Stepping out of my luxury speed boat, I am greeted by a small welcome party of smiling faces in traditional dress. I feel like a film star, as I am handed a cold towel and a chilled glass of Prosecco, “Miss Sims, welcome to the Maldives”…. I have officially arrived in Paradise.
Huvafen Fushi resort is to be my home for the night and although a short visit, I am determined to make the most of my stay. With soft white sand between my toes, palm trees laden with coconuts swaying in the breeze, and the crystal clear turquoise waters surrounding me, I am tempted for a quick swim; but my personal butler Shareef is ready and waiting to whisk me off to my over water bungalow with a private pool. There are two main choices of accommodation here. Over water bungalows or those nestled right on the beach. I am excited that tonight I will be falling asleep to the sound of the waves and the sun setting directly outside my wooden deck.
The weather is fantastically hot and a welcome escape from the autumn chill of the UK. Much to my dismay, the recent cyclone in India is having an adverse effect on the weather, so the skies are not the brilliant blue that you see in the brochures, but I was not going to let this dampen my spirits and with the first opportunity, I dust off my bikini and head for the beach. As I walk along the pontoon, a black tipped shark glides gracefully past me as it meanders through the lagoon. There is marine life everywhere I look. One of the benefits of this resort is that it has its own house reef.
A particular highlight was the sting ray feeding, which takes place every evening at the hotel beach. As I stepped down towards the sand, I could see dark shadows in the water. There are tens of them, patiently swimming in the shallows. With some trepidation, I head towards the ranger who urges me to reach into a small white bucket of fish. Gathering a congealed smelly mass in my palms I then guided my hand towards the underside of the nearest sting ray, which sucks the food up in one quick swoop. In my excitement I almost forget to jump out of the way of its long sweeping barbed tail as it turns and heads towards the fish filled hands of the excitable child next to me. A couple of carefully monitored portions later, they then swim away, back into the depths of the ocean ready to hunt for the rest of their evening meal.
Although this experience feels a little staged, the rays come here of their own free will and therefore I cannot help but feel a little moved by my close encounter with something so wild. This is just one of the many activities that can be enjoyed here and as I head back to my room, I look forward to my snorkelling trip in the morning with high hopes for some more close encounters, this time with green turtles which are often spotted swimming around the reef here.