"There’s no place quite like the Maldives
," says Sarah Lee, a Virtuoso travel advisor. "It’s so remote, yet it offers absolute luxury." Located in the Indian Ocean roughly 600 miles southwest of Sri Lanka
, the string of nearly 1,200 coral islands is a utopia for divers, who can explore untouched reefs, pinnacles, caves, and exciting channels while swimming next to giant rays, curious turtles, and more than 1,000 species of fish. The archipelago also draws surfers to consistent swells that create seemingly endless breaks. The shimmering topaz water is incredibly clear (up to 130 feet visibility), and so warm “it feels like a bath,” says Lee.
One of the advisor’s favorite watery encounters during a recent visit was actually on shore, watching baby sharks swimming beneath her overwater villa. Such pinch-me moments are sure to become rarer, given the influx of visitors and the uncertain effects of climate change. Lee encourages travelers to stay at one of the Maldives’ eco-minded resorts and go as soon as possible for that singular sense of “truly being on an island by yourself, with nothing and no one else around you.”