Monday, April 27, 2009

BTO: Nature's work of art

Business Times - 25 Apr 2009

Nature's work of art

What the Maldives has to offer are some of the most spectacular sights to behold. By Oh Boon Ping


MARCO POLO called it the 'Flower by the Indies' while Ibn Batuta described it as 'One of the Wonders of the World'.


And true to its reputation, the Maldives boasts some of the most spectacular sights that can only be seen in this part of the Indian Ocean.


As soon as my feet landed on the powder-fine sands of Kandooma island, I felt at home instantly.


Located some 35 km south of the capital Male, the four-star Kandooma resort features about 160 villas comprising beach and garden villas, two-storey duplex villas as well as water villas. Its contemporary aesthetic is seen in its large picture windows, and whitewashed floor boards that evoke a sense of fresh coolness, yet feel warm and textured to the bare feet.


It's a destination where a stroll on the beach is the highlight of the day, simply because the panoramic view of the shimmering ocean will stay lodged in your memory for a long while.


Of course, you don't have to limit yourself to a sedate stroll. You can work up a sweat by pounding the powdery sand in your jogging shoes, or head to the gym for a vigorous workout. Then ease out the kinks with a 50-minute full body massage at the COMO Shambhala Spa, where its signature blended oils make short work of your tight muscles.


Being in the Maldives without engaging in water sports is like staying at a ski resort and not going anywhere near the slopes. A must-try here is a half-day adventure aqua safari which takes you to two coral reefs to meet your colourful underwater neighbours. Say hello to numerous blue surgeon, while keeping an eye out for Moorish Idol, unicorn fish and even the occasional dolphin.


You might even be inspired to return something to Mother Nature by sponsoring a coral tray to build a home for the fishes. To date, some 28 coral trays have been planted, with 12 of these being guest sponsor trays. These trays are now home to some butterfly fish, lionfish, two stingrays and many others.


With the Maldives comprising 1,190 islands scattered across 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean, island-hopping is a natural progression after you've explored all the attractions of your resort island.


One option is to hop onto a speedboat to scenic Rihiveli, 15 minutes away. Located in the South Male Atoll, the island resort is rustic in setting and has a traditional Maldivian feel that the stylishly-furnished Kandooma didn't manage.


All 48 bungalows open to astounding sea views, with the warm waters of the lagoon lapping at your doorstep. Each bungalow features palm-thatched roof, wooden floor, as well as garden with hammocks and sunbeds.


Lunch at Sunrise Island is a must, as guests are treated to a barbecue of freshly caught fish. What's more, the tiny island is accessible on foot as the shallow waters allow one to wade across from Rihiveli. If you are lucky, you can even spot some stingrays swimming near the shore.


There, you're not only treated to a sumptuous meal, but you're witness to a spell-binding work of art where every flicker of light appears to have been carved on the water by an invisible hand.


And as the sun sets over Rhiveli island in the evening, it casts its fiery glow on the water's surface and lights up the entire sea - another work of nature, and a sight to behold.


Sunny Maldives can be visited all year round, but the best time is during the dry season, from November to April. There are the occasional light showers from May to October.

Singapore Airlines runs regular, direct flights to the capital Male, while Sri Lankan Airlines also flies there via transit in Colombo. At the airport, a 30-day free visa is issued on arrival, and your resort should arrange for speedboat or sea-plane transfers to the island.

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