Expert guide to the Maldives

These are the most beautiful small islands on Earth. They are safe; there are no hawkers selling sarongs and taxi tours and, unless you seek them out, no distractions. There is no agriculture and no industry and the turquoise lagoons are crystal clear. Strange to think that the idyllic Maldives have only been a holiday destination for 40 years or so.

The Maldives are made up of 26 coral atolls in a chain reaching down to cross the equator. Within those 26 atolls are roughly 1,200 islands and of these around 200 are inhabited and 100 are resorts.

Which is not to say that this is not also one of the most sophisticated holiday destinations in the world. A race to the top has seen the standard of service, rooms and cuisine rise exponentially in the last 10 years. Now, instead of the dreaded buffet, there is superb à la carte cuisine; there are cellars for cheese, charcuterie, wine and chocolate. The world’s first underwater restaurant, under-water nightclub and underwater spa are all to be found here.

The explorer Thor Heyerdahl sums it up perfectly in his book The Maldive Mystery: “That afternoon we passed the most beautiful palm islands I have ever seen. With the sun low on our starboard side it threw a glowing sidelight on the tiny islets, which seemed to float by like flower baskets … Under the spell of this picture of an earthy paradise I made an entry in my notebook that the Maldives are even more beautiful than any of the coral atolls in Polynesia.”

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