I don't think I've ever been in the water without getting out for as long as I have each day this past week. I'm talking hours without wading into the beach to get a towel. I'm now of the belief system that the Indian Ocean cannot be beat. I worship at the altar of its 85 degree, "clearer than a nun's conscience" waters (that last bit was an actual quote from an actual Maldivian man...thank you for the soundbite, Pradeep). I know absolutely everyone who's ever been anywhere tropical has said that the warm, clear waters are incredible, so I'm fearing you tuned that last bit out, but, believe me, if had a megaphone I would announce (with increasing volume and proximity to your ear): THIS WATER IS THE CLEAREST. WARMEST. WATER. EVER. It is as clear as Vin Diesel is bald. It is the kind of water you can imagine an eighteenth century jester wading into with a rolled up papyrus to formally decree as the quintessence of water. To quote Derek Zoolander: it is the essence of moisture.
When Porter and I flew in, we were pretty beat. We'd just taken our second red eye in three days, weren't really well acclimated to the time zone just yet, and had a bit of a stressful airport experience. I'll paint a quick picture: 1:30 am flight, but required to check out of the hotel room at noon, and awake since 4:00 am the night before because #jetlag. Now imagine arriving at your gate to realize you've accidentally booked your flight ticket under your maiden name instead of your married one, and that the boarding pass now appears, in print, to be a different person than who you are to a certain, scrooge-like Indian man. He is somehow the only one who's picked up on it and is standing between you and the boarding tunnel at your gate literally holding the fate of your next 24 hours in his hands... Fortunately, we were able to convince him I was, indeed, the same person, but we couldn't sleep once we got on the plane because it kind of got the adrenalin pumping.
Needless to say, when we landed in the Maldives, we were cooked. Porter basically fell into bed at Kandolhu and slept in perfect belly-flop form. I fell asleep on a towel in the sand, mouth open, likely displaying those deep-sleep twitches that would certainly creep out other guests. Fortunately, a few hours later, we surfaced. When we did, it felt the way it feels when you're a kid, sitting in an auditorium in the summer and the person next to you has one of those handheld spray fans and sprays you with it. Everything was right in the world again.
I'm so excited to be sharing different elements of the Maldives we've loved in different posts this week. Sometimes, when we travel to new places and we're there long enough to blog multiple times, I feel as though I'm running out of topics to cover, but there is just so much in this place in tune with our mission as ethical lifestyle bloggers and reflective of the intense need to preserve our planet. I'll be getting into that a lot more later on this week, though, so this post will serve as more of an overview of what's so different about the Maldives, and why it indisputably lives up to the hype.
First off, at risk of sounding like a jerk, Porter and I aren't super easy to impress. We've travelled enough at this point that we know to look out for hyperbolic statements and take them with a grain of salt. So, while we were undeniably very very excited to set foot in this thousands-of-islands country, we were trying to subdue that excitement with a dose of skepticism. We decided it was safe to assume it would be about 20% better than the tiniest of islands we'd seen in the Caribbean. If we'd bet everything on that, we would now be very poor. The Maldives are easily (in our opinions) a solid 75-85% better than any islands we've ever seen.
Let's talk about why.
#1 The Sea Life.
The Caribbean undeniably has an amazing array of sea creatures, turtles, sharks, coral, you name it. The difference in the Maldives is that you don't have to go anywhere to see it. Manta rays swim up and down the coastline, visible from the beach, as do baby sharks and schools of little fish so large that Porter kept referring to them as "state schools". There are also fruit bats everywhere, which I know aren't sea creatures but somehow in this setting are cute and kind of majestic flying from palm to palm.
#2 The Water.
As previously mentioned it is very very warm and the visibility is about the length of a football field. People literally sit in the water here and have conversations for over an hour, versus staying in their chairs on land. It's pretty cool to see everything you'd typically see on the beach, transported into the water, from games of frisbee to magazine reading to falling asleep in the shallows.
#3 The Heat.
That very slightly cooler breeze that runs through the Caribbean after sunset just doesn't seem to happen here. I personally love this because I never like bringing a sweater to dinner and it's just awesome that it stays about 80 degrees and super humid sun or stars. Even if it's raining, you still want to swim.
#4 The Food Culture.
This is obviously hugely based on preference on my part but having, the fusion of southeast Asian cuisine and Maldivian or Indian cuisines has been amazing. Everything is so incredibly light and local and the flavors in this part of the world are such a stark contrast from what you'd experience in Europe. They take every ingredient back to its core and somehow bring out the best in every single one without making a meal heavy. The smells alone add this healthfulness to your experience of the islands that I love.
Obviously, it helps when you're staying somewhere absolutely beautiful, but small enough to keep your focus on the organic setting around you; somewhere where the staff have that warm feeling that, as Michael Scott would say, "reminds you of a lady baker". Somewhere with impeccable service, and sushi, barefoot guests and soft acoustic music played over dinner. This was Kandolhu, the very first hotel we've collaborated with that I've looked at Porter on our final day (and about a half a dozen times before that) and said we absolutely 100% have to come back here. The strange thing is, I feel like in some alternate dimension we already have gone back, and it's becomes our future family's home away from home, the way a lot of families choose one location to return to year after year. It has that kind of stillness and warmth and strange familiarity, like some part of you has already been there before and is instantly grateful to have found its way back.
The Maldives in and of themselves are awe-inspiring, but I'm of the belief that the more stunning the place, the more carefully you need to choose where you're going to stay. Figure out what you love about a setting then find a place that will augment your experience of it to the most fulfilling degree. This isn't always possible, and I have to give the credit to Porter here because he's the one who found and fell in love with Kandolhu's site a few months ago, but that's how we felt there. Like we'd found the catalyst to experiencing the Maldives in its purest form. It's one of those places where, when you board the boat, you pop on your sunglasses look at your husband and say, "I'm not crying, you're crying."
*A very big thank you to Kandolhu for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts & opinions remain our own.