Go Deep in the Indian Ocean
BASE CAMP: Banyan Tree Maldives Madivaru
ACTIVITY: Dive seldom visited spots—if you can leave your private spa.
The maldives stretch for 510 miles (821 kilometers) across the Indian Ocean like drops of batter from a shaky ladle, each one a perfect bull's-eye of reef-ringed white sand. Of the 1,190 islets, only 200 are inhabited by Maldivians, and another 90 islands are developed for tourism (the government doesn't allow a combination of the two). This is not the place to come, then, if connecting with the locals is on your must-do list. No, this journey is all about you: you, buffed silly with a seaweed scrub; you, gliding with manta rays; you, chilling on the deck of a gleaming yacht.
GAME PLAN: At the just opened Banyan Tree Maldives Madivaru,
in the North Ari Atoll, indulgence comes in the form of six lavish, tented villas (hide the brochure if you plan on telling your friends you'll be camping) with spa-beds for in-room treatments, a personal wine cellar, and a free-form mollusk-like tub—you, on the half shell! Beyond the canopy flaps are some of the world's top-rated dive sites. "Madivaru is unique because you have the opportunity to see all the marine life that divers are dying to see [in one place]," says Zoona Maseem, the Banyan Tree's area marine recreation manager. A brief rundown of dive sites and their inhabitants: Rasdhoo for hammerheads, Maaya Thila for whitetip and gray reef sharks, and Gangehi Kandu for manta rays and whale sharks. Tell your tales over sunset drinks aboard the Madi, the resort's handsome two-masted yacht, or have a white-tablecloth dinner set up on a sandbank; when the incoming tide reaches your knees, you'll know it's time to head back.
THE VITALS: Banyan Tree Maldives Madivaru ($3,220, all-inclusive; www.banyantree.com).
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