Snorkeling in the Maldives

The beautiful island resort of Vakarufalhi, is found in the South Ari atoll of the Maldives, and was an easy choice when we were searching for a top honeymoon destination that had a reputation for providing luxury vacations.

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The island itself was deliberately chosen for its compact selection of things to do – scuba diving, snorkelling, exquisite dining, wellness and spa treatments and little more. It was picture postcard perfect – powder-white sandy beaches, impossibly clear waters and some of the most dramatic sunsets and thunderstorms I have ever encountered. But beneath the calm of the Indian Ocean is where it’s most spectacular treasure was to be revealed.

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We were already keen snorkelers and this was one of the first things we decided to do. Some friendly advice; those beautiful long wooden piers that lead out into the ocean and are so often pictured in luxury travel magazines, get very, very hot. Be prepared to wear light footwear, or make use of the many cold water taps along the way to cool your feet, or they will burn. Also, be prepared to wear a t shirt to prevent your back from burning during snorkelling as it is so easy to lose track of time.

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As we went below the surface, the contrast between the quiet, seemingly empty beaches was stark. We immediately entered an underwater technicolour rush hour as fish such as noisy parrotfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish and so many others darted around the pier which itself had become part of the sea life. We could have stayed there and enjoyed the wonderful spectacle before us, but were hungry for more, and knew exactly what we were hoping to find.

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A few metres from the pier we were delighted to come across a puffer fish, and as the gentle current nudged us closer, the fish puffed itself up. Not wishing to get any closer I turned to swim away. And that is when I saw it. Directly behind us was an adult white tip reef shark! My first encounter with a shark, and we almost bumped noses! The adrenalin was indescribable – and yet, with a flick of its tail it turned and swam away into the darkness. Fighting to catch my breath, I stood on the sea bed and discovered the water we had been snorkelling in was little more than waist height.

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We were so excited to have seen an adult shark (the baby sharks could be seen swimming in the lagoon all day, and were a constant attraction), but we wanted to find out what else the ocean had to offer.
The next day we arranged to go scuba-diving. We had been told that the 1998 El Niño-event and the subsequent 2004 Tsunami had both had a devastating effect on the coral – bleaching and destroying vast areas – so we were not sure what to expect. We decided not to hire an underwater camera, though there were plenty to choose from if we did. As we plunged deeper, the sea life seemed to diminish as the water got colder and darker. We still saw an impressive number of larger fish, but by far the most concerning were two enormous and quite aggressive-looking Moray eels that seemed to take an unhealthy interest in us.

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If I had to choose which of the two experiences I preferred, snorkelling would win hands down. For me it was a far more visually rewarding and peaceful experience.
We continued to snorkel daily, and as well as an amazing school of spotted eagle rays swimming through the lagoon during an early evening snorkel, we regularly encountered many more adult sharks who seemed as equally intrigued by us as we were with them.
We also took a champagne boat trip to see whales and dolphins – one of the top attractions on the island, visited a living museum island and so much more. If you are planning a luxury escape or a once in a life time trip, I highly recommend adding the Maldives to any bucket list ideas you have. These beautiful islands won’t be here forever. There are so many things to do and places to visit that are quite literally on your sandy doorstep, you are never far away from witnessing something memorable every day.

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Victoria Thomas

Victoriais a regular contributor on LuxeInACity.com, a luxury travel blog curating hotels, spas, restaurants, boutiques, products as well as once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences.