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Magical Maldives

by Neil Darby on 08 August 2012, 12:08PM Magical Maldives

Travelbag consultant Neil Darby reports back on his recent trip to the Maldives.

I was fortunate enough to recently take part in a Travelbag Educational trip to the Maldives. Although it is one of the perks of the job, as you can see from my blog, we work hard on the ground to do as many site visits as possible, thus ensuring that we can talk with first-hand experience when organising your all important holiday.

We travelled to the Maldives on an overnight flight with British Airways from London Gatwick and had the luxury of turning left on embarking the plane and travelling in the British Airways Club World cabin, which is one of the premium business class products in the sky. With a six foot fully flat bed to accompany you on the journey and the fantastic selection of food and beverages it was a fantastic way to begin our journey out to the Maldives.

We arrived in Male, the capital of the Maldives at around 9.30am in the morning for our five night stay.

Depending on which resort you are staying at and the distance from Male, you either take a sea plane transfer or a speedboat transfer from Male International Airport to your resort.

The average cost of a return sea plane transfer from Male to your chosen resort is £250.00 per person. So if you are on a budget then it is worth considering staying at resorts that offer speedboat transfers as return transfers can then be as low as £60.00 per person.

Our first destination was the Centara Grand Resort & Spa which is a 25 minute speedboat transfer from Male.

The Centara Grand Resort & Spa is great for families as it offers a Deluxe Family Water Villa which have been specifically designed for young families so all access areas to the water around the Villas have child gates to enhance child safety. In addition, children have their own separate bedroom area with bunk beds and tv & games console which goes down very well!

The resort also offers an All Inclusive board basis which is great for keeping a control on your budget. They have an Island Club upgrade option where you can pay $60 per person per day and this will allow you premium drinks, canapés, mini bar, free Wi-Fi and two pieces of laundry per day.

From November this year Centara Grand Resort & Spa will be switching to an Ultra All Inclusive resort which will allow guests a $100 per day spa credit and access to all the A la Carte restaurants on the resort and all non motorised water sports.

Once the site inspection at the Centara Grand Resort & Spa was over we had a 20 minute speedboat transfer to the LUX Maldvies for our second site inspection of the day.

The next property we looked at was LUX Maldives, which was a 20 minute speedboat transfer away. This was probably my favourite resort of all that we visited during our trip.

LUX Maldives is a large island, 1.8km long fringed with 4km of white sand beach and is great for snorkelling and a great place to view Whale Sharks. It was my favourite island as due to its relatively large size there was plenty to keep you occupied but at the same time retained that touch of seclusion which you generally comes with a Maldives holiday.

LUX Maldives offers and all-inclusive basis which is a great option if you are looking to control your budget but retain a little bit of luxury.

After the hotel inspection at LUX it was back on the speedboat to Centara Grand Resort & Spa for a hosted dinner and some relaxation time.

An early morning start was required as we had a 6.15am seaplane transfer back to Male.

Once back at Male Airport we jumped on a speedboat for a transfer to the first of five hotels that we were going to see today.

Adaaran Select Hudhuran Fushi is a 4 Star Hotel and is a 30 minute speedboat transfer from Male. This resort is very popular with surfers as Lohis Point is one of the top five surfing destinations in the world.

I would recommend this hotel to people who want to stay in Overwater Villas/Bungalows but without breaking the bank. The Ocean Villas at Adaaran Select Hudhran Fushi are great value nestled away from the main part of the island and with direct access from your villa in to the crystal clear lagoon.

A short speedboat transfer took us on to our next resort visit- Bandos Island Resort which is the second oldest property in the Maldives. This property is very family friendly and the deluxe rooms are probably some of the biggest family rooms we saw on the trip. The resort has a wealth of recreational facilities and plenty of evening entertainment.

From there it was on to Coco Palm Bodo Hithi and for me this was the resort with the Wow factor although sadly not within a lot of people's budgets!

Coco Palm Bodo Hithi is quite a small island with 100 rooms and like many of the 5 Star + hotels do not offer an all inclusive option.

There are four room types, the lead room is an Island Villa and for a lead room type the size and layout was amazing. At 188 sqm it's more than a hotel room and feels like your own luxury apartment.

The other room types were Water Villas, Escape Water Villas and Residences. I have to say it's not very often that I prefer the basic room but that was definitely the case here.

Next resort up after another speedboat transfer (I can get used to this James Bond mode of transport!) was Makunudu Island Resort.

This property would not suit everyone as the island is tiny and very quiet, with just 36 Bungalows keeping to a local Maldivian feel. The Bungalows have no televisions and the resort has no swimming pool but when surrounded by the beautiful Indian Ocean this is not a major problem.

I would recommend this Island for people who want to get away from it all and who appreciate your rustic Maldivian charm.

Last stop of the day and our bed for the night was the 5 Star Vivanta By Taj, situated on another of the smaller islands with only 62 Villas. I stayed in a Charm Beach Villa which was lovely and had amazing views of the reef and the ocean.

The highlight of this hotel was the opportunity to witness Stingray feeding from the beach. Swarms of Stingray come up to the beach at 5pm every afternoon to be fed by the hotel staff. Hotel guests are allowed to take part in the feeding and you can stand in the shallow ocean and the Stingrays literally come right up to beach and brush around your legs as they are feeding.

The resort is great for divers and snorkelers as it has a great house reef where you can view all the marine life including stingrays and whale sharks.

The day concluded with another lovely evening of hosted drinks and dinner with the Vivanta By Taj sales team.

Taj Exotica Resort & Spa was next on our itinerary. This resort is only a 15 minute speedboat from Male and has the largest lagoon in the Maldives so a great choice for snorkelers.

This property has some amazing 1 & 2 Bedroom Beach Villas which are ideal for families or large groups.

Another speedboat transfer then took us to the Jumeirah Vittaveli which is a brand due property that has only be open for six months. There are 90 Villas in total with half on land and half over water. There is no all inclusive option at the Jumeirah Vittaveli but they do include all non motorised water sports on a complimentary basis.

Our last speedboat transfer of the day took us on to the Anantara Dihgu Resort & Spa.

There are three resorts in one location here, the Anantara Dihgu Resort & Spa, Anantara Veli and Anantara Naadhu.

We stayed at the Anantata Dihgu and checked in to our Over Water Suite's. These rooms are amazing, 132 square metres and either sunrise or sunset views and a private terrace with sun loungers and dining area with superb lagoon views.

The other room types at the hotel are Sunrise Beach Villas, Sunset Beach Villas, Sunset Pool Villas, Anantara Pool Villas, Two Bedroom Anantara Pool Villas and Anantara Over Water Pool Villas.

This resort is a fantastic option for families as the Two Bedroom Pool Villas can sleep up to four adults and four children in total.

Anantara Veli is great for Couples and Honeymooners as children under the age of twelve are not allowed to stay at the resort. There are just fifty rooms in total and all are Over-Water Bungalows.

Anantara Naladhu is the third island and the most exclusive of the three islands and has just 19 classic houses inspired by colonial elegance. They are divided in to six beach houses and 13 ocean houses.

In the evening we were hosted for dinner at the restaurant in Anantara Naadhu by the hotel manager which was fantastic with some lovely fine cuisine and wines enjoyed by all.

Another early start to the day as we needed to travel on the 7am speedboat transfer back to Male in order to catch our sea plane to our next destination on our itinerary.

We had the luxury of a more leisurely day today as only the two hotel site inspections were on the agenda.

We travelled by seaplane first to Komandoo Island Resort which is a small island just 500m long and 100m wide.

This property is adult only so along with the relative small size of the island this is perfect for people searching for some peace and tranquillity. Komandoo Island Resort had been closed for a period of time for refurbishment and we arrived on the first day of reopening for our site inspection.

The island has 1km of beautiful white sand beach and a magnificent lagoon with a wealth of great snorkelling and diving options.

After lunch at Komandoo we had a short boat transfer to the sister island Kuredu which would be our home for the night. Kuredu Island Resort is the second largest island resort in the Maldives and is 1.8kms long and 325 metres wide.

This resort is ideal for people who have reservations about the Maldives being the right holiday destination for them as with the island being so large there are so many activities and things to do, there’s even a six hole golf course.

The island is a must for keen scuba divers as Kuredu Island Resorts houses the single largest dive operation in the Maldives. Snorkelling is great to and you are almost fairly certain to see turtles on the house reef whilst you are out snorkelling.

In my opinion the best room type to choose on Kuredu would be the Beach Villas and you should request for your room to be located in the O Resort on the north east of the island which is a newer development on the island with superior facilities.
Families with children under the age of 12 are not permitted to stay at the O Resort part of the island.

In the evening we were entertained at the Far East Restaurant for some lovely Thai food.

This morning we had a well earned lie in as our departure sea plane was not departing until Midday.

We had the option of either being taken on a guided snorkelling trip around the house reef or a complimentary spa treatment at Spa on Kuredu. I opted for the snorkelling and we came across both turtles and stingrays so that was amazing.

We departed from Kuredu Island Resort on our final seaplane transfer back to Male.

For our final night we were staying at the Sheraton Full Moon Resort & Spa which is a short twenty minute speedboat transfer from Male. Sheraton Full Moon Resort & Spa is a relatively large island with 176 rooms. The lead room type is the Beachfront Deluxe and the best room numbers to request location wise are 301-316 as they are the rooms with the most favourable access to the beach.

The resort offers bed & breakfast, half board and full board. There is no all-inclusive package unless you stay in the highest room type which is the Ocean Villas where an Ocean Plus Package is offered. For all other room types there are drinks packages available to purchase.

Our last evening was spent on resort being hosted by the hotel manager for drinks and evening meal and then in the morning it was time to fly home to the UK.

After breakfast a 9am speedboat transfer took us back to Male Airport where we boarded a British Airways flight back to London and where we again had the privilege of enjoying all the benefits of the Club World Cabin on our long journey home to bring an end to a fantastic trip.


If you would like to speak to Neil about putting together your next Maldives holiday, you can call him on 020 31397114

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