Labor Day rolled around and it was time for DiploDad and I to get around to celebrating our Big Anniversary properly – and sans enfants terribles. Every five years, we head off somewhere fun and I don’t have to worry about a thing because DD plans it all. He’s always so proud of himself, and pats himself on the back repeatedly, acting like he just did the greatest thing ever and is doing me a favor by letting me plan every other thing that goes on until the next big anniversary. Honestly, if he would be as self-congratulatory about all the other things he would be planning if I didn’t, he’s probably right in thinking that.
We started the tradition of these trips with our fifth anniversary, and over the past years we’ve renewed our vows in Vegas with Elvis playing in the background, got too busy with a move from Cameroon to plan a trip (oops!), had a Buddhist wedding ceremony in Thailand, and seen snake charmers in the souk in Marrakech. It’s been awesome. This year, DiploDad outdid himself and we headed off to the Maldives.
We left at about midnight, with V watching the kids and her daughter A along to ostensibly watch the DiploDog. Midnight is not really the greatest time to begin a trip. I don’t recommend it. On the plus side, the trip to the airport was short, and we breezed in and up to the check-in without any problems. Even though we were only going for the weekend, we decided to check our bags so we wouldn’t have to deal with them along the way.
Security at the airport was the normal stuff in India – seven or eight checks of the passport and boarding pass, a pat down or two (or three), and lots of smiles when we addressed officials. I always try to read the nametags of all the public servants I encounter at the airport and use their names in any interaction. I would personally hate a rote job where all I did was match names on cards and tickets and passports and check faces, and where I had very little meaningful interaction with people beyond them grunting at me. I try to thank them and to use their names – they are doing their job, and it just seems right to me to acknowledge them rather than treat them like they don’t exist. A “Thank you, Mr. Khan” or a “Thank you, Ms. Thakkar” goes a long way to getting a smile and hopefully making someone feel appreciated. Those folks are one of the steps in a long chain to keep me safe in the skies, so I’m going to say it, and I’m going to mean it.
The trip was two legs: first, to Colombo, Sri Lanka (can I check off another country if I don’t leave the airport?), and second, to Male, the Maldives. The flights were an hour and fifteen and two hours and twenty minutes respectively, so not much flight time itself. This was good, because in both cases we were oh so graciously given the window seat, which meant that one of us got to sit next to a large unwashed male while sandwiched in between our spouse and said male.
I freaking HATE the window seat. My mother once told me once that if I fell asleep against the window while I was flying that my face would become half paralyzed and I’d look demented the rest of my life. I don’t know if that’s true, but it fostered an irrational fear, and I avoid the window seat when flying like Donald Trump avoids coach class. This usually means that I am stuck fighting for the armrest with the unwashed male. Don’t worry – I fight dirty on that front, so I usually win.
We had a couple of hours in Colombo after deplaning, and while we were wandering around, we found paradise.
We caved. We had to. We got a real burger and real fries and a real Coca-Cola, and were so happy we’d already refused the in-flight nightmare earlier so we could devour it all.
By ten a.m., we were landing in Male, where we were picked up by a representative from our chosen resort, The Angsana Spa and Resort Ihuru. http://www.angsana.com/en/em-maldives-ihuru The island of Ihuru has wonderful snorkeling and diving, a great spa, and beautiful beaches. But I’m not convinced that’s why DD chose it – I think it’s because the name sounds like it’s something out of Star Trek.
The airport is right on the water, where all the speedboats are waiting to take you to your final destination in the Maldives. About a half hour boat ride later, we pulled up to the resort.
We were welcomed by the lovely guest services staff, and instead of a welcome drink received a welcome chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of homemade ice cream. This was the perfect start, because as I had already been up twenty-eight consecutive hours, the last thing I needed was a hit of alcohol, but that hit of sugar did the trick. After a brief orientation and check-in, we headed to our bungalow for the weekend.
After unpacking and freshening up, we headed to the spa for a couples scrub and massage, the “Hawaiian Treat”.
Heaven. After the long trip, a tense week with a lot of new things going on, plus very little sleep, it didn’t take me much to spiral into bliss. Maybe even too much bliss. A couple of times in my life I’ve had the feeling during a treatment that if I actually did nod off I’d never wake up. It’s scary, and when that happens, I stop. I hate it, but the feeling is so disconcerting that I know it’s the best thing. My therapist, Shiny, was so understanding and patient with me. She patted my head, helped me sit up and reorient, and then brought me a cup of the most wonderful ginger tea while I waited for DD to finish up. When we were finished we both walked back to the bungalow in a lightly scented coconut haze and promptly took a three-hour nap.
Dinner was buffet style and very good. The dining area was right on the edge of the beach where you were practically in the water at high tide. After dinner, DD and I wandered over to talk to the resort Divemaster. The Angsana has a PADI certified facility, and as DD and I hadn’t been diving in several years, we booked a check-out and review dive with Maison, where he promptly gave us homework. (DB1: “Ha, ha, ha. That’s what you get for leaving us here!”) Along with the homework, I asked for, and received, a dive table. It was in French. I can manage in French, honestly, but it was made for eyes in their first year of marriage, not their 25th.
The next morning after breakfast, we headed over to meet Maison with our completed homework, suited up, and hit the water. We began with a review of hand signals, clearing masks, finding a loose regulator, and sharing air. Afterwards, we took a trip around the house reef.
The Angsana’s house reef is second to none. With our SCUBA gear we were able to hit about 20 meters depth and explore all the way down to the Raanamaari shipwreck, which is close to the island. We surfaced from our first dive feeling confident and ready for more. We booked two boat dives for the following morning and then headed back to the bungalow.
We decided to order room service and eat on our back deck. As soon as the food arrived, we met Clyde.
Clyde patrols the area. We were clearly on his turf. Clyde likes, and expects, French fries. Clyde does not like apple slices. Clearly, Clyde is a preteen.
After lunch, we realized that we were late for our nap. It’s so disappointing when you fail to make an appointment. DD fell asleep here:
Mosquitos do not bother him. They think I am tasty, so I stayed in the cool confines of the bungalow for my siesta.
After dinner, which included possibly the best crème brulee I’ve ever had, we headed back to the bungalow and decided to try out the whirlpool. Whirlpools always seem like a fun idea. They’re not. Even in a lovely garden with tropical plants all around, it’s still too much planning for eight minutes in a too-small-for-two tub with too-hot water.
The next morning began early with some coffee (sorry Clyde – no fries, just java) and then we boarded the boat. We did two dives, and both were spectacular. On our first dive we saw gorgeous fan coral and some sea turtles, including one whose shell was easily two feet in diameter. On our second, we saw a few black tip reef sharks.
That afternoon, we headed over to the Angsana’s sister resort for a change of scenery and to check out some local marine life. Every day at about 5 p.m., stingrays congregate in the surf next to the Banyan Tree Resort. Shortly thereafter, one of the marine center’s employees comes out and feeds them. It’s crazy – about a dozen stingrays swim up to the shallows, wash up over your feet, and then take squid and fish for dinner. A random reef shark circles and gets an occasional fish too, as does a crane.
A random reef shark circles and gets an occasional fish too, as do
The waters around the Banyan Tree are just as beautiful as at the Angsana, and filled with marine life. No underwater camera is necessary to capture images of beautiful and colorful fish – they’re right there.
There’s also a marine center, where they hold information sessions and where they run a turtle conservation program. You can adopt one of these little guys if you want:
While we were waiting for the shuttle boat back to the Angsana we watched the Banyan Tree/Angsana Staff Olympics from the docks.
The tug-of-war, as one of our hosts, Alvin, later informed us, was the most important event. Alvin gave us all the details on the tug-of-war. It turns out that it’s much more complicated than it looks and that strategy is an important part. His advice, “Don’t get on the soft side of the beach”.
On Sunday, DiploDad pulled out all the stops and after a day of snorkeling and sunning, we had a private dinner on a sandbar.
We took a boat out and were greeted with smiles from our hosts and a glass of champagne. While we took a walk around the island, they prepared our dinner. We discovered that we weren’t entirely alone on the island, and that we were definitely outnumbered.
It was truly an unforgettable evening. The setting was beautiful, the food was great, the Milky Way was visible, and the man I love was sitting next to me. Just perfect.
Eventually, the crabs threw us off their “island” and we got back to the room to find this waiting for us:
I woke up the next morning sad to go, but feeling refreshed and beginning to miss the DiploBoys. For a minimal amount, the resort extended our stay until 7 p.m., so we got to enjoy the amenities for an additional day.
This is how I spent it:
We took three separate snorkeling trips along the house reef, each about thirty to forty-five minutes. On one trip, I saw six black-tip reef sharks swimming about ten feet under me, which in my opinion is about ten feet too close. We saw a few more varieties of fish than we’d seen on previous dives, and a giant sea anemone with a population of six or seven Nemos. The resort is very conscious of the environment and the reefs they supervise, and they are actively engaged in conservation efforts and reef support. It really has paid off, and the results are beautiful. We had afternoon tea with Clyde, and took The Last Nap for a While. I actually managed a nap every single day of my holiday. I count that among my proudest lifetime accomplishments. Seriously.
Finally, we had to leave. All packed up with magazines, Kindles, and passports in hand, we headed to the bar to enjoy a farewell iced tea, speak one last time with Alvin, and watch the sun set before we boarded the speedboat.
Even though we didn’t arrive back at our home in Mumbai until close to 4 a.m., it was definitely worth it. Even though the next morning was complete and utter chaos as we all got ready for school and work, it was worth it. I really can’t tell you how perfect the weekend was. It’s impossible. You’ll have to go yourself.
DD and I are already looking at the calendar for a return trip. After all, Clyde probably misses us.