I felt like a character in a James Bond movie last week when I flew in a float plane to reach Sun Siyam’s Iru Veli resort in the Maldives Islands.
After a 45-minute flight in the small plane, which soared over a string of tiny islands set against a turquoise backdrop, the pilot made a steep descent toward a platform bobbing in a lagoon. I found it disconcerting at first –no runway beneath us, just open ocean and rippling waves.
But we plopped onto the water with a gentle sploosh, and when I climbed out of the plane onto the platform the size of a single-car garage, a sign proclaimed the spot “Iru Veli International Airport.” I could have swum to shore, but a boat zipped out to pick me up and deliver me and my suitcase to a dock a few hundred yards away.
If you’re planning to visit a resort in the Maldives Islands, chances are you’ll be making a similar trip. Boats carry passengers to destinations nearest to Velana International Airport in Malé, but float planes transport them to farther flung islands where many of the resorts are located.
The Maldives are made up of nearly 1,200 islands in all, scattered along an underwater ridge near the equator in the Indian Ocean. They’re like tiny jewels ringed with white sand and flying over them is a memorable experience. Getting there is part of the fun.
Some of the resorts have their own planes, but Trans Maldivian Airways operates commercial service that delivers passengers where they need to go. It operates out of Noonvilu Seaplane Terminal, which is adjacent to the main airport where commercial flights disgorge thousands of tourists every day. Shuttle buses transport passengers between the two facilities.