Mark Twain certainly knew beauty when he saw it. And during one of his frequent trips to the place I had called home for over a decade he keenly felt the tug of its beauty and character returning to Bermuda time and time again, and calling it “that happy little paradise.” As I actually lived on an island full time I never felt compelled to visit one on vacation.
And now I know what I have been missing.
Our next stop on our round the world journey brought us south-southwest of India, in the Indian Ocean to the Maldives. As we flew over this gorgeous chain of islands to our hotel on COMO Coco Island the view was jaw dropping. Only about 200 islands out of 1200 are inhabited or have hotels on them.
That’s it. One island. One hotel. One restaurant. One divine experience.
Those wonderful pictures you’ve seen in travel magazines with bungalows suspended over turquoise water are not just fantasy. It just feels like one when you are there. Forget your shoes as the pathways are all comprised of sand which feels like white flour or stone which is worn and smooth. Wear something that flutters in the wind. And just feel the “Whoosh” of your normal life, as wonderful though it might be, scamper to the recesses of your mind.
Upon our arrival, complete with a welcoming party of three and cups filled with the sweetest of teas, we are instructed to set our clocks ahead by another hour. Time is silky in Paradise which has its own rules and agenda. So the Maldivians have decided to tack on an extra hour to the end of each day.
“That way our guests have more light to enjoy themselves,” our German manager happily explains.
Although our visit to the Maldives has been a highpoint of this trip, some world maps don’t even show it. This group of 26 atolls and 1200 islands actually make it the lowest country on earth rising only to a maximum of no more than 5 feet above sea level.
As mosquitos and malaria were not a concern in the Maldives and because, by nature, I am a worrier, thoughts of a tsunami passed briefly through my mind until I was assured that we were so low that the giant wave would just shudder by with no impact at all. Quora did remind me though that, “In the Maldives, 88 people were killed and 24 reported missing and presumed dead after it was hit by a devastating tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake on 26 December 2004. Two-thirds of the capital city of Malé was flooded during the first hours of the day.”
According to printed reports, “The Maldives were not hit by destructive waves like the ones that struck Indonesia and Thailand. Rather the tsunami waves were like rising surges of water that swamped the islands. Islanders said there were no waves. Rather it felt like the islands were sinking. It took about five minutes for the water to surge and retreat.” (http://factsanddetails.com).
You cannot always predict natural disasters like that one, but as I started to do some research I learned there might be a greater risk of tsunami in Sri Lanka, the next stop on our trip.
Before we left on our RTW trip I had asked our doctor what she had thought of the Maldives as she and her husband had visited there once.
“We loved it,” she said.
I asked her what there was to do.
“We were on honeymoon,” she responded with a smile.
We had inserted the Maldives into our itinerary as an opportunity to decompress between time zones. It was the perfect tonic for jet lag. And we visited there during what was supposed to be the best time of year. February, when day time temperatures hover around 84 degrees and the ocean is as warm as bath water. The hotel is designed over clear lagoons so that you can open up your French doors and just slip into the sea. Normally the ocean is calm and looks like one sheet of green glass. Strangely, we had high winds during our stay which made the sea stormy and navigating the steps down into the water a bit daunting. Nonetheless as we were both suffering from colds it was the most relaxing and beautiful place on earth to recover.
“I love the Maldives,” said my husband. “But I don’t think I could spend more than a week there.”
“Right,” I thought, “but what a week.”
Next Stop: Sri Lanka