In 2009, then-Maldives President, Mohamed Nasheed and his officials donned scuba gear and held an underwater cabinet meeting aimed at drawing attention to climate change. For locals of this Indian Ocean Republic, the issue cuts close to home. The Maldives’ highest point stands only 24 metres, and its 1.200 gorgeous reef- and beach-fringed islands and atolls are threatened by rising sea levels associated with global warming. Researchers have warned there will be no coral left in 30 years and that the Maldives will disappear completely by 2100, so local authorities and resorts have taken a stand. For every island being developed into a resort area, another island is being preserved. All Maldives resorts are eco-resorts: the “biodegradable” Six Senses’ Soneva Fushi even produces its own fresh water by desalinating ocean and lagoon water, and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere rather than adding it. Many couples staying in the Maldives have been actively helping to support the local economy and save the islands. And boy, are they worth saving. Go now.
8. Koh Lanta, Thailand
As Krabi province is a little tricky to get to – the only international flights serving Krabi airport are from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Darwin – it’s one of Thailand’s more laid-back destinations. And compared with Ao Nang and Phi Phi, Koh Lanta is even more low-key. That’s not to say that there’s nowhere for couples to stay (of Lanta’s five-star resorts, we love the deliciously secluded mountain retreat, Pimalai Resort & Spa), but it does mean that the island experience feels both relaxing and more authentic. Lanta’s ethnically diverse inhabitants, comprising Muslim, Thai-Chinese and Urak Lawoi sea gypsy communities, are more likely to make their living from fishing, prawn-farming and rubber-tapping rather than tourism. Along the 25-kilometre west coast from northern Klong Dao to Bamboo Bay in the south, you’ll find deserted stretches of sand interspersed with day-into-night beach bars frequented by locals and visitors alike. The action, such as it is, happens around the concentration of bars, shops and stilt-house seafood restaurants in the main village of Baan Saladan, and there’s also great diving to be had. Ko Ha Yai is known for its submerged caverns and you can spot whale sharks, manta rays, and schools of barracuda around the deep drops-offs of submerged pinnacles, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang.
10 Asian Sensations