I recently read a study that suggests in ancient times, the colour blue didn't exist. Neither the Chinese, Hebrews or ancient Greeks had a word for it; in The Odyssey, for instance, Homer describes the sea as "wine-dark", while the sky doesn't rate a mention.
But clearly Homer never visited the Maldives. This island nation, consisting of 26 atolls and more than 1190 coral islands dotting the Indian Ocean, is a swatch of blue, from Yves Klein cobalt to Tiffany inspirations. From the air, it resembles a bejewelled Camilla kaftan; while gazing out from its sandy shores, it's difficult to determine where the sea meets the sky, the watery expanse a prelude to infinity.
Remote, exotic and undeniably beautiful, the Maldives almost doesn't seem real: in its perfection, it could be an artwork, created by mankind to illustrate heaven on earth. A perception, just like the colour blue.
But the Maldives I'm presented with at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, an ultra-luxe resort 20-minute speedboat ride from the capital of Male, belies the stereotypical image of an empty, rarefied haven exclusively for cashed-up, loved-up couples.
Sure, there are newlyweds canoodling – who wouldn't want to honeymoon in paradise? – but there is also a surprising number of families snorkelling in the shallows, sipping mocktails at the swim-up bar and lining up for excursions to spot marine wildlife. The list of activities on offer – from sunrise kayaking to cooking classes – is almost exhausting; and rather than an air of pretension, there's instead a palpable energy and sense of discovery, with nature at the fore.
Beneath the deck of my overwater bungalow at KH, as it's lovingly abbreviated, schools of needlefish and rainbow-hued parrotfish dart through turquoise shallows, dodging black-tip reef sharks that sashay through honeycombed dapples of light. It's monsoon season during my visit; most afternoons, storm clouds dump their load in a brief, cooling downpour, while brisk westerlies whip the lagoon into a frenzy, breakers slapping against the concrete pylons with unexpected vigour.
Beyond the reef, a perfect wave rises and hollows, surging for several hundred metres before smashing onto coral in an explosion of foam. It's legendary breaks like this that lure the world's top surfers to the Maldives between April and October, with Kuda Huraa hosting the Surfing Champions Trophy, an annual, invitation-only competition featuring six former world champions.
But you don't have to be Kelly Slater to surf the Maldives; beginners, too, can hang 10, with instruction courtesy of TropicSurf, a Noosa-based surf school. An introductory lesson at KH usually involves wobble-time in the lagoon before heading out to the breaks; but the wind-whipped waters close to shore offer ample challenges during our one-hour lesson, with plenty of spills before achieving the rush of gliding onto the sand, still upright.
Less successful is my attempt to get a birds-eye view of the resort with the latest extreme sport sensation, JetBlading. A bizarre fusion of wakeboarding, stilt-walking and movie stunt tricks, this cool activity defies gravity, allowing you to rise above the water propelled by jets of water.
That's the general idea, at least. But as I lay prone in the lagoon, being strapped into the cumbersome ski-boot-like contraption attached to a metal bar, images of the Mafia and a watery, cement-weighted grave flash through my mind, triggering a minor panic attack.
"You'll be fine," KH water sports coordinator, Sameel, assures me. "Just don't lean backwards, because you might land on the hose: and don't lean forwards, because you'll fall flat on your face."
Powered by water pressure from Sameel's jet ski, I propel through the water like a dolphin, trying to master the art of turning before attempting flight. Then, on Sameel's go, I stand upright as he hits the gas; slowly I rise above the surface, wobbling like a new-born foal, arms waving wildly as I try, against all hope, to right my balance. Face plant.
"Heels down, hold your core and keep your arms close to your side," Sameel shouts from the jet ski as I once again prepare to launch. Waves slap my head and push me off balance; I keel like a bloated turtle, before righting myself and locking my knees. Then suddenly I rise, god-like, hovering a metre above the lagoon like a sad parody of Iron Man before once again nosediving, whooping with delight as I fall.
After four days of Kuda Huraa's adrenalin rush, I'm headed to sister property Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru (LG), a 35-minute seaplane flight away at the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Baa Atoll. Here, the focus is twofold: marine research and and wellness, with LG's Ayuvedic spa offering full holistic dietary and exercise programs as well as an extensive list of yoga classes.
But don't be lulled into a false sense of namaste: these yoga sessions are far more challenging than your standard resort sun salutations. An activity innocently labelled as "Yoga Energy Trail", for instance, is actually a 75-minute boot camp whereby participants jog around the island, stopping off at 15 signposted "stations" to practice yoga asanas, from "tree pose" overlooking the lagoon to "hanging firefly" beneath a Banyan tree. Truly sweat-inducing, muscle-searing stuff.
More appealing to this novice is aqua yoga, with the supportive nature of water allowing balance and stretch with far less impact and pain than on land. But this liquid immersion – "gentle, but with maximum benefit" according to my instructor, Dr Jitu – is countered by his insistence on holding poses for extended counts, leading me to nickname him "the torturer".
Dr Jitu also oversees the resort's Anti-Gravity Yoga classes, the latest fitness trend founded by an aerial performer as a way of reconnecting body and mind. Utilising silk hammocks, I find myself achieving poses I'd never imagined possible: hanging upside-down like Spider-Man, bending over in a supported downward dog, and "dragonfly", swinging through the air with arms stretched back. Then finally, floating savasana or cocoon pose, wrapped up in the silk, rocking gently in the breeze.
But there's one activity at Landaa Giraavaru that I'm physically incapable of, to my regret. The resort recently purchased the world's first three-person DeepFlight submarine, which takes passengers on a piloted sub-aquatic journey to a depth of 37 metres, with individual pressurised glass domes allowing uninhibited, 360-degree views of the reef.
My claustrophobia kicks in, forcing me to back out of my underwater flight; but from all accounts, the multi-million dollar Super Falcon 3S gives a unique perspective of Baa Atoll's aquatic life, the ultimate journey into the all-encompassing Maldivian blue.
Singapore Airlines flies to Male via Singapore, see singaporeair.com. From Male, it's a short speedboat ride to Four Seasons Kuda Huraa. Landaa Giravaaru is a further 35-minute seaplane flight from KH.
A room at Four Seasons Kuda Kuraa starts from $US900 (plus taxes), including breakfast. A room at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru starts from $US1350.
Julie Miller was a guest of Four Seasons.