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Swimming With the Fishes in Maafushivaru

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After settling in to the Maldivian way of life with 5 days on the island of Kuramathi (you can read about that on my other blog), we waved goodbye to the land of curry, bats and sharks and headed for Male airport, where the next leg of our journey would begin.

As we waited in the departure lounge we were fed more curry and looked out of the window for more bats, but instead were greeted with even bigger beasts of the sky - seaplanes - an invention that could only have been dreamt up by a fool.

While other airline pilots fear the day they ever have to land in a vast expanse of water, seaplane pilots spend their days desperately avoiding solid ground, before waiting for boats to come and pick them up to take them there. It all seems a rather backward way of doing things, but it's an exciting way to help your curry settle as every bump and jolt reverberates through the plane like a badly erected fairground ride.

They all seemed very comfortable with this idea, although moderately less so with me humming the Flying Doctors theme tune throughout the entirety of the 30 minute flight, the heathens.

On arriving at Maafushivaru, it was immediately clear that it was hugely different to our previous island. Though, given that it was an entirely different island, perhaps we shouldn't have been as surprised as we were.

Maafushivaru is tiny - just 500 metres long - and I immediately made it my mission to walk the entire thing over the course of a week. I didn't make it because the bar is in the middle, but it's important to have goals.

We were quickly shown to our accommodation along a wooden walkway especially designed to tell the soles of your feet how hot the sun is. After three stops to take advantage of huge pots of water (designed to tell the soles of your feet that everything will be OK), we reached our water villa, which sits on stilts over the Indian Ocean.

Having grown up in England, I'm perfectly at home with waking up to the sight of water outside my window, but this was an altogether different proposition - the turquoise sea laps against the bottom of our private steps and we're reliably informed that we have the perfect view from our private terrace of the sun rising over the ocean every morning. It rises at 5am, so I make a mental note to have a look for pictures of that on the internet.

I can't steal other people's pictures and put them on my blog, so you should probably do a little Google search as well and we'll all bask in its radiance together.

That was nice, wasn't it? Now, where were we? The bar!

A ten page cocktail menu at an All-Inclusive resort is something of a challenge to a Brit abroad, but I start at the top and work my way through as efficiently as possible (it's important to have goals, remember), pausing only to reapply suncream and subtly tip away anything involving sambucca.

But despite its size and immediate appearances, there's so much to do on Maafushivaru that it becomes a daily battle to decide whether to prop up the bar and lounge around the beautiful infinity pool, or to head out on the daily excursions that leave from the wooden jetty each morning.

Our first foray into the huge list of dive trips was the 'Snorkel Safari', which as safaris go, had a disappointing number of elephants, lions and gazelle, but did offer up a mind-boggling number of marine life species with names that look like spelling mistakes.

After knocking about with Surgeonfish, Unicornfish, Steephead Parrotfish and Angelfish for a while (they're the ones I can spell), we headed for the coral cliff - where the shallows give way to deeper, darker waters, and watched as three Eagle Rays drifted by and turtles did their best to ignore us.

But it was during another trip that the Maldives' incredible marine life really took my breath away (which is unfortunate, when you're snorkeling).

The boat chugged to a stop and a stream of guests waddled towards the edge and tripped over their flippers into the water. I, being ever the gentleman, allowed them all off first and then jumped in as the boat floated slowly away from the group. I flushed out my goggles, dunked my head underwater and looked around to see a great big expanse of nothing. No people, no marine life, and no coral.

But just as I was beginning to piece together the thought of myself playing a starring role in Open Water 2, a shadow flickered across the seabed and, from behind a cloud of bubbles emerged first a shark's head, and then a body... a body that kept on arriving until there was fourteen feet of it swimming straight at me.

It's easy for you to point out, sitting at home with the benefit of Google, that Whale Sharks, the planet's biggest species of fish, have eyes only for plankton and I am moderately larger than plankton, but as I scrambled to put a manly face on the situation while trying to retrieve my testicles, I can assure you that it looked like a man-eater and it had a mouth big enough to swallow me in one go. Yes, it was that big.

It did just enough to convince me that it wasn't hungry (it didn't eat me), so I spent the next ten minutes swimming alongside the majestic beast as it curiously eyed me and occasionally waited for me to catch him up. I think by the time I left the water, we'd both made a connection and I fully expect him to come and visit me in the Thames next summer.

He also appreciated the fact that I respected his privacy and didn't take any photos of him as we swam together. I thought it best not to mention that I'd run out of pictures on my disposable camera.

After surviving a near-death experience with a man eating shark (as I explained it to my wife afterwards), the bar and spa were the two most obvious destinations to head for next. We'd booked in for a couples massage to unwind after a terrifyingly strenuous few days of sun and cocktails and were led into a room where a pleasant young lady handed me a pair of pants so small an anorexic dwarf would've struggled to pull them up. Years of playing Tetris in my youth meant I managed to tesselate all the correct parts into the correct, covered area, and all was going beautifully well until she uttered the dreaded words "you can turn over now", and I nearly fell off the bed. Relaxation at its finest.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Maafushivaru is that you'll need to stay for a month before you really feel like spending a day on the sundeck relaxing and catching rays isn't a wasted day... but I'm more than willing to return for a month or so to let you know.

  • Kuoni (01306 747008) offers seven nights on all inclusive at the 4.5-star Maafushivaru, Maldives in a Beach Villa, including flights with British Airways (direct) from Gatwick and group transfers in resort.
  • Prices for December 2013 are from £2,800 per person, based on two sharing

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