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Maldives Travel Guide

It Took 4 Flights and 40 Hours But I Found Most Beautiful Color on Earth

Adventures are unpredictable—that's what makes them fun.


love the thrill of the chase. I’ve crisscrossed this earth trying to catch glimpses of some of the most ephemeral spectacles of nature. My bucket list is full of gorgeous destinations, sure, but more likely categorized by weirdly evanescent or likely insurmountable experiences, including bioluminescence skimming across hidden lagoons and waterfalls that catch fire. I’m always hunting for supremely rare adventures. In the past, I’ve scrambled across the edge of raw wilderness to find the singular electric blue waters of Patagonian lakes, made so unique by glaciers pulverizing the rocks below into fine-grained sediments. I’ve tried to solve mysteries of the desert (with mixed results). Waited all night for the sun to set in Alaska (it didn’t). Tried to keep my cool (fail) bearing witness to a lion killing its prey on the Serengeti (success). Connected with the spirits in Bali. Sought wildflowers blooming on a volcano in South Korea. Tracked wizards in Chile. Chased northern lights in Iceland, Canada, and Alaska (fail x3). Photographed ready-to-crumble natural arches in Morocco. Found heaven on earth after nearly dying in Zion. They’ve been really fun, really worthwhile wild goose chases. I yearn to experience destinations that require perseverance in effort, flexibility in timing, and pure dumb luck to get what you came for.

Oh, and of course, the right weather conditions.

So it felt pretty risky to head to the very wide-open Indian Ocean with the intention of soaking up iridescent turquoise waters under the brilliance of equatorial sun–all during the windy, rainy Halhangu, or summer monsoon season. About 30 hours and two-thirds of the way into my travels to the private island resort of The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, where my only plan was to serenely float through the tropical abyss, I started to worry: No really, what if it rains?

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The Maldives is made up of 1,200 islands, of which over 100 are private resorts, and around 200 are inhabited. I would be visiting just one, with a meteorological forecast totally independent of the geographical area and without fealty to historical patterns of weather. It had taken me almost two days to get here: my fourth and final flight, a 45-minute seaplane skip from the Maldivian capital Malé across the Indian Ocean to the Vommuli Resort. Multiple turbulent plane rides across all sorts of atmospheric pressures were exactly what reminded me that photographs of sunny tropical islands don’t equal time spent in sunny tropical islands. But from the final stretch of the seaplane flight, the sky and water bloomed brightly. Oodles of islands speckled the ocean like sandy polka dots, brimming with jungle-y fauna and powdery banks. I couldn’t get over the clarity of colors, the ombre blending where the tranquility of sea foam green shorelines gave way to infinite deep-sea blue. These emerald lagoons and eye-catching reefs begged for diving, frolicking, and ebullition. It couldn’t rain. It wouldn’t dare.

Rachael Levitt

The seaplane landed at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort under halcyon skies. Country-wide, The Maldives is famous for luxurious overwater villas, and the St. Regis Vommuli, though first-rate in luxury and provisions, can’t really improve on the perfection of this location. There’s no need to further saturate the cerulean hues that make a person’s legs go wobbly with reverence. But the pristine, private island hotel resort clearly understands the influence of color theory on its guests, adding flourishes and touches throughout the retreat to enhance one’s access to the perfect shade of aqua, all while minimizing distractions and distortions to the view.

Rachael Levitt Maldives IMG_4877
Rachael Levitt Maldives IMG_2117
Rachael Levitt Maldives Ocean 1
Rachael Levitt; Leena Gundapaneni

Unless, of course, the view became clouded.

But I hoped for the best as I lazed in my stylish digs positioned in the middle of the sea. The overwater villas don’t merely grant guests access to the blue palette–they’re engulfed in it. From the overwater villa’s deck, a guest can cozy up in a hammock precipitously hung over nothing more than the infinite waves of the colossal ocean. Look below you, look above, look beyond: endless blue, green, and their color fusion fill your view.

Relaxation could wait: I couldn’t sit still for long in conditions as fine as these. I must seize these sunny moments as they unfold! It was time to immerse myself actively in the palette. From the overwater villas to the main beach and island, I rode the complimentary beach cruiser bicycle across the barely half-mile stretch of boardwalk, gliding above the sea, below the sky, imbued in the big blue yonder. Braking to stop and take it all in–the schools of fish jumping in formation, a reef shark passing beneath me, a pair of lovebird manta rays waiting patiently for some attention. I imagined the boardwalk slick with rain, the skies flat and gray, the water below me muddled and choppy, and shuddered. I needed to get moving, to get more of that crystal clear blue.

Rachael Levitt Maldives Bike 1
Rachael Levitt Maldives Bike 2
Rachael Levitt; Leena Gundapaneni

I hustled between my villa’s deck and the main beach, where the resort’s calm cove is another exceptional entry to the enchanting tones, eager to saturate the days. The resort arranged a trip via speedboat to a private sandbank where snorkeling, sea-bobbing, and gourmet picnicking were arranged. Under the calm waves, I explored the gradient waters from the glimmering surface of the coastal slope to the navy depth of the continental shelf. There’s a rainbow of color submerged in these waters, too: tiger-striped clownfish and neon anemones, sunny bluestripe snappers and iridescent parrotfish, amber sea turtles, and fluorescent clams. But somehow these pops of pigmentation seem only to enhance the blue brilliance. There’s simply nothing more resplendent than sea, salt, and sky–in fair weather, of course.

My very few days had been spoiled with perfect conditions. It was risky to chance such little time, so far away, and without any guarantee that I’d achieve that bucket list experience of euphoric magnificence in a destination on the other side of the world from home. From the bathtub, opposite the infinity pool, overlooking the ocean, I finally conceded that elements might have their due. Clouds and rain could–they very well might–muddy these perfectly stacked shades of shallow aqua, sapphire deep, and infinite sky. Ok fine, air pressure, do your worst; I dare you to drop! After all, I was in a freaking bathtub! Bring on the stormy night!

Leena Gundapaneni

It could have been choppy, it could have been windy, it could have been gray. It could have gone wrong. But it wasn’t, and it didn’t. It never rained. Not even once, not even a drizzle. It was a lightning strike of luck on top of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The weather cooperated. It’s not easy to plan huge trips around mostly unpredictable or inaccessible natural wonders. No matter the distance or effort, the weather does not have to comply. These tricky trips take time, money, perseverance–and acceptance that things might not work out. But when they do, the world reveals the exquisiteness of chance succeeded. The crystal clarity of a radiant hue. And that sort of sparkle is worth the extra effort.