If you've been dreaming of a magical way to spend your next holiday, look no further than the blissful surrounds of the Maldives. This tiny archipelago in the Indian Ocean is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the modern day world, and even a few days spent on its shores is an adventure in itself.
Touching down in Male
As you soar over the azure ocean on the approach to Male, the Maldives' capital, you may be able to glimpse hints of the mountain range that lies beneath the water's surface. The country has 26 atolls and some 187 inhabited islands.
One of its claims to fame, the Maldives' white sand beaches are unparalleled, opening themselves up to long walks, snorkelling and lazing under the sun. While you'll have plenty of opportunities to experience them for yourself on one of the many resort islands, take the time to explore the 'real Maldives' in Male.
This compact, merchant city is a vibrant hub of fantastic restaurants as well as being a great place to learn more about the country's culture. Pay a visit to the architectural delight that is the Hukuru Miskiiy, the Maldives' oldest mosque, and don't forget to swing by the National Museum, which holds some of the nation's treasured art and cultural artefacts.
Diving into the Maldives
It would be a crime to miss out on the wonders of the Maldivian seas while you're here. Thanks to abundant coral reefs and sea life, you'll be sure to experience some of the most incredible diving off shore.
According to Padi, you can expect to encounter anything from tuna, snapper and turtles, to manta rays and even whale sharks. Visibility is usually good, and the water temperatures hover around a balmy 26-30 degrees Celsius.
What makes the Maldives unique is the incredible phenomenon whereby the shores are illuminated by thousands upon thousands of tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans called ostracods. Unlike phytoplankton, these ostracods are known to emit a bioluminescent blue light for up to a minute at a time.
One of the places you can see the magic at work is on the beach at Vaadhoo Island, where the wash of these glow in the dark specs has been affectionately nicknamed 'the sea of stars'. You can get here from Male by ferry or boat, and prepare to spend your holiday on this little island chip of paradise.