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

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution