The Maldives might be the ultimate couples getaway, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out just because you're not paired up
Flying out to the Maldives as a single woman might sound like holiday suicide, especially as the cluster of paradisiacal islands, ringed with pearls of flawless sand in an aquamarine setting, is the most commonly espoused destination for smug honeymooners. But, for those of us too impatient to wait for Mr Right to sweep us away on an all-expenses trip, the famously romantic islets are still navigable – with nary a sickbag in sight.
A few home truths: the Maldives is not cheap, but if you time it right and pick the off season (between May and November), not only will you bypass hordes of canoodling couples and families, you can bag some very reasonable all-inclusive deals. Thomson offer good bed and breakfast deals during sale periods, as do ITC Classics and Virgin Holidays. Considering most resorts offer superb local food, often featuring lobster grills and fresh fruit cocktails, this isn’t to be sniffed at. Even if you do have the atrocious luck of sharing the same resort with a PDA-afflicted couple, the Maldives is one of the most stunning places on earth, and certainly shouldn’t just be the preserve of the newly married.
After visiting Kanuhura, which is on the Lhaviyani atoll, based south of India’s Lakshadweep Islands, as a single woman, I can honestly say that any fears of feeling like a gooseberry are allayed the moment you peek out of the aeroplane window and look down at a vivid turquoise ocean lapping around the bright nudges of brilliant white sand.
You must experience one of the highlights of travelling to a Maldivian resort – the seaplane journey. Zooming down a watery runaway and soaring high above the scattered necklace of islands affords a view that a speedboat, for all its thrills, simply can’t match. Once you draw up towards Kanuhura’s wooden jetty, studded with water villas curving around to the left and the uninhabited tiny island Jehunuhura, which is used for candle-lit dinners (translate into Robinson Crusoe-inspired kayaking expeditions and noisy picnics with girl-mates), pass through the reception and the path to your room will be along the same sugary sand that crowns the island, flanked by crazy screw-point trees that rise from the sand on elongated roots like elegant giraffes. What you choose to do with your time at Kanuhura is up to you, but here are a few suggestions...
Pick your villa
Unlike a lot of resorts, the disparity between the two levels of villas isn’t too bad – about £300 per week – and they all sit within the island’s own lagoon, graced by a constant sea breeze and protected by a coral reef. The beach villas are the cheaper of the two, but if you’re going all-out then nothing beats a water villa. The vast outdoor bathroom will spoil you for life; water pours out from a sculpted statue as you shower underneath a faultlessly blue Maldivian sky, while the marbled bathtub is great to unknot your muscles after a day of watersports. Water villas also have the benefit of featuring a ladder that dips into the water, so if you don’t feel like venturing to the pool, you can take a dip in the sea before breakfast.
The breakfast at the Thin Rah restaurant, where stars of the buffet include freshly cut dragon fruit and deep pink hunks of watermelon, not to mention hot food of every kind, is rapturous. As for lunch, order a tall passionfruit cocktail chilled with lots of vodka, and try the fish and chips – cooked with local fish caught that morning, in an almost tempura-like batter. If you are visiting on your own, don’t worry about having to say “dinner for one” in an embarrassed whisper. Staff are notified of who travels alone and won’t grill you about your solitary arrangement in a Forgetting Sarah Marshall style - if anything, it makes them extra friendly. Veli Café might intimidate you, with its hushed lighting and frangipani tree canopy, but don’t let that stop you – the food really is superb, with Indian, Thai and Maldivian dishes to choose from.
The Lhaviyani atoll is only one third inhabited, so the dive sites are utterly pristine – at a 1200 foot drop outside the outer reef. If you’re nervous about learning how to dive (the instructors are PADI certified), snorkelling is the next best thing. As we wriggled along the surface, swarms of fish swam underneath our bellies in ribbons of blues, oranges and yellows. Best of all was the sight of two turtles swimming in stately fashion towards the depths of the ocean. And, apart from wind-surfing, waterskiing and fishing, the next best activity is to explore the edges of the island in a kayak. Once you build up your confidence and learn how to steer, the mamma of all journeys must be undertaken – the trip to the deserted island Jehunuhura.
While it might kill your inner sloth to wake up at sunrise and do yoga, the walk along the gangway from the water villas is reward enough for sacrificing your lie-in. If you’re lucky, you’ll see herons tiptoeing up and down the beach, as the island wakes up. The spa is a must-visit, especially for an aromatherapy body massage, which will seal in all the relaxing you’ve undertaken during your visit. If you fancy getting off the island, a traditional Maldivian dhoni leaves at sunset, where you can watch pods of dolphins playing in the twilight, while clasping a glass of cold white wine. Be warned: there are couples who favour this activity, but don’t let that put you off – most of them are quite nice to chat to. And sure, while it would be nice to share the moment of watching the deep blue ocean eat the yolk of a fiery sun with a special someone, if the Maldives proves anything, it’s that you definitely don’t need a man to enjoy paradise.