Remote Luxury in the Maldives
I remember trying to sleep that last night in Galle while containing my excitement for our trip to the Maldives. At one point Sid and I just grabbed and shook one another in bed grippingly while blurting out, "We're going to the Maldives tomorrow!" This part of the trip had been my idea—an added private island luxury jaunt situated in a remote section of a tropical island nation—and to Sid's credit, she was game to tack this on to her original Sri Lanka proposal and embrace her inner indulgences.
Getting to the Hyatt Hadahaa is a journey in itself and likely adds to its allure, but the hotel staff will capably arrange all necessary travel. After arriving at the Malé International Airport, you'll be greeted by a hotel agent and wait at an airport lounge while they check-in and retrieve your boarding passes for you. We weren't sure if the ushering to the lounge was more for our benefit, or for the locals; our arriving attire may not have been suitable for public appearances in a devout Muslim country. After a short domestic flight to a smaller regional airport, you'll take a speedboat on the final leg to this remote atoll.
We finally arrived shortly after midnight on one of the island's two docks. The hotel staff greeted us in a golf cart and whisked us away to our room. The hotel only has 50 villas scattered throughout the island, including 14 over water villas that line a jetty. Each sleek and contemporary villa is designed for comfort, luxury, and privacy, complete with direct access to the beach or house reef and you can request a complimentary set of snorkel, mask, and fins to assist in your underwater explorations. Moreover, the Maldives are a world-class diving destination and the hotel is known for an incredibly healthy and untouched reef that circles the entire island, where you can find a variety of brightly colored reef fish such as angelfish and parrotfish, turtles, magnificent corals, grey reef sharks, and giants clams. We emailed ahead and hinted that this was our honeymoon in hopes of an upgrade to a Park Water Villa, but alas, the resort was at full capacity during our stay.
Each morning we ambled along footpaths through the island's tropical greenery toward the northwest section of the island, where the hotel's two restaurants, 5-star PADI dive center, and freshwater pools were located. Breakfast is included and we made sure to take advantage of an extensive and extravagant a la carte menu. My first two mornings were spent completing my PADI Open Water Diver referral certification in the house reef, while Sid had a quick orientation dive and then opted to lounge, read, and attempt to tan. Needless to say, we quickly found ourselves purchasing aloe vera and other remedies at the Hadahaa's beach boutique.
My first boat dive was a thrilling disaster. Sid and I were joined by two other couples, a silent Asian fellow, and a suave cigarette smoking Swiss man named Julio—easily the coolest and calmest member of our party, conversing with our crew like old friends and typing away nonchalantly on his cell phone as our borrowed dhoni sped through the Indian Ocean. He struck us as one part Mediterranean businessman and one part Swiss spy, with a dash of salt and pepper wisdom and wit.
Entering a channel bordered by two islands, we heard our boat's engine sputter, and our dive masters quickly urged us to don our dive equipment, jump, and abandon ship. Quickly descending to deeper depths, we found ourselves swimming against the current and depleting our oxygen quickly. Personally, I was excited by our quick boat exit, the ensuing deep water exploration, and the extensive underwater Maldivian flora and fauna, but then when we ascended, I noticed a woman in our party getting assistance and extra oxygen from a dive master. Only after breaching the surface of the water and noticing our dhoni pressed against a neighboring island's reefs, waves battering the exposed hull, and a scattering of dive tanks, equipment, and personal belongings floating in the ocean, did I realize the full extent of our ocean emergency.
Resident fisherman fetched us out of the water, and the dive crew assembled us under a thatched shelter on the local island. Julio calmly approached a loitering man on his scooter, exchanged brief words, and borrowed the man's vehicle to head towards the wreckage and try and rescue his belongings. An hour or so later the hotel staff arrived in another boat, and Julio returned with a collection of our belongings. We chattered amongst ourselves about our narrow escape the whole ride back to the Hadahaa, swapping footage and stories. The hotel's general manager and the dive center lead were waiting for us when we docked, expressing concern and outlining a variety of complimentary services to help mitigate our diving disaster. As we were shuttled towards different golf carts to take us to our respective villas, our group agreed we should meet for dinner later that day to recap our expedition, and Julio quickly said, "I will arrange it," and we all readily trusted that it would happen.
In the end, we enjoyed a day lounging around our villa and our private stretch of beach, ordering room service for lunch to avoid any possible stress, and then a chatty complimentary dinner with Julio, the rest of the gang, and the dive masters from our trip. We still fondly refer to our "get shipwrecked and order room service" day and I'm still not sure how to enter it into my dive log.
Our four nights at the Hadahaa quickly came to an end, but we'll remember our stay as a relaxing luxury getaway without equal. It's hard to match the tranquility and beauty of the island, the accessibility and quality of the snorkeling and diving, and the perfect service of the resort hotel and its attending staff. As we found ourselves on the reverse boat journey away from the island, we jokingly wondered when we'd ever be that happy and relaxed again.