Five 'first times' to have in the Maldives


Travel’s not about tallying up countries. I had no goal to reach 30 before 30, but it just so happened that I did… in the Maldives. What a place to hit the milestone! While I may have done my fair share of travelling (albeit only to 12% of the world’s nations), there’s still so much that surprises me. And the Maldives certainly did. Here are five new experiences to try there besides pinching yourself silly.

Oceanfront accommodation in the Maldives Welcome to the sea-view cabin dreams are made of © Emma Sparks

Indulge in five-star luxury

The Maldives is a playground for the rich and famous. Case in point: Cara Delevingne and posse were on my flight from Heathrow (she swanned into economy from business class and stood chatting to her friend across the aisle from me! Tried to play it cool. Failed.). But you don’t have to be a celebrity to get the five-star treatment here. Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa was a sumptuous delight – champagne sunset cruises, coconut-oil massages and fine dining aside, this place is simply beautiful.

Turtle! A memorable moment captured with my GoPro © Emma Sparks

Swim with sea turtles

Life goal: achieved – finally! I’ve been to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Hawaii, Australia… and nothing. Not a peep. So meeting this little fella was a memorable moment that involved lots of squealing through my snorkel. The Maldives is renowned for its underwater treasures – besides my beloved sea turtles, you have a fair chance of seeing whale sharks too.

It’s surprisingly quiet up there © Emma Sparks

Go parasailing

Despite a fear of flying, I seem to have a penchant for soaring the skies in other ways. And the Maldives, with all of its turquoise-trimmed islands, is a wonderful place to do it. My fear of water (yup, I’m scared of everything) didn’t stop me, once I realised the chances of landing in the water and being smothered by a parachute were slim. The surprising part? Everything is so peaceful when you’re 400 feet up.

Taste an areca nut

Or, you know, don’t. Areca nut is actually a berry – but don’t let that fact fool you. These little niblets are as far from sweet and juicy as it gets. How so? Imagine chewing on a crunchy twig that’s laced in a potent powder that turns your mouth dry as a desert. Then imagine trying to swallow it. Yes, chewing this stuff is a part of Maldivian culture, but it’s also carcinogenic (something I discovered later). Try if you dare.

Old_Friday_Mosque_Male Old Friday Mosque in the Maldivian capital © Emma Sparks

Visit a mosque

If you have never visited a mosque before, WHY? There’s probably one in your vicinity so pop along and say hello to the fine folk inside! Anyway… there’s a mosque in the Maldivian capital that will blow your mind whether you’re a newbie or not. Built in the 17th century, Male’s Old Friday Mosque is the oldest in the island nation and is built from coral stone. The stones were cut and decorated while still soft, and the intricate marks (some made with fingernails and palms) are incredible. It’s not big. It’s not grand. But it is beautiful and worth a look if you swing by before hopping to the far-flung islands.

More on the Maldives

I travelled to the Maldives courtesy of Shangri-La Vilingilli. Check out my review of the resort – wonder, wowed looks and kind words are all genuine.

Further Reading

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