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.’
All right by me!
Resort info, see www.kuramathi.ie and www.kandolhu.com. Bookings: www.GoHop.ie/(01) 2412389 or www.TravelMood.ie Tel. (01) 4331000. Kuramathi Island Resort: Beach Villas from €2,155 pp; Over Water Villas from €2,895 pp for seven nights.
Including flight, taxis, transfers, full board. Optional basic all-inclusive package. €59 per day. Dine around select package. €99 per day.
Kandolhu Island: From €3995pp. Jacuzzi Beach Villa.
Ultimate Inclusions basis. for seven nights, prices correct at time of print.
Based on travel in May/June 2018 inc. flights with Turkish Airlines.
Round trip economy class starting price Dublin- Maldives from €748.59; return business class starting price for same route, €2,166.59.
See www.turkishairlines. com, or call: (01) 525-1849. Baggage allowance: Economy class, 30kg + 8kg hand luggage; Business class 40kg +16 kg for hand luggage in total.
*This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in early 2018.
And if you like a sunshine island… counting Britain and Ireland out obvs… then try the Caribbean https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/04/22/rumba-in-barbados/. And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/my-kiss-with-rihanna/