The Best Place to Be Right Now: A Report from the Maldives
I recently had the great joy of speaking with a GeoEx traveler who had just returned from eight days in the Maldive Islands, that idyllic archipelago located in the Indian Ocean about 430 miles southwest of Sri Lanka and India.
Having been restricted to local travels for the past seven months, I was excited to hear about her Maldives experience and to take a vicarious vacation through her words. By the time we had finished our talk, I was ready to book the next flight!
I hope you enjoy our conversational journey to a piece of paradise!
I’d like to begin by asking about getting from the US to the islands: How was your actual journey to the Maldives?
It was remarkably easy. I flew from JFK and there was almost no one there. I was the only one in line for security, and I asked the TSA agent, “Is it always like this?”
And he said, “Yes, ever since COVID.”
I changed planes in Qatar, in Doha, and that airport was also very much on the quiet side. But it’s a beautiful airport and I’d never been there before, so I enjoyed seeing it.
I flew business class on Qatar Airways, and before my trip, GeoEx was constantly checking my seats to make sure I wasn’t placed near anyone. As it turned out, the airline purposefully kept the whole middle section empty both ways, New York to Doha and Doha to New York. In business, they seated all the passengers along the windows, and not even every window seat was taken!
The airline was very cautious. They gave us face shields to get on the plane, and we were supposed to wear them the entire time on the plane. And when we got on and off the plane, when we were in line, they made us keep them on.
Once you arrived in the Maldives, you stayed at the Six Senses resort. How was that?
It was all beautiful. The food was so good. And the staff were amazing. Every person there learned my name.
And the villas that we were in? They were just to die for.
At the resort they took our temperature every single day. If you got sick, they would quarantine you. I saw that they had special areas set aside for quarantine if needed.
I also liked the fact that the resort was into sustainability and conservation. They’re affiliated with different organizations and NGOs. Most days, at cocktail time, there was a lecture for 30 minutes. So I would get a cocktail and listen to a marine scientist or a wildlife expert talk about sharks, fishing, tortoises—a different subject every night. It was fascinating, and it was clear that the resort really cares. They try to keep the world the way it should be, and not abuse it. You can feel that, and you feel good about being there.
They also really do care about you, and they want to make your stay as relaxing as possible, or as busy as possible, if that’s what you want. Every guest has a GEM—a Guest Experience Manager—and mine was a sweetheart. I was able to morph my stay into what I wanted. You could take cooking classes, so I did that; I did a food and wine session; I did some workouts; I did yoga.
The GEMs make all your arrangements, reserve your dinner, ensure you get signed up for snorkeling—they will figure out what you should do, and what you won’t like to do. For instance, I was going to go fishing from 6:30 to 10:30 one morning. I woke up, got dressed and was ready to go, and my GEM called me and said, “It’s a little rough out there… I don’t know if you really want to go out there.”
It was a good group of guests. There were a couple of Americans, but most were from Europe or Australia. There was a German family with their kids. I also met a couple from Jordan, and a couple from Brazil. It was a very international resort.
They had a small fitness area and a small spa, and I saw people taking advantage of that. You could surf, snorkel, kayak, camp out on the beach. They had it all!
The resort has 97 villas, but when I was there, they were occupied at maybe one-third of their normal capacity, so you never felt crowded in any way. This also meant that not all of their restaurants were open every night, but they opened them some nights. One night I went to Zen for delicious Japanese cuisine; another night I went to Leaf for an elegant four-course meal. And the main resort restaurant was always open. Of course, room service was always an option, too.
Were there some particular highlights of your stay?
Well, everything was perfect. I was waited on hand and foot. I loved the staff. I loved the cuisine.
I loved my villa. It was set over the water, and parts of the floor were all glass, so I could see the ocean directly underneath me. A few mornings, when I got up and was still sleepy, I would see the ocean beneath me and think I was going to fall in!
I loved being able to see the ocean from wherever I was. I got especially attached to a little crab that I would watch every day.
One big highlight was that I felt totally relaxed. I wasn’t nervous about anything. After the stress of living in a big city in the US, it was so wonderful to wake up in the morning and just feel normal.
To my mind, this was the best possible thing that anyone could do for COVID.
Oh, and the chocolate-maker! I love chocolate and so I always bring some chocolate with me wherever I go.
But at the resort, there was a really lovely resident chocolate-maker from the Caribbean. Her chocolates were so delicious that I ended up never touching the chocolates I’d brought from home.
Finally, on the day when she gave a chocolate-making lecture and demonstration, I gathered all the chocolates that I’d brought from home and gave them to her, explaining that they were from my favorite chocolate-maker in the States. And then I bought some of her chocolates to bring to my chocolatier at home. I love the idea of them both enjoying each other’s delicious chocolates!
That’s a wonderful story! Looking back on your trip, would you recommend that people go to the Maldives now?
Oh yes! The Maldives were perfect for COVID because you’re isolated. You’re at this beautiful resort, relaxing. It’s not the kind of trip I usually take—usually I take trips that involve mingling with people, and going out and exploring sites—but I loved it.
All the restaurants and almost all of the activities were open-air, which was just perfect for COVID. And even so, they were careful. If you went into reception, which was in an enclosed building, or the gift shop, you had to put on a mask. So they followed all the protocols.
Your trip sounds absolutely wonderful—and you’ve made me want to get on a plane tomorrow! But I have to ask: Did you have any regrets?
Yes, I had one regret.
Ah, what was that?
I regretted that I didn’t arrange to stay there longer!
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