It's the stuff fantasies are made of. As my plane descended gradually, I couldn't tell the sea from the sky. And then came the grim-looking airhostesses handing out the arrival cards and that's when some people got a sudden panic attack.
One of them read aloud, "Carrying liquor, idols and any ‘material contrary to Islam' to Maldives is illegal." But then what are sun, sand and sea without a lemony mojito? "It's okay if you are not carrying liquor with you," assured the more experienced traveller among us, adding, "We are not stopping at Male. From the airport, we head straight for the resort. There will be cocktails waiting for you."
All excited at the prospect, we hopped on to a speedboat. After 15 minutes through the deep blue sea, we dropped anchor at the island of Kurumba to a tropical island reception complete with garlands of exotic flowers, drum beats and all.
The promised cocktails were nowhere to be seen. But who needs alcohol when you've had a refreshingly sweet coconut water as your welcome drink?
Maldives has a way of surprising you and our stay at Kurumba Resort bears a testimony to this fact. If I was not sure how my basic swimming skills would stand me while snorkeling, a private swimming pool in my villa offered enough opportunities for practice. It was another matter that we converted it into a watery lounge to float around a drink or two.
My first morning was rather unusual. I woke up to a rather strange sound. I couldn't figure out if it was the rustling coconut palms or the water splashing. We had reached the resort after sundown the previous day and I had no idea that I would have to walk about 20 steps from my verandah to get the sea lap my feet.
The sun was yet to rise and the water refused to assume any definite hue. Almost sleepwalking, I sauntered on the grainy white sand, along the edge of a vast wrinkled fabric in many shades of green. Soothing waters After breakfast, we were taken on a seaplane to grasp the seascape.
As our De Havilland Twin Otter morphed into an aircraft from a luxury boat, the breathtaking rings of aquamarine green circling coral islands slowly took shape. No description or camera can do justice to that colour scheme in all possible shades of blue and green.
The only thing that could beat the spectacle from the sky was to get close to the living world under the water. If I felt a little claustrophobic with the snorkeling gear on, the discomfort was compensated every time I jumped into the ocean. Fishes swam by - each distinguished in its grace and attitude.
Some nibbled at me curiously others glided away in noncha , lance. And all the while, the mysteri ously beautiful corals swayed to the ocean's rhythm, displaying their in tricate shapes and shades. I was tempted to touch but their delicate charm was intimidating.
Back at the resort, I was already feeling like a queen. To reassure me that I was entitled to that regal state of mind, an Emperor fish obliged my line when we went night fishing in the deep ocean.
Post-dinner, we had to pack up to be in time for an early morning flight. When the gang assembled again for a parting drink at one of the resort's many pubs, the live band was strumming to glory .
Was James Brown ever so appropriate?
How to get there
You can take an Air India flight from Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram. No prior visa is required to enter the Republic of Maldives. Entry permit is granted to visitors on arrival.
Where to stay
Maldives is not a place for backpackers.
There are about 90 high-end resort islands to choose from. Kurumba Village Resort, located on the North Male Atoll, is just 20 minutes by speedboat from the international airport and 30 minutes from Male.
What to do
Maldives has some of the best diving sites in the world.
All resorts in Maldives have professional dive schools offering courses for beginners. Almost all island resorts have excellent house reefs where one can go for brief swimming sessions, snorkeling and kayaking. There are boats to take you to the coral reef for snorkelling and diving. Night-time activities include fishing and pubbing. Big game fishing or morning fishing, if not included in the resort's programme, may be organised on request.