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April 17, 2016, Maldives

Gorgeous retreats

Enjoy the sun, sand and sea as you bask in the beauty of island sojourns, whether it is in Bali or the Maldives

MEREDITH WOO

THE scene is set for your idyllic beach vacation: azure sky meets cerulean ocean with soft sand afoot; the rhythmic lapping of waves a seaside lullaby.

Adventurous travellers will pursue water sports such as surfing and diving, while sunset seekers will stake out the best views with a cool drink in hand. One can also snorkel in crystal clear waters, get a rejuvenating massage and indulge in fresh seafood.

Bali and the Maldives are the perfect island getaways, just a 2.5-hour and 4.5-hour flight from Singapore respectively.

Beautiful Bali
Those seeking a respite from Bali’s busy shores can explore its quieter white sand beaches that include Green Bowl Beach, Blue Point Beach and Nyang Nyang Beach at Bukit Peninsula.

Although access to them can be challenging with rocky paths and unclear signage, visitors are rewarded for their persistence with unspoiled nature and excellent waves for advanced surfers.

Make time to venture away from the beach to maximise your time on this charming Indonesian island. If you have already experienced cultural performances, visited places of interest such as temples and padi fields, and indulged in yet another soothing Balinese massage, pick up something new and fun.

Check out Bali’s vineyards, which are owned and managed by local winery Hatten Wines (www.hattenwines.com), in partnership with local landowners. The winery offers classes for all levels and will introduce a sommelier course later this year.

You can also sign up for a cooking class at Bumbu Bali (www.balifoods.com), aptly named after the versatile spice paste, for a delicious discovery of the island’s culinary heritage. After an early morning grocery run to a traditional market, try whipping up dishes such as ayam betutu (grilled chicken in banana leaf ) and lawar gedang (green papaya salad with prawns).

A choice area to stay is Nusa Dua, for its comparatively peaceful surrounds, nearby golf course and wide range of water sports activities that include “seawalking”, water jetpack and underwater scooter rides.

Don’t leave without a visit to the Jalan Petitenget stretch in Seminyak. It is famed for its snazzy restaurants and beach clubs that provide an unobstructed view of the sunset — if you get there early — as you lounge on your daybed or relax at the swim-up bar.

Magnificent Maldives
The Maldives is another hot favourite for beach fans. It is renowned for its teeming marine life and many resort islands that offer holidaymakers complete serenity.

The island country and archipelago is located in the Indian Ocean and is made up of nearly 1,200 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, like a bluegreen garland glittering with golden sand, when viewed from above.

Private villas sit on stilts above beryl waters, connected by timber walkways to the resorts’ main facilities and amenities such as house reefs, spas, sandbanks, and romantic dining locations on the beach or lit by torches at nightfall.

These resorts are often all-inclusive, which allows guests to dine at their restaurants and have their pick of activities such as guided snorkelling trips led by marine biologists, expeditions to the equator and cultural trips to nearby local islands. Thanks to its pristine waters, you will find it easy to find Nemo — the clownfish, or anemonefish — as it is commonly known in pop culture. It is also easy to get up close to over 2,000 species of fish such as reef sharks, manta rays and brightly hued schools of butterfly fish too.

For land activities, take a day tour to the bustling capital, Male, with its high-rise buildings, local eateries that dish out moreish fish curries (mas riha) and landmarks such as the Old Friday Mosque (left) and the Male fish market.

You can also book a cruise to navigate the surrounding islands on a traditional dhoni, a handcrafted multipurpose boat. It is the perfect opportunity to go atoll hopping and experience the local culture such as bodu beru (big drum) folk music performances and traditional boat-building.

Non-stop entertainment
The journey is as important as the destination. Spend the hours on board your Singapore Airlines flight watching a recent blockbuster film, checking out DK Travel Guides, or even taking a crash course in the local language of your destination.

There are choices galore, with over 1,000 inflight entertainment options to choose from its onboard KrisWorld system.

Certain planes have also been upgraded to the next-generation Panasonic Avionics’ eX3 system with larger LCD screens, video touchscreen handsets and even inflight Connectivity, to enhance your flight experience.

With the new Notification Centre, there are now fewer onboard announcements that interrupt your inflight entertainment. You can get content recommendations, rate movies or play popular touchscreen games from it too.

Also, find arrival and transit details in the Connecting Gate section, with full control over how flight path information is viewed.

Singapore Airlines flies direct to Maldives once a day and to Bali four times a day. Visit singaporeair.com for details.

Get an exclusive discount, win a staycation
Fly to the Maldives on Singapore Airlines and enjoy an exclusive discount off the best available rate at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, Maldives, with the promise of spacious villas, a nine-hole golf course and luxurious spa therapies.

Then share your flight and holiday experience on social media with the hashtag #SQxShangrila to stand a chance to win a 2D1N staycation at Shangri-La Singapore.

Both the discount and contest will run from May 1 to Nov 30. Visit singaporeair.com/maldives for details.

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