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I could tell I needed a holiday as soon as I got to the luggage carousel. My fellow passengers were pressing up to the empty conveyor and jostling for a place to stare intently at the space where their bag wasn’t.
This always annoys me but today it made me seethe. I stood well back from the throng - further back than necessary. Wasn’t it obvious that if everyone stood back we could all see which bags had arrived and have room to go and haul it free?
A single bag trundled into view, tip-toes were stood on and necks were craned. The bag disappeared behind a curtain of rubber flaps. The empty carousel came to a juddering halt. The crowd squeezed tighter.
I glared and sank into a mood of sanctimonious contempt.
This, I raged, was the same spirit of blind selfishness that allows people to drive in the middle lane oblivious to the chaos they are causing behind; to dart from the back of a long line of shoppers at a supermarket checkout and take pole position at a newly opened till convincing themselves they are not really queue jumping; it is the essence of the motorist who speeds past a jam of patiently merged traffic at motorway roadworks only to barge in at the very last moment with an airy wave of the hand and a self satisfied smirk on their lips.
Like I said, I needed a holiday.
By the time I emerged from Male Airport into the heat of the Maldives afternoon I was in a very bad temper indeed. And then it started.
The turquoise ocean virtually laps up to the steps of the arrivals concourse. A powerful speedboat was bucking and rearing at its mooring. Moments after stepping on board it roared away, tilting past a sandbank and blasting out across the crystal water towards a horizon dotted with the shimmering silhouettes of distant islands.
Porpoises leapt in shining arcs, the spray from our wake casting out against the bright sun like scattered gems.
Forty minutes later, the engines slowed and the bow dipped as we neared the tiny island of Bodu Hithi. If you are dreaming of a holiday, you are probably dreaming of the Maldives.
Palm crowned desert islands fringed with perfect white beaches set in the blue of the Indian Ocean. But they are selling far more than holidays on Bodu Hithi, they are fulfilling fantasies.
From the moment you step off the boat onto the immaculate wooden jetty you feel you have entered a tropical dream.
This two and a half square kilometres is home to 90 five star luxury villas, some built on the island itself but many perched on stilts above the water and accessed by sweeping timber walkways.
Inside, the villas are magnificent – polished wood floors, palm thatched roofs, opulent furnishings, some arranged around central bath tubs.
The air conditioned interiors open out onto private pools and tranquil decks leading out to either your own stretch of beach or a ladder directly into the sea.
Through the glittering water you glimpse fish of every size shape and colour, shoals drift in curious swirls before being startled into a darting silver haze, a small shark moves past darkly, jack fish hug the jetties seeking titbits like dogs, unicorn fish drift as a turtle gnaws the coral, a heron silently skims.
Days fall into a rhythm of indulgence and excess.
Bodu Hithi feels more like a luxury cruise liner than an island – an oasis of opulence with no other purpose than the pleasure of its guests whose faces quickly become familiar as they drift barefooted and open shirted along the sandy tracks.
Its sixth restaurant will open soon to complement the already impressive selection ranging from high quality buffet, sushi, snacks and fine dining. A range of bars provide sublime sunset vistas, the perfect places to unwind from a day of… unwinding.
The Coco Spa sits on its own stilted island offering all manner of treatments and massages. Daily yoga sessions are held on a deck looking out to the surf fringed horizon marking the edge of the atoll separating the tranquil waters from the open sea.
A small gym provides the last refuge for good intentions on this island dedicated to sloth.
The nearby Coco Club is a resort within a resort, an exclusive extension of Bodu Hithi’s luxurious offering. The club’s sumptuous villas are linked by an elliptical walkway over the water and have their own restaurant and bar.
Romance is high on the agenda – small plaques border the walkways marking honeymoons, weddings and anniversaries. Indeed many of the excursions, or ‘experiences’, are focussed on this atmosphere of love – sunset cruises quaffing champagne, a private open air cinema or they will even maroon you on your very own desert island so you can rough it with a well stocked ice box.
Priceless memories, perhaps, but it is worth checking what is included in your package as things do not come cheap in the Maldives.
For the less romantically inclined (or holiday fidgets like me) the sea is the obvious playground. You only need don a mask and snorkel and paddle out a short distance from the shore to revel in the sheer beauty of the reefs but the diving really is excellent.
The diving centre offers courses and several daily trips to take in the kaleidoscopic wonderland of the reefs.
The friendly staff create a relaxed atmosphere – it’s more like diving with your mates than a resort centre. However, the island is ill served by the separate and somewhat limited water sports centre where the service falls short of the high standard set everywhere else.
Stepping out of the five star bubble and back into the airport was a shock but Bodu Hithi had left me with a sense of calm and well-being I hadn’t felt for years.
I was soothed by a week of handholding walks and sand between my toes. My rage at the lunatic world of the luggage carousel felt distant and inexplicable. What was a I thinking? These were people intoxicated by the excitement of arrival, who could blame someone from joining the jostle to see if their bag was on the same continent?
I reflected that middle lane drivers are not doing anyone any harm, they are a reminder that we should all just slow down a little.
We should be glad if a new checkout opens while we queue in a supermarket and a fellow shopper can be served more quickly –their fortune does not make me any less fortunate.
My soothed mind turned to those drivers who barge in to a line of traffic at the last moment – I seethed with a rekindled passion. I hate them and always will. The Maldives can certainly work wonders on a weary soul, but it can’t perform miracles.