I learned to scuba dive in the Maldives, which is like learning to eat in New Orleans - it spoiled me for anywhere else. On the half-mile-long island of Huvahendhoo, in South Ari Atoll, I would roll out of bed, walk maybe ten steps, slip on my fins, and kick along the shallow fringing reef that encircled that glorified spit of sand. Thirty yards offshore I would reach The Wall, and the bottom would fall out of the world. Everything was deep and blue and glorious. They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Same goes for anyone diving The Wall. Of all the islands in the world, the Maldives, some 1,100 coral specks scattered along either side of the equator, are among the least likely to be around a hundred years from now. Sooner or later the Indian Ocean will reclaim them. And so I would say to the children of my children's children: Go there, even if it means sprouting gills.
Maui is a poem masquerading as an island, and I come here for a change of soul rather than a change of climate. The land takes hold of me as soon as I step out of the airport at Kahului. But within hours I am disturbed by thoughts of those many visitors who draw their idea of Hawaii from escapist marketing campaigns, airline posters, and Elvis films. I want to grab them by the lapels and show them the Maui of snow and beaches and rain forest and lava and vegetation in flamboyant abandon, the Maui where nature stands on its tiptoes. I want them to put down their mai tais and golf clubs and see the Pacific crashing on carpets of sand, see Haleakala gift-wrapped in the pink dawn, experience the Hana Highway twisting past flowers of enormous size and fragrance. I want to show them the Maui that, like nature itself, never disappoints.
My abiding memory of Grenada is of driving over gravel to an old plantation house that had been converted into a hotel, and inhaling a wonderful fragrance through my open window. It came from the gravel itself, which was made not of stones but the dried husks of nutmeg seeds. Grenada is one of the three largest nutmeg producers in the world - hence, it's called the "Spice Isle" - and the husks are used everywhere as gravel; the whole island is aromatic. Tourism here is low-key. There are fine hotels, but the island is less developed than some, and it still has that ragged, mysterious feel of the true Caribbean: a jagged mountainous interior swathed in rain forest, empty powdery beaches along the shoreline, and small bays with fishing boats hauled up on their sands. Grenadans feel proprietorial about rum punch, too, of which nutmeg is a key ingredient, and a Grenadan sundowner sipped on a remote beach offers the true taste of a vanishing Caribbean.