Travel

Ihuru vs Ko Phi Phi

When you close your eyes and picture the perfect island paradise, do you imagine an ocean of beach towels and the thumpety-thump of outboard motors? Almost certainly not. There are four essential ingredients for an island retreat – sand, sea, peace, and seclusion – and Ihuru has them all. This is a proper desert island: the only noise comes from surf breaking over the distant reefs and the rustle of palm fronds, and the only reason to stir is the incoming tide. Thailand’s Ko Phi Phi has the surf and the palm fronds, of course, but the constant flow of tour boats is the nautical equivalent of rush hour in downtown Bangkok.

Formed from the tip of a submerged volcano, Ihuru is not so much an island as a beach with shade. Set in its own mini-atoll, the island is a single copse of palm trees, ringed by icing-sugar sand. Ihuru does not have beaches (plural) – the whole island is a beach, fringed by a turquoise lagoon of warm water and encircled by a sheltering curtain wall of reefs. You may well want to explore its breathtaking undersea world, or you might just prefer to doze beneath a palm tree or stroll along the sand. There’s no pressure – which is rather the point of coming here.

Under the Maldives’ unique model for tourism, every developed island is home to a single, self-contained resort. Compare that to Ko Phi Phi, where poorly-planned resorts are springing up like mushrooms after April showers.

There is an interesting parallel between the two islands. Both saw visitor numbers dive after the 2004 tsunami but, while Ko Phi Phi responded to the disaster with yet more resort developments, Ihuru stayed true to its desert island roots. It is luxurious, certainly, but the resort buildings and villas are scattered like fallen coconuts between the palms, and the first footprints on the beach every morning will probably be your own.

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