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AUTUMN 2009I sea& iI45 aboardashore These coral islands were originally a safe haven for Persians travelling on their trade route from India to Indonesia; they sheltered there for months at a time waiting for the winds to change and take them home. Over the years Africans, British and Portuguese have all claimed parts of the atolls, and their cultural legacies remain today. This, along with the region's legendary underwater world, makes the Maldives an idyllic cruising ground with much more on offer than just the white sand beaches that have made it such a famous honeymoon destination. Sea for yourself Exploring the Maldives by yacht means you can easily flit from resort to resort, en route exploring the outer islands and remote dive sites and gamefish grounds that most visitors never see. Step aboard your floating resort as soon as you land in the capital of Malé and cruise away from the bustling capital ( over one third of the population lives on the island of Malé), towards the Baa Atoll. Ideally, the best boat to opt for is one that offers both luxury and the flexibility to access shallower, more remote areas. Both the Sultans way 007 and Sultans way 001 could have been made for the Maldives. High- performance motor yachts, they combine the latest technology with contemporary design features. Each offers spacious accommodation for up to ten guests and can cruise comfortably at up to 30 knots - meaning you'll get to see a fair few of those 1,200 islands. Underwater world The Maldives lends itself to a variety of activities, from relaxing and sunbathing on the beach to diving, surfing and fishing. The archipelago, comprising 26 major atolls, is home to rare underwater beauty, making this one of the most popular dive destinations in the world. Along with the ocean's bounty, you can also anchor in lagoons or alongside uninhabited islands to snorkel and dive. One place not to miss is the underwater world of Kihaadhuffaru Thila where you will find stingrays and nurse sharks swimming among schools of colourful fish. After working up an appetite in the water, your crew can arrange a picnic on the nearby, uninhabited island of Gemendhoo before you laze at anchor or ashore for the afternoon in preparation for a gastronomic feast of fresh fish under the stars and a peaceful overnight anchorage. Fishing is the way of life in the Maldives and has been the lifeblood of the Maldivians since time immemorial. From the decks of your yacht you can fish at sunrise when sailfish, dog-tooth tuna, wahoo and red snapper are milling beneath the surface. The Maldivian waters are also among the top five places in the world for spotting whales and dolphins. With over 20 different species, ranging from the mighty blue whale to the diminutive Spinner Dolphin, you can watch on deck as they go about their regular routine, feeding offshore at night and coming into the atolls in the early morning before leaving late afternoon for the open ocean. Ashore thing The Maldives nurtures a rich cultural heritage, grand architectural landmarks and a unique culinary tradition. Aboard Sultans way you can cruise towards Kudarikilu and anchor in the lagoon. Then take the jet skis to explore the surrounding islands or step ashore to discover the local island life with a visit to the village schools, shops and mosque. Here you can discover the traditional craft of mat- weaving, known as Thun'du kunaa. From the Baa Atoll, cruise towards the next stop in the archipelago, Raa Atoll, where you can visit the island of Ugulu to discover the heritage site, Redhinge Usgandu. For those who prefer to stay aboard, there are numerous anchorages around the island that double up as great fishing spots. Another intriguing insight into traditional Maldivian life is to be found on Alifushi, where you will find the most famous local village for the art of traditional boat building. Neighbouring Vaadhoo Faru is a great spot for diving, and the area is dotted with uninhabited islands that are just perfect for an afternoon of relaxation. From the Raa Atoll, cruise towards the Haa Dhaal Atoll, stoppingen route at the Shaviyani Atoll. Here you will find a famous landmark on the island of Maroshi: the historic Kaani Tree ( Cordia Subcordata) dating back to the days of the Utheemu brothers' struggle against Portuguese rule between 1565 and 1573. The Haa Dhaal Atoll introduces you to further relics ? Above, and opposite page: cruising the 1,200 islands of the archi- pelago is best done onboard the Sultans way family of yachts, in order to reach shallow areas where marine life abounds

46Isea& iIAUTUMN 2009 around Maamakunudhoo in the southeast. Known to be the graveyard of several ships, including the English vessel Persia Merchant, which was wrecked in 1658, and the Hayston, which ran onto the reef in 1819, this is a great spot to explore the wrecks before a relaxing sandbank dinner. The northernmost atoll of the Maldives is the Haa Alif Atoll. Here you can explore the island of Utheemu, the birthplace of Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu, who freed the nation from the Portuguese. The atoll is also home to Kelaa Island which was the northern British base during the Second World War. Choosing your atoll Those who prefer to spend their time reading under a palm tree are advised to step ashore at Manafaru, also located in the Haa Alifu Atoll. Wonderful as it looks on the approach to one of the two long jetties, the island proves more enticing the longer you spend ashore and discover its hidden gems. The Beach House at Manafaru is a combination of luxury and modernity, reflecting eastern simplicity and contemporary chic. Winding paths lead you through dense vegetation to the white sand beach that loops the island. Circumnavigating bare-foot, or perhaps by kayak, is a must, and this will be the only time you might spot the beach villas nestled in the vegetation. The water villas have been built at opposite ends of the island, away form the landing jetties, main restaurant and bar, which are wonderfully peaceful even at the busiest times. Every detail has been perfected - even the wooden boardwalk set on stilts above the sea is lined with water pots to cool your feet during the walk to your villa. Cleverly designed so that none are overlooked, the villas sit on stilts over the lagoon. They are built entirely of wood with thatch roofs, and have a water deck with loungers, a table and chairs for outdoor dining, and an infinity plunge pool. Wooden steps lead down from the deck into the sea, enabling guests to swim straight from the villa. The bedroom and living room lead out to the water deck and are fitted with plasma screens, stereo and full wireless internet. The bathroom houses a huge Jacuzzi bath ( with rainbow coloured lights) over-looking the Indian Ocean through the double patio doors to one side, and an open- air shower to the other. The Maldives has a tendency for inclement weather, which can change from stormy winds and rain to clear blue skies within seconds. The sea, though, is always as warm as a bath and a great place to be during the rainy patches of the day. Island life is slow but there is plenty to do on Manafaru besides swimming and sunbathing. For those in the mood for a bit of pampering, the island boasts a calm and spacious Shui Spa that offers Ayurvedic treatments, yoga, meditation and a plethora of treatments. For those seeking a change in tempo, there is a games room, known as the Gentlemen's Retreat, complete with ping pong, pool, Nintendo Wii, X- Box and a golf simulator. Alternatively, wander your way to the Infiniti Bar overlooking the infinity pool, the Salt Water bar where you will find live music, and the Amazon Bar with submerged seating and water jets in the pool. The Beach House at Manafaru has a number of restaurants to present you with a different setting every night. The Four Corners restaurant, with indoor and outdoor dining, offers a wide range of dishes at all times of the day; Medium Rare serves up lobster and Black Wagyu steaks alongside the catch of the day; and the over- water Asian fusion restaurant, Saffron, specialises in local delicacies and wider Asian influences. Wine connoisseurs, meanwhile, can join chief sommelier Leo Christian for a wine- tasting session at The Cellar, the aptly named underground wine cellar that has an unsurpassed selection of wines; both Old and New world. Back on board Malé can be accessed by a short internal flight from Manafaru, but for those wishing to step back on board Sultans way, the cruise can take you via further idyllic atolls en route to your final destination. The Shaviyani Atoll and Lhaviyani Atoll both abound with uninhabited islands that are perfect for peaceful anchorages, fishing and snorkelling. Further south in the Baa Atoll, stop off for a spot of diving at Angu Faru where you will discover the breeding ground for grey reef sharks. The adrenalin rush will prepare you for 21st century life as you approach Malé, your final destination. ¦ For further information on Manafaru, visit www. beachhousecollection. com For more information on chartering the Sultans way yachts or other yachts in the Maldives, please contact your CNI charter broker, see page 8. FACTS Location: southwest of Sri Lanka, on the equator Geography: 1,190 coral islands forming an archipelago of 26 major atolls Climate: the Maldives has a tropical climate with warm temperatures year round. The hottest month, on average, is April; the coolest, December. The weather is largely determined by the monsoons. GMT+ 5 hours On board Sultan's Way