Have you ever been on holiday and just didn’t want to go home? Saying goodbye to Lily Beach Resort and Spa in the Maldives is that kind of trip.
Spread across about 1190 coral islands grouped in a chain of 27 atolls over 90 000 square kilometres, the Maldives stretches some 800km from north to south. It is the flattest country in the world with its highest point less than two-and-a-half metres above sea level and 99 percent of its surface area is covered by water. In its seas, you will find more than 2000 species of fish and around 200 diverse types of coral. And with an unofficial motto of ‘no shoes, no news’ and a year-round temperature range of between 28 and 32 degrees, no hyperbole would be enough to describe the Maldivian experience.
Resorts are all on private islands in this paradise, accessible only by seaplane or boat. Many of the hotels offer lounge facilities while you wait for your flight. The flight is a milk-run with passengers dropped off en-route at their various resorts. Taking off and landing on water is a weird sensation, but so very worth repeating on approach to Lily Beach, the second last stop.
Lily Beach Resort and Spa is on Huvahandoo Island and spreads across every inch of it and accommodation options include luxury beach villas, lagoon villas with water villas and sunset water villas constructed into the ocean as well as many family friendly options and variations. It has a kids’ club, diving instruction, snorkeling, motorized and non-motorized watersport, tennis, a fantastic list of available excursions, shops and a doctor.
After dinner, see the kitchen staff recycle seafood-kitchen waste (all the fish bits and bobs that humans don’t eat) by sharing it with the legion of ocean life just off the jetty. Large reef sharks compete with rays and fish too many to count or identify for an easy meal. It is breathtaking to see how animated nature really is and that under the surface life is busy and as on land, sometimes wickedly competitive.
Snorkeling is an absolute must and a set of equipment is yours for the entire duration of your stay. The reef is just a few metres in from the beach and swimming among you can be everything from rays, reef sharks, tiger fish and eagle fis. Take the snorkeling trip a little deeper into the ocean and the Coral Gardens are home to turtles, more rays, octopus, schools and schools of brightly coloured varieties of fish and others that swim in rapid motion, shiny, like a giant living mirror ball. It is spectacular.
Handline fishing is a true test of resolve, baiting wily fish for dinner. Here, at Lily Beach, a fishing trip teaches to drop the rod and challenge dinner with a simple hook, line and sinker. It’s not easy, and waiting for a bite over the hour or so of the excursion is made exciting as a few of the novice fishermen manage to catch something. Fish smaller than the legal size are returned to the sea while lucky anglers are served their prepared catch at dinner.
Every room is a holiday by itself. With the water-villas in the distance, the beach-villas are spacious, air conditioned and beyond the sliding door, you are quite literally on the beach. Two deck chairs make reading an un-put-downable novel within close range of the minibar (included) a pleasure while the ablutions are quite something else entirely. Open the bathroom door and the first thing you realise is that the roof is missing. Shower, do the numbers or take to a romantic session in the giant jet bath beneath the stars. It is luxury, not ostentatious, but exceptional.
Every day should start with a paddle in the sea. The infinity pool, flanked by a coffee shop and bar, serves up a great a-la carte lunch with cocktails at sunset and a quick dip to shed the heat. Chilling is hard work in the Maldives as skins brown and sleepy late afternoons invigorate and banish the cliched rat race everyone is escaping from.
It’s easy to write a million words on the Maldives and Lily Beach. It is a holiday less-ordinary and an escape to the exceptional. Take the trip and see for yourself, a homecoming that will undoubtedly see every visior gush about the experience. And starting to plan the next trip.