resorts. It was traditional and suited the night of dining on the beach, where tables were set up on the sand. This was decedent enough, but when you add the view of the shallows being lit up with bioluminescent phytoplankton that looked like fairy lights had been sunk in the surf, it made for an incomparable dining experience.
Many of the islands in the area offer night time fishing trips. Though night fishing wasn’t something we planned on, it was included in our package. So we spent the trip laying on the roof of the boat as it bobbed gently over the placid seas as it made its way to the fishing grounds. Being in the middle of the Indian Ocean with no lights was a little eerie at first, but we had a breath-taking view of the night sky and more stars than we had ever seen before, or since.
As a honeymoon destination, you simply can’t go wrong with or do better than the Maldives. It is, however, worth checking out the best times of year to visit as the weather can be hit or miss. This is also true of the scuba diving, as the visibility in the shallows won’t be particularly good in rough weather. And if you want to experience a little more of the true culture of the Maldives, you can visit the capital of Male. It’s an interesting place to visit if you haven’t travelled to that part of the world before. Much like many of the seaside areas of India, you’ll find a typical market scene with fish markets, stalls, and the odd supermarket should you need to stock up.
The Maldives, and Lily Beach in particular, were sheer perfection for a honeymoon. But the seclusion only enhanced the experience and we couldn’t be happier that we chose to celebrate our marriage there. We hope to return for a banner year anniversary someday, but until then we have nothing but the fondest memories of incomparable natural beauty and relaxation.
Do you have advice or a recommendation for this destination? Please feel free to post the details in the comments section below!