There are some destinations that exceed all of the hype. One of them is the Maldives, a place that goes above and beyond all of your expectations.
The 1,102 coral islands that comprise this archipelago in the Indian ocean have it all—from overwater bungalows perched above sparkling cerulean waters and pristine white beaches with sand as fine as sugar, to some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving on the planet, to world class luxury hotels with exquisite cuisine.
These are just 7 of the reasons why a Maldives vacation should top your bucket list this year.
1. A Swim with the Manta rays and whale sharks
This is one of the few locations in the world where you can swim with two of the rarest and most beautiful species in the ocean—the whale shark and the Manta ray. Whale sharks, the largest fish in the sea, call the Maldives home year-round. The strange and beautiful Mantas often come close to the reefs between May and November—visitors can often swim with as many as 100 at a time.
It’s easy to seek out both species with a Down Under dive or snorkel experience with the skilled guides at W Maldives located on the stunning Fesdu Island in the North Ari Atoll, where visibility can stretch for 40 meters on a calm day. If you’re traveling with a family, the Full Moon Resort Scuba Diving Center offers spectacular journeys beneath the surface for all levels of diving expertise.
2. Some of the best food in the world
Indulge in a true ocean-to-table experience with fish caught daily by locals and prepared with mouth-watering Maldivian spices that fuse tastes from Sri Lanka, India and Africa. The experienced chefs at the aptly named Whale Bar (overlooking Vommuli Island’s immaculate coral reef) prepare a perfect garlic-marinated king prawn dusted with smoked paprika, and a salted cod with capsicum confit and roasted aubergine.
3. The nicest people you'll ever meet
The warmth and hospitality of local Maldivians makes visiting the islands a joy. Many residents have never left their small atoll and they delight in sharing their stories and culture with visitors—be ready to experience the friendliness!
4. Beautiful beaches
It's no exaggeration to say that setting foot on a Maldivian beach can feel as though you’re the first person to walk there. The sand is that pure, soft and white, a stark contrast to the turquoise sea that seems to stretch to the ends of the earth. And there’s plenty of coastline to go around: you could spend an entire day on Vommuli Island’s private beaches without ever seeing another tourist.
The beach looks even better from the water while viewed from a standup paddleboard or glass-bottomed kayak. The sand bars off Fesdu Island stretch like long fingers into the sea, allowing you lay right in the warm, shallow waters for hours.
For true seclusion in a tropical playground, you can book a trip to the private island of Gaathafushi, a truly untouched island paradise.
5. A tour of the eclectic capital city
The densely populated capital city of Malé is a must-see. Take a few hours to rent a scooter and drive the circumference of the island, making sure to stop in the bustling fish market, the local market and the somber tsunami monument.
6. Incredible fishing
Some of the top fishing in the Indian Ocean is right off the coastlines of the Maldivian islands. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely trip or you’re a serious sportsman, you could hook some barracuda, tuna, bonefish or snapper. The concierge at the W Maldives can help arrange both line fishing and big game fishing for all experience levels.
7. This could be your last chance
The Maldives is the lowest laying country on the planet, which puts it in a precarious position when it comes to rising sea levels. Some climate change experts predict these beautiful islands could eventually be swallowed into the sea.