The Republic of Maldives is the lowest country in the world and has the highest divorce rate. Is there correlation between altitude and fidelity, I wonder? Male, the capital, is 370 miles south-west of the southern tip of India. From the air it looks like Tower Hamlets. From Male we flew first by DHC-6 Twin Otter seaplane to the tiny coral island of Moofushi — about 20 thrilling minutes — and checked in at the Constance Moofushi island resort. I was allocated a thatched wooden bungalow (number 35) with sundeck, loungers, and wooden steps leading down directly into the warm, shallow sea. I could look down from the balcony rail of number 35 and see baby sharks and fishes up to two feet long cruising around at the foot of my stairs.
We didn’t see the sun for the first three days: it rained day and night. The rainy season is usually over by the end of November but apparently this year was exceptional. The water bungalows extended in a row out into the sea and were accessed by a wooden jetty. The resort’s restaurants, bars, spa, diving centre and reception nestled in clearings in the island’s mini-rainforest, and were connected by meandering paths of white coral sand. And it was very pleasant to walk barefoot with an umbrella from bungalow to restaurant in a lukewarm tropical downpour and to hear the rain pattering all around on the broad-leaved tropical vegetation. ‘Let it rain’ was my motto when the subject of the weather came up in conversation during those first three wet days.
On the fourth day the sun came out and everyone cheered up visibly and the beach hurt the eyes to look at and the sea was so blue it was a turn-on. There were some startling shades of red, too, on the faces, necks and backs of diners in the informal restaurant in the evening. Not once did I take my shirt off for the purpose of tanning, yet once the sun was out I tanned through my T shirt whether I liked it or not. The locals were blacker than the south Sudanese.
On the fifth day I was put into a white speedboat with white cushions and twin 250-horsepower outboard engines, and bounced across the sea to the other Constance Maldivian resort on the island of Halaveli. At Moofushi I had been content. It was both luxurious and friendly. The choice of fare at the breakfast buffet was ridiculous and there was no nonsense about the all-inclusive drinks being local brands only. When I laid face down on the massage table in the spa, there was a window in the floor through which I could watch the preposterous fishes and baby sharks swimming lazily in and out of the picture until I nodded off. Not once did I hear the whine of a mosquito or swat away a fly. The island’s small insects were exterminated with insecticidal smoke daily for our comfort and convenience. Silence in Moofushi consists of lapping wavelets and maybe the muted hum of an air-conditioning unit. There is no insect music.
While checking in at the beachside reception at Constance Halaveli, I looked around for somewhere to stub my fag out. When I found one, some diligent soul had painstakingly sculpted the sand in the ashtray into a three-dimensional flower. It was such a shame to wreck it. Looking up, I noticed a chap standing chest-deep in the sea, clearing stones with a rake. At Halaveli, the guests seemed to make less noise than the ones at Moofushi; the invisible barriers protecting their ‘personal space’ seemed more inviolate. My water villa was double the size of the one at Moofushi; also my bathroom towel. The telly was immense. Trotting about on the island, I heard fewer English voices and I was told, sorry, there was no nightly disco. Apparently wealthier guests prefer privacy in the evenings to waggling their hips to the Pointer Sisters.
And so it dawned on me finally — and this came as rather a shock — that the Constance Halaveli was an example of a high-end Maldives resort and that the Constance Moofushi had been in fact merely mid-range. But if I went to some other island, I wondered, would I be shocked again to realise that Halaveli was mid-range and Moofushi the equivalent of Butlins? It was confusing. Perhaps the lesson here was that only the rich know the difference between rich and poor. But from my perhaps limited experience, I think I can safely say that the more you pay for your Maldives holiday, the fewer British accents you will hear, and the more privacy you can expect (up to and including total isolation), and the less chance there will be of dancing in the evenings. Of the two resorts, Constance Moofushi suited me. It was a hundred times friendlier than Halaveli and people met at the bar in the evenings and sometimes danced. At Halaveli I missed Moofushi and number 35. But, as they say, horses for courses.
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