Maldives Holidays – Heaven on Earth?

What is it about the maldives? It only takes a few holiday reviews, a little bit of background research, and a glance at some typically jaw-dropping pictures to realise that people just love the Maldives. Anyone even vaguely aware of the place is likely to go ‘Ooooohhh…’ at the very mention of the islands, a sentiment echoed by the ‘Ahhhhhh…’ people emit when they arrive there and the majesty of it starts to sink in.

Palms in the Maldives

Visitors return with overwhelmingly good feelings for the Maldives, to the extent that most customer reviews of holidays there are so bursting with happiness that readers could suspect they were written by a travel rep. But no, look around, and the evidence mounts for my case – are the Maldives really heaven on Earth?

Whether you call it a tropical paradise, the perfect island fantasy or a picture-postcard dream, everyone can relate to these powerful mental images.

Shipwrecked in the Maldives? Yes please

For many people, finding heaven on Earth is all about peace and quiet, solitude, and getting away from the stress, dirt, pollution and chaos that characterise our surroundings in modern life. Just like the classic Robinson Crusoe adventure, the Maldives are a place where you could be shipwrecked forever and never miss home. Your supermarket would be the bountiful seas, coconut palms and fruit-laden branches. The odd barrel of Rum would float ashore, and who knows, maybe even a companion.

Relaxing Indian Ocean luxury

Other kinds of traveller can think of nothing more heavenly than lounging year-round in the perfect tropical climate, with kind, attentive hotel staff bringing fine food and drinks at the ring of a bell. Days would pass in bucolic satisfaction, gazing at the sparkling sand and glittering waves, taking a dip, reading, living like royalty might in a better world. As the sun sets over a calm ocean, fine dining, flickering candles and good conversation feels all the more natural knowing that your refuge is just metres away, and there is no work in the morning.

Coconut on beach

Intrepid adventures in the Maldives

For those with a more adventurous spirit, all 1000sq.km of the Maldives island chain becomes a sun-drenched tropical playground. Exploring the hundreds of uninhabited islands by boat could be a lifetime’s work, and no-one can claim to have seen every spectacular reef, teeming as they are with tropical fish and exotic sea life. In their vision of heaven on Earth, days are filled swimming with Dolphins, scuba-diving into the fantastical submerged realms of the Indian Ocean, claiming undiscovered coves and sunken ships.

Boat and Atoll

Are the Maldives all things to all people?

Whichever of these visions of a Tropical heaven might suit you best is largely unimportant; most travellers to the Maldives enjoy a combination of all of them. The luxury market orientated, high-quality resorts and facilities in the Maldives are testament to the local understanding of why we love their islands; tourism is by far the largest industry, and with the ‘high season’ being almost all year round, providing a great experience for visitors is at the heart of many people’s lives.

As for what kind of package – the choices are vast. I for one love the freedom of live-aboard accommodation; waking up to a new view every morning, navigating the reefs and lagoons, and putting ashore wherever catches your eye is a fine way to experience the stunning beauty of the Maldives. If a resort, well-appointed villa or even a private island is more your style, all inclusive packages can be a great idea as you never have to count your pennies.

After all, who needs their wallet in heaven?

 

Gerry Bern is an independent writer who loves travelling, music, food and all the finer things in life. Gerry is currently getting excited about getting away this year, watching out for the best Maldives holidays deals, and counting the days…

Carnival in Barbados: Crop-over!

There are many reasons to visit the Caribbean. The chief ones most cited by holidaymakers and the travel industry include fantastic beaches, amazing weather, a laid-back pace of life, and some of the best resorts in the world.

One of the most successful cruise operators has the cheek to use the word ‘Carnival’ as their brand name. But, for those in the know, the sterile tourist environment of a cruise ship is about as far from a carnival as you can get. For the more curious traveller, who doesn’t want to stay locked away in a gated resort, or trapped on a floating shopping mall; the Caribbean islands have a lot more to offer.

So what about a real carnival? The laid-back, cheerful and basically sunny culture of Barbados has much in common with Trinidad & Tobago, and the island’s beautiful, booty-shaking, bombastic blast of a carnival is no exception.

The traditional English Harvest Festival with its roots in pre-Christian tradition provided the initial setting for carnival in Barbados, which was known for centuries as Harvest Home, then finally as Crop over. What used to be a one-day celebration that began the moment the last donkey-cart of sugar cane was brought in from the fields, has now become a five-week festival season which reaches its bacchanalian crescendo on Kadooment Day.

Despite these rustic British roots, Bajan carnival has grown more similar to that of Trinidad and Tobago. Today, Crop-over has the same central elements of pageantry and competition, with Calypso, Soca, costumes and dance, all amid some of the most spectacular street festivities outside of Rio de Janeiro.

Despite their similarities, the carnivals of the Caribbean islands all have a unique character of their own, and Barbados Crop-over is full of surprises. That ‘last cart of sugar cane’ has become the many elaborately decorated floats of the modern carnival parade, ranging from huge buses to festooned bicycles, each featuring fantastic designs depicting each Mas band’s theme. Among the island’s unique musical developments is Tuk, which evolved from a combination of British marching and African rhythms. Featuring whistles, kettle drums, bass drums and African beats in a true Bajan melting pot. Barbados is the only place in the world to witness this unique style of music.

Crop-over in and around Bridgetown is a varied and tumultuous festival, featuring such diverse events as spoken word, cookery festivals, the raucous parties of the main Soca competitions, and even the ‘Jump’ set in beautiful countryside outside the capital. Culminating in a massive party and road-march on Kadooment day on the first Monday in August, Crop-over easily rivals Trinidad, Rio or anywhere else. Again, there’s no clash of dates – so a carnival enthusiast can fit Barbados into their hectic schedule without missing any of their carnival favourites.

For its range of activities and variety of locations and experiences, there is nothing quite like celebrating Crop-over in the sunshine state of Barbados.

Gertrude Blunt is an independent travel writer and music freak based in the UK. Gertrude is currently planning her holidays in Barbados and looking forward to another amazing carnival.