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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

AUTUMN 2009I sea& iI47 aboardashore PREMIER RESORTS Only one sixth of the islands in the Maldives are inhabited, just under half of which, like Manafaru, have been transformed into exclusive island retreats. The following are just a handful of the properties that can be visited while cruising the North Malé atoll. One& Only at Reethi Rahis an hour's cruise from Malé. The naturally formed island has been expanded to create the perfect fantasy resort. Home to 130 villas, three restaurants, an E'Spa spa, and all the mod cons one could expect from a One& Onlyresort, Reethi Rahis a favourite stop on the cruising map. The relatively new resort of Barosis perfect for an overnight anchorage and dinner ashore at the Lighthouse with 360- degree views over the surrounding islands - ideal for sunset cocktails. Huvafen Fushiis also in the North Malé atoll. A minimalist resort, the contemporary retreat has an idyllic cutting- edge spa - ideal to hop ashore to when wishing to escape the midday sun on board. The Kuda Huraa Four Seasons resort is also located close to Malé. One of the first resorts to be established in the Maldives, it reflects the country's indigenous culture. There are several more resorts in the North Malé atoll but aboard a yacht you can venture further afield to the 25 other atoll groups. The following are just a handful of retreats to be found at the finest atolls. Lying northeast of Malé in the Lhaviyani atoll, Kanuhura is a stylish, unpretentious retreat that is all about laid-back glamour. A tiny island, measuring only 2km long and 200m wide, it packs in a plethora of luxury facilities, including restaurants, spa and gym, freshwater pool and a watersports centre. Located in the next atoll, the Baa Atoll, is the Robinson Crusoe- style idyll Soneva Fushiby Six Senses. Step ashore for what the island calls the ultimate in barefoot sophistication. Located in the South Malé atoll, Cocoa Islandis an outpost of the COMO hotel collection and the design, service and location certainly live up to the COMO name. The Kandooma Channel lies on one side of the island where you will find one of the best dive sites in the Maldives. In the North Ari Atoll, W Retreat & Spa Maldivesis more jet- set than peaceful, with its own nightlife hot spot, 15 Below, and five further gourmet offerings - perfect for stepping ashore after a few days cruising the surrounding deserted islands. The pool at Manafaru The Sultans way