The magic of the Maldives – Glass dives into the luxurious Four Seasons Resorts, Maldives
WE’VE arrived into blazing sunshine in the tropical Maldives, a archipelago comprising 1192 coral islands divided into 26 atolls. Having taken a non-stop direct flight from London, we’re conveniently whisked away in a smart speedboat directly from the port outside Male International Airport.
During our exhilarating 30-minutes journey, we are accompanied by a school of spinner dolphins, performing like a troop of synchronised swimmers cutting through the turquoise sea, while making an enchanting squeaking noise as they communicate with one another. Our skipper responds by whistling back to them encouragingly.
We’re staying at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, where upon arrival at the jetty there’s another welcome – this time – by the shrill of the resident clutch of enthusiastic sea hens. Our breathtaking Garden of Eden beach resort is modelled on a typical Maldivian village, with a central promenade running through its heart.
As we reach our thatched roofed over-water villa, we are immediately struck by the spectacular glimmering turquoise infinity pool, with the backdrop of the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Our extravagant deck accommodates an abundance of sunbeds and sofas with a large hammock taking centre stage. The only sound we hear is the gentle lapping of waves, breaking against the stilts beneath our room, and the occasional flapping of our sun umbrellas from an infrequent but welcome breeze. Our pristine colourful and spacious villa becomes our private oasis, where relaxation is de regueur.
We are excited to embark on our first snorkelling excursion, flippers and goggles at the ready, as the variety of marine life found in the contrasting depths of water around the atoll is extensive. Our dhoni glides along the serene waters for about half an hour, before we commence snorkelling behind our guide Nooman. Immediately, we spot a school of stingrays feeding on the bottom of the muggy shallow waters and gaze down their sharp black barb protruding from their long tail. Nooman explains that the stingrays are passive fish unless they are threatened.
Moving along to deeper waters, we search for black-finned reef sharks, which initially are difficult to spot as they move so fast across the deep water. As our eyes become accustomed to the environment, we manage to enjoy longer sightings of the sharks as they move at speed amongst the shoals brightly coloured tropical fish, which surprisingly seem unafraid by the presence of these large ocean predators.
The following afternoon we head off to a different location to snorkel alongside hundreds of sea turtles. The tranquil vibe of this endangered species encourages us to float alongside them, while we admire their beauty close-up, with a few of the more inquisitive turtles responding by gliding up close to us, inquisitively meeting our gaze. We later learn how the researchers at The Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Programme at Four Seasons Resorts identify the sea turtles by their individual markings on their shells.
We later decide to enjoy the unique on-resort experience of a surfing lesson expertly provided by Tropicsurf. Kasey, a native tall blonde Californian, patiently guides us through the basics of surfing, which culminates with us both managing to balance on our surfboards in the shallow waters of the resorts. It felt so good riding that first wave.
One of the highlights of the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is their unique detached away-from-it-all Island Spa, to which you are majestically transported by the Spa dohni. A wooden walkway then leads into a pavilion of serenity, with the gentle fragrance of incense floating in the air. My therapist explains that the signature Kuda Huraa healing waters massage will utilise Osea products, which draw their healing properties of the ocean. Lying face-up on cushions of warm water, with the sound of waves lapping beneath, I feel like am floating on air for the full hour session.
Of course, food is taken very seriously at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, mimicking the exquisite surroundings. The Reef Club, the al-fresco Italian is located adjacent to the adults-only pool with an emphasis on mouth-wateringly good fresh seafood. Baraaban, located over the beach, is considered amongst the top 100 Indian restaurants in the world. Dine beneath imposing timber columns, inspired by the architecture of Kerala, where stand-out Indian plates offer diners an unforgettable dining experience. At the main dining area, Café Huraa plays host to a huge quality breakfast buffet including European, Asian and American options and doubles as an all-day restaurant.
After a half-hour seaplane journey over numerous beach-rimmed Maldivian islands, we land at the pristine Four Seasons Landaa Giravaaru, located within the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. We are issued monogrammed bicycles as a fun mode of transport to explore this lush-jungle resort – all sprawling 44 acres of it.
Our contemporary beach villa is hidden within our private tropical garden, spilling out onto a secluded beach area with a large private gazebo. With its 40-foot private pool and a double-storey outdoor seating area, it becomes our very own tropical paradise where we loll in the hammocks amongst the swaying palms which dominant the surrounding verdant vegetation.
As the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru is home to the Maldives’ only manta ray project, we learn about the rich and varied underwater kingdom at the Marine Discovery Centre. From June to November the manta rays’ movements are monitored, and when they are near the resort, guests are alerted and promptly whisked away by boat to snorkel amongst these giant rays. The marine discovery continues at night when we wait patiently to observe tens of reef and nurse sharks gathering under the resort’s spotlights to be fed leftover raw fish from the kitchens.
We are intrigued to meet Dr Shylesh, who gives us a personal Ayurvedic consultation at the spa. By feeling our pulse and asking questions about our lifestyle and diet, he seems to “read” our bodies, before suggesting how we could improve our wellbeing. He offers tailor-made dietary programmes for guests at every restaurant on the resort. After the consultation, we experience 90 minutes of pure bliss in an overwater treatment room having a therapeutic Landaa Massage, with the talented therapists superbly applying traditional Asian techniques to relieve our aches and pains.
One of our most memorable experiences at Landaa Giraavaru is the anti-gravity yoga session in the outdoor pavilion, surrounded by the dense jungle landscape. Within minutes and after a few giggles, we are finally suspended upside down, our bodies safely cocooned in our enveloping silk hammocks, as we learn to control our inhaling and exhaling to maximise this unique exercise regime. After our early morning yoga session, we can’t decide whether to remain within the vast confines of our villa, to lounge on the pure white-sanded beach, or to sip a cocktail beside the Olympic-sized swimming pool.
We later share a romantic moonlit dinner on the rooftop of Al Barakat, a Lebanese restaurant located over the water, where we feast on a selection of sublime pan-Arab dishes, while being serenaded by the gentle lapping of waves. The following night we opt for a casual dinner at Fuego Grill, located on the balmy candlelit beach, where we feel the soft sand beneath our feet as we savour each mouthful. We head to Blu on our final night, the Italian signature restaurant, with its décor as its name suggests, where we tuck into generous sized plates of authentic home-cooked pastas.
As our seaplane takes off from the waters of Landaa Giravaaru, we reflect on the uniqueness of our Maldivian holiday, having been immersed in the contrasting beauty of two very different islands blessed with year-round sunshine. The Four Seasons Resorts are a paradise above, below and beyond the waters of the Indian Ocean, which should be added to your travel bucket list. If it isn’t already on it.
by Amanda Bernstein
Prices at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa start from USD 900 per room per night on a room only basis. Pls note that room rates are subject to 10 per cent service charge, 12 per cent GST and the prevailing government green tax of US$6 per person per night. To book, visit www.fourseasons.com/maldiveskh
Prices at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru start from USD 1,300 per room per night on a room only basis. Pls note that room rates are subject to 23.2% service charge and gst and the prevailing government green tax of US$6 per person per night. To book, visit http://www.fourseasons.com/maldiveslg