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Paradise Exists

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By Lauren Glendenning

I once printed a picture of one of those over-water bungalows only found at resorts in the South Pacific or the Indian Ocean and pinned it to the wall in my office. It was a picture I could gaze at from time to time that could immediately take me to that perfect place, far away from the stresses in life or at work.

In May, that picture became a reality — and the lavish beauty I experienced while there trumped my wildest expectations.

My boyfriend, Ryan, and I booked flights to the Maldives, an Indian Ocean nation made up of 1,190 small coral islands, about 100 of which are resort islands.

When we arrived, we were stunned — not because it looks any different than it should or than we expected but because it’s so beautiful that we almost couldn’t believe it exists.

It’s surreal because it’s fabled and for good reason. This is a place where honeymooners go, where the rich and famous go on holiday, where couples fall in love with each other all over again.

The Maldives is made up of atolls, which are coral islands that encircle lagoons. The climate is warm, as the country is just north of the equator, and tropical. The hundreds of islands are no more than 6 feet above sea level, covering almost 56,000 square miles.

Traveling there from the United States isn’t easy — perhaps that’s why so many people looked at us puzzled when we told them we had just been there.

The Maldives? Where is that?

And the people who could likely point to it on a map would react in awe because we had gone there, as if Americans couldn’t ever possibly go to the Maldives and that our doing so had broken some unspoken law about where we’re allowed or expected to travel.

 

A world away

Flying from Denver to the Indian Ocean takes time, patience and maybe even a couple of sleeping aids (get a prescription from a travel doctor, or take advantage of free cocktails aboard international flights). It’s two hours to Los Angeles, where you can then board Emirates Airlines’ 16-hour nonstop to Dubai. After a layover in Dubai, which we chose to extend to four days (more on that experience in an upcoming article), then it’s just more than four hours to the Maldives capital of Male. All in all, that’s about 20 hours in the air, not including stops.

From there, depending on which island you’re heading to, you’ll need to board a seaplane and fly for anywhere from 10 minutes to more than an hour. To get to Kuramathi Island, where we stayed, the seaplane took just 15 minutes. From the seaplane, which is flown by barefoot pilots wearing shorts — an appropriate touch — you can see the beauty of the coral islands surrounded by turquoise waters so clear you can practically snorkel from the air.

The islands aren’t solely known for the beaches and water, though — there are also incredible lush landscapes, and this is especially true on Kuramathi Island.

When you arrive, the first thing you notice isn’t the pristine, white-sand beaches that are everywhere. It’s the tropical jungle that splatters an already gorgeous canvas with breathtaking trees, plants and flowers. You can get lost in this flourishing forest — the island feels like a botanical garden, one stocked with bats, hermit crabs, banyan trees and those over-water villas that I had been dreaming about for years.

Any American adventurous enough to take their beach vacation somewhere outside of our go-to destinations such as Mexico, Florida, Hawaii or Costa Rica can do it with just a little extra time and money. The reward is beyond worth it.

 

Ocean perfection

It’s hard to imagine staying in another type of room at Kuramathi, or any other Maldivian island, although beach and garden villas appeared lovely, as well.

I think it’s because we traveled all this way that we wanted to sleep on top of the ocean and enjoy every second of being there. At night, when the stars shine brighter than they do during the darkest nights in Vail, we could see the glimmer bounce off the sea and the sound of nothing more than a few small waves splashing beneath. There’s nothing like it.

You could sit out there for hours — and we did — listening to it. Just total peace, and if you’re lucky enough to catch it during or near a full moon, the light is just enough so that you can see where you are — in this picturesque paradise halfway around the world, where nothing, not even updating your Facebook status to brag to your friends about where you are, matters.

Kuramathi is an island with it all, too. Those looking for a pampered holiday can visit the spa — which sits on the beach so you can hear the sound of the ocean as you enjoy your spa treatments — or any one of the island’s restaurants (there are nine). You can relax on the beach while sipping on a cocktail from the resort’s extensive drink list, or you can choose ultimate privacy by sunbathing or snorkeling right at your villa.

Foodies will find this island more than adequate, too. Basic all-inclusive packages include three buffet meals per day, offering food that spans cuisine from Japan to Europe to Russia. The Sri Lankan and Maldivian food, however, was by far the most sensational.

For the more adventurous and active traveler, Kuramathi has a watersports shop where you can go windsurfing or stand-up paddleboarding. There are water kayaks available, too, and private fishing excursions.

Snorkeling trips, either with a group or private, offer trips out to nearby reefs — although the “house reef” surrounding the island is accessible by a short swim from the villas. It was the house reef where we saw some of the most colorful fish, as well as black tip reef sharks, sea turtles and stingrays.

The scuba experience is once in a lifetime, too. The Rasdhoo Atoll Divers, located on the island, offer everything from diving courses to certification to expert dives. They go out of their way to make you feel comfortable — Ryan’s first dive since getting certified at Beaver Divers was here, and the instructors were there for him every step of the way.

Regardless of what kind of traveler and vacationer you are, Kuramathi — and the Maldives in general — will blow your mind in terms of what’s possible in an island vacation.

Paradise has been found — it’s sitting right there in the Indian Ocean.

Editor’s Note: Lauren Glendenning is the Assistant Manager Editor of Vail Daily (Colorado, USA). This article was first published on Vail Daily and we thank Lauren for permission to republish.

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Join Ifuru Island Maldives’ exhilarating ice, bubbles challenge

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Are You Ready? The Ice & Bubbles Challenge awaits your arrival at Ifuru Island.

Are you ready for the ultimate chill thrill of indulgence and adventure? Then put on your explorer hat and jet off to Ifuru Island for the Ice & Bubbles Challenge! Imagine: you’ll be basking in the breathtaking Maldives scenery while putting your might to the test with a 6-minute polar plunge, clutching a flute of bubbly like a boss. Once you conquer the challenge, you’ll savour the delicious bubbly and feel like a true champion!

Picture yourself lounging poolside, surrounded by swaying palm trees, white sandy beaches, and crystal-clear waters, while also pushing your endurance to the limit. And as a badge of honour, guests are gifted with a trendy Ice Bath and Bubbles Challenge t-shirt to flaunt their fearless spirit. The current record for the Ice & Bubbles Challenge is a brave 22 minutes, and we’re daring you to beat it!

Cold-water immersion can speed up your muscle recovery, reduce inflammation, and give you a boost of energy. Plus, you’ll feel like a true hero after conquering the challenge and basking under the warm Maldivian sun.

So, what are you waiting for? Rally your friends and come join us on Ifuru Island Maldives for an unforgettable adventure that’s sure to create magical memories that will last a lifetime!

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Six Senses launches Mermaid Courses in Maldives

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Six Senses Laamu and Six Senses Kanuhura in the Maldives are making waves with the launch of an enchanting underwater experience – PADI Mermaid courses.

Now, guests aged six and above can embark on a magical journey guided by certified PADI scuba dive instructors. Aspiring mermaids and mermen will be equipped with a monofin, a type of swim fin that mimics the movements of dolphins, and colorful fabric tail, mirroring the hues of the ocean. Catering to various ages, interests, and skill levels, both resorts offer a range of courses from discovery to advanced. A professional photographer is available on request to capture personal fairytale-moments.

“We’re thrilled to introduce this fun new experience to our range of underwater offerings,” says Judith Scheibelberger, PADI trainer and resident mermaid expert at Six Senses Laamu, an IHG Hotels & Resorts property. “Our mermaid courses are not only a source of fun and excitement for kids but also invite adults to tap into their imagination and reconnect with their inner child. Beyond the entertainment aspect and capturing Instagram-worthy memories, participants will also gain valuable underwater skills and learn about the awe-inspiring secrets of the sea.”

Mermaid courses join a plethora of underwater experiences available to guests at both Maldivian Six Senses resorts, including snorkeling with turtles, vibrant coral reef explorations, and exhilarating diving adventures. The resorts boasts state-of-the-art dive centers that provide comprehensive services and expert guidance.

For young adventurers, both resorts also offer the PADI Seal Team programme, catering to junior divers aged eight and above. This program allows aspiring divers to explore the underwater world safely, through the five ‘AquaMissions,’ where participants can delve down to four meters, or the introductory PADI Bubblemaker experience, tailored for children aged eight to nine, allowing them to dive down to two meters.

“These experiences not only offer a glimpse into the mesmerising underwater world but also provide an opportunity for young divers to develop their confidence and diving skills while exploring the diversity of Maldivian reefs,” says Anne Hospital, Dive Manager of both resorts.

The brand’s Grow With Six Senses programme offers all of the dimensions of wellness, providing kids with opportunities to reconnect with nature and engage with their surroundings. Through immersive experiences in local culture, wellness, sustainability and social interactions, children spark their curiosity and gain valuable life skills. At the heart of this programme are the dedicated kid’s clubs known as ‘The Den’, which serve as hubs for exploration and discovery.

At Six Senses Laamu and Six Senses Kanuhura, one standout offering is the Mermaid course, which invites children on an underwater adventure amidst stunning turquoise panoramas. On land, the activities are equally diverse, ranging from enlightening garden tours to innovative waste-to-wealth workshops and interactive junior cooking classes. These experiences are designed to provide children with valuable life skills through hands-on play, ensuring a comprehensive and enriching journey for young guests at the resorts.

Prices for the PADI Mermaid Courses start from USD 150 for a 45-minute discovery session. For bookings and further information, please visit sixsenses.com or contact reservations-maldives@sixsenses.com.

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Encounter of majesty: Whale Shark sighting at Vilamendhoo Island Resort

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Measuring an impressive 6.5 meters, a majestic whale shark was recently spotted gliding gracefully through the enthralling house reef of Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa, just beyond the main jetty. This awe-inspiring sight captivated guests, who were fortunate enough to snorkel alongside this magnificent creature. As the whale shark meandered through the crystal-clear waters, guests paused their activities, enchanted by the rare opportunity to witness such a spectacular marine spectacle.

Whale sharks, the gentle giants of the ocean, are renowned for their majestic presence in the azure waters of South Ari Atoll where, Vilamendhoo is located. These magnificent creatures frequent the abundant house reefs of this tropical paradise, creating a mesmerizing spectacle for visitors. Alongside them, graceful manta rays glide effortlessly through the crystal-clear waters, while vibrant coral gardens teem with life beneath the surface. Each encounter with these marine wonders offers a glimpse into the rich biodiversity surrounding the island, captivating the hearts of all who venture into its depths, adding to the allure of this tropical paradise.

“The sighting of the whale shark has evoked an overwhelming wave of positivity among our guests, who have shared their sheer delight at the rare opportunity to encounter such a magnificent creature during their stay. For many, this unexpected marvel has transformed their holiday experience at Vilamendhoo into an unforgettable journey, solidifying our resort’s standing as a premier destination for ocean enthusiasts and nature lovers,” elucidated Mohamed Zahir, General Manager of Vilamendhoo.

Located on a pristine island measuring 900 meters long by 250 meters wide, Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa follows the cherished ‘One Island, One Resort’ concept for which the Maldives is renowned. Surrounded by a spectacular house reef teeming with marine life, guests are invited to explore the underwater wonders just a short swim away from the expansive sandy beaches.

Whether it’s diving into the depths of the ocean or snorkeling amidst vibrant coral gardens, Vilamendhoo offers the quintessential island adventure. The resort’s 184 rooms, each adorned in natural island style, provide the perfect sanctuary for relaxation after days filled with oceanic exploration.

To reach this tropical haven, guests embark on a scenic seaplane transfer from Velana International Airport, enjoying a breathtaking 25-minute flight over the mesmerizing atolls of the Maldives.

In conclusion, the sighting of a whale shark at Vilamendhoo serves as a testament to the unparalleled beauty and biodiversity of the Maldives’ marine environment. As travelers seek meaningful encounters with nature, Vilamendhoo stands ready to welcome them into a world where every moment is filled with wonder and awe.

Discover paradise at Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa in the Maldives. With its pristine beaches, azure waters, and luxurious accommodations, Vilamendhoo offers the perfect retreat for relaxation and oceanic exploration. Nestled in the South Ari Atoll, this resort follows the cherished ‘One Island, One Resort’ concept, providing guests with a true tropical escape. Experience the magic of the Maldives with a scenic 25-minute seaplane transfer from Velana International Airport, and indulge in 184 rooms adorned in natural island style.

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