Travel special: Maldives

What kind of masochist would take a holiday in a honeymoon paradise when they've just been dumped by their boyfriend? Er, that would be me, says Catherine Townsend, as she recalls an eventful week in the Maldives with her platonic friend Vincent

To outside observers, we looked like any other love-struck couple en route to the Maldives, one of the most romantic destinations in the world. Except that my friend Vincent and I weren't honeymooners. I had just been dumped by my ex with the immortal line, "My feelings for you aren't black and white, but grey." Vincent, a platonic friend, had been frantic at work and had a few disappointing dates. Why, we reasoned, should we have to wait for the perfect relationship to visit tropical paradise? After all, by the time I tie the knot, the islands could have been swallowed by the oceans due to global warming.

So after an 11-hour charter flight, we landed in the capital, Malé, where a representative from the Hilton Maldives Resort and Spa met us and escorted us to their air-conditioned lounge. We were swathed in orange-scented cold towels before boarding a Fantasy Island-style seaplane for our trip to Rangali Island that offered breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. Our pilot explained that there were more than 1,000 tiny islands, and that the atolls were actually the coral-encrusted summits of submerged volcanoes. After half an hour, we saw our resort, flanked by white sand and villas on stilts; it looked like the front of a postcard.

Our representative gave us the grand tour of our beach villa - with a private garden and outdoor shower, Bose sound system, wireless internet, private plunge pool, and toiletries provided by Molton Brown. But reality set into our Garden of Eden when we noticed our two-person marble bathtub. "You can put rose petals and bubble bath in it," she said, looking at us knowingly. "It's very romantic."

We tried to distract ourselves by gathering menus from the seven different restaurants, which covered everything from French wine and cheeses to spa cuisine, and of course, loads of fresh fish and vegetables. Later in the Rangali bar, the Maldivian cover band were taking requests - mostly Eric Clapton songs. But after suffering through amorous twosomes slow-dancing to "Lady in Red" and "Wonderful Tonight" one too many times, Vincent and I had had enough. So we wrote down our Clapton pick: "Cocaine".

On our second evening, we got into a fight over whether we should eat at the Spa restaurant or the Sunset Grill - where I almost had a breakdown after three couples asked us to take pictures of them. With tensions running high, we decided that there was only one thing for broken-hearted people to do when confronted with throngs of loved-up couples sucking face in paradise: go shark diving.

OK, so it was only reef sharks, not Jaws. But by the next morning, Vincent and I had committed to going for our advanced Padi diving qualifications with the resort - even though he's a nervous diver. I assured him that we would be fine, which seemed to work until our French-Canadian divemaster wished us good luck as we poised ourselves to jump into the ocean. "Remember guys," he said merrily, "as of now you're no longer at the top of the food chain!"

I felt like a space explorer underwater, because the ocean's landscape was incredible. At the wreck site, thousands of disturbed, neon-striped fish of every colour swam inches from my face. We also saw turtles, manta rays, barracuda lurking in dark corners and the occasional shark. Meanwhile, I was way too focused on my breathing and buoyancy to worry about my break-up.

Everywhere we walked, staff followed us at a discreet distance, brushing out our footprints in the sand. "It's like The Truman Show comes to the tropics," Vincent quipped. Things were definitely looking up.

Then, on day three, it started to rain. Though we'd been warned that it was rainy season and the weather was changeable, I'm sure that most couples had a way of spending the afternoon in the bedroom that doesn't include challenging each other to Sudoku. Still, we kept diving - and the experience was so meditative that by the time we booked a table at Ithaa, billed as "the only all-glass undersea restaurant in the world", we were quite chilled as couples sipped their blue Curaçao-and-champagne cocktails while gazing into each others' eyes. I was so transfixed by the passing parrotfish and eels - and amazing food - that I actually felt happy for them, instead of wanting to stab them with my fork.

Besides, we'd already realised that when it comes to love, appearances could be deceiving. We learnt to distinguish honeymooners from couples clearly on a Band-Aid, make-or-break holiday: they were the ones giving us the eye when their spouse headed to the bar for another Piña Colada.

Toward the end of our stay, I had a massage at the overwater spa, where I blissfully drooled into the face cradle while watching fish dart below the glass floor.

I may not have found Mr Right, but I came back to London knowing how to swim with sharks - which is sure to come in handy on my next dates. s

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most