Proof why the Maldives is not just for couples

Don’t buy into the stereotype, the archipelago is so much more than a honeymoon vacation spot. Visit before it's gone forever.

Meryl D'Souza October 28, 2016

We wouldn’t recommend going snorkelling all alone in the Indian Ocean. And yet, that’s exactly what we did on our first afternoon at the JA Manafaru in the Maldives.

It started out wonderfully: walking through the pristine white sands before swimming over the reef with a variety of inquisitive fish checking us out, including a Roundhead Parrotfish about 70cms in length.

It’s easy to lose track of how far you’re going when you’re excited. We were blissfully unaware of how deep we had submerged until we saw an Eagle Ray gliding just beneath us. It was only there for a couple of seconds – its evolutionary edge underwater meant we were no match to its speed – but long enough for us to contemplate the terrors of the deep blue sea. Suddenly we were reminded of the shark week special on Animal Planet.

As if it was sensing our state of panic, the sea became rough and less clear. The blue skies we started out with were greying and – in our head – a great white lurked nearby, watching our every move just waiting to strike. Nothing happened of course and by the time we made our way back to the beach, we concocted stories of how close the stingray was.

It’s not hard to see why people associate the Maldives with romance and honeymoons. It ticks all the boxes: Instagram-worthy locations, starry romantic nights and perfect beaches that make you want to live in your swim shorts even if you don’t have the beach body to go with it. But here’s what they don’t tell you: the Maldives can be an ideal adventure holiday destination. There’s kayaking, surfing, water aerobics. You can even strand yourself on a desert island thanks to JA Manafaru’s Cast Away experience.

The toughest part of your Maldives holiday will be the waiting. The anticipation of a 70-minute seaplane journey to-and-from the airport to the archipelago’s northernmost atoll, Haa Alif, builds the excitement. But there are many amusing things you could spot after you’re bored of seeing atolls from the seaplane. Like a pilot flying an aircraft barefoot or a member of the cabin crew hopping off the plane mid-air so that he’s ready to dock the seaplane at the floating platform.

On the island a series of pathways join the 84 rooms with the restaurants. The hotel has a fleet of golf buggies at your beck and call but we suggest you use the bikes that come with every room instead to explore the dense vegetation. Privacy is top priority at the hotel. It’s almost unnerving as the staff are like ninjas – they only want to be seen when you need them.

We happened to be on the island around the same time as the Saudi royal family was visiting, occupying the Royal Island Suite, naturally, our diving instructor told us. EDGAR settled in to an excellent over-water sunrise villa, but the (cheaper) beach bungalow with split levels was equally impressive.

The hotel has five restaurants and two bars with cracking views and a mean piña colada. The pick of the restaurants is The Cellar, located in the country’s only underground wine cellar with a table for 10. 

But amid the dreamy dinners and crystal clear water, trouble is afoot as the effects of global warming threaten to submerge the island nation. The International Panel on Climate Change expects the island of Maduvvari to erode completely within the next 20 years.

The country is attempting to go carbon neutral by 2020, but even so, the heads of state are looking at the possibility of purchasing land from India and Sri Lanka to relocate its populace. Perhaps you should book your tickets to see the Maldives now while you still can. 

EDGAR was a guest at JA Manafaru