If there’s anywhere on earth that truly captures the spirit of a castaway Robinson Crusoe experience, it has to be the Maldives. Of 1,192 coral islands fringed with coral reef across 26 atolls, just 200 are inhabited.
Onboard a private yacht in the Maldives, cruise past tiny islets spilling fauna onto shores strewn with a thousand shells, where the palest jade rings mark lagoons sculpted by the currents of the Indian Ocean. Swell-specialists and wave-wallflowers alike can surf at breaks far off the beaten track, while divers can explore scores of dive sites.
The North and South Male Atolls are the most developed in the Maldives, while the Baa Atoll is home to Hanifaru Bay, where mantas and whale sharks congregate at certain times of the year. The Noonu Atoll and the Raa Atoll are home to some of the more remote luxury resorts in the Maldives.
There are plenty of islands further afield to discover in the northern reaches of the Maldives – this region features in Maldivian history as one of the rulers who fought against Portuguese colonisation in the 16th century lived here. In the far north, visitors will find protected marine zones, shipwrecks and underwater caves, ideal for divers.
The central atolls comprise Dhaalu, Thaa, Laamu, Meemu, Faafu. Thaa and Laamu are praised for their consistent barrel surfing and fishing, not to mention some sensational diving.
In the Ari Atoll, Fenfushi is fascinating for those in search of the cultural side of the Maldives; its inhabitants were skilful sculptors and carvers of coral and their art is still to be seen on the finely decorated walls of the island’s mosque and the tombstones in the nearby cemetery. Divers will love this region’s abundance of fish and prospect of whale sharks and manta rays at the right season.
Further south lie the Huvadhoo Atoll and the Addu Atoll, which are often considered as the most beautiful in the Maldives with their lack of development, stunning natural wonders and prolific coral reefs. Visitors can experience local culture in some of the far-flung villages in this region.
The Eastern side of Huvadhoo is a paradise in the true sense of the word for underwater aficionados and fishermen – during the dry monsoon practically all the narrow passes along the atoll’s perimeter are ideal for current dives, with clear visibility and congregating fish. Advanced surfers can take to Beacons and Tiger Stripes, two of the most powerful waves in the Maldives.