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The Perfect Honeymoon

Perth Bride Magazine - Thursday, June 18, 2015

It won’t take you long to appreciate the quality or the attention to detail at the Taj Exotica Resort and  Spa in the Maldives.

My wife, Sharon and I have been there twice – first for our honeymoon at the end of October in 2009 and then as a celebration of our first five years of marriage almost exactly five years later in 2014.

Having spent a week there five years earlier we were well aware of just how far the people at the resort were prepared to go to make sure their visitors enjoyed a once in a lifetime experience. But both Sharon and I were still taken aback when we arrived back at the resort last year to find they had allocated the very same butler – a wonderful gentleman named Adi – to take care of us as he had in 2009.

I guess when a couple takes a romantic holiday they want two things primarily: They want to feel like they are in a special place and they want to feel special themselves.

I can assure you, when your speedboat arrives at the jetty at Taj after a 15 minute ride from the Maldivian capital Male, you will know you are in a special place, surrounded by crystal clear blue water lagoons teeming with marine life. The resort’s gesture in partnering us with Adi again not only made us feel special from the very start, it also made us feel remembered.

The resort is located on Emboodhu Finolhu, a tiny coral island adjacent to Male which is a four hour flight from Singapore.

The island offers a mix of beach and resort villas for couples and families. During our two visits there Sharon and I have stayed in a lagoon villa – a luxury unit built out over the water on one side of the island with a stunning outlook over the Indian Ocean. These villas are ideal for honeymooners because they come with their own sundeck and in many cases, a small plunge pool on the sundeck so you can cool down intermittently while lazing on the deck, or wash the saltwater off after swimming and snorkelling in the lagoon.

The island is tiny – a matter of a five minute walk from one end to the other and a thirty second walk to cover the 50 metres or so from one side to the other, yet the resort designers have been able to hand guests a high level of privacy with the way they have built the villas.

It enables guests to “craft” their own visit. If you want to, you can be sociable and mix with fellow guests at one of the two restaurants: The casually elegant 24 Degrees at one end of the island or fine dining at the Deep End at the other end. Or you can mingle in a bar atmosphere around the resort’s Infinity Pool mid-island by day, or in the beautiful Equator Bar with its deck stretching out over the beach in the evening.

Sharon and I like our own company, so on both of our visits we started our days with a lengthy snorkel/ swim – stepping down into the lagoon off our villa’s own deck and spending a good hour swimming with and watching the fish in the outer reef and in the several artificial reef’s the resort has created inside of the lagoon. It was particularly good to see the evolution of these artificial reefs in the five year period between our visits. Clearly more time equals more coral equals more fish!

We would then take the leisurely walk to 24 Degrees up the other end of the island for breakfast. Our favourite dish was the Indian scrambled egg variation Akuri Pav. I still get hungry thinking about it!

 From there it was back to the villa to read and relax, then over to the pool for a quick lunch before more swimming, reading, snorkelling and yes…. the odd afternoon drink or two.

In the evenings we would head to Equator Bar for a drink on the deck looking out over the ocean. When the moon was right the view was stunning. We would then pick a restaurant for dinner. If we wanted to chill it was back to 24 Degrees where you can either sit inside or out on the beach. If we wanted something more formal it was up to the Deep End where you can watch fish feed at the end of the jetty before eating inside in a place where water and restaurant meet seamlessly.

That was us, but if you want something different there is plenty. If you are more serious than us about snorkelling there were organised tours out over the reef. If you are more serious again there was scuba diving.

There are also a range of water sports and activities available, including the hiring of one underwater scooter device that looked like it had come straight out of a James Bond movie. I had to keep reminding myself I was 50 and to steer clear of that one!

If you are into exercise, there is the fully equipped gym. Relaxation? Then the spa at the island’s tip which offers a range of massage and meditation experiences is probably for you.

Fishing trips, sunset cruises and cocktail parties are other experiences a guest can expect to be offered during a typical week long stay.

I am a sportswriter by trade. It has spoilt me for life experiences. Things that others would regard as special, I have come to know and think of as a routine part of my job. I have to keep reminding myself how lucky I am. I have covered more than 20 AFL grand finals, three Australian Open tennis championships, two Melbourne Cups and One Olympic Games.

It takes something a bit special to grab my attention. I was on the main straight at Stadium Australia when Cathy Freeman won Gold in Sydney in front of 110,000 people. I was at Flemington when Damien Oliver rode Media Puzzle to victory in the 2002 Melbourne Cup just days after the death of his brother Jason. And there is not an Anzac Day passes without me being in awe and emotionally affected by 90,000 people at the MCG sitting in absolute silence for a minute as a mark of respect to our soldiers.

So I can get to a point where I recognise “special” it just takes a bit to get me there.

As far as holiday or honeymoon venues go, we recognised “special” the instant Sharon and I stepped off the boat at Taj in 2009 and 2014, and held that feeling throughout our stays there until we stepped back onto the boat to leave and be waved off by Adi and the resort’s other amazing staff.

 My only thoughts as I left? How lucky Sharon and I were to start our marriage there and how incredibly lucky we were to return. I just hope we will be lucky enough to go back there again one day.