White sand beaches, lush palms, and crystal clear waters are but a few words that can describe the paradise called Maldives. As a Senior Writer for Travel & Hospitality Awards, I had the opportunity to stay at West Sands on the tiny island of Ukulhas. Clear blue skies and the light mist of the ocean welcomed me as I stepped out of the airport. A short 45-minute ride in a speed boat brought me to Ukulhas.

Soft duvets, cozy lighting, and a washroom that seamlessly blended with the tropical surroundings made the stay absolutely comfortable.

And picture this — you step out of the hotel, step right into the woods, walk a few feet…and behold, the sparkling waters of the Indian Ocean. That’s exactly what every single day was like at this wonderful destination. Additionally, the hotel staff was extremely friendly and there wasn’t a single day when we didn’t have endless conversations over lunch or dinner.

Right opposite the hotel, there was a small thicket with numerous palms and hundreds of hermit crabs. These tiny creatures hide as soon as I moved close to them and you might mistake them for moving shells from a distance too! As soon as I crossed the thicket, I got my first sights of the clear blue ocean and the white sand Bikini Beach of Ukulhas. And that’s where I ended up spending the rest of my days relaxing on the sunbeds.

I got the chance to be up-close and personal with a variety of fish of all sizes while snorkelling on the house reef. Some of them even played peekaboo games from their coral homes and I lost track of time following these lovely beings.

The fondest memory of this trip, though, was when I went into the open ocean in search for dolphins.  That’s when I found an underwater reef where I could see the ocean floor right from the boat! Six manta rays, easily 6 feet long, floated around the boat, almost as if they were flying in the air. Did I miss to mention the numerous flying fish and baby sharks that I encountered too? Well, those are just a few stunning natural gems you can see in this paradise. And even when I sleep tonight, it beckons me back. It was a trip like none other.