Dubai and the Maldives are the epitome of luxury, and the ultimate contrast. While futuristic Dubai takes everything to excess, the Maldives is the birthplace of barefoot luxury. Home to the world's tallest skyscrapers, largest shopping malls and most luxurious hotels, Dubai is a city that dreams big - with no signs of slowing down. Meanwhile, the Maldives archipelago combines world-class diving with luxurious palm-fringed private islands. Across the archipelago, overwater villas snake into turquoise lagoons encircled by marine-rich coral reefs. It is paradise. And as luck would have it, the two are easily combined, as Dubai is often a stopover en route when flying from London to the Maldives. So, for those in search of the most luxurious experiences in the world, a Dubai and Maldives holiday is just the ticket.
Glitzy Dubai offers a dazzling array of experiences for visitors. Fly directly from the UK into Dubai, and then kick off your adventure at the iconic Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper, before exploring the man-made wonders of Palm Jumeriah, an archipelago of artificial islands shaped like a palm tree, and visiting the world's largest aquarium at the Dubai Mall.
While Dubai may be constantly evolving, you can still find glimpses of the past. Uncover wind-tower architecture in the historic Al Fahidi District, visit the Dubai Museum and get lost in the bustling souqs at Al Bastakiya. Escape the city entirely on a desert safari to go dune buggy riding across towering red sand dunes. After a few days embracing this city's in-your-face opulence, it's time to become gloriously castaway in the Maldives…
Maldives’ Central Atolls: Best for Whale Sharks
For time-strapped travellers, the Maldives' central atolls are the most accessible from the Maldives' main airport, Velana International Airport, which can be reached on a direct flight from Dubai. These busier atolls boast some of the most luxurious hotels in the world, but the best diving is found around the North Male and South Ari Atolls.
The North Male Atoll is the birthplace of diving in the Maldives. Home to over 30 world-class dive sites, divers are spoilt for choice. Banana Reef is one of the first discovered sites in the Maldives and the most famous site in the atoll. Named for the banana-shaped reef, the site offers a mix of coral gardens, overhangs and caves teeming with marine life. From huge schools of snappers, fusiliers and oriental sweetlips to moray eels, eagle rays and reef sharks. Divers in search of bigger pelagics can see manta rays year-round at the aptly named Manta Point and Lankan Manta Point sites, while whale sharks aggregate across the atoll between May and June.
The South Ari Atoll is just as varied, with no shortage of manta ray cleaning stations, while whale sharks can be seen year-round at Maamigili. However, the jewel in this atoll's crown is undoubtedly Maay Thila. This underwater pinnacle, encircled by whitetips and nurse sharks, is a shark diver's paradise.
Maldives’ Northern Atolls: Best for Manta Rays
To the north, Baa Atoll is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and it's easy to see why. Between May and December, this atoll draws in the world's largest aggregation of manta rays in Hanifaru Bay. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru is conveniently close by, and those who snorkel the bay will have to keep a beady eye out for whale sharks among the frenzy of manta rays. This private island paradise also has a marvellous house reef a few fin kicks from the beach.
Maldives’ Southern Atolls: Best for Shark Diving
Few make the voyage down to the remote southern atolls, but those who do will be rewarded with the best diving in the Maldives. Healthy reef systems and blizzards of marine life are the norm, and with few hotels, divers will have sites all to themselves. At COMO Maalifushi, the only hotel in the Thaa Atoll, you can swim with whale sharks at night, while during the day a slew of healthy coral-encrusted sites lies within easy reach of the island. Out in the channel, experienced divers can dive in ripping currents alongside grey and black tip reef sharks.
Further south, the Laamu Atoll has a diverse repertoire of fantastic dive sites, ranging from sheltered coral reefs to thrilling channel dives in ripping currents. This isolated atoll is also a hotspot for manta rays - so much so that the Manta Trust set up shop here at Six Senses Laamu. Guests can take part in their conservation at Hithadhoo Corner (or Manta Point), a manta cleaning station.
Inspired to escape the winter blues for sun, sea and luxury? Get in touch with our travel experts for a tailor-made Dubai and Maldives holiday itinerary.