Explore, Dream, Discover

Crystal clear blue waters. Cool, white sandy beaches. Cocktails served poolside all day long. Bright, sunny skies. Listening to the ocean waves crash against the shoreline. Wearing swimsuits from morning until evening.

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The Maldives

My husband and I chose to go to the Maldives for our honeymoon. Why the Maldives? Other than it is the epitome of paradise, throughout our relationship we constantly talked about going on an adventure across the world and staying in an over-water bungalow together, if we ever had the chance. It was bucket-list dream of ours. Finally, we had the money, vacation time, and no major responsibilities in our lives. It was the perfect opportunity (maybe the only opportunity).

Going on our honeymoon is something that I’ve daydreamed about for years; the chance to take an amazing trip with the love of my life. I wanted to have the ultimate relaxation experience and feel like we were the only two people on the planet for one week. The Maldives made all of those dreams a reality and it was more than I could have ever even imagined. We spent every waking moment exploring and sharing new experiences together as a couple.

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Travel

The Maldives is a chain of hundreds of islands located south of India in the Indian Ocean. Keep in mind, that the farthest I had ever traveled out of the United States was a four hour plane ride to Cancun, Mexico for spring break a few years back. Luke, my husband, already had several business trips to Japan under his belt. I was by no means a world traveler and I was in for a very rude awakening.

We left for our honeymoon at 3 a.m. the morning after our wedding. Mistake number one. We started off our travels already sleep deprived. Luke can sleep anywhere, but I am very particular. By particular I mean, absolute silence, a sleep mask with no light shining through the corners, ear plugs, white noise playing the background, and a cushy, fully reclined mattress. What I got was a plane full of crying babies, passengers walking up and down the aisle, food being served at all hours of the night, and an uncomfortable chair that barely reclined. Needless to say, I only slept for a few hours the whole trip.

The length of the trip spanned roughly 30 hours, including layover time. We were in the air for a full 20 hours. We flew out of Detroit, stopped in Philadelphia, flew to Qatar, next to Male(the capital of the Maldives), and finally we took a small 15 passenger seaplane to our island and resort. The seaplane was an amazing, 75 minute experience. We got a phenomenal aerial view from the plane as we passed over many little islands in clear water. It was absolutely breath taking.

The resort we chose to stay at is called Ja Manafaru. It is at the northern edge of the chain of islands. The island itself was a jungle-like utopia with soaring palm trees, geckos running around our feet, and fruit bats circling above. The resort offered beach-front island rentals as well as over-water bungalows. It was equip with every amenity you can think of; two public pools, spa, gym facility, boutique, and a diving and snorkeling center. It was home to seven different restaurants to choose from each offering different types of cuisine from around the world. My personal favorite was the Andiamo Bistro because it served delicious Italian food. The staff at the resort were very attentive and went above and beyond to make our stay as enjoyable as possible. The minute we stepped off the plane, we were greeted with cultural music and drinks. We had a personal staff member, named Yamin, who catered to our every desire throughout the trip. He planned our excursions, booked our dinner reservations each night, and chauffeured us around the island via golf cart anytime we asked. Each part of the resort, no matter how small, had been purposefully designed to leave guests with an unforgettable experience.

Our over-water bungalow was a hut on stilts suspended over the ocean and had  beautiful indoor and outdoor space. It had a spacious bedroom and living room combination with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. The living room floor had a window to see ocean life swimming in the water below. The bathroom had a large rectangular tub with jets and colored lights, as well as his & hers sinks. The shower and toilet areas were fully covered from view, but partially open to the outside. You could feel the warm tropical air and hear the waves below. The bungalow had a deck on the back with a ladder that led straight into the ocean, two lounge-style beach chairs, a small round table, and a porch swing. It also featured a gorgeous private infinity pool that felt like an extension of the sea.

My first impression of the island and resort was amazement. I remember telling Luke that it looked exactly like it did online when we booked it! The pictures I took on my iPhone look impressive enough to be on a postcard or the cover of a magazine. It was impossible to take a bad picture with such spectacular scenery and views.

We arrived on Monday September 11th as the sun was setting over the blue waters. We were both exhausted from traveling for so many hours straight. We ordered and went to sleep until the stars in a place very far away from home.

bungalow

Tuesday September 12th

The next working, we woke up to spectacular ocean views and the smell of saltwater in the air. I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t just a dream and that we actually were in paradise! While the skies were cloudy, we were eager to start the day and explore the island. We started the morning off by walking to the breakfast restaurant and I was surprised by how bitter the chocolate tasted. After breakfast, it started to rain. We went back to our bungalow and relaxed while watching the rain. Thankfully, it did not last long and it has cleared up before lunchtime. We went to the Andiamo Bistro and pool for lunch. I had beef lasagna, my absolute favorite meal, and Luke had beef kabobs with a red wine & mushroom sauce. We came back to the villa to soak up the sunshine by lounging in the infinity pool and reading a book. We both wore SPF 50 and a t-shirt ( we are very fair skinned) and we burned through both of those layers! We learned the hard way that it is true what people say about the sun being more intense the closer you are to the equator.

After a glorious day in the sun, we went to a cocktail party hosted by the resort to welcome all of the new guests that had just arrived. After the party, we had dinner at the White Orchid restaurant, which specialized in Asian cuisine. We ate in the dark beneath the stars. I had Schezwan steak and Luke had pan fried egg noodle with Tiger Prawn. All in all, it was a idyllically first day.

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Wednesday September 13th

The second day we woke up to pouring rain and it continued the entire day until dinnertime. We ordered room service for breakfast because it was too far to walk to breakfast in the rain and puddles. I had a relaxing morning reading my book and editing pictures I had taken the previous day. I tried to make the most of the day, but the rain was disappointing and I feared there would be more rain in forecast. We had booked a dolphin cruise excursion for that evening that had to be rescheduled for Friday as the rain had not stopped all day.

In the afternoon, we had lunch at the Horizon bar and lounge. I had a steak sandwich and Luke had barracuda with truffle fries. The resort offered a complimentary cocktail making workshop on a first come availability to entertain the guests on the rainy day. Luke learned how to make a strawberry margarita for me and I made him a Caipirnha, which is a Brazilian specialty.

Finally near the end of the day, it had stopped raining. Luke and I decided to take a walk on the beach around the island while it was dry. We found seashells, starfish, and hermit crabs on the beach. The ocean was very warm and beautiful despite the overcast skies. On the plus side, it gave us a day to let our sunburns heal from the day before. We went to the Ocean Grill Restaurant for dinner. Luke had Australian beef tenderloin and I had chicken fajitas. We went to sleep praying for good weather but the forecast did not look promising.

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Thursday September 14th

I woke up early in the morning to overcast skies but no rain. I became absorbed in my book on the porch swing for a few hours while Luke continued to sleep. It sprinkled on and off for most of the morning. After breakfast, we went to the Andiamo pool. We enjoyed taking pictures and swimming all by ourselves. The entire island felt surprisingly empty, which I really enjoyed because it gave us alone time to ourselves.

Luke rented snorkeling gear from the diving center to snorkel around beneath our bungalow. The islands in the Maldives are made of coral sand and are surrounded by coral reefs. It is one of the best places for snorkeling and diving in the world. Luke saw a lot of different fish and sea life just around our bungalow. I decided to give it a try but I didn’t really want to know what was lurking under the water.

We then went to lunch at the Horizon Grill again. I had a chicken Cesar salad and Luke had pan fried prawns in bok choy spring rolls. I had been a little worried about the food would be at the resort, but they had such a wide variety. I am a picky eater, but I was always able to find something I liked to eat at every single restaurant.

After lunch, we went to a trio wine tasting at the Cellar restaurant. It was a complimentary offer because the staff had planned on it being a rainy day. However, after a few hours of sprinkling rain in the morning, it had turned out to be a gorgeous day. We tried a processco sparkling wine, a white wine, and a red whine with cheese and crackers. After the tasting, we went to the spa for a 80 minute couples massage. It was so relaxing and the first professional massages we’d ever had. When the massage was over, we went to the infinity pool to swim and take pictures with the gorgeous sunset.

One thing you should know about the Maldives is that you can’t believe the weather. I checked the forecast before we left and it was predicted to rain every single day, all day long. It only rained for one full day. However, pop-up storms are very real. Dark clouds would roll in and it would pour for five minutes. Then the sun would be back out and you would never have known it even rained. The storms move extremely fast over the little islands. There are two seasons in the Maldives; a dry season spanning December- May and a rainy Season spanning June-November. Our trip was during the rainy season, while we did experience some rain, it was not enough to make me discourage travel there during the rainy season. The weather fluctuates and cannot be planned no matter where you travel to.

That night, we went back to the Cellar for dinner. It was very fancy and it was required that we purchase a bottle of wine to dine there. I had Angus beef tenderloin and Luke had mahi mahi fish. For dessert, we had a wine and dark chocolate dome. It was the first time we had tried the dessert and it was very good.

palm tree

Friday September 15th

We woke up to a beautiful, sunny morning. On the way back from breakfast, we stopped by the island boutique in search of long-sleeved snorkeling shirts to prevent further sunburn. Afterwards, we went to the Infinity pool, where we lounged and sipped on drinks. For lunch we went to Andiamo bistro and I had a margherita pizza. Luke had lamb burger with fries.

After lunch, we took our snorkeling gear to the house reef off the end of the pier. There was a lot more fish and sea life in the house reef then there was just around our bungalow. We saw beautiful, colorful butterfly fish (which were my absolute favorite species of everything that we saw), star fish, multiple schools of fish, and a moray eel. One tip I have is to be cautious about the type of snorkel mask you have. I am already leery of snorkeling and the mask I had featured a concave front with zoomed everything in. It really affected my depth perception and gave me the feeling that all the fish were within an arm’s reach in front of me. Luke really enjoyed the snorkel experience but it was not something that I would want to do again. On our way back from the house reef, we saw a small whale shark swimming near the shore. To me, the was more exciting then the snorkeling.

Next, we went on the dolphin cruise that we had rescheduled from Wednesday. We took a customary Maldivian boat off the island into the middle of the Indian Ocean. The views were very impressive. We cruised and drank champagne for about a half hour before we entered the dolphin territory. Out of nowhere there were roughly 50 wild dolphins swimming alongside the boat and jumping out of the water. There were a few baby dolphins that were spinning and doing flips out of the water. The boat was low to the water so we got an incredible views of the dolphins in the water below. It was by far my favorite part of the trip. Dolphins are my favorite animal and I had experienced many dolphin interactions, such as swimming with a dolphin, but they had all been with trained dolphins in captivity. It was an extraordinary experience to see so many dolphins in their natural habitat in the middle of the ocean. The crew even said that it was most dolphins they had seen in this location in the last four months!

When we got back from the dolphin cruise, we had planned a private, romantic beach dinner for just the two of us to enjoy each other underneath a sky full of stars. At the time our beach dinner was supposed to start, it started raining. We waited in the reception area for the staff to move it into a cabana to protect it from the rain. I was a little disappointed because I had my heart set on dining on the beach. To our surprise, it stopped raining as quickly as it had started and they had moved our dinner back onto the beach. I got my romantic beach dinner after all! It was completely worth it because as we walked up to it, we saw a small table for two underneath a cloth canopy ocean front. There was a heart carved into the sand around the table with colored rope lights illuminating it. There were heart shaped red luminary bags and candles in the sand. It was incredibly romantic and the perfect way to celebrate our honeymoon! The dinner was four courses; an array of salads, seafood platter, steak, and chocolate dipped fruit for dessert.

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Saturday September 16th

It was our last full  day in the Maldives and we woke up to another morning of warm sunshine seeping through the windows. We spent most of the morning at our private infinity pool lounging, reading, and napping. We went to the Horizon Grill for lunch. I had marinated and grilled chicken satay with peanut sauce and Luke had a chicken Cesar salad.

After lunch, Luke did a little more snorkeling and then we continued to relax at our pool. In the late afternoon, we did a photo shoot with a professional photographer on the island. It was important to me that we had some gorgeous photos of the two of us to remember our honeymoon by. Right in the middle of our photo shoot, there was a pop-up storm. It poured for a few minutes and then it was over. We were able to pick up right where we left off and you would never have known that it had just rained.

Afterwards, we went to the sting ray jetty off the pier. Every day, the staff feeds the sea life and lures them in close to the shore for the guests to witness. We saw two sting rays,  several manta rays, and a very large sea turtle. We had never seen these animals in person and it was amazing to watch.

We ended the night going back to Ocean Grill for dinner. Luke had braised short ribs with stuffed cannelloni and I had maple glazed corn-fed chicken breast with a sweet pumpkin puree. This was another one of my favorite meals and I really enjoyed the pumpkin flavor. We went to bed feeling sad, knowing that when we woke up we would only have a few hours left of our perfect trip.

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Sunday September 17th

Our departure day had arrived too quickly. I wish we could have stayed for another whole week! We spent our last morning in our infinity pool, soaking up the last rays of sunshine. Soaking in the water and reading my book was one of the most relaxing parts of the vacation. We had our last meal at Andiamo Bistro. I had the beef lasagna again, as it was my favorite meal I had eaten there., and Luke had salmon. We left for Male via seaplane shortly afterwards.

 Leaving paradise was one of the saddest moments of my life. I wish I could have stayed there forever. Other than one rainy day, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. We got to do everything we wanted to and then some. I’m not sure if I will ever get to go back to the Maldives, but if I got the chance, I would 100% go again. The flight and travel was unbearable, but the destination more than made up for it. If there is a next time, I will definitely be staying for two full weeks!

This was the first of hopefully many adventures to come in our married lives together. It brought us closer as a couple and made me excited for what will be next. We currently have our sights currently set on Santorini, Greece. Maybe within the next few years we will be able to go. As I said in the beginning, I have not done much world traveling, but this trip has given me a serious case of wanderlust. I can’t wait to see what else is out there!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” – Mark Twain

Until next time.

XOXO

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12 thoughts on “Explore, Dream, Discover

  1. It looks amazing! But it is sooo far to get to (as you point out). I have now been to South Africa three times (I live in LA) and the two overnight flights are never ending. My honeymoon was in Tonga and Samoa – pretty remote too – and there is something to be said for honeymooning in beach bungalows over the water.

    1. Wow, those places sound absolutely amazing. I am with you on the fights! It is so exhausting and took me weeks to recover from this one. I love that you did something different and special for your honeymoon! How fun!

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