The most romantic Valentine’s Day adventure in the Maldives: a 5-star luxury liveaboard yacht


Looking for the ultimate romantic Valentine’s Day spectacle? Think of the Maldives, 1,190 sun-bleached islands in the Indian Ocean (southwest of Sri Lanka and India). This uninhabited paradise is dotted with powder-white sands fringed by crystal-clear waters on an archipelago of volcanoes that have sunk into the water. Below that are beautiful limestone coral reefs – the rainforest of the sea – with shades of the sea ranging from aquamarine and turquoise to azure and Tiffany blue.

One of the most unique and romantic ways to experience the Maldives is on a “cruising resort” such as the 5-star liveaboard 128-foot yacht Maldives Four Seasons Explorer where passengers come to dive or snorkel on three, four or seven night cruises. A Liveaboard is a boat or existing vessel built specifically for diving that offers diving trips lasting longer than one night. And while a Liveaboard may sound like a floating hostel, it’s over-the-top Explorer is the opposite, with spacious sun-drenched accommodations, king size beds, ample amenities, bathrobes, slippers, minibar, Wi-Fi and a large flat-screen TV. Behind the yacht is a wooden support vessel that supplies diving equipment, nitrox, wetsuits and fins and masks for snorkelers.

Each day the yacht offers three dives (or snorkeling expeditions) in remote hotspots where no other boats are present. Guests explore coral outcrops filled with more than 1,000 species of fish, many of which are native to the Maldives, such as Moorish idols and rainbow parrotfish. Divers and snorkelers are also likely to spot three species of sharks, hawksbill turtles and manta rays.

An advantage for the Explorer, the fastest and most luxurious Liveaboard in the Maldives, is that if only one partner is diving, the non-diving partner can snorkel, waterski, wakeboard, windsurf, kayak, try onboard spa treatments or spend the day sprawled out in a luxury lounger on the sundeck. Partners have a romantic dinner a double or with the other guests outside or in the dining room.

Guests are transferred by speedboat from Maldives Malé Airport to the five star Maldives in Kuda Huraa where they are greeted by a Boduberu or “Big Drum” traditional form of Maldivian music dating back to the eleventh century and performed by the entire staff.

For non-divers, Kuda Huraa offers non-divers a three-hour PADI Discover Scuba Diving course or a two-day PADI Scuba Diver certification so they can dive with their partner and an expert PADI Instructor. Whether you choose an overwater bungalow or a beach villa, the resort is an ideal place to recover from the 19-hour flight from NYC. [Unfortunately, my ticket said 1:20 departure, which is neither military time — that would be 01:20 — nor did it indicate am or pm. At JFK Airport, I was told I’d missed the flight which meant missing a full day in the Maldives. Be sure to check your ticket carefully or call the airlines so you won’t have my unfortunate experience].

Arriving at my overwater thatched bungalow a day later than planned, I swam laps in my large private pool, then lay down on the floor with oversized cushions and looked down at the fish. Finally I climbed down the ladder and swam in the bath water. I was still jet lagged so I took the one minute boat ride in a traditional Maldivian wooden vessel called a kuda dhoni to the Island Spa for a soothing massage. The sea lapping gently beneath me, music to my ears.

I often travel alone as there is no ‘someone special’ in my life right now, but that doesn’t let that stop me from exploring the world. When traveling as a “couple” we rarely met others as we were a complete unit. As a solo traveler I meet a lot of people because they are curious about someone traveling alone.

After my massage, I walked along manicured garden paths fragrant with frangipani and heard the song of the Asian Koel, a species of cuckoo and considered the love bird of the Maldives. Aside from the love bird, I didn’t feel alone. Everywhere I went, the smiling staff (50% Maldivians and the rest from India, Sri Lanka and 23 other countries) made me feel welcome. I learned to say quickly shukuriyyaa (pronounced SHOOK-ri-ya) which means thank you, and was the only word I needed.

After lunch overlooking the lagoon, the speedboat took me to the Explorer, at anchor a short distance away. As my trip fell just after the holidays, there were only two other couples on board, all in the hands of a crew of 25 (or five crew members per guest) who pampered us every moment of the day. Cilla and Hjalmar Winbladh from Sweden, married for 28 years, left their two 20-year-old children at home so that they could be together at sea and experience diving in such a romantic way. Armina and Milod Cerkic from Bosnia, married for 18 years, also came without their children to bond and dive in the most luxurious place in the world. “It’s better than a first date,” Armina grinned.

When we got on the smooth yacht, the whole crew serenaded us with another excitement Boduberu drum ceremony, then handed us scented flannels and cold ginger tea. We got ready for the first dive.

I have only done a total of 16 dives in my life – the last one was in 2013 – so I planned to snorkel with my private guide, Óscar de Borja Aguilar Abril, a Spanish marine biotechnologist/oceanographer/marine conservationist and marine biologist. Alex, another marine biologist from the UK, was my second private guide. They fitted me with a mask, defrosted it and put my feet in fins as if I were Cinderella going to the prom. I slipped into the warm water – no wetsuit needed – an expert guide on both sides. We glided under the sea through colorful reefs filled with angelfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, triggerfish and clownfish that looked just like Nemo (and only found in the Maldives).

Oscar pointed to a hawksbill turtle. Suddenly there was a second hawksbill, then a third, a fourth, and a total of seven hawksbills! They used their flippers like fans and swam to the surface to breathe while I watched their faces above the water. When we swam back to the support boat, Oscar removed my fins underwater (I could get used to this) and climbed back into the support boat where a smiling staffer handed me an oversized warm towel and hot ginger tea.

That evening, the five of us dined on the outdoor deck under the full moon for a sumptuous dinner of shrimp bisque, Maldivian lobster, and scallops with caviar before heading to the lounge for the evening.Explorer Highlights.” We watched a film depicting some of the beautiful marine life as Oscar explained that there were 26 species of sharks, 19 species of rays and 14 species of angelfish in the Maldives.

The next day the two couples dived and I snorkeled, seeing colorful titan triggerfish, juvenile sweetlips, unicornfish and beautiful blue bivalve coral. And then, much to my surprise, Oscar pointed to an octopus. Observing the unique creature, I easily understood his octopus love and favorite movie, My Octopus Teacher, which he has seen 16 times. On our second snorkel I saw an eel, two crawfish and a starfish. Then I enjoyed a totally decadent massage with Ratheesh on the top deck, draped for privacy and open to the intoxicating sea air.

A few hours later, before dinner, I would do a night snorkel and the divers a night dive.

Dinner that night was an Indian feast: the deck was decorated with Indian umbrellas and paper elephants, golden elephant statues on the tables, and Indian music playing in the background. The banquet consisted of Indian Papadum bread with mango, Malabar prawns, Malaysian chicken, Bengali fish curry, lamb marsala and custard, saffron kulfi and juniper berries. Then we went to the lounge for ‘Highlights of the Day’, videos of ourselves underwater (taken by the videographer who would later present to us on a USB stick).

By the third day I was jealous of the divers and was in pain diving, not snorkeling. There’s nothing like diving in and watching a beautifully choreographed ballet of colorful fish and undulating corals further underwater. I showed my diving license and was fitted with a wetsuit, BCD (Buoyancy Control Device), regulator and Nitrox. Oscar and Alex would join me, as would the experienced dive master, Anow, who was glued to me like a mother whale with her baby calf. In short, the only thing he didn’t do was breathe for me!

That night we drove to a sandbar for a beautiful romantic dinner on a sandbar that started with a drumming ceremony. They had given us sarongs, and this time we danced our silly heads off, barefoot in the sand, under the twinkling stars. By now the two couples and the dive team had become my good friends.

It was our last night on board. Tomorrow the Bosnian couple would stay on board for a few more days and the Swedes and I would transfer to the Four Seasons Resort Maldives on Landaa Giraavaru. But it was by no means a goodbye. We had already started a What’s App group and we’ve kept in touch ever since. At some point I plan to go to Sweden and Bosnia to visit my new friends – or to meet them for another diving trip.

If you are planning to dive in the Maldives there are other luxury Liveaboards like the 98 foot Moonima Maldives or the 54 foot Scubaspa Yang but I think the Explorer is the best luxury yacht. There is still time to book for Valentine’s Day. so head to Maldives for a trip on the Explorer before the yacht leaves the Maldives and moves permanently to Palau at the end of April 2023. (And stay tuned: this story will soon continue with my Maldives experience at the resort, Landaa Giraavaru).


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