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Maldives - Nature's sunken garden

Unrivalled luxury, stunning white-sand beaches and an amazing underwater wildlife, make Maldives an obvious choice for the holiday of a lifetime

The island archipelago of Maldives has always dredged up a similar image in the mind, of white sand beaches and the different shades of blue on the horizon. Although most of these beaches are a thing of abject luxury, we decided to check out a part of Maldives that's offbeat and offers unique experiences without burning a hole in your pocket.

One of the first destinations is the island of Guraidhoo, located about an hour-long boat ride away from the capital of Mahe on the Kaafu Atoll. The island may not have all the luxury beachside cottages but what it does have is a plethora of adventure activities that you might want to dig your feet into. The waters around the island are effervescently clear and it is quite easy to dive into these waters. We decided to dive in along with Secret Paradise Maldives and discovered a range of colourful corals and a plethora of flora and fauna that will make you fall in love with the Maldives. Descending down to a depth of about 30 feet, the world underneath is totally a new one altogether, filled with colours that I haven't seen before. We skip back up on our boats before heading out to another dive site.

But the flora and the fauna aren't the only two things that you should check out while going diving, there are quite a few underwater ruins that you can also check out. These relics of human civilisation have been around for quite some time now, from the oldest of them being more than 400 years old and the recent ones being almost a decade ago. Although you might be expecting ghost stories of lost treasures from these rusty decks down below, what you will find is a miracle of nature as these manmade structures have become home to quite a bit of marine animals as the coral has wrapped itself onto the decks of metal and wood.

After a full day of diving to discover the extravagant world under the surface, we head out to explore the island. Although quite sparsely populated, there are quite local fishermen homes and residents who are slowly but steadily becoming a part of the booming tourism trade. We head between the bylanes, discovering histrionics from the slow, relaxed island life. Guraidhoo is most famously known for its Mental Hospital, the campus of which are quite beautifully curated.

Post our hour-long tour of this island we head to Akhtar's house (a local), where a lovely spread has been laid out before us. There's a load of rice on the table along with multiple dishes made out of freshly caught Tuna. I especially fall in love with the Garudhiya which is a tempered broth made with the fish along with tuna noodles. On the sides, there is some tangy charcoal-grilled Barbeque Reef Fish served along with fried moringa, onions and chillies. We also decide to dig into Rihaakuru which is made from Tuna paste mixed with coconut milk, chillies and onions. It's a spicy, tangy, creamy mix that you can eat with either the rice or roshi, quite similar to our rotis.

Next evening, we decided to head out for a majestic sunset and to catch my own fish, night fishing. It is absolutely a pleasure to be able to view nature's miracles once in a while and watching the Sunset over the Indian Ocean is majestic beyond imagination. The medley of fiery shades orange combined with the blue of the ocean is something that you must put on your bucket list. After a quick meal aboard our vessel, we decided to find our catch for the day. As nets are not allowed around the archipelago, we resort to fishing even without rods, just tying baits to the ends of ropes as the Sun descended around us. Within 15 minutes, we caught hold of some Reef Fish and Red Tuna – our dinner for the night.

The second island we head on to is Thinadhoo on the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll. A sparsely populated island, so sparse that most of the 50-odd inhabitants who live here are directly connected to tourism. Although still quite pristine just like the uninhabited islands around the Atoll, one of the easier ways to explore the beauty of this island is at the Sandbars. Accessible only during the low tide, these sandbars make up for an interesting site for a meal as the Sunsets on the horizon.

Thinadhoo's another hotspot is diving in the nights which offers a totally different perspective to how you see the ocean. As you dive into the deep blue, almost dark waters inside, the world underneath lights up showing a newer kind of flora and fauna that you wouldn't have found on a morning dive, especially a score of baby sharks in vibrant colours. After finishing up with the dive, head to the spa at Plumeria Maldives for a relaxation session to spruce up or the local markets to buy amulets inscribed with Arabic runes.

Although the Maldives has more than a thousand beaches to explore, one beach stands out more than others. The beaches of Vadhoo Island are blanketed with a fluorescent blue from the plankton with its chemiluminescence as it shimmers all over the way to the horizon. The Sea of Stars, as it is commonly known, is located about 15 minutes north of Male and offers scenery unlike any other. Do wade into the waters and you'll find your footsteps being laced with the blue of the ocean.

These new destinations in Maldives offer you a holiday worth remembering without burning a hole in your pocket.

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