Our time in the Maldives followed the devastating news I’d received while in Oman and, truthfully, I thought I could use travel to get my mind off of everything. What I’m coming to understand with transformative travel, though, is that it’s not meant to be a distraction. Travel, during times of hurt or healing, is meant to be illuminating.
I thought of my friend and how much she would have loved each and every sea creature we encountered, like on the beautiful transfer from Male to the Waldorf Astoria, where we came across a pod of spinner dolphins dancing along the waves. Some came right up to us, hugging the wake of the boat, while others put on the show, living up to their names by jumping high into the air.
The Waldorf Astoria Maldives is a brand new partner of ours that has spared no expense when building the magnificent resort, from the stunning villas, both beachfront and overwater, to the number of dining outlets. But, for me, the best place in the whole resort was the glass bottom floor in the beach bungalows, where I became so enamored with watching fish swim below that Jeremy eventually set up a pillow-cushion viewing platform for me to sit and watch the fish swim by.
“That’s a Picasso Triggerfish! There’s a Moorish Idol! That fish would cost you $175 back in the States!” I’d yell out, perplexing my husband at my extensive knowledge of tropical fish (weird flex, but I grew up with a saltwater aquarium and have known an absurd amount about fish ever since.)
At our next stop, Vakkaru, I found myself seeking rest. I’ve always been so enamored with the idea of the overwater spa bungalows, so I was thrilled to book a treatment. On the massage table, I was eyes-wide-open the entire time, watching as huge needlefish and even a decent sized reef shark swam by. I almost continued with my constant yelling out of fish types, but had the decency not to interrupt our couple’s massage with such PSA’s.
I attempted to recenter a bit in one of Vakkaru’s morning sunrise classes, which was a lovely open-air experience above the water, but wound up feeling more distracted by my own emotions. Still, little moments from that session stood out, like the tiny schools of thousands of fish that began jumping from the water, clearly being chased by something larger. Much like at the Six Senses Zighy Bay, grief continued to reveal its nature to me, peeling itself back layer by layer. With so much love and so many memories of an entire friendship built up over the course of half of my life, I anticipated this continual discovery of grief.
But, it was at the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru where I actually found myself smiling and laughing – thanks, largely, due to their hermit crab races. Each night in front of Blu restaurant, which is by far my new favorite restaurant/bar on the planet (there’s something extra special when a resort gets it right with the music and the setting and the people), the staff collect hermit crabs for guests to bet on. It not only creates a funny social dynamic (we met another couple while racing crabs against them…before Jeremy’s crab absolutely dominated the race, no doubt inheriting its athletic abilities from its sponsor), but also won us a solid round of drinks to sip while watching the sun set.
More importantly, it made us belly laugh at the absurdity of it all. Leave it to the Four Seasons to really understand how much the simple things impact their guests, like a nightly crab race or late-night shark feeding, neither of which cost them or their guests a dime. Additional little touches, like housekeeping leaving microfiber cloths by each screen and pair of sunglasses in the room, show just how much the property cares for its guests.
Not only that, but the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru has programs in place to support the environment, like their Marine Discovery Center, which has various programs dedicated to breeding clownfish to replenish the dwindling population, rehabilitating sea turtles who have been harmed in the wild, and restoring the coral life around the property by allowing guests to sponsor a coral fragment. The property gives guests a “Manta Phone” upon request so that they can quickly get in touch should they spot any mantas nearby. While we weren’t lucky enough to catch any Manta Rays, the property still called to offer to let us go out one day in an attempt to spot them. Super cool, genuinely thoughtful hospitality.
Speaking of incredible hospitality, we checked into our last hotel, Anantara Kihavah, to discover a team of such warm individuals. Our partners at Hummingbird Travel helped us plan this trip and knew about my recent loss, so they reached out to each of the hotels to give them a heads up. When we arrived at Kihavah, multiple members of the team pulled Jeremy to the side to see how I was doing and if there was anything further they could do to make us feel comfortable. Honestly, just that simple act of thoughtfulness went so far and, between our wonderful concierge, Alina from the Ukraine, to Kihavah’s lovely sales team, like Maashi, we were greeted by a team that made me feel as close to home as I could get however many miles away.
Beyond the team’s warmth, the offerings at Kihavah were truly spectacular. Jeremy spent a day snorkeling and came back to the room as excited as a kid in a candy shop by all that he had seen (I mean, I’d only been trying to tell him how cool tropical fish were the entire trip.) The spa experience combined sound bath healing and the dining outlets were super unique, especially at SEA, the world’s first underwater restaurant.
We saved our experience for SEA for our last evening in the Maldives as our cherry on top of the trip. We watched as the colorful reef fish from the daytime retreated with the setting of the sun and out came the larger, more aggressive (and massive) fish of the night. It was a surreal experience, sipping an old fashioned and watching schools of snapper swarm their prey in a feeding frenzy.
By the time we’d reached the end of the trip, I’d begun to find more of that hope I first glimpsed while in Oman. I hesitated at first to say healing, because it all felt so fresh and so new, but it’s never very easy to tell when we first begin healing from anything, is it? With that understanding, I think that the Maldives began that process for me, adding a thin, almost imperceptible layer around the parts that hurt the worst.
I truly believe there are only three things in life that can offer true transformation: the people you love the most, the faith you feel the deepest, and the places on the map that give a new lens to viewing the world around you. For anyone feeling like the world is calling to give you that transformational perspective, the Epperly Travel team would be honored to help craft that journey with you.