Star billing: The Maldives live up to all the travel brochure hype, says Holly
Our first trip to the Maldives was for our honeymoon. My husband Dan kidded me that we were going to Skegness. The next thing I knew we were in Terminal 4 at Heathrow, walking up to the Air Lanka desk and checking in for a flight to the Maldives – and I was like, Yay!
So when we were talking about where to holiday this year, there was really only one choice: the Maldives. On our honeymoon we went for a week; this time we were going for a fortnight. As I’m now pregnant, our little break was what people call a ‘babymoon’ – some pre-birth quality time for the parents-to-be. And we wanted somewhere where we knew there would be lots of things to do.
We also fancied somewhere a bit different. The Olhuveli Beach & Spa Resort on South Male Atoll fitted the bill perfectly: it was amazing. The brochure described it as ‘nestled amid tropical vegetation and shaded by graceful palms, surrounded by a vast sandy beach and a crystalclear lagoon’.
For most holiday places, you have to take the brochure hype with a pinch of salt. The thing about the Maldives is that it’s the one place on Earth that actually lives up to the billing. It manages to exceed your expectations. Sometimes you see pictures of holiday places, then when you get there they turn out to be a bit of a disappointment.
But in the Maldives, the sea really is that blue, and the sand actually is that white.
Tell people you’re going to the Maldives and one thing they often say is: ‘I wouldn’t like just to sit on a small island – isn’t it boring?’ It depends on what you like, of course, but I love ‘boring’. I can’t think of anything better than not speaking to anybody. I have to speak a lot for a living so it’s nice to go somewhere and not have to make conversation.
Dan and I don’t get that much proper quality time together, so just to feel totally indulged in each other is lovely. We had never had a twoweek holiday together, so being away on our own was special. We’re total sun-worshippers, which is why we wanted somewhere guaranteed to be hot.
Our villa was on stilts in the middle of the ocean. The coffee table in the lounge was made from a glass cube that opened on to the sea below. We could lift the top of the coffee table and feed the fish beneath us. How wonderful is that?
What I want from a holiday is total relaxation, where you know you’re not going to bump into anybody. I knew that being recognised wouldn’t be a problem in the Maldives, but then I do keep myself to myself. I avoid people at all costs: the last thing I want to do is to start making conversation with someone over a sun lounger, and then spend the rest of the holiday trying to keep away from them.
Some days Dan and I just stayed put in our water villa. We had everything we wanted; we could order our meals in, relax in our own private Jacuzzi or jump off the platform straight into the sea for a glorious swim. Being able to go for days at a stretch and not see anybody is absolute heaven for me – I’m extremely anti-social on holiday.
I have to say I didn’t get that active: we did some sunset cruises, which were lovely, and I had to try snorkelling. But mostly I was content to enjoy the beautiful island.
And the dining options were never dull: Sakura, a fabulous Japanese restaurant; the a la carte Lagoon (perfect for romantic dinners though you can get a fine afternoon tea there, too); and Sunset, which is one of the largest over-thewater restaurants in the Maldives, offering a fusion of Chinese and South-East Asian cuisines with a touch of Italian/Mediterranean.
Food in the Maldives is always a pleasure: unlike many other holiday places, there is an accent on good dining.Another attraction of Olhuveli was the inter-island transport. I’m really not keen on the seaplane rides you have to take to reach the more distant atolls in the Maldives, so I was grateful that Olhuveli was 50 minutes by speedboat from the airport at Male.
And relax: lounging around with nothing to do is Holly’s idea of heaven
I’ve been lucky to have travelled quite a lot. When my sister Kelly and I were very young, Mum and Dad took us quite a few times to Disney World in Florida. When you’re a child, this is the most exciting place on Planet Earth (to be honest, I think our parents used to enjoy all the rides and attractions just as much we did).
We also went to the traditional package holiday places such as Majorca and Tenerife – holidays were important to us as a family.
I’ve always loved going abroad so it’s a bit frustrating that now we get such little time to go away. We can escape just once a year for a main holiday, plus the odd two or three days at a stretch for a short break when the schedule allows.
Dan’s mum is Italian and they have a family home in Tuscany. So if we can get away for a couple of days then it’s great to fly to Pisa and drive up into the mountains above Lucca where they live. We tend to do this more when the weather is cold: of course, it’s wonderful in the summer, but to me it’s perfect in the winter when all the fires are lit.
My work often takes me to some beautiful places but you can never really relax and enjoy it because you have to be heading out to interview someone rather than jumping into the pool. You can’t relax when you are abroad for work purposes.
The one place in the world that I haven’t been to but would love to visit is South America. I would like to do a little exploring in Brazil or Peru. I want to trek up to Machu Picchu and have a little time to discover the coast. And, of course, there would have to be some beach time.
The country that most impressed me with its sheer beauty was New Zealand. It has everything and in such a relatively small space. You can go from sunbathing on a lovely beach up to a snow-capped mountain just like that.
For a wonderful city break and fantastic shopping, it has to be New York. Travelling into Manhattan still makes the hair rise on the back of my neck. But for the ultimate relaxing holiday, you can’t beat the Maldives. When you’ve discovered just how wonderful it is there, nowhere else comes close: it spoils you. I think we might be going back to the Maldives for the rest of our lives.
I went to the Caribbean recently for work. I haven’t been there that much but while I was there I was thinking: ‘Give me the Maldives any day.’
When you’ve found a winning formula, you may as well stick to it.
Holly Willoughby is currently presenting Dancing On Ice on ITV1.