Maldives Honeymoon Mecca: A ‘His and Her’ Newlyweds Guide
You might remember our Freshly-married couple, Charli and Matt Glass from their fabulous Glastonbury Festival Wedding we featured a few months back. Well today the newlyweds have packed Bespoke Bride readers into their suitcase to discover what it’s really like to honeymoon in hand-holding hotspot, The Maldives.
Forget the cake and ring, one of the most knotty decisions is where in the enormous world to pick for the most important (and often most pricey) romantic getaway you’ll ever have – your honeymoon. It’s got a tough act to follow, after the wedding and needs to be the perfect jaunt to kick off married life in the most delicious and memorable way.
It also needs to appeal to both the bride and groom, because you don’t want to row about where you’ll be donning a bikini before you’ve even stepped down the aisle.
Gaggles of newlyweds have decided that The Maldives is it – Maldivian honeymoons have become as much of a wedding tradition as white dresses and drunken uncles singing Abba songs with ties around their noggins.
Here, our real-life honeymooners provide an intimate glimpse into why the island getaway has become such a rite of passage and how it fares from a male and female perspective.
THE BRIDE’S GUIDE:
I am grimly accepting the fact that a Bloody Mary is no longer an acceptable breakfast, I must wear shoes and clothes again and won’t find a dazed, melon-wedge grin on my chops whenever I look in the mirror.
No, I haven’t recovered from a breakdown, I am actually referring to my return from our epic, Maldivian honeymoon. Robinson Crusoe’s wildest, wet dreams couldn’t have imagined the intimate, five-star Maafushivaru resort which has made the reunion with our previous lives so desperately unsavoury.
The island is just over 500 metres long and can be walked in 10 minutes, across powdery sand and wooden jetties so hot, they are studded with giant vases of cold sea water and ladles to splash in front of your feet. Everything is sand-floored, from the bars to the restaurants, so you can be as feral and shoeless as Joss Stone.
We played it cool when the manager led us down our private jetty to the stunning, thatched Water Villa on stilts which was to be our home that week. But we chest-bumped each other and squealed like adolescent pigs when he shut the door behind him. The ceilings were built for Jack and his Beanstalk and we left the blinds up, so we could open our eyes each morning from our Four Poster bed and gaze out of the enormous windows at the luminous, turquoise ocean outside. Our private sundeck had steps down to the warm, emerald lagoon and marshmallow-soft loungers and sunbeds waiting for us at the top.
There’s a psychological theory called the Reminiscence Effect, which explains why time seems to fly faster the older you get. Your first, emotionally charged experiences – first kiss; first booze-up; first flight – are recorded in slow, vivid detail and the next time you encounter these feelings, they pass in a more routine and mundane blur, which gives the impression of time speeding up. And it’s a sad fact that there are few, exciting new experiences the older you get.
But I experienced one of these with deliciously slow, childlike delight at Maafushivaru. As we trotted along a jetty to dinner one night, the general manager pointed down at the sea froth beneath us, glowing with what looked like bright, blue fairy lights which were deposited on the sand in a neon line of glowing cobalt. My tiny mind had been blown and sh*t had undoubtedly, got real.
I learned that this was plankton – I was vaguely aware of its work and understood it to be a mucky green blob at the bottom of the food chain and a cheeky sidekick for Spongebob Squarepants. I had no idea it could be so mind-blowingly beautiful. When plankton are disturbed, a chemical reaction causes them to glow even brighter, so I insisted upon walking back via the Dinoflagellates plankton EVERY night, to see our footsteps glowing in blue on the sand, like Michael Jackson in Billie Jean, while electric lights shone from the soles of our feet.
My mind was clearly ripe for blowing, because this happened a second time on one of our many, amazing sea safaris, snorkelling with sting, eagle and manta rays, dolphins and sea turtles with their babies. This time is was during an excursion to swim with the biggest fish there is – the Whale Shark, which can grow up to 12 meters and weigh more than 21 metric tonnes.
After a pleasant, boat saunter between islands, the guide cut the motor and ordered us to jump into the sea – he’d found a whale shark. Cue a boat of tourists frantically ramming snorkels over heads and waddling like demented ducks in flippers to leap into the ocean. Once I’d caught by breath, I thrust my head beneath the waves and was alarmed and thrilled in equal measure, to see an enormous whale shark, seemingly occupying the entire sea bed beneath me and decorated with a checkerboard of vibrant yellow spots and stripes.
My husband – I still feel like an arse, calling him that – swam in front of one and as the bubbles settled, looked back and saw the gargantuan creature swimming through the dark, blue mist towards him. He lifted his sad, little Kodak to get a picture and discovered that he’d wasted the last shot on a sh*tty old fish.
Another underwater marvel took place during a sea turtle safari, when I noticed the other snorkelers were no longer looking down. I glanced around to see what the fuss was about and was greeted with a kaleidoscope wall of Clown Fish, filling the ocean as far as I could see. Inexplicably, the wallpaper of Nemos was broken in a perfect line by another, thick army of never-ending Oriental Sweetlips, which are straight out of Austin Powers‘s fish tank, with zebra stripes and bright yellow fins covered in Lava Lamp blobs of black.
The 135° East restaurant was extraordinary – a contemporary Teppanyaki and Sushi restaurant on its own sunset pavilion over the lagoon, with a chef who uses dark arts, smoke and mirrors to turn your food into butterflies and flowers as he prepares it in front of you; juggles and flicks eggs into your mouths as you sit around the counter and triumphantly emerges from the flames of his grill with a never-ending succession of imaginative dishes.
Possibly my favourite meal of the entire honeymoon – and I impressively off-set months of wedding dress starvation during the trip – was at The Deck, on a secluded jetty above the ocean, lit by flickering torches beneath a rather apt, Full Moon. My napkin had been folded into a woman’s dress and accessorised with real flowers and my husband’s was folded to resemble a man’s shirt. We were treated to a dazzling, five-course menu which included beef tenderloin cooked in a secret sauce which no amount of drinks could help us prise from the Chef, as well as a whole-baked Snapper fish in a life-changingly delicious, Thai concoction.
We even met the village chief – or Katheeb – in charge of the islands, who let me have a puff on the hookah pipe that one wife was loading, while the other lovingly fanned him – I fear this may have given my chap unrealistic expectations of married life, which I have subsequently nipped in the bud. The chief was at Maafushivaru’s Maldivian Night, where we were also introduced to Maldivians displaying native skills like coir rope and curry paste making, constructing toys from palm leaves and teaching us to write our names in their language. Later, we were treated to a troupe of drummers and traditional dancers and singers, known as ‘boduberu’ in Dhivehi.
My entertainment highlight was undoubtedly seeing my husband attempting to squeeze into pants, made for a five-year-old girl from 10 Denier tights, for our couple’s massage at the thatched spa on the beach. He lay on his front to conceal his Nylon shame and halfway through the back-kneading, his therapist said: “Please turn over now, sir.” I snorted back giggles as I heard him hesitantly reply: “What… REALLY?!”
I’m not sure whether it’s advisable to start married life by laughing at your husband’s manhood, but it’s worked for us. And I wish I was still there now, cackling at his hosiery shame in paradise.
THE GROOM’S GUIDE:
Maafushivaru is tiny – just 500 metres long – and I immediately made it my mission to walk the entire thing over the course of a week. I didn’t make it because the bar is in the middle, but it’s important to have goals.
We were quickly shown to our accommodation along a wooden walkway especially designed to tell the soles of your feet how hot the sun is. After three stops to take advantage of huge pots of water (designed to tell the soles of your feet that everything will be OK), we reached our water villa, which sits on stilts over the Indian Ocean.
Having grown up in England, I’m perfectly at home with waking up to the sight of water outside my window, but this was an altogether different proposition – the turquoise sea laps against the bottom of our private steps and we’re reliably informed that we have the perfect view from our private terrace of the sun rising over the ocean every morning. It rises at 5am, so I make a mental note to have a look for pictures of that on the internet.
I can’t steal other people’s pictures and put them on my blog, so you should probably do a little Google search as well and we’ll all bask in its radiance together.
That was nice, wasn’t it? Now, where were we? The bar!
A ten page cocktail menu at an All-Inclusive resort is something of a challenge to a Brit abroad, but I start at the top and work my way through as efficiently as possible (it’s important to have goals, remember), pausing only to reapply suncream and subtly tip away anything involving sambucca.
But despite its size and immediate appearances, there’s so much to do on Maafushivaru that it becomes a daily battle to decide whether to prop up the bar and lounge around the beautiful infinity pool, or to head out on the daily excursions that leave from the wooden jetty each morning.
Our first foray into the huge list of dive trips was the ‘Snorkel Safari’, which as safaris go, had a disappointing number of elephants, lions and gazelle, but did offer up a mind-boggling number of marine life species with names that look like spelling mistakes.
After knocking about with Surgeonfish, Unicornfish, Steephead Parrotfish and Angelfish for a while (they’re the ones I can spell), we headed for the coral cliff – where the shallows give way to deeper, darker waters, and watched as three Eagle Rays drifted by and turtles did their best to ignore us.
But it was during another trip that the Maldives’ incredible marine life really took my breath away (which is unfortunate, when you’re snorkeling).
The boat chugged to a stop and a stream of guests waddled towards the edge and tripped over their flippers into the water. I, being ever the gentleman, allowed them all off first and then jumped in as the boat floated slowly away from the group. I flushed out my goggles, dunked my head underwater and looked around to see a great big expanse of nothing. No people, no marine life, and no coral.
But just as I was beginning to piece together the thought of myself playing a starring role in Open Water 2, a shadow flickered across the seabed and, from behind a cloud of bubbles emerged first a shark’s head, and then a body… a body that kept on arriving until there was fourteen feet of it swimming straight at me.
It’s easy for you to point out, sitting at home with the benefit of Google, that Whale Sharks, the planet’s biggest species of fish, have eyes only for plankton and I am moderately larger than plankton, but as I scrambled to put a manly face on the situation while trying to retrieve my testicles, I can assure you that it looked like a man-eater and it had a mouth big enough to swallow me in one go. Yes, it was that big.
It did just enough to convince me that it wasn’t hungry (it didn’t eat me), so I spent the next ten minutes swimming alongside the majestic beast as it curiously eyed me and occasionally waited for me to catch him up. I think by the time I left the water, we’d both made a connection and I fully expect him to come and visit me in the Thames next summer.
He also appreciated the fact that I respected his privacy and didn’t take any photos of him as we swam together. I thought it best not to mention that I’d run out of pictures on my disposable camera.
After surviving a near-death experience with a man eating shark (as I explained it to my wife afterwards), the bar and spa were the two most obvious destinations to head for next. We’d booked in for a couples massage to unwind after a terrifyingly strenuous few days of sun and cocktails and were led into a room where a pleasant young lady handed me a pair of pants so small an anorexic dwarf would’ve struggled to pull them up. Years of playing Tetris in my youth meant I managed to tesselate all the correct parts into the correct, covered area, and all was going beautifully well until she uttered the dreaded words “you can turn over now”, and I nearly fell off the bed. Relaxation at its finest.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Maafushivaru is that you’ll need to stay for a month before you really feel like spending a day on the sundeck relaxing and catching rays isn’t a wasted day… but I’m more than willing to return for a month or so to let you know.
- Depart Manchester on Emirates, staying 7 nights on all inclusive basis at the 4.5-star Maafushivaru, Maldives in a water villa. The price for 16 & 23 June 2014 is from £2,499 per person, which includes a saving of up to £772 per couple. To book please quote tour ref: IO0626
Well I think Charli and Matt have successfully sold the Maldives to us all. Their guide couldn’t have come at a better time as we found out yesterday that we had gone a won the #scentsofadventure competition hosted by Kuoni, which means we will be flying out to the Maldives this summer to spend 7 nights at the 5* Maafushivaru resort. We are so excited and honestly can’t thank Kuoni enough! If you missed the entry you can see it here. We would still love to know what you think the signature scent of the Maldives would be.
In the meantime I would like to say a huge thank you to Charli and Matt for their guide, they look like they had the most amazing time don’t they?
Much Bespoke Love