Arrive at another of B.S. Ong‘s nine resorts here, the luxury 96-room Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, in North Male Atoll, and after the hotel’s own boat has pulled up to the boardwalk jetty, you walk past today’s sandcastle. It might be a giant starfish, or even, like the current one, a diver complete with goggles. Does it have a name? No. Well it does now, says the gal. Randy. We continue to the main reception, and then on for a brief tour of the two-acre island, which fortunately is only a hop, skip and a jump away from the main Bodu Huraa island, which has a village that includes staff housing for most of the 395 people who work here. I am surprised that they are all wearing leather flipflops – according to that 14th century traveller Ibn Batuta, traditionally everyone went barefoot, and the streets were immaculate (I know this as I now travelling not only with Hilary Clinton, or her book, but a fascinating copy of Ibn Batuta in The Maldives and Ceylon, Albert Gray’s 2004 English translation of an 1882 French work for the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society).
I am shown the dive centre where you can, via prior e-learning tests, get full PADI accreditation in two days’ hard work. In the adjacent marine department, I am introduced to the turtle pools, one animal per tank. My heart bleeds for a giant turtle whose front flippers had to be amputated after confrontation with a fishing net (she is going to Singapore to have prosthetics fitted). Nearby tanks have juveniles still too young to be released, with electronic trackers, into the ocean. I share my own tank, sorry, private swimming pool outside my 460 sq ft Beach Bungalow, number 216, with a mynah-type bird, come for a delicate sip.
The overwater villas here have futuristic pools, glass-sided and cantilevered over the ocean below – I am reminded of the rooftop glass pool above the amazing Dom Pérignon room and wine cellar at Ellerman House. As I do my laps I consider the size of the Indian Ocean, stretching from East Africa to Perth… Swimming, or any exercise (the gym here is 24/7) sets the brain involuntarily to thinking of things, pairing them up, which must surely be good for longevity. This place is certainly good for physical activity. It is another surfing heaven. I arrive with an Australian who insists on carrying a coffin-sized padded bag that has his board in it (he will not go anywhere without it).
The 4th annual Surfing Champions Trophy 2014, coordinated by Tropicsurf, is being hosted here, 4-11 August. The top prize is $25,000, and contenders include Taylor (TK) Knox, from Carlsbad CA, who officially retired in 2012 – he is one of the all-time surfing greats, despite spending six months in full-body plaster when he was 15, following a skateboard accident. I am tired even looking at what these surfers get up to. I head for the hotel’s spa, on a separate island that is reached via a three-minute dhoni boat ride. I have an incredible shoulder and neck massage, that gets rid of any knot and ache, and wish I could stay longer, for a fuller experience. Many come here for pre-wedding massages.
Yes, this is wedding heaven, though, unless you are Muslim, you have to be legally married elsewhere. Why not underwater? David Emig, a San Antonio expat who has, it seems, gone ‘Maldives native’, ‘officiated’ at just such a bonding: he helped a Turkish couple, she with white veil over her wetsuit, as they exchanged rings far far below the surface. David told me this as we sat having cocktails, watching the sun set, at the Sunset Lounge, a T-shaped structure with loungers stretching, overwater, about 30 yards from the shoreline. What seemed like only a few hours later, I was back eating again, breakfasting at Café Huraa. Look what the egg and waffle chef made me.
Randy, the real Randy, Mr Shimabuku, whom I had last seen in Cairo, emerged at midnight, back from a Singapore meeting. He has only been here, on the island, for 11 weeks but says he is already in hotel heaven and he will stay at this luxury resort for ever. The service is the best in the world. He tells me about someone enthusing about the free popcorn at a movie night. That guest did not think anyone had overheard the conversation but when he got back to his villa, there was a popcorn machine, with a big supply of corn.