paradise found in dreamy Maldives

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I’d dreamt of landing some huge shark or at least a tasty red snapper to impress the folk back home. But I couldn’t even hook a tiddler.

So there was only one thing to do: grab another glass of champagne and munch on a few more canapés.

Still, why not? After all, we were in paradise. And I’d already fallen for the place – hook, line and sinker.

Paradise, it turns out, is remarkably easy to find. Just hop on a plane to Male, the capital of the Maldives.

Then hang on to your hat – I nearly lost my best Panama in the slipstream – during a 50-minute speedboat ride across the Indian Ocean to the island of Helengeli.

Within minutes of landing you’ll be sipping a refreshing fruit punch while checking into the OBLU by Atmosphere resort.

Just outside the door under the scorching sun lie beautiful beaches of silky, white sand, fringed by palm trees, surrounded by a calm turquoise sea.

You can while away your days snorkelling or diving, or parasailing over crystal clear water teeming with all sorts of colourful exotic creatures – including harmless sharks, spectacular manta rays and turtles.

Or if you don’t want to do anything at all, just chill out and laze by the swimming pool.

Everybody smiles and greets you with a cheery hello. The food is delicious and all the booze, including some exotic cocktails at Helen’s Bar, is included.

The Maldives – a little south of India and a mere 300 miles north of the equator – is a stunning archipelago of 26 coral atolls, made up of around 1,200 islands.

Helengeli is such a tiny one – just 800m by 500m – that you can stroll round it in 40 minutes.

And when OBLU opened its 116 tastefully-decorated rooms last November, Dutch general manager Rein van Zandvoort vowed to create “a vibrant, cool and happy tropical beach experience” with a “true Maldivian feel”.

Our semi-detached villa, built on stilts over the ocean, boasted a huge bathroom, half open to the sky, with his and hers wash basins, a bidet and a super rain shower. But best of all was the balcony with its private infinity plunge pool and steps into the sea.

One evening, as the sun began to set, we left a heron perched on the railings, greedily scanning the sea for his dinner. He surely dined well that night – but not in as much style as us.

Food in the self-service The Spice restaurant, with live cooking stations, is excellent and plentiful. But for a special treat, we ate at the gourmet Just Grill restaurant, sitting at a table on the moonlit sand with waves lapping nearby.

A mouth-watering banquet of prawns, lobster, juicy steak and salad was washed down with several glasses of wine, followed by a delicious chocolate mousse dessert.

By day, guests can explore the house reef, renowned for its unique channel dive sites, and snorkel in water so warm it’s like jumping into a tepid bath.

Fancy going a bit deeper, and the Atmosphere Aqua Club is PADI-certified, with a multi-lingual team of instructors and dive-masters ready to teach beginners.

We took a trip on a traditional Maldivian wooden boat known as a dhoni to nearby Kagi – one of 200 Robinson Crusoe-style deserted islands in the archipelago – where the crew rustled up a delicious meal of barbecued fish they’d caught during the voyage.

Resorts in the Maldives have long been a favourite destination for honeymooning couples and OBLU is no exception. Newlyweds find scented flower petals scattered over their bed when they arrive, with a welcome basket of fruit, a cake and bottle of sparkling wine waiting in the room.

A private romantic breakfast can be arranged on an ocean sandbank, followed by a tandem parasailing trip and relaxing couples massages in the Elena Spa.

Staff here tailor make individual relaxing, energising or de-stressing treatments after asking guests to fill out “lifestyle consultancy” forms.

The 50-minute Balinese massage I was given by Mariani on our final afternoon turned out to be so relaxing I’d almost dozed off by the time she had finished. Just the job after a hard day lazing in the sun – in fact the perfect end to a perfect holiday in paradise.

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