Do you ever stop and wonder how lucky you are? I don’t know you of course, but if you have a job that pays the bills, a roof over your head and a few friends who love you then that’s a pretty good start. Add the occasional holiday and maybe a few fun nights out on the town and you’re even better off.
Traveling, more than anything, reguarly reminds me of how lucky I am to have the life I do and after careful research I can now confirm that no place does the job better than the Maldives.
I get all swelled up with warm fuzzy feeling writing this, because this incredible country made of 1200 small islands is really as close to paradise as I have ever witnessed. Rays of sun sparkling promisingly on turquoise water as gentle waves hit the fine sand of those pristine beaches. Palm trees in luscious green swaying with the breeze and a smiley waiter bringing over another round of pina coladas to our sun lounger over by the infinity pool. Any moment spent here is a moment you want to put in a jar to remember forever.
In the light of the above description it really is no wonder the Maldives are such a popular destination for honeymooners or anyone looking for that once in a lifetime vacation. There is something about the idea of being on a small island that only hosts the resort you’re staying in – no markets, shops or locals anywhere. Just you, the hotel staff and some other lucky hotel guests.
As you might already suspect, the Maldives are not a destination for the budget traveler. Of course you could grab a cheap flight – Oman Air offers amazing deals with return flights from just €600 between Munich and Malé – and upon arrival in Malé, opt for a low-priced tiny hotel room lacking any sense of charm. If you want the real paradise experience though you will need to choose a resort that best suits what you’re looking for.
I’m not entirely sure I deserved it but this year I got to go to the Maldives twice. I’ve already reported about my trip to Velassaru with Bonnie Strange back in April which was absolutely incredible, so when the legendary Four Seasons invited Travelettes to come out for a visit in September Nina and I could barely believe our luck.
The Four Seasons run 2 stunning resorts in the Maldives – one on the island of Kuda Huraa and another on Landaa Giraavaru (clicking through their websites is a mini holiday in itself). The resort chain has a long standing tradition with a strong reputation for being among the world’s top luxury destinations, so we knew that outstanding service would be no coincidence here.
After a friendly pick up via speedboat from the airport, we arrived at Kuda Huraa where Boduberu singers gave us an amazing welcome with a great song that had everyone clapping and dancing and absolutely tipping our excitement over what would expect us during the following few days.
The check-in process here did not consist of boring paper work as it so often does. All we had to do was trade in our passports for a fresh coconut, shake a few hands and listen to some of the latest happenings on the island. 15 minutes later we were sat in a cute caddy and brought to our “room”. We had kept our expectations at a minimum as we weren’t sure where we’d be staying so when the caddy drove us all the way out to the water villas, we knew had hit the jackpot.
With shaky legs we walked through the door to what would be our home for the coming nights. What can I say – it was love at first sight. The fine wooden features, the majestic kingsize canopy bed draped in white linen, the gorgeous bathroom with the freestanding bathtub and the rainforest shower, I could go on… We almost choked on our exitement but kept quiet until the porter finished explaining where everything was. As soon as the door closed behind him we started screaming and jumping up and down like 5-year olds – this was unbelievable!
Our villa was absolutely gorgeous, complete with a large terrace with a dining table, a couple of lounge chairs and an umbrella. Best part: an open view into the turquoise ocean – I could have spent hours lying here, reading one book after another, going for the occasional swim or snorkel, freshen up under the outdoor rainforest shower, call reception for a cocktail and get the tan of a lifetime.
All we wanted to do right then and there was celebrate, so – thoughtful as they are – the Four Seasons staff had already left a chilled bottle of wine and a fruit basket on the table for us. Cheers to a perfect start into our dream holiday.
Out stay totalled 5 nights, 3 in Kuda Huraa and another 2 on Landaa. Although there is nothing but your resort on one island there is still so much to do that it really takes some planning ahead to decide what you want to see and experience. For fans of water sports like myself you will find yourself going scuba-diving, snorkeling, sea-kayaking, jet-skiing and lots more.
For those new to diving, there is no better place to learn because the Four Seasons will not have you dabble in some boring swimming pool like they do on Thailand or Australia. From the start students get to see colorful reef fish and do their first practise runs in the resort reef. More experienced divers will have a blast exploring the many surrounding reefs, where sightings of sea turtles, sharks and manta rays are almost guaranteed. I’ve been lucky enough to go diving on 4 different continents and this definately on top of my list of favorite dive sites.
If you prefer to stay above water, there is a world of opportunity for you out there. Tubing for example. I had actually done it once before, tubing down rivers along with the current. The Four Seasons however offers a more fun version where the tubes are pulled by speed boat, having people scream and laugh their hearts out as they hop over the choppy water holding on to their seats. As much fun (or maybe more?) is had with jet-skis. I admit this was my first time riding one and I wasn’t expecting it to be as cool as it was. The fastest we went was about 30mph which is a whimpy speed for most but we loved it all the way. It was easily the closest I’ve ever felt to being a Bond Girl.
Another great thing we tried was para-sailing. It’s a bit like paragliding, except you’re attached to a speedboat through a rope. A pretty amazing way to get a spectacular view of the island and the reef.
One of the main things on our list of must-do’s was the Surfing Champions Trophy. The event happens once a year, inviting some of the world’s top surf champions to compete against each other for the Trophy. An added perk was that we got to watch it from the Four Seasons Explorer – a top notch 3-deck catamaran equipped with several double bedrooms and one suite that usually welcomes guests who love going diving and want to experience what it’s like to live on a boat for a few nights. We were handed tasty hors d’oeuvre and chilled drinks and for a moment I felt like Hugh Hefner was about to walk in and give me a wink.
The explorer is an ideal option for divers who want to see as much as possible of the marine life on offer in the Maldives with up to 4 dives per day (including some pretty cool night dive options). This is also a great wy of potentially spotting and swimming right next to whale sharks. It was not the right seasons when we there see to see them, but this is high up on my list of things I want to see before I die.
Next up on our itinerary was a dolphin cruise – the one thing you really cannot miss when coming to the Maldives. In the late afternoon we took a large comfy boat out onto the ocean and quite soon hit a group of hundreds of spinner dolphins (they like to spin in the air, hence the name) who happily jumped and squeaked right next to our boat. As a photographer and dolphin fan I could not believe my luck and kept snapping until I had no memory left on my camera. The entire time I was on the edge of my seat, tensely waiting where the next dolphin would jump and spin so I could get a good shot. Until eventually I did get one …
Sea animals have a special standing within the Four Seasons. The resort makes an effort in preserving the reef wherever possible so that many generations to come will be able to enjoy this stunning part of the world. Each resort features a Marine Discovery Centre where marine biologists from around the world are working to research and preserve sealife. In their turtle stations, rescued sea turtles that were injured or are too small to survive on their own find a new temporary home until they’re fit again to head back out to the sea. Did you know that of 1000 sea turtles only one reaches adult age? From the moment they hatch those adorable creatures are left to themselves, so only the fittest survive.
If you’re interested in marine biology the people at the center will gladly tell you all about sharks, clown fish, dolphins, corals and much more. Awareness is always at the beginning of protection and support, so I highly recommend the interesting, free dia shows that take place every day.
Just as important as the wellbeing of those turtles is the wellbeing of each guest and so no one should miss out on a visit on Kuda Huraa’s own little spa island. The tiny island is only 100m away from the jetty, and if you wanted you could probably swim over. If you’d rather get there dry, hop on the old-fashion dhoni, the small boat that ferries spa-visitors to the wellness retreat and back. We opted for a night spa option – a special 3 hour treatment that runs from 10pm to 1am.
A caddy picked us up from our bungalow and one of our massage therapists greeted us with flower necklaces. We got on the dhoni to the spa island, changed into bath robes and like in a trance saw 2,5 hours fly by during which we got a full body massage with scented oils along with a facial that gave us perky pink glowing skin for the next few days. The treatment was made extra special as it occured outside under a star-filled sky. The sound of the waves was the ideal background noise to relax all muscles and unwind completely.
The best part of the day in the Maldives, at least this is my favorite, is at sunset. In Kuda Huraa it’s at 7.30 pm, so there is enough time to take a shower and throw on a pretty dress, because this occasion is special any night! After that it’s sundowners and a comfy couch in the Sunset Lounge while watching the spectacle unfold as the warm air breezes through your hair.
Some of my fondest memories of the trip evolve around food. It’s. just. that. good. With our half board deal we were allowed to eat in all but one of the 4 restaurants on the island and I honestly could not tell you which restaurant was the best. Each excells with outstanding seafood and meat dishes, as well as some great vegetarian fare. I simply adored the tasting menu we had at Baraabaru, the fine Indian cuisine restaurant with incredible flavours prepared by Kerala chefs. The Antipasti at Reef club, Kuda Huraa’s Italian restaurant, actually had us believe we were in Rome for a moment.
Most of the time we ended each day drinking wine on our terrace and talking for hours, interrupted only by the exitement of spotting the shadows of reef sharks and sting rays out at night to hunt for food. Interesting side info: I did not get a single mosquito bite during my time here.
As beautifully as the sun goes down it comes up again at around 7 in the morning.
If you love yoga, there is no missing out on the free sunrise yoga classes, offered every day by professional Indian Yogi who will had us bending and sweating and really kickstarting our day. Once the hour was up we really felt that we deserved that massive breakfast we had every morning.
Cafe Huraa dishes up the biggest breakfast buffet I have ever seen. There is something for everyone, wherever they are from. You can make the choice between German, American, French, English, Chinese, Korean or Arab breakfast. Probably even more than that, but those are the dishes I recognized. A smiley chef is preparing fresh eggs any style while another is taking your order for waffles or pancakes with fresh fruit. A third squeezes fresh juices out of whatever fruits and vegetables you care to mix.
The end of breakfast is also the start into another day filled with amazing adventure, unique natural beauty and – you guessed it – more awesome food.
When people ask me now which place in the world they should definately not miss I tell them the Maldives. It’s even more beautiful than what you see in the photos and a trip here will live with you forever. Just don’t forget to put all those unforgettable moments into a jar…
Got a taste for the Four Seasons Maldives? Keep checking in for my post about our 2 days in Landaa Giravaaru and decide for yourself which island is better (we certainly could not pick a favorite).