Six days in heaven on Earth
AS OUR plane made its descent into Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the only clue that we were about to land in paradise was specks of flickering light dancing in the sea below.
The white sandy beaches and pristine blue waters I had seen in photographs of the Maldives were nowhere to be seen.
Everything was shrouded in the darkness of night. And the specks I had seen from the air turned out to be cabin lights of various boats lined up at the wharf next to the airport, waiting to ferry passengers to nearby islands.
A 30-minute speedboat ride took me to Club Med Kani, a resort island in the North Male Atoll.
The Maldives is abundant in five-star resorts offering exclusivity and the very best in luxury - but often at a hefty price.
Club Med not only offers travellers a cost-effective way to enjoy the Maldives, but the package includes all meals and snacks as well.
My first four nights were spent in a beach villa that opened directly onto a white sandy beach.
The night I arrived, I was checked into the room by a Club Med staff member who was originally from Malaysia.
She said to me: "The first thing you should do when you wake up is to slide open the doors and look outside. You will pengsan (faint in Malay)."
I did as I was told the next morning, and was floored.
Within seconds I was wading in waist-deep crystal-clear waters, surrounded by small fish and chancing upon the occasional stingray or reef shark.
The powdery white-sand beach was teeming with life too. It was common to spot hermit crabs, as well as larger crab varieties, scurrying away into their sand burrows.
A five-minute walk along the stretch of beach leads to other parts of the resort, like its beach bar, swimming pool, restaurants, massage and spa boutique, and even a shop selling souvenirs.
Snorkelling sessions are conducted free of charge twice daily on boats that leave the island at 9.30am and 2pm.
What you might see underwater at each of the 15 dive sites near the island depends entirely on your luck.
As for me, I seemed to have been blessed with it.
It was not uncommon to spot a wide variety of colourful fish, sharks, stingrays, manta rays and even sea turtles.
The Maldives comprises more than 1,000 islands and is an island nation set in the Indian Ocean, just off the west coast of Sri Lanka.
It is in danger of sinking because of rising sea levels and climate change, which is another draw for travellers wanting a chance to experience its rich marine life.
Its other appeal, especially for honeymooners, is a chance to stay in a villa on stilts, perched right over the light-blue sea.
One of Club Med's 75 lagoon suites, which I had the pleasure to stay in during my last two days on the island, provides an unblocked view of the vast ocean from the comforts of my bed.
I was greeted daily by aquatic visitors such as reef sharks and stingrays, which regularly swam below the villa's verandah.
Each suite has a wooden deck from which guests can dive right into the sea and mingle with the ocean-dwellers.
The lagoon suites on the island are the true pearls of the resort, the one place you would want to be and never go home.
That is because everything you've ever heard or read about the Maldives is true: It is heaven on Earth.