You’ve settled in with your book in the shade of a brilliant Maldivian morning, having padded your sandy way back from another sunny breakfast on Angsana Ihuru island resort.
You loved the series, now you finally have time for the book. But you can’t quite relax.
It could be that you’re spoiled for choice, nestled in the secluded garden leading from your cosy villa and onto the beach. You chose the cover of the sheltered daybed in which to get stuck into your bestseller, but the loungers look pretty inviting too – essential if you’re gonna work on your tan. The undhoalhi swing also looks tempting, or perhaps a coffee on the chairs closer to the room is the place for you?
Maybe you’re distracted by the resident water hen strutting in and out of the foliage to enquire for the hundredth time as to what you’re doing on his patch. He snoops around for a while before a colleague calls him back into the undergrowth.
No, it’s not that.
Trying to concentrate on the pages, on the climactic battle scene taking place in a mythical kingdom, your eyes keep drifting up to the Indian Ocean lapping at the bright beach just yards away.
You were already halfway through a fantastic story, and now you need to finish. Less than fifty feet from where you lie is the Maldives’ very own blockbuster novel – the classic tale of an underwater kingdom told by Ihuru’s famed faru (the Dhivehi word for ‘reef’). Authored by nature; lovingly edited by Angsana.
The book can wait (and if it’s the one I think it is – spoiler alert – your favourite character is about to die anyway!!).
It was just yesterday that you took your complimentary snorkel gear from the marine center and floated out through one of the island’s five designated channels indicated by little divers sticking out above the blue; helpful tropical bookmarks in case you should ever lose your place.
Out there, you circumnavigated the island in just over an hour – a trip that takes just 5 minutes by (sandy) foot. It was done – off your list. Now onto the spa treatments, dolphin cruises, watersports, and the book you’d promised yourself you’d make time for.
But before you know it you’re back out reading the reef, observing the butterfly fish playing in shafts of light streaming through the blue, indifferent to your presence. The live action out here is real, with a host of characters playing their parts, though you’re no more at risk than you were back on your daybed.
There’s nothing any more dangerous than the odd gnashing moray eel and the occasional itchy triggerfish. Your first reef shark may be unnerving – and they can grow over a metre long – but they don’t find you half as interesting as you do them.
The tiny island of Ihuru embodies the conservation philosophy of its parent company, Banyan Tree Hotels, whose Vabbinfaru resort is just a stone’s throw away. Twice-daily marine orientation classes are held at the beachfront ‘Velavani’ bar, while a daily ferry across to Vabbinfaru brings a practical lesson in Stingray feeding.
The island’s marine lab gives regular presentations about the island’s conservation work – which includes hosting two of the country’s three ‘electric reef’ coral growth schemes (the other is on Vabbinfaru) – and invites guests to help with its reef cleaning efforts. They also offer additional snorkelling trips.
With just under 50 fifty rooms perched atop less than a square kilometre of sand, the perfectly formed island resort has managed to reduce its impact on its perfectly formed little reef. It’s beautiful simplicity – as one of the Maldives smallest resorts – is reflected in the island’s facilities, which tell their own tale of intelligent design.
All rooms follow the same design, albeit with some having the added twist of a jet pool in their outdoor bathroom. Colourful and clean, the rooms are reminiscent of the house reef – though a plentiful mini-bar and in-villa dining making it unlikely you’ll be heading out there for snacks.
Most meals are served in the beachside ‘Riveli’ restaurant, though diverse dining can be enjoyed with a more secluded beach BBQ or even a visit to Ihuru’s own private sandbank.
Less simple is the spa menu, with well-trained staff bringing a wide range of treatments from Phuket and Bintang to Ihuru’s pavillions of pleasure tucked away in the heart of the island. Many an afternoon can be lost at these skilled fingertips, with bespoke treatments lasting as long as three blissful hours.
But as you drift away your mind floats back out onto the reef, eager to re-live this fantasy thriller (a bit like reading the book even though you’ve already seen the TV programme).