By Ruth Ninajanty. Published in Sampoerna Strategic Square, Oct-Dec 2012.
For those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday city life, Maldives offers the peace and tranquility through its endless ocean and untouched beaches on the doorstep of your lodging.
Arriving in Maldives, the first thing you should do is forget your hectic schedule. In Maldives, your busy day will consist of doing watersports, diving, signing up for spa, walking around with your loved ones, island hopping, sightseeing or simply enjoying the stunning sunset on the beach.
Going around Maldives is commonly done with boats and seaplanes. Tourists can take water taxi from the airport to Malé, the capital city, or to some nearby resort islands.
Malé is home to many tourist attraction sites including the Malé Fish Market which is always overcrowded with people and fun for children to see different kinds of fish. As the capital city, Malé also has several historical sites dated back to the Sultanate era such as Mulee Aage Palace, Hukuru Miskiiy, Esjehi Art Gallery and Jumhoorie Maidan. The city is small enough that you can walk around from one site to the other.
The coral bleaching in 1998 alarmed everyone that something need to be done to protect the ocean and everything inside. Since then, luxury resorts have started the green movements by doing research, recycling and educating tourists about the ecosystem.
North Malé Atoll Diving Spots
Banana Reef is one of the oldest diving sites in Maldives. Known to the local as Gaathugiri, this site features caves, coral heads and a wide variety of fish. The best underwater view of this site is on the northeastern side, where you can find rock faces, colossal caves, deep gutters and precipitous overhangs, as well as sharks, barracudas and black snapper fish.
However, if you’re up for more challenge, you should go see shipwreck at the Wreck of the Maldive Victory which is aimed at advance divers.
Staying away from the most popular sites can be rewarding. Located on North Ari Atoll is one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, Mushi Mas Minghili Tilla otherwise known as Fish head. What makes this dive site interesting is how divers can observe grey sharks from secure zone. Fish Head is also popular among photographers and videographers, as most of the country’s best underwater shots are taken here.
Opened in 1952, the country’s first national museum is located at the Sultan Park in Malé. The older three-story building is a part of Maldivian Royal Palace and the only remaining structure when the fire destroyed the area in 1968. The new building was donated by the Chinese government in 2010.
Stepping inside, you’ll find a lot of history through the collections. Ranging from thrones, armors, coins, and ornaments to costumes and ceremonial wardrobes. An 11th century coral stone head of Buddha and 13th century engraved plank are several of the must-see pieces at the museum.
Also known as The Old Friday Mosque, Maldives’ oldest mosque was built during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar I in 1656. What make the mosque famous are its Arabic-writings-covered walls. Many visited the mosque intrigued to see the Maldivian decorative art. To see the inside of the mosque, visitors should ask permission from Ministry of Islamic Affairs or the mosque staff and dressed properly.
Mohammed Thakurufaanu Tomb
Built to commemorate a national hero, Sultan Ghaazee Mohammed Thakurufaanu, who liberated Maldives from Portuguese occupation, this site is a must-visit when you come to Maldives.
Where to eat: Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
The first all-glass undersea restaurant is serving Maldivian-Western fusion 16 feet under the sea.
Where to shop: Majeedhee Magu
On the Malé main road you can find a stretch of little shops and everything you’d like to buy.
Where to sleep: Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru
46 luxury villas stretched on the island of Vabbinfaru, equipped with modern-day facilities including fitness center, spa, dive center, marine lab and exclusive yacht trip.
Where to relax: Reethi Rah at The One and Only Resort, North Malé Atoll
Run by ESPA, this spa has swirling vitality pools, crystal steam rooms, saunas and stimulating ice fountains. Treatments are based on Ayurvedic tradition infused with Western luxuries.