We’re all holding our breaths over COP26, and few more so than in the Maldives where it really is an Atoll target of 1.5 or die.
The 1500 Maldivian islands only exist because of a delicate balance between Man and Nature.
And we’re reminded by the Maldivians ahead of the climate change conference that their critical time has arrived.
The prognosis is not helpful though that we can keep the rise in the world’s temperatures down to 1.5 degrees.
And it all looks like a hollow promise as the mission statement from COP26.
A Maldivian speaks
‘The difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees, for us, really is a death sentence,’ Aminath Shauna, the Maldives’ minister for environment, climate change and technology, warned ahead of Glasgow.
Tbs Maldives are, of courset, caught between a rock and a hard place.
Reliant on us tourists to keep the economy alive it’s that very influx of visitors which is threatening their very existence.
Ingrid spoke passionately about sustainable tourism when we met far away from our Irish and Black Forest, Germany roots.
Vanessa, or Mother Turtle as I christened her, had come to the islands to lead the marine research there in Kuramathi.
And that means protecting the coral.
And so when you’re snorkelling around its neighbouring island of Kandolhu be careful where you put your feet.
The advice is to relax, be floaty, and take in the marine life.
And resist the temptation to take a breather by standing on the coral seabed.
The thing though is that not all of us are born with fins on their back.
And some of us, the swarthy ones, come into this world with hair on our lips.
And that’s what will keep you back as my guide in the Red Sea informed me as it blocks your nasal ducts.
None of which will stop me returning to either Jordan or the Maldives.
Nobody knows bette than the Maldivians of course in how to progress their islands.
And the hotly anticipated island resort Siyam World is being flagged up as a game changer.
Siyam World islanders had an opening ceremony before the arrival of the first guests,
A different world
The first arrivals were warmly welcomed with a traditional Maldivian dance and bodu beru.
Guests are invited to make the most of the resort’s WOW! 24hrs Premium All-Inclusive with an ever-expanding A-Z of WOW! experiences.
From mastering the waves with unlimited access to the Indian Ocean’s biggest floating water park, Siyam Water World…
To finessing their footwork on the resort’s international FIFA-standard football pitch.
The resort offers a dozen restaurants and bars.
Breakfast is served at beachside buffets Tempo and Baraabaru, while Jungali, Mint, The Orchid and Together form a quartet of all-day pool bars.
As evening falls, guests can dine their way across culinary continents, with à la carte Spanish, Japanese, Indian and Thai cuisine at Andalucia, Arigato*, Kurry Leaf and Takrai.
All of is complemented by Siyam World’s signature contemporary Maldivian restaurant, The Wahoo Grill.
Night owls can head on to the island’s 24hr sports bar KulhiVaru, while underground wine cellar and fine dining room, Barrique, is also available at an additional charge.
Veyo Spa, a natural haven set within the lush tropical jungle, is the jumping off point for a journey of continual healing.
Spacious treatment villas, relaxation areas, hydro facilities and self-service health bar Himeyn Bageecha which translates to relaxing garden form a nurturing space in which to restart, refocus and reconnect.
Guests can test their limits with the ultimate beach gym workout, Seashore Bootcamp.
Or soothe body and mind with sunset meditations, Asana yoga and Pilates.
Exuberant adults meanwhile can live their best lives at Siyam World’s epic beach pool and foam parties,.
Or get wet and wild with exhilarating seabob and banana boat rides, electric jet surfing, flyboarding, snorkeling and diving at the resort’s watersports centre,
Shipwrecked. Kids will be in their element with an array of excursions and activities at the Little Explorers Kids Club, for children aged 3 to 11.
So, to sum it all up, this is a 54-hectare haven blessed with more than four kilometres of white sandy beaches and six kilometres of house reef.
How to get there
Siyam World, Maldives is located in the popular Noonu Atoll, a mere 40 minutes’ direct seaplane ride from Velana International Airport.
It is also accessible via a 30-minute domestic flight to Maafaru Airport followed by a 10-minute speedboat trip.
It’s a good drying day on Kuramathi but then every day is… the temperature rarely dips below 28 degrees at any time of the year.
And so I’ve got the spare togs and towel hung up on the clothesline by the outdoor shower.
Wet after my early morning swim in my infinity pool which overhangs the Indian Ocean.
But how to dry out myself after a Champagne and cocktail-fuelled karaoke and beach party the previous night?
A leisurely one kilometre walk around Kuramathi is guaranteed to sweat off the booze.
And we’ll meet some interesting characters along the way.
Won’t you join me?
My new best friend
Gordon, my house gecko is the first to greet me, dancing around my feet as I leave my room before scuttling off through the reeds.
Somewhere above him in the palm trees a Xxx warbles a morning song and memories of me murdering The Eagles, Elvis and Neil Diamond the previous evening come flooding back.
It’s 8am on Kuramathi which would be rush hour back home.
But here only the occasional electrical buggy bus or old-fashioned staff bicycle passes by on the sandy path while the only jaywalkers you’ll encounter are cooing couples.
Some gentlemen even hold parasols for their sweethearts to shield them from the sun.
My own sweetheart is probably wrestling with a brolly back home in blustery, rainy Ireland… the thought quickly passes.
Ne’er a flutter of wind comes off the Indian Ocean.
Just as well really as this is a conservative island and it wouldn’t do to have a gust lift up my sarong as I amble along the coast.
Not that you’re likely to see another soul but still.
There’s every chance though that you’ll spot turtles and black finned sharks in the clear blue sea.
If you do see a turtle it’ll likely be Selma, who is something of a celebrity on Kuramathi as is her minder, Vanessa.
A German eco warrior and curator at the Island Eco Centre she claimed Selma as her own turtle and named her.
If you can snap a new turtle with your Go-Pro camera you too can get to adopt a turtle.
On a 1.2km island resort repeat with hoilidaymakers, staff, restaurants and bars and all the necessary infrastructure to make an island bobbing along on the ocean to work only the best husbandry will do.
Luckily Mother Nature lends a helping hand.
I check out Kuramathi’s living, breathing pharmacy of plants on my Botany walk.
They cater for every ailment and condition known to man and are used in the medications.
They also infuse the dishes you will taste at the half a dozen high-end restaurants around the island.
This being Asia you will get your share of Eastern delicacies at the bars and restaurants you pass.
I have my hosts Farooz and Fern and a host of hospitable and knowledgeable waiters to thank for walking me through their dishes.
My favourite the Malaysian chicken curry, while obviously Kuramathi is a fish-lovers’ dream with the red snapper and scallops also worth a special mention.
And being Asia you can even order Chinese at breakfast… well, it works for 1 billion Chinese after all.
The European palate is also catered for with a particularly good Italian specialising in risotto on the island.
And you never have to put your hand in your pocket (just as well if you’re wearing a sarong) as you settle your bill at the end of your holiday.
There are three options, B&B, half-board and all-inclusive.
It probably depends on your appetite and your liver, but if you come all this way and can afford to push the boat out I’d say save yourself the stress and go all in.
Back to my morning constitutional and with the breakfast of champions already in me I’m off to take part in the big game.
Buggy driver Renga helpfully gives me a lift to the palm tree-lined pitch and introduces me to Hassan and the rest of the cricketers.
It’s 38 years since I picked up a bat in anger.
My dear Old Dad had high hopes for me and in my maiden school innings I went in to open only to be bounced first ball before surrendering my wicket the next.
I learn my lesson here watching these big hitters and go in at the fall of the first wicket .
I manage to amass a mighty two before being run out picking up a bruise or two diving for the crease.
Football the next day will be more successful with me setting up the winner.
And by the end of the week my party are telling me that their buggy drivers have been asking if they are here with Jims (sic) who is ‘a very good player.’
‘I’m asked if I would like to come back.
‘Does Roy Keane like a crunching tackle?’
Bruised though I am, I have discovered over the years that I am still considerably safer on dry land than in the water.
The ocean is better suited for the turtles and sharks.
Who I fear will only lick their lips at the sight of my blood the next day as I snorkel off the island of Kandolhu.
It is one of the five islands on this, the Rasdhoo Atoll.
But the sharks are actually quite tame.
And they are clearly so busy laughing at my flapping anyway to be bothered about nibbling my nobbly knee.
I’m consoled too that I’ll get a warm down later (yes warm down in this weather!) in Kuramathi’s spa.
A wee, wee island
When I say Kandolhu is an island, it really is just a bit of sandbank and floating coral.
Beautiful coral, but floating coral all the same.
And there is just 200mx120m of it.
So it would take Usain Bolt 19.90secs to run the whole island.
Not that that curtails them, there are 30 high-end villas and four restaurants on Kandolhu.
So how did we, and the Maldives, get here?
Well, Kandolhu and Kuramathi are just two of 1,190 coral islands situated in 26 atolls or clutches across 90,000sqkms of water south of Sri Lanka.
I had started counting them as I was flown into the main and only truly populous island Male (133,000).
And gazed down in wonder at these teardrops on the ocean.
Even better our barefoot pilot took us up really close to the islands by then flying down on them on his sea plane.
The atolls I am told take up just 10% of the sea mass that surround them, I make a start on drinking the other 90% while snorkelling.
But I did manage to spot me a turtle who, Go-Pro or no Go-Pro, I name Vanessa… or Mother Turtle, my own name for her.
A day and a night
I clearly have a taste for this island life though perhaps not the water activities.
But I will go on to make my own splash on the island and the islanders in the time I’m here.
As a guest of Kuramathi Island resort and Turkish Airlines.
I have flown us here via Istanbul.
It is a 24-hour joyride with all the trappings of business class, and a stop-off in the world’s best business class lounge in Istanbul.
On our last night on the island we take a sunset cruise out onto the ocean before settling in for the night at the Sand Bar.
I fall into the beanbag on the beach where I almost fell asleep the first night.
And order my Kuramathi cocktail and another and another and listen to house band Limestone.
I had heard them on the way back from the football that afternoon where they gave us a sneak rehearsal of the closing number of their set, Hotel California.
I lie back and look up at the stars while letting the sound of the waves lapping up against the sand wash over me.
The only breaker is Limestone’s natty singer making a better stab at The Eagles than I had done at the Karaoke Bar:
‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’