Blue sky meets green sea

Sunday, 1 March 2009 11:02

Paradise is waiting for you — so said the travel brochure. There was nothing to suggest it would be so as I glanced out of the aircraft window at the dark clouds unloading tons of water on the ocean below while wondering what would be in store during the three-day sojourn.

As the aircraft descended, one could detect through the haze the outlines of tiny islands. Welcome to Maldives, I muttered, my mood as dark as the weather. However, on touchdown, I was relieved that the rains had abated. The immigration and customs formalities barely took a few minutes and we soon headed out of the Male terminal building.

Although I had done some net reading on Maldives, it took a few minutes to appreciate the fact that the “taxi” we were to take was a vehicle without wheels. With the showers stopped and the light imp­roving, we got on board and donned life jackets for the 18-mile, 40-minute speedboat ride to the island resort of Biyadhoo. The trip was fast as the boat skimmed the waves, bucking like a fractious horse, but the experience was exhilarating, feeling the wind and spray in the face. A local told me to look out for dolphins that abound the region. Camera at the ready, I scanned the waters, but without luck. It was fun though to guess the island we were heading to as the boat, using the GPS navigation system zig-zagged through the cho­ppy waters to our eventual destination. The first sight of our home-to-be was unforgettable.

The island stood apart and looked very inviting despite the murky weather. I wondered whether there would be sunshine at all as the locals forecast a huge storm. As we clambered onto the jetty, we were greeted with huge welcoming smiles that at once reflected the famed hospitality of Maldives that I had read about. The short walk to the reception lounge through dense foliage was as refreshing as the complimentary tender coconut drink that we sipped while awaiting allotment of rooms. Our lodging was set well away from the reception area. The air-conditioned room was quite spacious and spotlessly clean. I walked out of the backdoor that led to a sit-out. About 20 paces on, I found myself on a rocky beach that was crawling with huge crabs.

The sea was rough and the waves furiously pounded the rocks, sending sprays high up in the air. I returned to the room and browsed the list of activities available for the guests. It included scuba diving, snorkelling, dolphin ride and island hopping, but fears came true when I was informed that all outdoor activities were cancelled for the day in view of the weather. I reconciled to lunch, siesta, walkabout, a couple of drinks, dinner and bed! I thought the holiday was well and truly cooked. No sunshine, no lolling on the beach, no swimming and certainly no diving. I prayed that the next two days would be better and so it turned out to be! The following morning dawned bright and sunny. The promised paradise was indeed at our doorstep. The birds chirped in the trees, a gentle wind swayed the palms and the weather reminded me of Chennai in winter months. Wasting no time, I headed out to the beach, taking along the towels that the resort had thoughtfully provided.

The sight was stunning and captivating. White sands, crystal clear waters, shallow almost half-a-mile out, coral reefs, an amazing collection of colourful schools of fish and a clear blue sky — and I had walked into a picture postcard. The Biyadhoo is dotted with beaches and coves attached to the rooms. I chose the one next to the bar (for obvious reasons!) as I could relax with my book with some great country music playing in the background. The setting was idyllic and romantic. I opted against scuba diving or snorkelling, preferring instead to wear my water goggles to scan the sands beneath the surface. It was an awesome experience to swim with the fish some of which were curious enough to eyeball me. The sheer variety of colour and the coral formations was breathtaking. I had to keep a sharp eye for the baby shark and maintain a safe distance. But if you are the non-adventurous kind, then it is safer to spend time ashore. The best part was that with limited rooms, the resort can never get crowded. A majority of the guests were from Britain and Europe with a sprinkling of Aussies. I envied the lot that had decided on extended stay of up to a week or in some cases, a fortnight.

We came across an Australian couple, both expert divers, with a small boy on their “nth” visit to Biyadhoo. We took the afternoon cruise to one of the neighbouring islands to get a feel of a local village that was as clean and neat as our resort rooms, we did not get much in terms of souvenirs. The following evening, our last, we opted for the dolphin ride that took us far out into the Indian Ocean. As the sun put on a spectacular show as it set, the dolphins frolicked around our boat, testing my reflexes with the camera. For me, this was the best part of the stay. The package included breakfast, lunch and dinner. To confess, I am no connoisseur of cuisine, and found the food delicious, but very much south Indian since the chef was from Tamil Nadu. The spread was plentiful, but strangely, we were not allowed to switch tables in the dining area as we were told to occupy the one we sat at on our first day. As for the bar, the drinks are charged in US dollars, but not 5-Star rates. The seating was quite comfortable if a bit cluttered. However, given the overall ambience, it will be sour grapes to complain.

It was with a heavy heart that I packed for the return home. The three days had whizzed by and it was back to the grind. In tune with my mood, the weather turned damp and gloomy as we once again took the speedboat back to the airport. The showers held off until we reached the terminal. As our aircraft climbed into the heavens, I took one last look at these beautiful coral islands with a promise that I shall return for a longer stay.

Anand Philar
expressbuzz.com

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