Maldives Four Seasons Explorer
Once upon a time long before there were fairy tales there were seafaring people who plied the vast sapphire sea that separates India and Africa. It requires no stretch of the imagination to believe that some abandoned the uncertain journey and pulled their wooden vessels ashore on the blindingly white spits of sand, deciding to call what is now the island nation of the Maldives home. If today's abundance of marine life schools of fish that push the limits of your viz is any indication, those ancient settlers pulled feasts from the sea and their families flourished for centuries, their Asian and African cultures merging into one. It seems they found their paradise.
Today, the Maldive Islands are the be-all and end-all for the global dreamer and a downright obsession for divers. Catch a glimpse in a travel magazine and the image of bands of blue sky and sea interrupted only by a stroke of white sand, or a picture of mantas flooding the frame, is forever seared in your brain, leaving you wondering, "Where is this place and why aren't I there?"
The Maldives comprise nearly 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, just southwest of the tip of India. Only 200 are inhabited, and nearly half of those are exclusively tourist resorts. The Four Seasons alone takes up two islands: one for its instantly recognizable brand of luxury resort and the other solely for its spa. After being mesmerized by all that brilliant blue, it was inevitable that the Four Seasons should take its game to sea.
The Four Seasons Explorer is a three-deck catamaran that holds up to 22 passengers. This floating hotel is equipped with state-of-the-art everything a diver needs to maximize the live-aboard experience, but the Four Seasons Explorer is equally suited to nondivers and families. In fact, there are plenty of tenders (smaller boats) on board to keep everyone simultaneously entertained.
Diving often of the high-octane variety through passes is spectacular year-round: It's common to see turtles, a dizzying variety of reef fish and the enormous Napoleon wrasse with a brain coral pattern scrolled upon its oddly shaped head. Awesome cleaning stations are well-oiled machines that can service uncountable numbers of giant mantas in season, which runs from May through October. From November through March, the pelagics come in, and divers can expect to see sharks, eagle rays and dolphins.
Since the nation's highest point is three feet above sea level, experts predict that the Maldives will be among the first to fall off the map due to global warming. They still stand in defiance of nature, but just in case you may want to start planning that dream trip now, before these islands survive only in fairy tales.