IS IT TOTAL LUXURY YOURE AFTER Three-inch fillet steaks every day and the finest wines known to humanity Immaculate service blended with accommodation so good that youll spend ages bouncing around your bedroom finding out what all the knobs are for Oh and your own private beach, a 20m walk from your bedroom.
Think about all this, and then add in the best coral reefs Ive seen in years, and dive guides who ease you into the sea - only, just before you jump, they must first remove the ice-cold towel from your forehead without letting you move a muscle.
You can probably enjoy the amazing diving in the remote southern atolls of the Maldives in cheaper ways, it must be said, but such shameless pampering can only serve to make a holiday a memorable one in every way.
The Alila Villas on the island of Hadahaa in Gaafu Alif Atoll is a mere 35-mile hop from the Equator. It is also six miles from the nearest inhabited island, so there is no light pollution at night, and no little red seaplanes to disturb your waking hours. Its quiet, peaceful, unspoilt and very green in both its environmental footprint and its intent.
The dive centre is called Blue Journeys, and when I dropped in at the end of September it, like the resort itself, had just opened. Everything was new.
Matthias, the manager, told me that he was discovering dive-sites all the time. I was more apprehensive than pleased about this at the time, as I was anxious not to be diving on untried sites, and wasting valuable hours under water.
The reality was rather different - because every site I visited was good. Because the area is pretty much undived, the array of pristine coral is a sight to behold.
On every dive I saw big, impressive sights, the sort of spectacles you would normally expect no more than once in four or five dives in the normal world of diving at a comparable resort.
There were 2m-wide table corals jutting up towards the sun, interspersed with prolific amounts of staghorn, all growing in beautifully arranged areas,
as if they had been placed there for a photo shoot. In the middle of the table corals, thousands of glassfish would be sandwiched, moving to and fro as one.
Yellow-back fusiliers patrolled the perimeters of the reefs, and oriental sweetlips hung about, watching us divers with apparent curiosity.
On every dive I saw a least two turtles, either green or hawksbill. I stumbled on them while they were feeding on most occasions. After their disturbed meal they would often rise to the surface to breathe, showing themselves at their best against the deep, rich blue.

THERE WAS ONE PARTICULAR SITE at Villingili which even my buddy Shamoon was visiting for the first time.
Here, in one short stretch of reef, I saw more to make my eyes bulge to the glass of my mask than at any other dive site Ive visited in the past five years.
It had been raining a little that morning, and I wasnt expecting too much, but as we were still descending a couple of hawksbill turtles ambled by on their way to the surface.
Finning a little further with a mild current, I spotted a resting sting ray with what must have been a 2m wingspan. It had tried to cover itself with white sand, but even as its eyes opened it remained prone, just staring up at me and my collection of metal arms, bits and flashing lights. I often wonder what sea creatures make of me.
Sting rays were to be a repeating motif on my trip to Hadahaa Island; time and time again divers can see them taking a breather, watching the world go by. This particular dive on Villingili had more treats to offer, however.
Shamoon was waving again, and I knew that was good news. He indicated the biggest moray eel I had seen in a long while, its thick neck like that of a prop-forward in the England front row.
It looked aggressive, too, hissing at me back and forth in an aquatic game of chicken. At one point it nudged my dome port backwards, eyeballing me in a bid to get me to back off.
I duly relented, and our happy wanderings continued. Within five minutes Shamoon was really waving his arms about like a madman. Nestling in one of a collection of gaps and slits in bedrock about a metre high were a couple of nurse sharks, with the biggest on the outside, as if guarding the other.
Mindful of my diminishing air supply I got shooting, concentrating on the lead shark where it lay on the seabed. I had thought there was only two of them until Shamoon dragged me to the rear of the cave, where I was able to count up to eight sharks, all lying still - but it was their rear ends I was looking at.
Armed with this new intelligence, I pushed my bulky camera as far as I could into the hollow to get a better view. Alas, the topography got the better of me and a good shot of two was all I could manage.
On surfacing, Shamoon told me that he had counted 11 sharks altogether.

AFTER MANY OF THE DIVES I would be treated to a visit to the island near which we were diving. On Villingili Island, for example, the moment I set foot on dry land a delegation of local dignitaries met me with a flower necklace and a coconut with drinking
straw. I was immediately given a tour of the bank, civic centre and even, on another island, its school.
The pupils all stood up when I entered the room, and their brilliant smiles made me feel like a fraudulent member of the Royal Family. Getting into the moment, I asked one unfortunate bemused pupil what he was learning.
I mention this involvement because the dive centre told me that it intends to introduce this experience to all its guests, as a way of helping to integrate cultures. It was obvious that this was the real Maldives I was seeing, and I was told later that most of the people on some of the smaller islands were unlikely to have seen a white face before.
Big, pepperpot-shaped anemones inhabited by little clownfish are particularly prolific if you visit a dive site called Maamendhoo Kandu. Bluespine unicornfish are another attractive feature at this site and, looking a little further into the blue, youll see whitetip reef sharks on patrol. Gorgonian fan corals are plentiful and notably orange, thriving here without hindrance from divers fins.
On another dive I saw an enormous sting ray, again lying still on the sea bed. It had wispy skin and the battle scars of a very long time spent in the sea. A shark had bitten off its tail, said Shamoon.
It reminded me of Homer Simpsons father, old, wrinkled and slightly comical. I guess it comes to us all.

FOR THE VISITOR WHO JUST wants the resort pampering with a handful of dives for bragging rights, there is the house reef with its virgin coral, accessible from the shore or off the jetty.
Here you will see the smaller fish such as yellow-back fusiliers, glassfish and the like. Once you get out to sea - most speedboat rides were less than an hour - you can see much bigger things.
In the 10 dives I did during my four days in the water I saw a leopard shark, whitetips, had at least three good giant moray encounters and a sprinkling of Napoleon wrasse, not to mention the nurse shark family and rays aplenty.
Shamoon, a very good diver, told me at one point of his experience when the 2004 Tsunami struck the Maldives while he was under water.
He was guiding a party of four when he experienced what he described as a strange current and sudden and awful visibility. He had plummeted from 20 to 40m in a second, and had to make an emergency ascent. At the surface the divers regrouped, but were being swept left and right 20m at a time.
One kilometre from land they found their dive-boat, still upright, but while climbing aboard in a swirling sea they were hit by a huge second wave. Yet somehow they all got back to a devastated shore, surviving to tell the tale. Lets hope it never happens again.
And what, you ask, about those famous Maldives manta rays Blue Journeys says it is the first permanent diving operation in Gaafu Atoll and, having just arrived, the staff didnt know exactly what they were going to see yet!
According to our general experience in the Maldives, we may have the chance to encounter mantas on the eastside channels or eastside outer reef during the south-west monsoon, between June and October, Chikako Nasu of Blue Journeys told me.
According to fishermen in this atoll, we may also have the chance to see whale sharks through the year, but the area is not precisely specified.
Mantas or not, if you can afford to stay at the Alila Villas resort on Hadahaa you wont regret it. The mind-altering Mandara spa and massage that follows the diving is wondrous in itself.
If its not for you, grab a liveaboard to the southern atolls. Go on, treat yourself, the recessions nearly over!

FACTFILE
GETTING THERE: Fly with Sri Lankan Airlines from the UK to Male, then to the southern hub of Kadhdhoo Airport in Laamu Atoll, and transfer by speedboat to Hadahaa.
DIVING & ACCOMMODATION: Blue Journeys Dive Centre at Alila Villas Hadahaa, www.alilahotels.com
MONEY: US $ or Maldivian Ruffiya
WHEN TO GO: Any time, but the UK winter and spring are recommended
FOR NON-DIVERS: Under the new political regime in the Maldives, cultural visits to inhabited non-resort islands are being encouraged for the first time.
PRICES:Return international and transfer flights, seven nights bed and breakfast (two sharing) and speedboat transfers cost £2625 per head. Full board costs £636 extra. A 10-dive package with air, weights, BC and regulator costs around $700. Book through Elegant Resorts Reservations, 01244 897515, www.elegantresorts.co.uk
TOURIST INFORMATION: www.visitmaldives.com