The Maldives

Gay travel to the Maldives

The 200 inhabited (and 1,700 uninhabited) Indian Ocean islands which comprise the Maldives are well-known tropical paradises, where pristine beaches sweep into warm, shallow seas teeming with reef life. The Maldives are a conservative Islamic society where open displays of same-sex devotion are sadly still less-than-welcome, and homosexuality remains illegal. However, it’s fair to say there’s a rather laissez-faire approach to the enforcement of these laws. This is especially true on the exclusive island resorts run by the big international hotel chains, which operate rather like autonomous states with their own, more liberal, attitudes.

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One such resort is Marriott’s W Maldives on the private Fesdu Island in North Ari Atoll. A mix of spacious ocean-view suites and overwater villas, each features its own plunge pool, exterior terrace, and separate indoor seating area from which to watch the world go by. Surrounded by green palms, turquoise waters, and snow-like sands, they provide a luxuriously calming escape from the nine to five, with crisp white walls, high thatched ceilings, and all mod-cons. W Maldives also boasts six different dining options. Open for breakfast and lunch, the bistro stylings of Kitchen are particularly popular come early evening when diners can switch between watching the setting sun, and watching the chefs as they prepare the pared-back dishes from open cooking stations. Fire, meanwhile, dedicates much of its menu to the grill, with whole spit-roast suckling pig, barbequed lamb, and tandoor-baked fish just some of what’s on offer.

The Maldives

Photo: Marvin Meyer

Although the raison d’être of Sip may be its extensive wine and champagne list, accompanied by the unobtrusive sound of lapping waves and chilled DJ beats, it’s also the place to head for freshly-prepared oysters, caviar, and sushi. The fruits of the surrounding seas are also the remit of Fish, where sushi and sashimi rub shoulders with freshly-caught seafood, and diners sit over the water and beneath the open sky. Alternatively, pop-up café Kada serves the sort of authentic Maldivian dishes you’d find in any family home, from chapatti-like roshi flatbreads to garudhiya fish broth. Away from the W Maldives resort, in the capital Malé, Jazz Café serves both Maldivian and international cuisine in a laid-back venue known for its live music.

The Maldives

Photo: Mohamed Thasneem

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While sublime beaches may be close to ten-a-penny, there are still a few stretches of sand specifically worth seeking out. Situated close to two narrow sea channels, the beaches of Cocoa Island are known for the colourful life that lies just offshore, while Fulhadhoo Beach in Baa Atoll offers beach dwellers a secluded escape on a quintessential tropical island. For their romantic potential, the beaches of the Sun Island resort on Nalaguraidhoo Island tick all the right boxes – not only are they large enough for a spot of privacy, but also edged with exotic flowers blooming all year round. Bikini Beach on Rasdhoo Island is the only one outside the resorts where beachwear can be at its skimpiest, while the beaches of Reethi, Dusti Thani, and Mirihi make it worth hanging around after dark, when bioluminescent plankton sparkle in a stunning natural display that will entrance you. But if a secluded beach isn’t enough of an escape, how about a private island? Just a short distance from W Maldives you’ll find Gaathafushi, where you can sleep in a naturalistic environment after enjoying the candlelit delights of a private chef.


Photo: Saiph Muhammad


Photo: Mohamed Ahzam

The Maldives

Photo: Jiyaad Official

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A fine diving location too, W Maldives has its own ‘house’ reefs, inhabited by manta rays, reef sharks, sea turtles, and a veritable Finding Nemo of species

The secrets of the chef’s flavoursome local dishes can be learnt – at least in part – at the resort’s cookery classes, just one of many activities on offer. Elsewhere, at the southern tip of Ari Atoll, it’s the fish (albeit rather large ones) that are the undoubted stars, since the marine protected area here is one of the best sites in the Maldives to swim with whale sharks. These gentle giants are the biggest fish in the world, growing to an incredible ten metres and weighing up to nine tonnes while eating nothing (you’ll be glad to hear) but plankton. A fine diving location too, W Maldives has its own ‘house’ reefs, inhabited by manta rays, reef sharks, sea turtles, and a veritable Finding Nemo of species. An unusual way to check them all out is by sea bob. These mini handheld jet skis can delve 40 metres and hit surface speeds of around 15 mph, should scuba not be a big enough thrill in and of itself. The gentle lagoon-like conditions of much of the Maldives’ seas also make them perfect for trying windsurfing for the first time, while far above the waves, parasailing offers a bird’s eye view of these mesmerising islands.


Photo: Philipp Kammerer

On route to or from any resort island, you’re likely to pass through Malé, the Maldives’ capital, as a result of its proximity to Velana International Airport. The National Museum sits within the former Sultan’s Palace (the islands are now a presidential republic), with relics stretching from the pre-Islamic period 1,000 years ago to all manner of regal paraphernalia. The neighbouring Sultan Park is an attractive city centre green space, as is the nearby Republic Square and its giant flagpole. But for a glimpse of authentic Malé life, there’s nowhere better than the Fish Market, just west of Republic Square. Here fishermen unload their catches, and stallholders set to work descaling and filleting at a frantic pace, with the activity coming to a head just after three each afternoon.

Malé, Maldives

Malé | Photo: Ishan Seefromthesky

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